Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 11.16.2012

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. If you would like more specific information regarding an item in this newsletter or related to government relations, please contact a member of our Government Relations Practice Group: John Delahanty, Andrea C. Maker, or Avery Day.

Maine House and Senate Under Democratic Control

While many were watching the Presidential race on election night, the battle for control of Maine’s Legislature also proved to be interesting. In what was proving to be difficult to predict, Maine Democrat victories surged, resulting in Democrats capturing control of both the House and the Senate by comfortable margins. Final numbers in both chambers have not yet been determined due to recounts. Regardless of the outcome of these recounts, Democrats will control both chambers during the next legislative session.

Legislative Leadership Selected

Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate have met since the election to select their leaders for the next legislative session. The presiding officers will not be officially elected until the new Legislature is sworn into office on December 5th, but leaders have been selected in the respective caucuses. The following legislators have been chosen to fill leadership positions in the 126th Legislature:

Senate
  • President of the Senate: Senator Justin Alfond of Portland
  • Majority Leader: Senator Seth Goodall of Richmond
  • Assistant Majority Leader: Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash
  • Minority Leader: Senator Michael Thibodeau of Winterport
  • Assistant Minority Leader: Senator Roger Katz of Augusta

House
  • Speaker of the House: Representative Mark Eves of North Berwick
  • Majority Leader: Representative Seth Berry of Bowdoinham
  • Assistant Majority Leader: Representative Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan
  • Minority Leader: Representative Kenneth Fredette of Newport
  • Assistant Minority Leader: Representative Alex Willette of Mapleton

It is noteworthy that this slate of leaders is all male. This is the first time that leadership has been all male since 1977. In addition to being all-male, this is also a youthful group. A number of members of leadership are under the age of 40, including Senate President Alfond, 37, and Speaker of the House Eves, 35.

Organizing for the 126th Legislature

Legislative leaders have been selected but more organizational decisions must be made before legislators are sworn in. Maine is unusual in that the State’s three Constitutional Officers, our Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer are elected by all 186 members of the Legislature during a joint session. With control back in the Democrats’ hands, new Constitutional Officers will be selected. House and Senate Democrats will decide before they are sworn in whom they will elect for these three positions. Former Attorney General Janet Mills and Portland attorney Tim Shannon are seeking the position of Attorney General. Former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and Representative Brian Bolduc are pursuing the Secretary of State’s position. State Auditor Neria Douglass and former Representative Jeremy Fischer are seeking the Treasurer’s position. It is possible that additional candidates will surface.

Legislative leaders will also decide on committee structure and composition. When Republicans gained control of the Legislature in 2010, they decided to combine the Labor Committee with the Commerce Committee, a move that was criticized by labor interests. Given that history, it would not be a surprise if these committees are separated. Other changes to committee jurisdiction are possible. Additionally, chairs and members of committees will have to be determined before the Legislature can begin its work in earnest.

The first session of every Legislature is the “long session,” where any legislator can introduce any number of bills on any subject matter. One limitation on this very open process is “cloture”, which is the deadline for submitting bill proposals without Legislative Council approval. Reportedly, cloture has been set for December 21st. Those interested in advancing legislation must identify a legislator to submit their proposal before the cloture deadline. Legislative language does not have to be drafted by this deadline, but a concept sufficient for the Revisor’s Office to draft the legislation must submitted by this deadline.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Not Seeking Re-Election to the Post

In the wake of the results of the election, Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster announced that he will not run for re-election as Party Chair. Webster’s Chairmanship was marked in 2010 with success, as Republicans captured both the Maine House and Senate after decades of being the minority party in Augusta. Since that victory, Webster’s Chairmanship has been controversial. Webster promoted ending same-day voter registration, a proposal that was repealed by a People’s Veto. Webster’s handing of the Ron Paul movement in Maine in 2012 was also criticized. Just this week, Webster gave an interview regarding his decision not to seek re-election as Party Chair and made some racially insensitive comments, sparking more controversy. A new Party Chair will be elected by the Party’s State Committee in December.