AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage, who got in a tussle with legislative leaders for having a television running outside his office, was still staying away from his State House office in protest Friday.
But the TV had a new, less-political message Friday. Ushering in Memorial Day weekend, LePage and first lady Ann LePage presented an address honoring Maine’s fallen soldiers.
“Since becoming your governor, I have written too many letters of condolence to the families of the fallen. It is, by far, the most difficult part of my job,” LePage said in the address. “What I do hope families take from these words, however, is how deeply appreciative I am for their sacrifice.”
It was a far different tone from a day earlier, when the screen called attention to what the Republican governor considers delays in passing his $6.3 billion, two-year budget and a bill to repay hospitals a $484 million debt.
The governor’s staff had been told earlier this month that running the TV outside his office violated State House rules of decorum. LePage considered the rule an attempt to stifle his free speech and in protest advised legislative leaders he would vacate his State House space as of July 1. He worked across the street Thursday and Friday at the governor’s mansion.
“The issue is about the equipment being there, not the content,” David Boulter, executive director of the Legislative Council, said Friday. LePage could have run the TV had he gotten permission from the council, the bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders that has authority over State House grounds and buildings, in the first place.
In the meantime, the council asked for a study into how the governor’s office space can be used if he moves out as threatened, said Boulter.
LePage will be out of the office this weekend as he and his wife attend several ceremonies in the state honoring Maine’s fallen soldiers. In the first, the Battlefield Cross remembrance ceremony in the State House on Friday, four identification tags bearing the names of servicemen and women with ties to Maine who died during overseas operations were added to the memorial, bringing the total number to 54 names.
The names read by Ann LePage included Pvt. 1st Class Tyler Springmann of Hartland, Capt. John Brainard III of Dover-Foxcroft, Staff Sgt. Jessica Wing of Glenburn and Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Henderson of Houlton. The four “will not be forgotten,” she said.