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A Republican lawmaker said he has filed paperwork to begin the process of impeaching Gov. Janet Mills over coronavirus-related restrictions, though party leaders oppose the inquiry as they press for the Legislature to rein in the governor’s emergency power.
Rep. John DeVeau, R-Caribou, told protesters at a Saturday rally that he filed paperwork to impeach the Democratic governor with a legislative office that drafts bills. He declined to provide specifics on the charges, referring a reporter to a spokesperson who said he did not have a draft. Bills are kept confidential by the Legislature before they are introduced.
When a group of liberal lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to impeach former Gov. Paul LePage in 2016, the process began with an order to form a committee to investigate the charges. At the time, leading Democrats joined Republicans to turn back the measure in an initial House vote.
This bid looks destined to meet a similar fate. Top Republicans oppose DeVeau’s gambit. Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature and majorities of both parties would have to agree to reconvene after adjourning in mid-March unless called back by the governor herself. Removing a governor from office requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate.
House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, said no other member of her caucus has told her they support the bid. DeVeau presented a draft of his order to party leaders and asked them to put it forward, she said. They were not interested in doing so, leaving him to submit it.
“You maybe don’t agree with everything she’s doing, but when you look at it, she’s operating under the powers granted to her by the Legislature,” Dillingham said of Mills.
Mills’ handling of the coronavirus outbreak was well-regarded in a Critical Insights poll in mid-April, though Republicans have publicly soured on the governor’s continued restrictions on business prompted by the virus. Spokespeople for Mills did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, top legislative Republicans called for the Legislature to strip Mills of the emergency powers it granted her in March. Since then, Mills announced an accelerated reopening plan for rural parts of the state. Retail establishments were permitted to open last week provided that they abide by certain health measures, while restaurants in 12 mostly rural counties were permitted to open on Monday.
The governor has broad powers during a state of civil emergency, including redirecting state resources. Before adjourning, the Legislature gave Mills additional powers to waive school attendance requirements and move the primary election, which will now be held in July.
The bigger policy debate in Augusta could revolve around the governor’s emergency power. Dillingham submitted a bill on Monday to would limit it by only allowing the governor to declare a state of emergency to 30 days with any renewal subject to approval by two-thirds of lawmakers.
Watch: Janet Mills outlines her plan to reopen