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.
COMPOSITION OF 127TH LEGISLATURE FINALLY SET
This week, the winner of the race for Senate District 25 (Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth area) was finally settled. On election night, Cathy Breen, the Democratic candidate for this seat, appeared to have won this race by 32 votes. After a recount on November 18th, the winner of this race, by a margin of 11 votes, appeared to be Cathy Manchester, the Republican candidate for this seat. The results of the recount, however, were contested, resulting in a special Senate Committee being appointed to settle the outcome of this race. This Committee met on December 9th and determined that 21 ballots from the town of Long Island were counted twice and that the winner on election night, Cathy Breen, was the actual winner of this race. Perhaps, the resolution of this final legislative race will clear the air in Augusta, as this matter resulted in considerable partisan bickering on the opening day of the Legislature.
127TH LEGISLATURE CONVENES
The newly elected members of the Maine House and Senate convened on December 3rd and were sworn into office by Governor LePage. This day is largely a day of ceremony and an opportunity for friends and family to wish legislators well as they start a new session.
The first day of session is also when various officials are formally elected, including the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, as well as the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House. All members of the Legislature also meet in a joint convention in order to elect Maine’s three Constitutional Officers, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer, for two-year terms. This joint convention added a bit of drama to the day due to the fact that the Democrats in the Legislature hold a narrow majority within the context of a joint convention. Traditionally, the election of Constitutional Officers is a very disciplined vote dominated by the majority party. This year, however, Republicans managed to elect one of their candidates, former Democratic Representative Terry Hayes, as Maine’s next Treasurer. Democrats were successful in re-electing their two other candidates, Attorney General Mills and Secretary of State Dunlap, to their posts.
The Legislature has now adjourned until January 7th. On that day, the Legislature will again meet in a joint convention in order to see Governor LePage inaugurated to his second term in office.
COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS EXPECTED SOON
Most of the organizing for the 127th Legislature is now complete. Committee assignments, however, have not yet been publically announced. Committee formulation is ultimately the prerogative of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House but, generally, assignments are a negotiated agreement by the party leaders in each chamber. Complicating assignments this year is the question of partisan makeup of committees. There is precedence when the Legislature is under divided control for the minority party overall to control at least a few committees. Republicans, who are in the minority overall, are pressing for majority control of some committees in the 127th Legislature. Once this question is resolved, committee composition can be decided. Work appears to be progressing on this front and committee assignments could be available as soon as late next week.
CLOTURE FINALLY SET
We previously reported that cloture, the deadline for submitting legislation to the 127th Legislature, would very likely be in mid-December. Before the Legislature adjourned on December 3rd, the House and Senate adopted a Joint Order establishing Friday, January 2, 2015 at 4:00 P.M. as cloture.
UNDER THE DOME SCHEDULE
Due to the Christmas holiday, the Under the Dome scheduled for Friday, December 26th will be sent on Monday, December 29th. The legislative session will start in earnest in January and we will switch to weekly editions of Under the Dome after the Legislature reconvenes for the Governor’s inauguration on January 7th.