May 21, 2018
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Why was LePage ‘censure’ effort tabled in House?

Joe Brooks, Maine House District 42 race, 2010.
By Joe Brooks, Special to the BDN

In the late hours of the 126th Legislature last week, just before adjournment to await “Veto Day” this Tuesday, July 9, I introduced a joint order to censure Gov. Paul LePage for his comments about Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and his reference to Vaseline.

I agreed to have the order tabled following an hourlong caucus of Democrats, during which nearly all of the members in attendance, one after another, urged me to table the joint order without action or debate on the floor of the House.

The reasons given for their urgings were nearly unanimous — to air my complaints aimed at the governor’s language and his behavior since taking office would destroy any hopes the Democrats have of overriding some of the chief executive’s vetoes.

The House and Senate both voted on the same day to override his budget veto and veto of a major bill that offers alternatives in the state’s need for low cost power. Both branches failed to override the remaining 20-plus vetoes.

This coming Tuesday there will be many more vetoes to vote on — as many as 25. These are new vetoes LePage has issued in the interim.

The question I still have is whether tabling my joint order had any positive effect on the willingness of the House and Senate to override any of these new vetoes. I seriously doubt that it did.

I entered the joint order in an effort to stop the continuing name-calling by the governor and in an attempt to bridge the partisanship divide between Democrats and Republicans with the chief executive.

I had also hoped that the people of Maine would see this as an effort to stand up to the bully in the Blaine House who has truly overreached his authority in use of the bully pulpit afforded him as chief executive.

In addition, I had hoped that television news broadcasters would seize on the story in an effort to balance some of the poor-image national reporting our state has received by way of the governor’s comments.

Those who are followers of the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC know very well that the state of Maine has been painted in a very embarrassing light in two of her recent broadcasts — both of which captured many of his inappropriate comments and behavior during his first term.

I wish now that I had not allowed the joint order to be tabled in the House. I wish it had been sent to the House floor for debate and forwarded to the Senate, even though I was told by leadership that the order would be “killed immediately” if it ever got to the Senate.

I do not want to destroy any ground that has been gained toward legislative bipartisanship — but I see none.

The joint order did not seek anything like “impeachment” — it only sought a slap on the wrist and an apology to the people of Maine.

My offer was simply an effort to show the people of Maine that some of us in the Legislature are willing to stand up to the bully. Tabling the order halted that message in its tracks.

When the Legislature reconvenes Tuesday — probably for the final session day this year — let’s see if anyone has the fortitude to make a motion to remove H.P. 1142 from the House table.

Rep. Joe Brooks, U-Winterport, is serving his fourth term in the Maine Legislature. He retired from the Bangor Daily News in 2001 after nearly 40 years as a reporter and editor.

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