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Democrats seek high ground with military recruiter bill

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AUGUSTA – The Democrat-controlled Legislative Council voted Wednesday to allow a military recruiter bill to move the Legislature in January, leaving Republicans wondering: What’s changed?

The issue of whether schools can restrict the access of uniformed military recruiters to campus grounds arose in July, when Democratic lawmakers put up resistance to a Republican-backed bill (L.D. 1503) that would have banned such restrictions.

For Republicans, the issue was simple: there should be no restrictions on uniform-wearing military recruiters at Maine schools. As Vietnam veteran Rep. Peter Doak (R-Columbia Falls) said at the time, “We bury these guys in their uniforms, but they’re not allowed to where them in schools?”

The bill, introduced by Gov. Paul LePage and sponsored by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport), was defeated by House Democrats with a vote of 97-45, falling short of the two-thirds majority required for passage as a mandate on schools.

[RELATED: Dems flip-flop on bill for military recruiters; vote allows schools to forbid troops from wearing uniform…]

[RELATED: Maine Dems take stand against military recruiters…]

For House Democrats, L.D. 1503 was a “solution in search of a problem.” Others said recruiters should not be allowed to wear their uniforms at schools. Over the weekend, Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) sent out a mailer in which he said, “The bill did not become law, because federal law already allows military recruiters to wear their uniforms at school events, like recruiting fairs.”

But now, top Democrats are pushing a bill of their own designed to address the problem they previously said does not exist.

[RELATED: Portland school officials dispute LePage, Alfond claims on military recruiter policy…]

L.R. 2254, “An Act to Authorize Public safety Personnel and Members of the Military When Visiting Schools in Their Official Capacity to Wear Their Uniforms,” is sponsored by Rep. Mick Devin (D-Newcastle). The bill was unananimously approved by the council, which is comprised of 4 Republicans and 6 Democrats. House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) chairs the council.

“I’d like to know what has changed between when the Democrats killed this bill and now,” said Rep. Fredette.

“It’s great if some of the more liberal members changed their minds on whether military recruiters should be allowed to wear their uniforms in schools, but it shouldn’t even have been a controversial issue as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “Our military service members should enjoy the respect they deserve when they walk into Maine’s public schools, and they should be given the benefit of the doubt when they raise concerns.”

[RELATED: Dems block welfare reform, human trafficking bills…]

Although Democrats on the council voted to allow a duplicitous proposal to address a problem they previously refused to acknowledge to move forward, they killed other less controversial proposals, including two welfare reform bills and a bill to help victims of human trafficking.

Steve Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter
SERobinson@TheMaineWire.com

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently the executive producer of the Kirk Minihane Show. Follow him on Twitter @BigSteve207.

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