Commentary

Setting the Record Straight on My Solar Vote

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“Despite the fact Greg Kesich wrote a nearly 800 word editorial defaming five House Republicans, he refused to publish my response in its entirety.”

After 47 years of working as an educator in Maine, I thought I had seen and experienced it all. That was until I read the outright lies printed about me on the pages of the Portland Press Herald regarding my position on LD 1649, a bill dealing with solar energy expansion in Maine.

In his editorial, Greg Kesich distorted my position on this bill and lied about the events that transpired on the final day of the session.

Let me be perfectly clear: I voted in favor of LD 1649, which would have expanded solar energy throughout Maine. In fact, I voted for it multiple times. When Governor LePage vetoed the bill, I voted to override his veto. Those are facts whether it fits the Portland Press Herald’s narrative or not.

My decision to support the solar bill did not come easily. I followed this bill very closely from the start. During the public hearing, a member of the Public Utilities Commission testified that in its original form, LD 1649 would cost Maine ratepayers up to $22 million by 2022. I struggled with that and on behalf of my constituents, I frequently spoke to members of the Energy Committee to stay up to speed on any amendments or changes to the bill.

The bill was amended in the final days of session to ease the burden on ratepayers. Although I was still a bit uneasy about supporting it, I knew it meant a great deal to some of my constituents, so I voted for it. Governor LePage ultimately vetoed the bill and after reading his veto letter carefully, weighing both sides of the argument, I voted to override the veto.

However, the real story of the dishonesty and trickery that played out that day came after the veto was sustained in the House. These facts were conveniently omitted from Kesich’s editorial, so allow me to tell you what transpired.

When it was apparent the House would sustain Governor LePage’s veto by a very slim margin, House Democrat Leader Jeff McCabe switched his vote at the last possible second. I thought it was odd considering Jeff McCabe had been a loud and vocal supporter of the solar bill, and now suddenly he seemed to have a change of heart and was casting a vote against it. Then I realized what McCabe was up to.

By switching his vote at the last second, Jeff McCabe voted to sustain the Governor’s veto, putting him on the prevailing side of the vote. According to an obscure House rule, any member on the prevailing side of a vote can move to have the House reconsider, meaning we would vote on the veto all over again. Typically, this motion occurs when new information comes to light that would cause someone to want to change their vote.

This was not the case with Rep. McCabe, he just didn’t like the outcome. In theory, McCabe could continue to implement this same ploy over and over again until he got the desired outcome.

To add insult to injury, soon after he switched his vote, Jeff McCabe lied on the House floor about his motives for doing so and called the bill back up for reconsideration. His actions were so shallow and pathetic that he couldn’t even say the words without a condescending smile creeping across his face that even drew laughter from his fellow Democrats in the chamber. Their contempt for the voters of Maine was on full display.

I don’t see the humor in taking advantage of House rules and I certainly do not condone, nor will I reward any member for lying on the floor of the Maine House of Representatives. In fact, I find the conduct of Jeff McCabe and his colleagues to be deplorable. After voting in favor of the solar bill twice, including a vote to override the Governor’s veto, it’s clear I support solar power in Maine.

The decision made by my colleagues and I not to take part in McCabe’s shenanigans did not make a difference in the final outcome. There were 148 members present and voting meaning 50 “nays” would have sustained the veto. The final vote was 93-50, the veto would have been sustained regardless. Another key point omitted in the Portland Press Herald editorial.

My hope is that next session we can revisit this issue and pass a better bill that advances solar energy in Maine that eliminates the cost to ratepayers entirely.

Despite the fact Greg Kesich wrote a nearly 800 word editorial defaming five House Republicans, he refused to publish my response in its entirety. Thankfully, The Maine Wire agreed to publish it here.

When a supposedly reputable newspaper deliberately prints misleading information in an attempt to smear a group of sitting state representatives, there should be consequences. I believe Greg Kesich owes my colleagues and I an apology. At the very least, he should print a correction to his fabricated editorial.

If he refuses, then I hope the Portland Press Herald would show him the door.

About Michael Timmons

Representative Michael Timmons represents House District 45 which includes Cumberland and part of Gray.

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