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, Andrea Cianchette Maker, or Avery Day

This update is generally published on Fridays but is being sent to you today due to last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. 

127th Maine Legislature to Convene 

Pursuant to Maine’s Constitution, the 127th Maine Legislature will convene on Wednesday, December 3rd.  This is mostly a day of ceremony for recently elected legislators and their families and it will be centered around the process of legislators taking their oath of office.  Some organizational issues will also be decided that day, such as the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House being formally elected.  The first day of the legislative session also involves the election of Constitutional Officers by a joint convention of the House and Senate, which could be a dramatic set of elections due to a closely divided Legislature. 

Senate District 25 Race Still Undecided 

This election cycle produced very few recounts, with only three Senate recounts and no House recounts.  The recount for the Senate District 25 (Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth area) was held on November 18th.  On election night, the apparent winner of this race was Cathy Breen, the Democrat competing for this open Senate seat.  After the recount on the 18th, Cathy Manchester, the Republican candidate for this seat, was the apparent winner of this race.  Lawyers for the Breen campaign, however, contested the results of the recount and now the incoming Maine Senate will decide the winner of this race.  Resolution of this race will be the first order of business when the Senate convenes on December 3rd.  

Constitutional Officer Elections Contested 

Once the Legislature is convened and the result of the Senate District 25 race is determined, all 151 members of the Maine House and 35 members of the Maine Senate will meet in a joint convention to elect Maine’s Constitutional Officers:  Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer.   

Though Democrats, combined with Independent House members who caucus with the Democrats, command a majority of all legislators, the margin is narrow.  This has caused some to speculate that these elections are competitive.  In fact, two of the three Democratic incumbents holding these offices now face challengers. 

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who has held this position from 2005 to 2011 and from 2013 until present, is being challenged for this office by former Republican State Senator Jonathan Courtney.  Maine’s Treasurer, Neria Douglass, who previously served as the State’s Auditor, is being challenged by former Representative Teresea Hayes.  Maine’s Attorney General, Janet Mills, who has held this position from 2009 to 2011 and from 2013 until present, does not have an opponent for her seat at this time.  

While the Democrats’ majority is not overwhelming, the election of Constitutional Officers is typically a highly disciplined vote along party lines.  Challengers face a difficult task in persuading a sufficient number of Democratic legislators to cross party lines to elect Republican-backed candidates for these offices.  

Cloture Likely in Mid-December 

Another organizational issue that should be addressed on December 3rd relates to establishing the deadline for legislation to be filed.  Legislative leaders for the 127th Legislature plan to meet on December 3rd to finalize this deadline.  Legislators, however, have been advised that cloture will very likely be Friday, December 19, 2014 at 4:00 P.M. 

If your organization would like to pursue legislation during the 127th Legislature, you should assume this is the deadline for bill submissions.  If you have questions about submitting legislation, please contact us for more information.