Wednesday November 06, 2013 | 08:35 PM

(Update @ 10:39 a.m. - Grant apologized to Volk via press statement, saying his remarks last week were "ill-conceived." "I should have done my homework first," he said. )

There's been a lot back and forth over the Legislative Council's decision last week to reject a bill by Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, to help sex trafficking victims by suspending prostitution convictions. Democrats on the council spiked the bill without explanation. The council spiked close to 300 bills without explanation or debate, and the sponsors all have a chance to appeal. But the treatment of Volk's bill has prompted Republicans to say Democratic leaders were either engaged in their own war on women or were politically motivated to deny Volk, a swing district Republican, a policy victory on a women's issue. 

The fighting reached its apex when Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett demanded an apology from Ben Grant, chairman of the Democratic Party, for saying that Volk submitted the bill "to soften her edges."

On Wednesday, other interest groups entered the fray, the state chapter of the Concerned Women for America of Maine, along with the Republican Federation of Women and Informed Women's Network (the latter was in the news recently thanks to a series of secret recordings of Gov. Paul LePage from a IWN event in Falmouth). The groups will hold a press conference at the State House Thursday.  

"Rep. Volk’s bill would make a simple change that could dramatically improve the lives of Maine women.  It would allow courts to vacate prostitution convictions for victims of human trafficking.  In practice, it would allow victims of this barbaric practice to move on with their lives,” said Penny Morrell, the state director of Concerned Women for America of Maine.  "The bill was blocked by the Democrat Majority on the Legislative Council, and we are urging these lawmakers to reconsider and allow this bill to come before the Legislature at the appeals hearing on November 22."

The CWA may sound familiar. The national group has been around for 32 years, advocating for the insertion of "biblical principles into all levels of public policy" and that includes a pro-life agenda. It was founded by Beverly LaHaye, wife of Timothy LaHaye, an evangelical minister who has penned a number of books against homosexuality or detailing the rapture, the religious belief that a group of humans will be left behind on Earth while others rise up to meet God in the heavens. 

The CWA has also been involved in a number of high-profile dust-ups with gay rights groups as it warns against the proliferation of the "gay agenda" and the "depravity" of their lives. It's also very concerned about sex trafficking, calling it the "issue of our times" on its website and calling upon "modern day abolitionists" to help free enslaved women from the sex trade.

Volk has introduced several pro-life bills. She is also deeply religious and tweets frequently about her faith. It makes sense that the CWA would defend her and promote the sex trafficking bill.

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
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