AUGUSTA, Maine — The chairman of the Maine Republican Party was mincing few words Tuesday in a press release demanding an apology from his Democratic counterpart.
Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant should apologize to state Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, for saying Volk was attempting to “soften her edges” by supporting a bill that would allow the courts to vacate the convictions of prostitutes who were victims of human trafficking.
Republicans last week voiced outrage over the bill’s rejection, along partisan lines, by the Legislature’s Legislative Council. Volk has said she will appeal the decision.
The council took up more than 400 proposed bills, including Volk’s, that lawmakers wanted debate on during the 2014 lawmaking session starting in January. They rejected more than 300, keeping on the bills that were deemed either an emergency or time-sensitive in nature.
Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, of North Berwick, has said Volk’s bill has merit but that it simply didn’t meet the criteria for bills the council was allowing for debate during the relatively short, second half of the 126th Legislature.
Eves’ spokeswoman has said he’s urged Volk to appeal and explain why the bill is an emergency.
In a press release Tuesday, Bennett said Grant’s statements about the bill and Volk during a radio show sounded, “patronizing and sexist.” He also complained Grant was dismissive of the bill, saying it wasn’t needed, because a bill passed earlier this year already dramatically increased the penalties for human trafficking under state law.
Volk has said her bill is an emergency because if it is not passed victims of prostitution that resulted from human trafficking would have to wait an additional year to put the criminal convictions behind them causing them to miss out on employment and educational opportunities.
“Ben Grant’s attack of (Volk) and his minimizing the issue of human trafficking is truly disgraceful and stands in the way of giving some help to women whose lives have been shattered by no fault of their own,” Bennett said in a prepared statement.
Republicans have also suggested Democrats are trying to deny Volk a victory on a women’s rights issue because she is a conservative.
Attempts to reach Grant for comment were not immediately successful.