In Maine, the Majority in the State House Determines Constitutional Officers, and Influences the Agenda

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

November 5th, 2012 

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Maine's state Capitol, photo by Ramona du Houx

Republicans have 77 House seats to the Democrats’ who have 70, and there are two unenrolled members and two vacancies. The Senate has 19 Republicans, 15 Democrats and one unenrolled member. Until the upset in the 2010 elections, Republicans hadn’t controlled both chambers at the same time since 1974.

If the Democrats manage to regain control of the Legislature than Maine’s Constitutional Officers; the state Treasurer, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General could and most likely would change. Maine is the only state where these officers are elected by the State Legislature. Under Gov. Paul LePage there has been an unpredicted misuse of promoting the LePage agenda through the offices of these Constitutional Officers, which is not constitutional. One of the reasons why Maine has the State Legislature vote in these officers is to avoid such a situation.

Democrats also hope to hold back the extreme Republican agenda that the LePage administration has been focused on. The Republican controlled legislature last session removed 19 and 20-year-olds from the Medicaid program, known in the state as MaineCare, made drastic reductions in Head Start and Family Planning, eliminated state funding for home health care visits, and initiated other cutbacks. Gov. Paul LePage’s tax cut for the most wealthy in Maine put a hole into state resources and shifted the costs to local towns. This made property taxes rise as state education funding declined. Insurance costs also went up due to the Republican backed insurance “reform” forcing many businesses to drop their policies.

These LePage policies have been in stark contrast to a Democratic led agenda that supports job growth, economic development and making sure services that only government can provide are there for all it’s citizens.

Important bond issues for infrastructure improvements, education and natural resources will be on the ballot. But a major research and development bond was vetoed by Gov. LePage even though the electorate has always supported such measures. LePage’s actions could hamper Maine’s growth in the innovation economy.

Democrats believe that they have a strong chance of winning back the State House. Republicans say they will remain in control. Voter turn out is key. Statistically more voters take part in Presidential elections.

With the Supreme Court ruling – allowing unlimited amounts of third party campaign – spending millions of dollars have been flooding into the state, mostly for Republican advertising.The state Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne confirmed that third-party spending for all legislative races is expected to reach $3 million this year, compared with $1.5 million in 2010.

Many are wondering how effective these ads are verses old fashioned door to door campaigning. Maine is known to have an independent minded electorate, one that votes for people and policies before party affiliation.

With issues like making same sex marriages legal, and the President supporting Maine’s ballot question on the issue known as Yes on One, polls should be busy Tuesday, Nov, 6, 2012.