Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House
Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. If you would like more specific information regarding an item in this newsletter or related to government relations, please contact a member of our Government Relations Practice Group: John Delahanty or Andrea Cianchette Maker.
Election Results Largely Final
While the results of Maine’s higher-profile elections were known within hours of the polls closing on November 4th, the results of State House and Senate races were not as certain within that same period of time. Given how close some of these State House and Senate races can be and that it can take time for some of Maine’s more rural towns to report election results, it sometimes takes days to know the exact composition of Maine’s incoming Legislature. At this point, however, we have a firm understanding of the election day results.
Currently, the 127th Maine Senate is expected to have 20 Republican and 15 Democratic members. The 127th Maine House is expected to have 79 Democratic, 68 Republican, 2 Independent and 2 Unenrolled members. That being said, requests for recounts in three separate Senate races were filed with the Secretary of State’s Office before the November 12th deadline to request a recount. These recounts will be held between November 14th and November 18th. There is the potential for these recounts to affect the composition of the Maine Senate. If, however, previous election cycle’s recounts and the current margin of votes separating the candidates at issue are any indication, then it is unlikely that these recounts will affect the final election result in any of the recounts.
Legislative Leadership Selected
One of the first orders of business for legislators following an election is selecting their caucus’s leadership. Republicans met on November 7th and Democrats met on November 12th to elect their leaders in the House and Senate. The following are the results of these elections:
Senate President - Michael Thibodeau (R – Waldo)
Senate Majority Leader - Garrett Mason (R – Androscoggin)
Senate Assistant Majority Leader - Andre Cushing (R – Penobscot)
Senate Minority Leader - Justin Alfond (D – Cumberland)
Senate Assistant Minority Leader - Dawn Hill (D – York)
Speaker of the House - Mark Eves (D – North Berwick)
House Majority Leader - Jeff McCabe (D – Skowhegan)
House Assistant Majority Leader - Sara Gideon (D – Freeport)
House Minority Leader - Kenneth Fredette (R – Newport)
House Assistant Minority Leader - Eleanor Espling (R – New Gloucester)
First Glimpse of Agendas for 127th Legislature
It has been fewer than two weeks since Maine’s elections and we have already caught a glimpse of what is likely on the agenda for the next legislative session. Governor LePage and legislative leaders have discussed their priorities with Maine’s media. The following captures some of policy initiatives that have already been raised.
· Improving Maine’s economy
· Reconsideration of previously rejected welfare reforms
· Reducing energy costs by expanding natural gas pipeline capacity and accessing
electricity generated by hydropower
· Restructuring Maine’s healthcare system
· Funding for road and bridge repairs and improvements
· Prison and school construction
· Restructuring Maine’s higher education system
· Reforming Maine’s tax system
Democratic Legislative Leaders
· Affordable housing for Maine seniors
· Property tax relief
· Healthcare reform
· Supporting education
· Transportation funding
Republican Legislative Leaders
· Welfare reform
· Reduce and stabilize energy prices through various reforms
· Improve Maine’s economy
· Campaign finance reform
· Reducing taxes
A Number of Mileposts Ahead
The election of legislative leaders now starts the process of organizing for the 127th Legislature, a process that will unfold between now and early January. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President, the Presiding Officers, will now determine House and Senate Committee Chairs and then round out Committees with rank and file membership. News of these decisions should start to come out over the coming weeks. The Presiding Officers will also set the deadline for filing bills for the 127th Legislature, known as cloture. As of now, this important deadline has not been set.
The 127th Legislature will be sworn on in December 3rd and the Governor’s inauguration will follow on January 7th. Once the Governor is sworn in for his second term, expect the focus to quickly shift to the State’s biennial budget, as the Governor must submit his budget proposal to the Legislature by January 9th.