What is an emergency? Nobody knows


Legislation in the second session of each Maine Legislature is reserved for the Governor’s bills, budgetary matters and emergency legislation that impacts the health and safety of all Maine citizens. Artivle IV, Part Third, Section 1 of the Maine Constitution says: “The business of the second regular session of the Legislature shall be limited to budgetary matters; legislation in the Governor’s call; legislation of an emergency nature admitted by the Legislature.”

What constitutes an emergency? According to the Maine Constitution, “only such measures as are immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety.”

Why then, were LDs 1698, 1718 and 1723 passed through the Legislative Council in the second session of the 128th Legislature?

All three measures, sponsored by Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, have feel good bill titles but lack any substance to help inform the Maine people (or other legislators) what each bill entails.

LD 1698 – An Act To Promote Innovation and Growth in Maine’s Traditional Industries

LD 1718 – An Act To Empower Maine’s Rural Economy and Workforce

LD 1723 – An Act To Expand Job Opportunities for People Working in Maine

All three of these measures passed the Legislative Council on bill title alone. But, what else do these initiatives have in common? Now that they’ve been assigned a legislative document number, we learn that all three measures are “concept drafts.”

This means the Legislative Council approved three separate bills sponsored by Rep. Herbig despite the absence of any proposed text or substantive language associated with the measures.

In other words, these bills are such big emergencies, and so detrimental to the peace, health and safety of Maine citizens, Herbig didn’t even have the time to write them.

Along with these three non-emergencies, the Legislative Council has passed dozens of bills that do not rise to the threshold outlined in the Maine Constitution. Take, for example, LD 1668, “An Act to Change Gender-specific Terminology in the Laws Regarding Municipalities and Counties,” sponsored by Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock. The bill changes the terms “selectman” and “selectmen” to “selectperson” and “selectpersons” as they appear in Title 30-A.

I was unaware the term “selectman” endangers the public peace, health or safety of Maine citizens, however we may all sleep easy now that this grave concern will be addressed by the Legislature in the upcoming session.

The legislature must still somehow fund Medicaid expansion, deal with marijuana legalization and the opioid epidemic, enact some form of tax conformity that mirrors new federal changes, and review a swath of bills carried over from the first session of the 128th Legislature.

Further, the Legislature must handle a pair of contentious department bills, one from the Department of Labor and another from the Secretary of State. The bill submitted by the Department of Labor would roll back Maine’s minimum wage and implement a training wage for young workers. The Secretary of State’s bill would alter rules governing Maine’s elections, including new zoning restrictions for political activities occurring on election day, like signature gathering.

There is enough work to keep this legislature busy until next January, however they are supposed to adjourn in April. Perhaps the Legislative Council could have eased this burden by following the letter of the law as outlined in the Maine Constitution.


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