Six Democrats on the Legislative Council voted on Oct. 30 to block a bill that would help victims of human trafficking. If there is a single voice in Maine’s Democratic Party that could lead with reason, rather than partisanship, it’s that of Sen. Emily Cain (D-Penobscot). Yet she remains silent.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough), would allow courts to vacate prostitution convictions for victims of human trafficking. It was developed with the help of the Polaris Project, a non-profit dedicated to fighting human trafficking, and is similar to laws in 14 other states. The practical effect of the bill would be to allow women convicted of prostitution as a result of their enslavement to move on with their lives.
Why was this simple, non-controversial bill killed? Democrats have given a few unsatisfactory reasons. Speaker of the House Mark W. Eves (D-North Berwick), who chairs the Executive Council, has said, through his staff, that the bill did not meet the strict criteria for emergency legislation in the 2nd session of a legislative term. If helping victims of human trafficking is not an emergency, Mr. Speaker, then what is?
Outside of the legislature, former Democratic lawmaker Ethan Strimling has blamed Rep. Volk for Democratic leadership’s decision. Volk, Strimling says, did not make the effort to reach out to Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland), and that is why they and every other Democrat on the council voted against a bill to help victims of human trafficking.
This is a classic example of blaming the victim. What’s more, it’s a prime example of the partisan sophistry one must engage in when justifying the increasingly inexplicable actions of the Alfond-Eves regime.
The real reason Alfond, Eves and the rest of the extremist liberal Democrats voted unanimously against allowing this bill to come before the Legislature is because its sponsor is a Republican woman. They voted against this bill because its sponsor is a Republican woman and for them, Republican’s cannot represent women. Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant’s sexist and offensive comments on the matter confirm this much. Allowing Volk’s bill to move forward would threaten their monopoly on issues that matter to women. It’s a sad commentary on the times, but without a better explanation from Eves and Alfond, what else explains their perplexing votes?
Sen. Cain has shown a willingness to cross party lines to work on issues of importance to women. She did this with Republican Gov. Paul LePage, and their partnership produced legislation that will help stem the tide of domestic violence in Maine.
Now, Cain has an opportunity to rise above the partisan fray and join Rep. Volk in assuring this meaningful piece of legislation gets a proper and respectful hearing before the Legislature.
Yet she has been silent.
Cain’s silence is all the more befuddling considering that her primary opponent in the race for the Second Congressional District, Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), joined Alfond and Eves in voting no. Why would she not take this opportunity to draw the distinction? One Democrat is so partisan he can’t lift a finger to help Maine women; the other has shown a willingness to cross party lines to do the right thing.
On Nov. 22, the Legislative Council will have another chance to do what is right. With or without Cain’s leadership, we hope they correct their mistake.