Maine Democrats Suspend Transparency Rules

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Senate President Justin L. Alfond

AUGUSTA – State Democratic leaders have suspended a rule providing for transparency in the proceedings of the Legislature.

Senate President Justin L. Alfond (D-Cumberland) and Speaker of the House Mark W. Eves (D-North Berwick) informed lawmakers in an email Wednesday that they are suspending the public notice requirement for advertising public hearings.

“Effective today, the notice requirement for advertising public hearings for bills that are referred to committee after May 3rd is waived entirely,” the Democratic leaders wrote in an email to state lawmakers.

Suspending the public notice requirement will make it difficult for Maine citizens to monitor the progress of bills in Augusta and attend public hearings to voice their concerns.

However, President Alfond and Speaker Eves believe doing so is necessary in order to allow the Legislature to cope with the enormous number of bills that have yet to be considered. They wrote:

“As you know, Friday, May 17th, is the deadline for voting all committee bills.  As of Monday April 29th, committees had voted 50% of their anticipated bill load but had more than 700 bills in their possession that have not yet been voted, 260 bills voted but not yet reported out and additional bills are still expected to be referred.  Although this represents a great deal of hard work by the committees so far this session, it is clear that there is still a significant amount of work remaining in committee. It is essential that you continue your efforts to meet the deadlines, so that we can complete the work of the Legislature on time and within budget.”

Republican lawmakers were troubled by Alfond and Eve’s decision to suspend State House transparency rules and blamed Democrats’ inability to manage legislative proceedings.

“This is symptomatic of some of the problems we’ve been seeing in committees,” said House Republican Leader Kenneth Fredette (R-Newport).

Fredette was referring to recent incidents where Democratic committee chairs procedurally censored Republican Right-to-Work legislation, made a mockery of a public hearing by wearing clown noses, and brought bipartisan condemnation for heavy-handed conduct in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

“Add to that Democrats continuing to use the one big thing we all agree on, the hospital bill, as a bargaining chip and a lack of credible solutions coming from them on balancing the budget, and we’re bound to have a very rushed final two months of session,” Fredette said.

[RELATED: Partisan Politics Stall Hospital Debt Repayment…]

Assistant House Republican Leader Alexander Willette (R-Mapelton) said the Democrat’s decision does not bode well for the creation of sound public policy.

“Anytime you stop advertising public hearings, you’re hindering the public’s ability to weigh in on important issues and, as a result, hindering our ability to craft good public policy,” he said.

S.E. Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter
srobinson@mainepolicy.org

39 COMMENTS

  1. Disgraceful. Just imagine for a second if we saw this kind of incompetence under the Republican leadership in the 125th. Of course you wouldn’t have – Bob Nutting and Kevin Raye understood the serious responsibility and solemn duty of leadership of the legislature. And frankly, so did the Democrats before them that I served under. This sure as heck wouldn’t have happened under Hannah Pingree’s watch or Glenn Cummings or John Richardson.

    This is a first, as far as I know. There simply is no excuse for it and it illustrates a profound lack of organizational and leadership skills at all levels.

  2. Who, exactly, do you think you are? you represent us and TRANSPARENCY in our Gov. is DEMOCRACY.Shame on you! You must have bills to HIDE; like increase taxes, more restrictions to strangle businesses, and a plan to avoid paying debt to hospitals.Shame, Shame, Shame.

  3. Gee, when you stop posting date and time of a “public hearing”, it is no longer “public”! Just another way for the Dem’s to hide their wasteful ways!

  4. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Alfond and Eves are as arrogant and corrupt as the day is long. All I can say is the people of Maine put these arrogant jerks in the majority so you get the government you deserve.

  5. So the way to save time is to reduce input from the public? Cut out the public? If this is not a glaring demonstration of the elitist attitude, I don’t know what is.

  6. I like you shared it, not that they did it. Transparency seems to be something politicians don’t ever want. And the public’s input? Too stupid, screw them, they know what is best for “us” from “them”.

  7. The republicrats should boycott the rest of the committee hearings let the Dumbassocrats be responsible for what is passed. They don’t think they need our input because they really don’t think we are as smart as them, we slow down the process. Well we don’t need them! Tar and feathers for all and a bumpy ride on a fence rail get them out!!!

