The Legislature will return next week for a special session over the objections of Gov. Paul LePage, who accused House Republicans who are typically loyal to him of “giving in because it’s an election year.”
Legislative leaders polled their caucuses about returning to Augusta on Thursday. Full results are not technically due until Friday but all signals are that the special session is on. House Republicans, who blocked the Legislature from going beyond its statutory adjournment date of April 18, voted in favor of the session, according to a news release.
The impasse was over a bill to start Medicaid expansion, which Democrats were demanding be included in a package of bills that both parties wanted, and slowing down scheduled increases in Maine’s minimum wage, which House Republicans were using as an ultimatum.
Both of those issues have been defused. The Medicaid expansion bill could go to a vote on its own, which could doom it because it would need two-thirds support to go into effect immediately and survive an expected veto from LePage.
LePage issued a radio address on Thursday titled, “The Legislature’s coming into special session to take the easy way out,” noting their loyalty to him during a 2017 budget fight that led to Maine’s first government shutdown since 1991.
“A year ago, House Republicans shut down state government to make sure bad policies did not pass,” LePage said. “Now they are giving in because it’s an election year.”
LePage argued that the minimum wage law, which will increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, will hurt the economy and Mainers who live on fixed incomes. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, declined to respond to LePage’s criticism.
House Clerk Rob Hunt’s poll of House members Thursday asked whether they can return on Tuesday. There was no indication of how long the session will take, though Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, told Maine Public on Thursday that he hopes work can end within “two or three days.”
“I’ll be surprised if there are any votes not to come back in on the Senate side,” Thibodeau said.
Gideon, who appeared with Thibodeau on “Maine Calling,” said she expected three days of work next week and that Democrats would vote in favor of returning to Augusta alongside Rep. Ralph Chapman of Brooksville, the Legislature’s only Green Independent.
Thibodeau and Gideon said the goal is to move the spending bills to LePage early in the session, possibly on the first day, in case he vetoes line-item spending in any of the proposals. By law, he has 24 hours to do that and 10 days to veto entire bills. The Legislature could come back after that to deal with any vetoes.
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