Veto Day revisited

By Reade Brower | May 15, 2014

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.” — Albert Einstein, physicist, (1879-1955)

Veto Day in Augusta was in early May and I read with interest Andy O’Brien’s piece in the Free Press describing the event.

My takeaway was that I couldn’t get over the lack of common sense in Augusta. In politics, both sides usually play a role in creating the mayhem that is the game they call “politics."

However, this time it seemed a little different. Gov. Paul LePage was a veto machine throughout this legislative session, holding no hostages, as it appeared he included any bill in his line of fire that had even one line in it he didn’t like and it didn’t matter what party or what the original vote or amount of support for the bill was.

Many of the 48 vetoes voted May 1 were bills that passed with two-thirds majorities and many were sponsored or co-sponsored by the governor’s own Republican Party. Andy reported that 32 of them had passed through both the House and Chamber with overwhelming bi-partisan votes of more than twp-thirds.

However, of these 32, more than half were sustained as “flip-flops” won the day. These were not the kind worn by our residents and visiting tourists during our Maine summers and came at a cost to our system and to our elected Legislators.

So the end “score” saw 33 of the vetoes upheld and only 15 overturned. It seems to me that legislators worked hard on the 33 bills that were killed by the veto process. The amount of effort and hours needed to get them past both the Maine House and the Maine Senate only to be rebuffed by LePage seems like such a waste of time and compromise.

I better understood the scope, and the sense of what this debacle was all about when I read the comment of a Democratic staffer reported by the Free Press to have said that the process was like “drinking out of a fire hose.”

It was good to see that the budget was not only approved, but a message sent to the governor with its overwhelming support. With a unanimous vote in the Senate and a 134 to 12 vote in the House, it was clear that many in both parties were able to say “enough is enough."

However, that isn’t good enough. When 182 bills are vetoed, topping the previous record of 118 from Independent Gov. James Longley, it points out the dysfunction in Augusta.

The first issue, is why 182 vetoes? The second is, why change your vote from what you voted for in committee and on the floor?

In regards to the 182 vetoes; I see no explanation or answer except the obvious one, the governor believes that “it’s his way or the highway."

Of the ones that got sustained because of changed votes; mostly I say “shame on you” to the legislators who flip-flopped their votes. Both sides of the aisle had a chance to send a message to the governor and to the voters that we’ve had enough of the nonsense, and that didn’t happen.

While most politicians go to Augusta to serve their constituents and to do the right thing, I understand the need to compromise and support your party leaders. There may have been some justification, in a few instances; perhaps new information came available after the veto was entered and a change of vote occurred due to that but I think that was not the norm.

If our state politicians could have just stayed on the same path they did in overriding the budget veto and just said “no” to their governor, I would have more compassion and commitment to the system.

Instead, “politics as usual” gets in the way and bloodies the system to a point where too much time and energy is needed just to keep everything in tack. Instead of running around fixing leaks, wouldn’t it be wiser to build a better boat?

My other “takeaways” from Veto Day in Augusta were some quotes from a couple of our local representatives.

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, stated, “If you’re going to compromise, you have to keep your word. If you voted yes in committee, if you voted yes on the floor, why do you change your vote because LePage throws a fit?”

Chuck Kruger, D-Thomaston stated, “I didn’t come here to fight. I came here to make good policy and I’m willing to compromise. It’s unfortunate that so much time is being spent on responding to the governor, who thinks incorrectly that he is punishing the Legislature when he calls us in and we have to have all these little battles.”

With all the dysfunction of Augusta, Rodney King comes to mind. “Can’t we all just get along?”

If only it was that easy…

Turn the Page. Peace out; Reade

Reade Brower can be reached at: reade@freepressonline.com.

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