Maine’s highest-ranking Democrat lawmakers made a decision on Halloween Eve that distills and crystallizes everything Mainers loathe about the partisan politics of Augusta.
Liberal legislators, led by House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) and Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland), voted in lockstep to kill a bill that would have helped victims of the human sex trade. Go ahead and read that sentence again, and let it sink in.
The bill is a simple, straightforward proposal from my colleague, Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough). It would grant courts the power to vacate prostitution convictions from the records of former sex slaves. The practical impact would be to allow victims of this barbaric practice to move on with their lives.
Yet six liberal Democrats (five men, one woman) ruled this reasonable proposal unfit for the Legislature to consider in January.
Why? That’s the million dollar question.
Thus far, Speaker Eves, speaking through his staff, has said the bill did not meet the “strict criteria” for bills that are considered in the second half of a legislative term. These bills, according to Maine’s Constitution, must be budget-related or emergency in nature.
So if helping victims of human trafficking does not qualify as an emergency, then what does? Let’s look at a few examples of bills that did meet Eves’ and Alfond’s strict criteria.
First and foremost, we have an urgent proposal from Alfond to amend laws governing wine-tastings. Apparently the gilded elites he consorts with have experienced bureaucratic hassles when sipping merlot on their ocean-front decks. Heaven forbid the opulent denizens of Cape Elizabeth suffer the indignity of an overregulated bacchanalia.
Next up is the burning matter of fishing closer to the fish ladder on Webber Pond. An emergency bill from Democrat Rep. Lori Fowle of Vassalboro would ensure recreational fisherman have better access to the pond. Emergency, you say? Trout fishing trumps human trafficking if you’re a Democrat, I guess.
Last but not least, we have Speaker Eves’ bill to tap “free” federal money to dramatically expand enrollment in medical welfare (Medicaid). Eves is a real stickler for rules when it comes to blocking bills that would help victims of sex trafficking. But when your 28-year-old able-bodied but unemployed nephew who moved here from New Jersey demands free medical and dental care — funded by the Obamacare Medicaid expansion — rules are just technicalities.
After invoking a legislative rule to block Republican-backed bills to reign in rampant welfare abuse, Eves isn’t the least bit embarrassed to brush that same rule aside to enable the Democrats to chain us to the caboose of the Obamacare train wreck. Meanwhile, pay no attention to the fact that Eves’ former employer, the social services agency Sweetser, will see its Medicaid cash flow increase by tens of millions of dollars if his signature legislation passes.
All of these bills – and I could name dozens more – highlight the brazen hypocrisy, if not insanity, of the liberal Democrat re-distributionists who control our Legislature. For them, wine-tasting and recreational fishing are emergencies. So is giving Cadillac welfare benefits to tens of thousands of able-bodied young adults. But helping victims of the human sex trade is not.
What the Democrats did on Halloween Eve is not an aberration; it is a particularly egregious example of how Maine’s Democratic machine operates. Democrats would rather kill common-sense policy than allow Republicans to get credit for a proposal that benefits Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.
Case in point: Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant’s comment that Rep. Volk was trying to “soften her edges” by introducing this bill. Grant has since apologized, saying he didn’t do his homework on the issue of sex trafficking. With all due respect, does he seriously believe a homework pledge neutralizes his sexist insult?
And Alfond, in the same spirit as his Party Leader, has had a bit of a mea culpa. He now says Volk’s bill has “merit.” Good for him. It’s nice to see he’s responsive to shame. But how long before his extremist liberal partisanship rears its ugly ahead again to defeat a commonsense idea? (Hint: welfare reform.)
Such shortsighted partisanship explains why it took the Democrat majority so long to agree with Gov. LePage’s plan to pay the hospital debt. Democrats dragged their feet, threw up roadblocks, and circled the wagons for five months before they were shamed into giving us a clean up-or-down vote on the governor’s bill. In the end, it passed unanimously.
I would like to think Republicans and Democrats could get together and have a civil discussion about policy differences, or at a minimum find some common ground on what constitutes an emergency. But when one party is so committed to promoting its liberal extremist ideology, and showcasing its callous indifference toward victims of human sex trafficking, the problem runs deeper than communication.
The solution is for Maine people to exert relentless constituent pressure on legislators. Hold them accountable. And if Democrats persist in pushing their liberal re-distributionist agenda, throw the bums out. Maine people cannot afford another legislative term with these folks in leadership.
Lawrence E. Lockman, R-Amherst, represents District 30 in the Maine House of Representatives. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: A version of this op-ed originally appeared in the Bangor Daily News.)