October 10, 2013

LePage’s emergency declaration questioned

It lets him suspend rules during the government shutdown, but how it helps potentially laid-off workers is unclear.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Civil emergency

Do you believe Gov. LePage is justified in declaring a civil emergency during the federal government shutdown?

Yes

No

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Gov. Paul LePage has declared a civil emergency Wednesday because of the federal government shutdown.

AP File Photo

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Number of positions identified, as of Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, with some level of federal funding:

Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry - 151
Maine Arts Commission - 4
Attorney General - 16
Corrections - 8
Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management - 141
Economic & Community Development - 5
Education - 78
Environmental Protection - 110
Executive Department - 5
Maine Historic Preservation Commission - 5
Maine Human Rights Commission - 7
Health and Human Services - 766
Inland Fisheries & Wildlife - 112
Judicial - 45
Labor - 522
Maine State Library - 13
Marine Resources - 46
Public Safety - 22
Secretary of State - 2
Transportation - 682

Total: 2,740

*This does not include any positions impacted exclusively by cost allocation.

Administration officials wouldn’t say whether more furloughs are coming. State employees and the administration have been bracing for that possibility.

The administration said it is still bound to the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with the state employees union during a civil emergency.

State law authorizes the governor to declare a civil emergency. Such a declaration isn’t unprecedented.

In 2009, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci declared a civil emergency in response to an outbreak of a deadly flu virus. That allowed the state to hire temporary clinicians in a mass vaccination drive.

In 1991, Republican Gov. John McKernan declared a civil emergency during a budget dispute that shut down state government, temporarily putting 10,000 state employees out of work.

Democratic legislative leaders quickly called on the governor to lay out his plan to use powers that allow him to suspend certain rules or regulations in order to carry out state business. They expressed surprise that LePage had used the executive power.

House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said the “action gives the governor significant power to suspend any of the state’s laws. We want him to clearly lay out what he intends to do – which rules, statutes and laws he intends to suspend. We are calling for transparency, accountability and collaboration as we move forward.”

Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said in a prepared statement that he hopes the governor will work “toward a calm solution for the workers of Maine.”

“Actions like this are surprising and unsettling for Mainers,” Alfond said.

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, issued a statement praising the action, although he did not elaborate on how it will help.

“I commend Governor LePage for taking this decisive and necessary action to ensure that the impact of the federal shutdown on federally funded state employees and to the state overall may be alleviated,” Fredette said in the statement.

Legislative leaders are scheduled to meet with LePage on Thursday morning to discuss the civil emergency and its implications.

Staff Writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report. 

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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Today's poll: Civil emergency

Do you believe Gov. LePage is justified in declaring a civil emergency during the federal government shutdown?

Yes

No

View Results