Inside Augusta

Pressure mounts on Speaker Gideon, President Jackson to reconvene the Maine Legislature

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The Maine Legislature may soon reconvene three months after lawmakers adjourned the 2020 session, giving Governor Janet Mills full authority to direct Maine’s emergency response to COVID-19. 

“I certainly feel like we are getting close to the point where we may reconvene…” Senate President Troy Jackson told the Press Herald last week. “At that time, [Gov. Mills’] emergency powers either won’t be the same or they won’t be there at all. She’ll have to work with us in a different way. We are getting close.”

Since the legislature’s adjournment, lawmakers have had little say in Maine’s response to COVID-19. In early May, Jackson and Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, both democrats, called on the governor to create a task force directing Maine’s response to the virus. Mills denied their request, arguing that it was based on “a misimpression that our administration has not been responsive to or is not consulting the Legislature on matters of restarting Maine’s economy.”  

Lawmakers, however, have complained about Mills’ lack of transparency surrounding decisions such as the delaying of dine-in services for restaurants in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties. 

Earlier this month, tensions rose when the administration––to the surprise of many lawmakers––withheld the labor commissioner from an oversight meeting intended to address issues plaguing Maine’s unemployment system. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized Mills’ decision as they left the meeting with few answers on how to help struggling constituents.  

The public has also expressed frustration with the Mills’ administration. Several businesses have written complaints and filed lawsuits against the governor over her restrictive reopening plan, one which continues to change based on “science” that is arguable at best.

Given the grievances voiced by lawmakers and Maine citizens, the legislature’s return seems imminent. While there is no official date set, Jackson told the Press Herald that the legislature may reconvene in a month, or possibly longer. 

Mills told legislative leaders in March that she would reconvene the legislature “when it is safe to do so.” If the legislature reconvenes, they can pass a resolution to strip Mills of her emergency powers; otherwise, her powers may only be removed if she voluntarily gives them up. 

Last week, New Hampshire representatives reconvened in the University of New Hampshire’s hockey arena. They have 400 members in their House of Representatives compared to Maine’s 151 members. 

You can sign the petition to reconvene the Maine Legislature here: https://mainepolicy.org/reclaimme/ 

About Isabelle Christie

Isabelle Christie is a senior at Marist College pursuing a degree in history and minors in communication and writing. She is currently serving as Maine Policy Institute’s summer 2020 communications intern.

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