Inside Augusta

Lawmakers reject 3 of 4 bonds, approve RCV for presidential elections during special session

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Lawmakers returned to Augusta on Monday to debate several bonds proposed by Governor Janet Mills during a special legislative session called by the chief executive on August 19. Governor Mills asked lawmakers to approve $163 million in new borrowing for land conservation, broadband expansion, environmental protections and infrastructure repairs, among other items, in time for these issues to appear on the November 2019 statewide ballot.

The only bond garnering broad bipartisan support was the $105 million bond for infrastructure, which members of both parties overwhelmingly supported. On all other fronts, Republicans used what leverage they had as the minority party in both chambers to prevent these items from garnering the two-thirds support required to achieve ballot status.

Before the end of the first regular session, Republicans voted against Governor Mills original $239 million bond package and asked for the single bill encompassing several different bond items to be separated into smaller proposals. Governor Mills responded by doing just that – she broke the package into four separate bond bills and reduced the proposed borrowing to $163 million, $76 million less than her original proposal.

The governor in a press statement Monday afternoon indicated that she thought both sides had come to an agreement on passing all four bonds and was surprised to see Republican opposition to them, adding that she was “kinda sorry” for calling a special session.

House Republicans in a radio address released last Thursday said, “We should have already passed a transportation bond and finished our work on bonding in June,” when they first proposed separating the transportation bond so it could passed as its own bill.

“We can and should wait until January to consider these proposals, so that we can make a responsible decision once we know how much money we must find in order to cover the new, still unknown costs of the Supplemental Budget,” Sen. Dana Dow said Monday. The minority leader also said there was no “immediate, compelling reason” to act on the bonds in question but did not indicate what he thinks necessitates a supplemental budget, an idea Governor Mills scoffed at.

“There’s no supplemental budget. Is he asking for a supplemental budget? We’ve had no discussions with anybody about a supplemental budget,” Mills responded, according to Maine Public.

In a surprise move, the Maine Senate late in the session passed LD 1083, a bill that would expand the use of ranked-choice voting in Maine to presidential primary and general elections. Many Augusta insiders were told the bill would not going to be voted on despite appearing in unfinished business on the Senate calendar.

“The bill wasn’t supposed to come up today, but amid the chaos and partisanship over bonds, I guess the Dems decided to bring it up,” tweeted Kevin Miller of the Portland Press Herald.

Monday’s vote was LD 1083’s last legislative hurdle and the bill now awaits formal action by Governor Mills. The governor can sign the bill, veto it, or allow it become law without her signature.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at MHPC. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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