Ah, our governor was in fine fettle Thursday afternoon, putting pen to paper while offering — symbolically, of course — a pint of Guinness to his antagonists in the Legislature.
At last, Mainers could begin their pub crawls at 6 a.m. on Sundays, but only on days when, like today, St. Patrick’s Day falls on Sunday.
And you thought democracy was broken.
This curious story began when pub owners noticed, rather belatedly, a quirk in the calendar: St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday this year.
And that meant they could not sell a drop of drink before the late, late hour of 9 a.m.
Oh, the barrels of green beer and bottles of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey that would go to waste!
So, the barkeeps did what you do to obtain relief when you feel the heavy hand of sober-minded government on your back. They approached a hail and well met member of the Legislature, the Hon. Sen. Barry Hobbins.
The Saco Democrat listened to their complaint and smacked his gob. “This is an outrage; up with this we will not put!”
“Hear, hear!” the barmen shouted.
All he had to do, he said, was convince his fellow legislators that drinking at 6 a.m. was a right and proper thing to do on a Sunday morning, but only when St. Patrick’s Day intruded on the Sabbath Day.
It’s a matter of priorities, you see.
Then they conferred again with the calendar. It plainly showed that even if Hobbins got his bill through the Legislature it would not go into effect for 90 days, and that would be after St. Patrick’s Day.
Hobbins looked concerned, but then he exclaimed: “I know an emergency when I see one, and this is it!”
He’s a wily lad, that Hobbins, and he realized Maine’s Constitution allows laws to go into effect immediately after the governor signs them IF they are necessary to “preserving the public peace, health and safety.”
That’s a pretty high bar, of course, clearly reserved for times of war, pestilence or famine.
But Hobbins knew crazier things have happened under dome. Recently, in fact.
Like in 2011, when legislators convinced themselves more fireworks were necessary to maintain Maine’s “peace, health and safety.”
True story. And see how well that has worked out.
Hobbins and the saloon keepers proceeded to work their way through the Legislature, shaking hands and sprinkling fairy dust upon the noggins of lawmakers as they dozed during committee hearings.
Before long, practically everyone agreed drinking at 6 a.m. was a capital idea, except a few dozen teetotaling Republicans. “Harumph,” they said, in the way that only a walrus can say that.
Hobbins’ bill was well on its way. Tap jockeys from Fort Kent to Kittery rejoiced.
And then . . . Pow! The governor blew a head gasket.
Angry that his plan to sell more liquor to pay some old hospital bills wasn’t moving, he threw down a challenge: He would sign no bills, no bills, until Democrats did his bidding.
In effect, the governor would hold the bar bill hostage until he got his booze bill passed.
Makes the head swim, doesn’t it?
The pressure built. Who would blink first? They stood toe to toe.
Did little Lucky the Leprechaun even stand a chance against this fire-breathing dragon.
Then, midweek, a ray of sun shone through.
The weather warmed a wee bit and, in a high spot in the capital parking lot, a snow mound began to melt.
Soon it was trickle racing across the parking lot, a stream of goodwill that ran into the Burton Cross Building, down through the tunnel, up to the second floor and into the governor’s cup.
The normally hardheaded governor took a sip. Gradually, he began to feel warm all over. And less tense. He loosened his tie.
He leaned back in his executive chair and he saw the St. Patrick’s Day bill on his desk.
He arched an eyebrow and looked at it hard. Really hard.
“Ah, gimme that pen.”
And Gov. Paul LePage, with a twinkle in his eye, a big smile on his face and a leprechaun hat on his head, signed that bill into law.
Ah, it was like spring in the old country. As fable has it, they closed down the State House, threw open the windows, and the governor and legislative leaders hoisted a few beers and broke into a Dropkick Murphy song:
“I once loved a girl, and child I am told
I gave ‘er my heart and she gave me a cold.”
The era of hard-feelings had ended. It would be sunshine and shamrocks from now on. And they locked arms and danced.
And if you don’t believe this possible . . .
Well, there is video.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the Sun Media ownership and the editorial board.
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