Republicans in the Maine Legislature have called for legislators to go back into session and end the emergency powers given to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A letter was sent May 2 to Democratic leaders from Republican legislative leaders including Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro.

"The successful management of any emergency declared by the Executive is dependent upon keeping the Legislature informed of the decision making process," the Republican letter stated. "The delegation of authority to a single decision maker in a time of emergency is necessary to ensure swift action; however, if that decision making authority is used without consultation with the legislative body, it is our obligation to rescind that authority and establish a new process working with the Governor that involves all parties to better serve Maine."

"Unfortunately in recent weeks, concerns raised by the Legislature to the Governor have been met with disregard and even contempt," the Republican letter continued.

Republicans said they have asked for a set of guiding principles that are being used to determine which businesses can open.

"To date, we have not received any such information. What we have been given is a phased-in plan that seemingly picks winners and losers. It imposes an arbitrary set of rules for our businesses with no information on the scientific data used to create them," the Republicans said in the letter.

The newspaper contacted local legislators about that request. Knox County legislative seats are held by Democrats and two independents,

"The legislature gave Governor Mills thee authority to handle the emergency because of the need to react quickly. Now there is time for her to form a broad group of advisors to look at all sides and move us forward. Working together helped flatten the curve to protect everyone who fell ill, working together to open our society will have the same effect and will allow those who use what we have learned to take the lead safely," state Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden said.

His Republican challenger Gordon Page of Owls Head said in his opinion it was time for "the legislature to get back to work to balance the decision making process."

"As I understand it, the Legislature voted several weeks ago to allow the governor to manage the crisis with the understanding that she would keep the Senate and House fully informed. Apparently, she ceased the private conversations with legislators after those meetings were called out by the press. Since then, according to what I read in the letter[s] from the Republican contingent, they were not consulted about the current plan," Page said.

"The citizens of Maine are best served when the legislative process works as designed, with the executive and the legislature communicating openly, Page concluded.

State Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, said she would like to reconvene.

"We have work we need to finish — bills on the table, and obviously budgetary concerns to figure out — and I think the Legislature can give the Governor valuable advice and help as she reopens the state," Doudera said.

Doudera said she reached out to Gov. Mills' office last week on behalf of the tourism industry, asking that the quarantine be replaced with alternative, enforceable measures, such as testing, that will enable more businesses to take reservations for the summer.

"My feedback was heard, and I know that those of us in the Legislature, who are actively talking with our constituents like I am, could help the administration continue to chart a course forward in a way that protects public health and peoples' livelihoods. So I am anxious to get back to Augusta and work collaboratively with the Governor, staying mindful that we will need to operate in a way that keeps staff at the State House safe," Doudera said.

State Rep. Ann Matlack, D-St. George, said she was puzzled by the Republican letter.

"The results of a recent survey of Mainers shows not only overwhelming approval for Governor Mills and her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also strong support for staying safe at home and for not resuming business as usual for at least four more weeks or even longer," Matlack said.

"Additionally, without being called back by the Governor or a vote by the entire Legislature, what is being proposed in the letter is moot: The Senate President and Speaker of the House do not have the authority to unilaterally re-open the Legislature," Matlack said.

"Governor Mills, CDC Director Shah and DECD Director Johnson are constantly monitoring Maine’s health and economy. They have laid out a phased plan to re-open Maine that is being adjusted continuously to address the progress of this pandemic and its effects on our State. We are safer here in Maine because of the work done by the Governor’s office and by the strong response of the people of Maine. I’d rather stay at home during the month of May and be able to re-open our state for July, August and September, than take the chance of COVID-19 rebounding on us if we re-opened the state too soon."

State Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, independent of Friendship, said he will continue to use science as his guide.

"I'm not opposed to safely returning to Augusta to evaluate the current dismal state of our economy, in an effort to collaborate with the Governor and colleagues on constructive ideas and responses to this unfolding tragedy.

"However, I'm not going to participate in any efforts to politicize this global pandemic, especially from Senators and Representatives who recently voted to oppose vaccines, no shortage of irony there, because they're the ones leading this call against the Governor," Evangelos said.

"Am I happy with all of her decisions? No, I'm not. But I'm also not going to second guess every decision and get into this blame game. I haven't done it with President Trump and I'm not going to do it with Governor Mills. The recent roll out announced for Maine's economy needs improving, responsible legislators are communicating with the Governor in that regard, and I'm in hopes that improvements will be forthcoming." Evangelos said.

"Let's be clear, I want the economy to return to normal asap. I am also cognizant that thousands of people are getting sick and many are dying, including our veterans. The idea that I'm going to risk the lives of our World War 2 and Korean War veterans so someone can open his furniture store is simply the theater of the absurd.

"These are life and death decisions we're being asked to make. I won't make them lightly because my decision will effect the health of our elders. They are not dispensable. Let's see what happens in Georgia and a few other states that have recently reopened. If the disease slows down and gives us the all clear, we'll have our answer. If Covid-19 cases kick back up, we'll also have our answer. Science is the only guidepost here," Evangelos concluded.

State Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, said she is deeply appreciative of the leadership of Gov. Mills and Dr. Shah.

"In Maine we have done an excellent job of keeping ourselves and each other safe, and we will continue to. Pandemics are bad for business, but if we are smart and cautious Maine will reopen when it is safe to do so. There is a process in place now where some businesses can apply to open after agreeing to implement safety protocols. This process is being overseen by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development in coordination with public health experts and business owners," McDonald said.

"The feasibility and success of our tourist season doesn’t depend solely on Maine. As of May 3rd, the CDC has confirmed 66,263 cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts;  29,287 in Connecticut; and 307,506 cases in New York.

"If our neighboring states are able to get the virus under control, we can lift the quarantine requirement sooner. If they cannot, it will be catastrophic. Not just for Maine tourism, but for the United States because that means people are still dying at unprecedented rates, and we will not want that happening here," McDonald said.

She agreed the Legislature needs to reconvene this year and finish its work. McDonald represents Vinalhaven and North Haven as well as communities in Hancock County.

"But I see no reason to do that now. Additionally, one of my seat mates has been an active participant in the protest rallies taking place in Augusta without taking precautionary measures. This type of reckless behavior puts the entire Legislature and the communities we return to at risk.

"I live on an island and have a family and a community to protect. I have been spending my days helping people apply for SBA relief loans and file unemployment claims, and that is a safer and more effective use of my time than grandstanding in Augusta," McDonald concluded.