It happens to everyone early on in life.

It’s that light-bulb moment when you’re in the back seat and realize what your parents practice (rolling through a stop sign, exceeding the posted speed limit) isn’t always what they preach (respect the law, stay within the rules).

The inevitable – and wholly unsatisfying – response?

“Do as I say,” admonishes Mom or Dad. “Not as I do.”

Which brings us to the Republican-controlled Maine Legislature.

Come Tuesday, when the Legislature convenes for a special session to redraw the boundary separating Maine’s two congressional districts, GOP lawmakers will likely find themselves operating under the influence of an elephant-size double standard.

It goes like this:

Last spring, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed a Republican-sponsored amendment to the state constitution.

If approved by voters in a referendum Nov. 8, it would move up the deadline by which Maine must reapportion its two congressional districts every decade based on the latest census data.

In addition, the amendment would require that any such changes be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature. If that “supermajority” is unattainable, the new boundaries will be drawn by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

It’s a significant change: While the two-thirds majority is already the law of the land, it exists only in statute rather than being enshrined in the state constitution. And since the Legislature is in the business of passing, amending and repealing statutes, it can change them just about any time it pleases.

Or it can ignore them altogether – as it appears hell-bent on doing two days from now.

Near the bottom of L.D. 1590, a Republican-sponsored bill that moves roughly a third of Maine’s population from one congressional district to the other and enhances the GOP’s chances at bagging a congressional seat in 2012, we find this phrase:

“Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in (the reapportionment statute which calls for two-thirds approval), enactment of this Act reapportions the congressional districts of Maine.”

Translation: That two-thirds law isn’t quite working for us this time around. So just this once, we’re going to ignore it and go with a simple majority.

But wait, there’s more.

Assuming voters approve the GOP’s constitutional amendment in November, that same two-thirds majority would forevermore be carved in constitutional stone – making it impossible for future Legislatures to sidestep it with a simple “notwithstanding.”

Translation: About that two-thirds majority we just ignored? Now that we have the lines drawn our way, that two-thirds rule should never ever be ignored again.

Put more simply, “In the future, do as our proposed constitutional amendment says, not as we just did.”

It’s a calculated risk on the Republicans’ part. As they pull out all the stops to add a healthy splash of red to Maine’s 2nd District, they’re clearly banking on the hope that most Mainers will either not care or, better yet, not even notice.

“I wish everyone could just be sort of honest about this whole thing,” said Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, in an interview Friday. “It is, by its very nature, the most partisan thing that we’re called upon to do.”

He’s right. Nothing gets the political machinery on both sides revved up like deciding who in the next election will cast their ballots here and who will do so over there.

But the task of drawing congressional district lines – performed over the past couple of decades by Maine’s highest court precisely because the Legislature failed to reach two-thirds agreement – is also about process.

And that process, much like the current districts, is about to go right out the window.

“They’re changing the rules in the fourth quarter in order to ensure future electoral successes,” said Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, who led the seven Democrats on the 15-member Congressional Reapportionment Commission. “Mainers want us to work toward resolution and at the same time respect the law. … And it’s clear the Republicans are looking at ignoring that.”

We could fill a book with the back-and-forth politicking: The Republicans say the Democrats demonstrated no willingness to compromise throughout the commission’s deliberations this summer; the Democrats say ditto about the Republicans.

And we could spend from now until the 2020 census comparing the Republican “East-West Plan” (which transplants some 360,000 voters, 139 municipalities and seven of Maine’s 16 counties from one district to the other) with the Democratic “Kennebec Plan” (which affects only about 20,000 voters and confines the changes to seven communities in Kennebec County).

Or we could turn to the one truly independent player in this spectacle – Reapportionment Commission Chairman Michael Friedman – for his take on the impending political storm.

Friedman, a longtime unenrolled voter who sided with the Democrats and thus made their plan the commission’s “majority report” to the full Legislature (it’s also on Tuesday’s agenda), said Friday he’s not surprised the GOP “minority report” will likely carry the day.

But if that happens, Friedman said, “I’d be very disappointed.”

Why so?

“Because I think it represents too radical a shift,” said Friedman, a Bangor lawyer who was welcomed with open arms to the commission chairmanship by both parties back before things turned ugly. “I think it impacts too many people. I think it changes history too dramatically.”

Equally troubling to Friedman is the GOP’s apparent plan to short-circuit the process.

“At least with a two-thirds vote, it shows more of the will of the people,” he said. “With just a majority vote, it just shows raw power – and that to me is disappointing.”

He added, “I think there will be a political price to pay for that.”

Friedman’s got that right.

Tipsy with their newfound power, the Republicans are about to run a stop sign.

And all of Maine is watching.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

[email protected]