AUGUSTA – Acrimony from Thursday night’s partisan rift over a Republican-sponsored plan to overhaul health insurance in Maine continued Friday as a co-chairman of the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee tried to resign his post.

Rep. Pat Flood, R-Winthrop, House chairman of the Appropriations Committee, delivered a letter of resignation from his post to House Speaker Robert Nutting on Friday afternoon.

Nutting, R-Oakland, said Flood was upset by the hard feelings among committee members after they were convened late at night and exempted L.D. 1333, the controversial health insurance measure, from the committee’s usual scrutiny.

“There was discussion in the Appropriations Committee last evening where things were said,” Nutting said late Friday. “There were a lot of hard feelings all around.”

House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said, “The tension that was created (Thursday) in the Appropriations Committee process was truly unnecessary roughness.”

Flood was unavailable for comment Friday evening.

L.D. 1333 would overhaul the health insurance market for about 40,000 people — those who buy independently or through employers whose companies have 50 or fewer workers. Republicans say it would increase competition and encourage more young people to buy insurance. They say that a larger pool with more healthy people would lower premiums for all groups.

Democrats say Republicans have pushed the bill through without giving lawmakers or the public enough time to study it. On Thursday, the House passed it without accepting any of the six amendments submitted by Democrats.

After the vote, Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, told Republicans that legislative rules require that all bills funded with taxpayers’ money be sent to the Appropriations Committee for consideration.

The committee, which has a Republican majority, convened at 10:40 p.m. An hour later, it voted 8-4 along party lines not to take up the bill and sent it to the Senate for a final vote.

The Senate voted shortly before 1 a.m. Friday to adjourn, and to take up the bill Monday.

Those who were at the committee meeting said Flood was visibly frustrated with being asked by leadership to hold the late-night vote. Nutting said Flood, who is greatly respected by members of both parties, took the situation personally.

“A lot of it was very personal to him. Some of the things that were said hurt him deeply, and he felt the need to submit his resignation today as chair of the Appropriations Committee,” Nutting said.

Cain and Nutting said they hope Flood will reconsider his decision.

“I have not accepted his resignation,” Nutting said. “There will be a series of conversations this weekend, and then we will be back in session this Monday and Appropriations will reconvene to continue their work on the budget.”

Cain said Flood’s continued leadership would be best for the state budget process.

“That’s the best thing for the Legislature and I think that’s the best way to try to begin to rebuild the relationships that had, I believe, a setback last night from a process perspective,” she said.

Nutting said that even if Flood resigns as co-chairman, he will have a seat on the Appropriations Committee.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:
rmetzler@mainetoday.com