  8. This article is too kind. Everyone keeps saying that this doesn’t bode well because it means they can’t craft good public policy. What it tells me is that they don’t WANT to and whatever they ARE planning on doing they don’t want US knowing about it. But hey…you get what you pay for. I’m glad I largely voted third party!

  9. We do not need to ignore this, but have someone keep an eye on the tax-raising, hospital- paying, gun-rights, and other important bills………. and then notify everybody they must attend, and STILL be allowed to speak at these hearings. It is a denial of ‘DUE PROCESS” to exclude the public, so just ‘breaking’ the Rules won’t work for the criminals in charge!

  10. That is why we need everybody’s support for the Maine Remonstrance (#1) that was served on these 2 criminals, plus the Governor back on Jan. 14th (with copies given to the majority & minority leaders of both Houses). There is a lot of follow-up work still progressing, and soon, we’ll need to “call out the troops” for support!!

  11. That is why we need everybody’s support for the Maine Remonstrance (#1) that was served on these 2 criminals, plus the Governor back on Jan. 14th (with copies given to the majority & minority leaders of both Houses). There is a lot of follow-up work still progressing, and soon, we’ll need to “call out the troops” for support!!

  12. Dems love to move the goalpost when they have the majority, and scream when in the minority. They do this in MA in every session…change rules to further themselves. That is why places like that, CA, IL, etc are so disgustingly crony – this little trick.

  13. ! miss the good ole daz when Republicans were Republicans and Democrats were Democrats not elitest statists. Back then we could compromise and still have good governance. The DEMONCRATS of today want neither.

  14. Why am I not surprised by this charade? Just out of curiosity, of the 700 bills clogging the “system”, and the 260 remaining to be reported out of committee, how many of these are ones put forward by the party in control? And to add to the insult, they want to hold the hospital payment issue hostage to their partisan agenda. Justin Alfond and the clown nose pair are great examples of what is wrong in Augusta currently.

  15. I agree with you. And the excuse used for suspending the public notice requirement only underscores what I’ve felt all along: Legislators just want to push through as many bills as possible. In the meantime life has is becoming way too complicated for attorneys, let alone everyone else. Sometimes I just wish the legislators stayed home for most of the year and leave us alone.

  16. You didn’t by any chance see a similar memo from GOP leadership last term did you? This is SOP for our legislature no matter which party is in control. It has happened for years.

    It’s a pretty stupid issue to raise. But then when you only get a chance to run the show 2 out of every 40 years, it’s not surprising that the GOP would be surprised at any little thing.

    Come on folks. Find a real issue that’s worthy of the time it takes to write this crap.

  17. Similar notices waiving the two-week notification period have occurred in the 125th, 124th, 123rd, 122, and 121st Legislatures.Here is the Republican version from the last Legislature.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/139330466/125th-GOP-letter

    What the article should be asking is why there are so many bills, how are they prioritized, are some duplicates of others, are some decoys for others to slip by.

    Once again S.E. Robinson has material to challenge both Democrats and Republicans on their effectiveness or lack thereof, but instead takes a low road, shoot from the hip, immature approach without doing his homework; a failure of Maine’s educational system?

  18. “Who Cares If It’s True? It Works” http://billmoyers.com/2012/08/28/who-cares-if-its-true-it-works/.

    The column refers to a Romney campaign anti-Obama welfare ad which stated “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check,”.

    Further the ad is a variation on a theme; as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein points out. “If you click through the videos on Romney’s official website, you’ll find more ads about welfare than just about any other issue. “

    The question is asked “Why then, do the ads keep running?” with two Romney insiders offering candid insight into the question. “Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” said Ashley O’Connor, one of Romney’s top ad strategists. The ads target white working class voters, a crucial demographic, who have in the past harbored deep resentment towards welfare recipients. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” added campaign pollster Neil Newhouse.

    The column concludes asking the question where does the “who cares if it’s true, it works“, attitude leave voters? What can the media, and the public do about it?

    Consider the summary below from a study conducted by Brendan Nyhan an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College and Jason Reifler an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Georgia State University;.

