Inside Augusta

House Democrats are afraid of the truth

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Policy creation should always be rooted in factual information and statistics. This is the only way we have a shot at determining the efficacy of a law prior to its passage.

That is why it is so important that policy makers have accurate information on which they base their decisions. Without this, legislators would vote the party line and become ideological puppets (I suppose one could argue many already have).

However, Maine liberals don’t want policy based on facts and logic. They want to tug at your heartstrings and make far-reaching claims to persuade you into bad policy decisions.

I base this rationale on House Democrats’ recent decision to block a bill that would prohibit lobbyists, state employees, executive branch officials and citizens from purposely providing false information to the legislature.

LD 850, sponsored by Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, would require written and oral testimony provided to legislative committees be truthful, and would also allow members of a legislative committee call for any person testifying before them be placed under oath. This move would negate legislators from basing policy decisions on false information provided during public hearings and other steps of the legislative process.

The bill makes submitting false information to the legislature a Class E crime, and a Class D crime if done under oath. Additionally, lobbyists found in violation could be suspended from lobbying in Maine for up to two years.

“LD 850 would enforce the expectation that information provided by all persons, including lobbyists, to the Maine legislature, in both written and oral testimony, be truthful by prohibiting the purposeful submission of inaccurate material facts or omission of important facts as part of their testimony,” Sirocki said during a speech on the House floor.

“I don’t need to tell members of this Chamber how important it is that lawmakers base decisions on truthful, accurate information,” Sirocki said. “On the other hand, perhaps I do.”

Every House Democrat excluding Reps. Craig Hickman of Winthrop and Denise Harlow of Portland voted to kill Sirocki’s bill. One lone Republican, Lance Harvell of Farmington, voted with the Democrats. The final vote was 72-71, with six legislators absent and two excused.

Opponents of Sirocki’s bill claim that the law would be too hard to enforce, and that members of the public could unknowingly provide false information to the legislature and then face criminal charges.

To me, the Democrats’ reasoning is quite simple. They want legislators to be persuaded by emotion rather than factual information. An example of this comes from early April on the day of the tip credit hearings in Augusta, when the Maine People’s Alliance flew in Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, from California, to testify against reinstating the tip credit.

Jayaraman’s three-minute testimony could be summarized into two major points; tipping is a sexist practice and a form of slavery. Jayaraman had little evidence to back these absurd claims, and her only intention was to invoke a response from legislators by using such emotionally charged language.

But in the grand scheme of things, her testimony was useless and riddled with fallacies. Legislators don’t need to be wasting their time listening to partisan hacks like Jayaraman, who admitted during her testimony (after being pressed by Rep. Larry Lockman) she’s paid $80,000 annually to appear at similar hearings across the country and spout her drivel.

Considering emotionally-charged, fictitious testimony is a regular occurrence from this crowd, why else would Democrats so vehemently oppose the truth?

“I am puzzled by the Democrats’ position,” Sicrocki said. “Forty-one other states have enacted laws that prohibit false testimony to legislative committees. Our perjury laws only apply if those who testify are placed under oath.”

At this point, it is unlikely LD 850 will become law despite talks of the bill being amended. One thing is certain though – Maine Democrats killed this bill to keep the truth out of state politics.

“The Democrats had initially supported my bill in committee but then reconsidered the bill and several Democrats defected,” Sirocki said. “I do not know what changed their minds.”

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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