Fed up with restrictions that limit the ability of many businesses to operate in Maine during the coronavirus pandemic, at least a few Republican lawmakers want to impeach Gov. Janet Mills, or even put her behind bars.

Kathleen Dillingham Submitted photo

A majority, though, would rather find a way to work with her, state Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, the GOP leader in the state House, said Monday.

She said she submitted a request Monday to have the Legislature take a look at the emergency statute that Mills has relied on, in hopes of rewriting parts of the law “to try to create a balance” that leaves a larger role for legislators.

Dillingham said she’s heard from many people, including members of her caucus, who are upset with the way Mills has handled restrictions meant to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

She said, though, that while she doesn’t always like the governor’s choices, she recognizes they are done under the authority of law.

The problem, Dillingham said, is that the Legislature “is left out of some of the decision-making” that it ought to have a role in. Fixing that problem should be a bipartisan move, she said.

Not every Republican legislator has the same take.

Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a recent briefing with Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Nirav Shah. Portland Press Herald file photo

State Rep. John DeVeau, R-Caribou, said Monday that Mills, a Democrat, should be impeached for her “reckless actions” in shutting down part of the economy. He also called on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to launch a criminal investigation of her.

DeVeau said he has formally asked for the creation of a new state House investigative committee to look into the impeachment of Mills for violating Maine’s constitution and laws.

There is little chance the Democrat-controlled House is going to take DeVeau’s suggestion to probe the first-term governor’s possible impeachment.

“We must continue to work together to address the needs of Mainers, and this request is not in the best interests of our public health or the health of our economy. This would do nothing but distract and delay us from our shared goal of ensuring Maine’s full recovery from this crisis,” House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said Monday.

The House has the power to order the creation of an impeachment panel if it likes. It last considered one in 2016, but members at the time opted not to pursue the call to probe Gov. Paul LePage’s actions.

Dillingham said there are Republican lawmakers who would like to see Mills impeached, but they fall well short of a majority of the GOP caucus.

There have also been public calls to oust the governor, particularly among protesters who are pushing for a quick reopening of Maine.

At a Saturday rally to reopen Maine, DeVeau told a crowd, “So if you don’t think that some legislators have heard you, we have. And we have spoken.”

Another Mills critic, state Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, called the governor “Jackboot Janet” on his Facebook page and asked people to sign a petition to convene a grand jury to investigate her “for turning Maine’s nursing homes into killing fields,” essentially blaming the governor for COVID-19.

Mills’ response to the pandemic has been similar to governors in many states and generally in keeping with recommendations from public health experts in President Donald Trump’s administration. She has begun backing off from the most stringent rules, allowing restaurants  and many businesses to reopen in most Maine countries as the threat of overburdening hospitals has lessened a bit.

But there are still rules in place that limit tourism and stymie businesses in Maine.

DeVeau focused his concern on what he called “the countless lives that are being destroyed” by restrictions that have kept some businesses shuttered and others operating at less than full capacity.

Republican leaders in the Legislature have generally sought to balance concern for public health with economic necessity.

Some urged Mills to reopen rural areas of the state more quickly than she did and to open the door for a more successful summer season in a state that relies heavily on tourism dollars.

In the House Republicans’ weekly radio address Friday, state Rep. Abbie Griffin, R-Levant, said the GOP mourned those who died and praised Mainers who “have risen to the occasion to limit the number of fatalities and learned important lessons on how to necessary health safety precautions to reduce risks going forward.”

She also expressed concern that guidelines for reopening the state are littered with provisions that have “little to no scientific basis.”

“The handful of people suspending our civil liberties have resources, time, and ultimately believe more government is the answer to every question or problem. However well-intentioned they may be, they are increasingly oblivious to the pain and suffering now being endured by the growing number of Mainers who have no resources and are out of time,” Griffin said.

“Those out of work, out of money and even out of food, are increasingly at risk of even darker fates,” she said. “Depression, despair, abuse, addiction and even suicide are silently replacing COVID-19 as the biggest threat to Maine.”

“It is time to regain perspective and move away from decisions made in fear,” Griffin said.


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