April 21, 2019
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Maine Senate president’s bill to aid unpaid federal workers falls short in the House

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
The State House in Augusta, as seen from Capitol Park.

Republicans in the Maine House of Representatives dealt a blow Thursday to one of the first signature early pieces of legislation introduced by Democrats after the party made significant gains in the November 2018 election.

In one of its first meaningful roll-call votes of the new session, the House voted 92-46 in favor of an amended version of LD 477, which was sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and championed by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. But that tally fell short of the two-thirds majority required to enact the legislation as an emergency bill, so it will be volleyed back to the Senate for another vote.

Christine Kirby, spokeswoman for Jackson, said he will to strip the bill of its “emergency” status once it returns to the Senate, so that passage in the House will only require a simple majority.

Thursday’s House vote came after a brief recess to allow party leaders to meet with members to discuss the measure. Most House Republicans voted against the bill.

The vote was the first time this session that minority Republicans in the lower chamber tapped the two-thirds threshold requirement to stymie Democrats. In the previous Legislature, when Republicans also were the minority party in the House, they often voted as a bloc to frustrate majority Democrats in votes requiring two-thirds majorities, most often on proposed emergency bills or vetoes from Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Proposed in January in the midst a record-breaking federal government shutdown when some 800,000 federal workers across the country were furloughed or working without pay, the emergency bill sought to bring financial aid in the form of interest-free credit union and bank loans up to $15,000 for the roughly 1,100 federal workers living in Maine.

The shutdown ended in February, but the bill’s sponsors and members of the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee advanced the bill anyway, in the event another shutdown should occur in 2019.

During committee deliberations, Republicans expressed concern that using the Finance Authority of Maine as a backstop for bank or credit union loans could set a bad precedent.

 



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