Session is over, but parties won’t stop sparring

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff
Posted July 14, 2011, at 4:59 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Republicans and Democrats are still tussling over the accomplishments of the 125th Legislature’s first regular session two weeks after lawmakers wrapped up their work at the State House.

In announcing a summer listening tour titled “Get Real Maine,” Maine Democratic Party leaders said this week the idea was born out of frustration over radical and extreme policies pushed by Republicans during the recent Legislature.

“In November, Maine people sent us to Augusta with a mandate — a mandate to create jobs and to improve our economy,” House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said. “For the first time in decades Republicans were in charge. Instead of putting that mandate into action, they pushed an extreme agenda. Bill after bill we saw solutions in search of problems — from efforts to undermine the rights of working people to allowing toxic chemicals in sippy cups.”

House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, responded to those strong words with some of his own on Thursday.

“I find it interesting that eight months after Maine voters decided it was time to change leadership in Augusta, Democrats are just now realizing it might be time to go out and listen to the voters,” Nutting said, referring to the summer listening tour. “Republicans did this last fall and haven’t stopped listening. The result has been groundbreaking legislation from this past session that includes the largest tax cut in state history, an overhaul of Maine’s burdensome regulatory system, as well as reforms to the state pension system, health care and welfare.”

Nutting said the measures passed during the legislative session, many of which have not yet gone into effect, will make Maine more business-friendly and will create jobs.

Republicans further criticized the Democrats’ tour as simply a copy of Gov. LePage’s Red Tape tour earlier this year.

“During their tour, I think Democrats will hear the same thing from Mainers that we heard: The approach of the past four decades under a Democrat controlled legislature wasn’t working,” Nutting said.

Democrats, however, say efforts to roll back voting rights and add a new tax to health insurance policies have nothing to do with job creation or building a stronger Maine.

“The Get Real Maine tour is about connecting with all Mainers to make sure we can continue to stand up for you against these radical Republican attacks in Augusta next session,” Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said. “We are in the minority in Augusta. We can’t stop the extremism, favoritism and damaging proposals that work against Maine people’s interests without you.”

During the session, the two major parties were at odds over a number of issues, including many that did not get resolved and are likely to be revisited when the Legislature reconvenes in January. Among those are right-to-work legislation and welfare reform.

But Democrats and Republicans did come together on some things, most notably in passing a $6.1 billion biennial budget.

The first stop on the Democrats’ “Get Real Maine” tour is Saturday, July 16, at the Potato Blossom Festival in Fort Fairfield. As many as 25 stops are planned throughout the summer. Among those who plan to participate include members of the state House and Senate caucuses, along with representatives from the campaigns of U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/14/politics/state-house/parties-continue-political-sparring-into-summer-months/ printed on December 20, 2014