AUGUSTA, Maine — Sen. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, on Tuesday took responsibility for a firestorm that has raged since a Monday night vote of the Appropriations Committee that excluded Republicans. He said the committee vote that set off the controversy resulted from a miscommunication on his part.
Rep. Kathleen Chase, R-Wells, the GOP’s ranking member on the committee, said later that she was in the same meeting with Flood and that there was no miscommunication.
Flood, the only Republican senator on the Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday morning that he thought Sen. Dawn Hill, D-Cape Neddick, the committee’s Senate chairwoman, told him that the committee vote on a bill, LR 2721, to restore $40 million in state aid to cities and towns would be postponed until Tuesday.
“My bad,” said Flood to the BDN on Tuesday after the Senate went into recess for the day. He said he had spoken to Hill by telephone about the matter earlier in the day.
“I think [Hill] felt like she made it clear that the vote was going to be [Monday] evening,” said Flood. “I didn’t get that impression. I thought we were done for the evening and suggested that a few of our people go home. It was a misunderstanding and I’m sorry it happened. We should be able to patch this up, today hopefully.”
He told the BDN on Tuesday that he regrets the miscommunication, which ignited a fusillade of charges and countercharges from Republican and Democrats in the Legislature — and from the state’s Republican and Democratic parties.
With only seven Democrats on the committee present, the budget-writing panel voted 7-0 to send to the House a bill that would restore $40 million in municipal revenue sharing to cities and towns for fiscal year 2015.
Republicans called it a “secret vote.” Democrats labeled the Republican committee members’ actions “cut and run.”
Republican leaders, who also called Monday night’s Appropriations Committee vote “a disgrace,” continued on the offensive during a news conference at noon Tuesday at the State House. They decried the vote as “Washington-style” politics and said any inference that Republicans knew a vote would take place and chose not to participate was “a lie,” according to Chase.
Chase told the Bangor Daily News following the news conference that she was involved in the same meetings with Hill as Flood was and that it was clear to her that Democrats told Republicans they would hold off on the vote until Tuesday.
“There was no misunderstanding,” she said. “It was very clear to me that the vote was going to be today. I was there. I know what I heard.”
Flood did not attend the news conference.
Hill told the BDN on Tuesday that Republicans on the committee made it clear to her that they would not vote on the bill Monday night. She said she convened the Democrats on the committee and when it became clear that Republicans were not going to show up, she went forward with the vote.
After a day of rancor in which Democratic and Republican legislative leaders tossed accusations at each other, the Appropriations Committee convened late Tuesday in large part to clear the air and for Republicans to record their votes on the bill. The end result was 8-5, along party lines, for an ought to pass recommendation.