AUGUSTA, Maine — The House chairman of the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee said Monday that he has agreed to continue serving in the post but pledged to avoid the type of partisan atmosphere that threatened to derail work on the budget last week.
Rep. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, had submitted his letter of resignation as co-chairman of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on Friday, one day after Democratic lawmakers expressed outrage at the handling of a contentious health insurance reform bill.
Flood said Monday that he has agreed to continue serving as House chairman after discussions with House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, and Democratic leaders. But Flood apologized for last week’s events and said he would not allow a repeat.
“We cannot afford to have five members of our committee feeling distrustful, disrespected and feeling less than equal — all sentiments they expressed late Thursday evening as we rushed through an unusual procedural vote,” Flood told reporters early Monday.
“I regret that. I was part of that. Those kind of actions need to stop,” he said. “I could have slowed that process for further study and I frankly didn’t act quickly enough to do that. I will not allow that to happen again.”
The blow-up with Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee happened late Thursday night when Republican leaders attempted to fast-track the health insurance reform bill to a Senate vote.
Typically, any bills that have a financial impact on the budget must be reviewed by the Appropriations Committee before final passage. But GOP leaders asked the Appropriations Committee to exempt the bill, LD 1333, from the review, igniting partisan tensions.
Flood, a well-respected lawmaker known for his attempts to build bipartisan consensus on potentially thorny budget issues, did not blame anyone for the events Thursday that he acknowledged had a “destructive outcome” on the usually collegial committee.
After forcing a partisan, 8-4 vote on the issue just before midnight Thursday, the Senate ended up adjourning until Monday. That rush left Democrats feeling disrespected and prompted several to warn that the blow-up over health insurance would affect the committee’s work on the budget.
But Flood said he was optimistic that Republicans and Democrats will be able to resume their bipartisan work on the $6.1 billion budget that begins July 1.
“Discussions with the speaker and the House minority leader [Rep. Emily Cain] over the past several days make me believe that we can repair the damage and move forward in the Appropriations Committee once again,” Flood said.
The Senate passed the health insurance bill early Monday. Gov. Paul LePage is expected to sign the bill Tuesday.