    “Misinformation and Fact-checking: Research Findings from Social Science”. http://mediapolicy.newamerica.net/sites/newamerica.net/files/policydocs/Misinformation_and_Fact-checking.pdf

    ◾ Motivated reasoning: People’s evaluations of new information are shaped by their beliefs. Misperceptions seem to generally reflect sincere beliefs. Information that chal­lenges these beliefs is generally unwelcome and can prompt a variety of compensatory responses. As a result, corrections are sometimes ineffective and can even backfire.

    ◾Belief perseverance and continued influence: Once a piece of information is encoded in memory, it can be very difficult to eliminate its effects on subsequent attitudes and beliefs.

    ◾Sources matter: The source of a given statement can have a significant effect on how the claim is interpreted. People are more receptive to sources that share their party affilia­tion or values and those that provide unexpected information.

    ◾Identity and race: When information about race or social identity is salient, it can under­mine the effectiveness of corrections about public figures from different racial or cul­tural backgrounds.

    ◾Threats to control: When people feel a lack of control, they compensate with strategies that lead to greater acceptance of misperceptions.

    The above provides the foundation for a simple political strategy; pitting one group against another. Robert Reich in “Beyond Outrage” http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Outrage-Expanded-economy-democracy/dp/0345804376/ writes.

    “Average Americans are competing with one another for slices of a shrinking pie. There is now more intense competition for a dwindling number of jobs, a smaller share of total income, and ever more limited public services. Native-born Americans are threatened by immigrants; private sector workers are resentful of public workers; unionized workers are threatened by the nonunionized; middle-class Americans are competing with the poor.” (My Italics).

    Responding to the question in Lauren Feeney’s column, where does the “who cares if it’s true, it works“, attitude leave voters?

    Isolated; rather than feeling we’re all in it together, we increasingly have the sense that each of us is on his or her own. The process is condescending, insulting, and manipulative of the voting public and it has worked.

    Without factual information we are out of touch with what’s going on; others will impose their will on us; we lose the ability to create our own identity. Individual identity (not isolation) contributes to diversity, which when brought together under the umbrella of shared needs creates and maintains a vibrant, strong society.

  19. This is stretch, anyway. I now get via email from the committee clerk detailed schedules, bill and amendment text, and can even listen in vià streaming audio.

  20. They are still publishing notices electronically and at the Legislature itself. Sad to say, this piece misrepresented the Democrats’ memo.

  21. Please repost anything from the MaineWire, Maine Heritage Policy Center or Maine GOP that decried this same practice in each of the past five legislative sessions.

  22. @[5808938:2048:Nathan J. R. Grant] I don’t think you understand what this is about. Maine law requires that the public be given 2 weeks notice about any public hearing, with exceptions. There are now just six weeks left for legislative committees to work the bills before them. Some of these bills haven’t had a public hearing yet, and if the 2 week requirement was adhered to, it would puch the committee’s work beyond the deadline to conclude business.

    This happens EVERY session.The bills will still receive a public hearing, and a notice of such will be posted. Just not 2 weeks out in the Press Herald or BDN as is typical early on.

    Now do you see the entire point of this hit piece? Robinson doesn’t care about the workings of the Legislature – he’s just trying to attack Democrats and using folks like you as ready dupes.

  23. Here we go again… This is when shit happens… Cronie/Sweetheart Deals… Hidden Agendas… and this is when the newbie legislators are taken advantage of and kept out of the loop… This is when both the republican and democrat gang’s leadership manipulates to further their own “leadership” future…

  24. Perhaps you don’t understand that the Legislature is fair game for out of state lobbyists with an agenda they expect to enact in Maine at far less cost than bigger states.

    Winnow out the est. 4-5,000 bills introduced and give those clearly of import for Maine from those of some group seeking to make a stand on PBA or some other ideological point, the highest priority.

    This is a failure of leadership and since Dem’s run the show, they pick the agenda items and from what I can see, they all come from National NGO’s and others with a stake i n the party.

    Suspending transparency rules because you can’t resist the money and pressure from national groups, and then covering it up with the old canard about how we have to speed things up to get through the session…..one which your party glutted in the first place, is disingenuous.

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