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Republicans stall efforts to reconvene Maine Legislature

July 16, 2020 GMT

An effort to reconvene the Maine Legislature for a special session has been thwarted by Republicans who want to limit business to coronavirus-related legislation and to set a strict time limit.

Refusal of Republicans to respond to a survey sent out by Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Sara Gideon, both Democrats, puts the kibosh on a special session because the Maine Constitution requires the approval of a majority of lawmakers from each party.

Jackson and Gideon blasted Republicans for balking after demanding that lawmakers reconvene. Jackson said that low coronavirus infection rates have provided “a window to reconvene.”

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“For months, Republican lawmakers have vocally called for the legislature to reconvene in public statements, letters and press conferences. However, it turns out that this was all talk,” Jackson, of Allagash, said in a statement.

Gideon echoed the sentiment in her own statement.

“It is increasingly difficult to take my Republican colleagues’ repeated demands of reconvening the Legislature seriously when they have just refused to vote to take that very action,” said Gideon, of Freeport.

Republicans contended it’s reasonable to have an agreement on the scope of work before returning to session.

They noted that the state remains under a civil emergency aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

“It would be irresponsible for the Legislature to ignore the same restrictions to meet and deliberate beyond what is absolutely necessary,” said Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake.

The Legislature adjourned March 17 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving much of the decision-making during the crisis to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills during a state of emergency.

If they eventually meet, the lawmakers would gather at the Augusta Civic Center instead of at the Maine Statehouse.

That’s similar to what the New Hampshire Legislature did recently. New Hampshire lawmakers met at an arena on the University of New Hampshire campus to ensure adequate social distancing.

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Sharp reported from Portland, Maine.