As the 2016 legislative session gets underway, let’s hope that legislators understand they are there to serve us, not disturb us. Gov. Paul LePage, who certainly doesn’t understand this, has set the bar rather low for legislators this session, predicting they will “accomplish nothing.”
The governor is already looking beyond this session to the fall election, and the hope he’ll have more friends in the Legislature in 2017. That seems unlikely, the way he’s alienated many Republican legislators, including some of those in leadership positions. We gave the governor a Republican House and Senate for his first two years, and he couldn’t get along with them either.
It’s very likely that some of those Republican House members who defended the governor’s outrageous withholding of the Land for Maine’s Future bonds will lose their seats. I had one prominent Democrat tell me that he was pleased his Republican representative supported the governor “because we’ve wanted to get rid of him for a long time.”
While you might wish the Legislature would impeach the governor, that won’t happen. And because this is an election year and candidates are already focused on their fall campaigns, you can expect lots of posturing this session, by both political parties.
For sure, without the governor’s participation, the Legislature will only accomplish things that two-thirds of the members the House, controlled by Democrats, and Senate, controlled by Republicans, can agree on. Pardon me if I share the governor’s expectations. And we don’t know yet whether the governor intends to continue to veto every single bill.
We thought all sides had reached agreement on expanding drug law enforcement and treatment programs, but now House Republicans say no, and the governor has expressed unhappiness with this compromise, so even this is uncertain.
If you are wishing, like me, that the governor and Legislature would tackle some of the issues that are most important to our economy, they could start with the recommendations offered by Envision Maine at its November Economic Summit and outlined in a series of columns in this newspaper by Alan Caron and those who spoke at the Summit (including me). If they just did the “things that would make sense in Maine” from the most recent article by Caron and his wife, Kristina Egan, that would be fantastic.
Those recommendations were to “review all existing economic development programs to ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely … Evaluate the return on investment … Weed out the less effective programs and expand the more effective ones … Scale up what work … Invest in research and development … and reinvent education to build the skills Mainers need.”
Now that would really be serving us. And honestly, they’re going to be in Augusta for three months, so there is no excuse not to get started on these important goals.
They could also expand Medicaid, providing health care coverage to another 60,000 Mainers, all with federal money, but I guess Maine will be the last state to refuse to do so.
I grew up in a time when politics was fun. Today politics is ugly, divisive, and discouraging. I enjoyed a long career in politics, working for most major Republican candidates, managing referenda campaigns, and lobbying at the State House.
A couple of years ago I wrote a column explaining why I am still proud to be a Republican. I started with Teddy Roosevelt, the greatest conservationist we’ve ever had in the White House, then moved on to Margaret Chase Smith, who I knew and who inspired me to get involved in politics, and Marion Fuller Brown, a nationally recognized environmental leader who during her Maine legislative career got rid of billboards and sponsored the first returnable bottle bill.
The morning that column was printed in the newspaper, I received an email from a reader who said, “You know George, all the Republican heroes you mentioned are dead!”
Well, yes, there is that.
But I also like to say I was born a Republican, a sportsman, and a Methodist, and I have no way to change that. Honestly, I don’t think a lot of these people are really Republicans — they are certainly not in my Republican Party.
Well, enough about that. Let me end this column on a positive note.
While Dad was in the Hospice Unit at Togus for six months in 2014, every day he exclaimed, “This is a great day.” And it was. And it is. And it will be.
You have a great day today.