Saturday, May 25, 2013
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With the new Democratic majority, at least two bills have been submitted to undo that -- one more radical than the other.
One proposal, sponsored by Rep. Nathan Libby, D-Lewiston, would make the deadline for absentee voting 8 p.m. on Election Day, the same as the deadline for in-person voting. Before the Republican-sponsored law, that's what Maine did.
Another, sponsored by Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, would move the deadline to a municipal office's close of business on the Monday before Election Day.
Expect a fight along party lines: The Republicans' bill from the last Legislature carried no Democrats in either the House or Senate and only two Republicans in both Houses broke ranks to join Democrats.
But a 2011 Portland Press Herald story quoted clerks as saying that absentee voting in the two days before Election Day created logistical problems for them. At times, one clerk said, lines were longer on Friday and Monday than they were on Tuesday. Sponsors said the bill was intended to reduce clerks' workload.
What they didn't say is there's a lot of politics involved in this on both sides -- political scientists say Republicans generally benefit when there are fewer voters; Democrats benefit when there are more.
One of these bills may easily pass now that Democrats are in control. Civil rights groups would like that. Clerks wouldn't.
BIPARTISAN COMMITTEE FORMED
The two majority leaders in both legislative houses have announced they'll head up a new bipartisan committee aimed at "developing legislation to strengthen Maine's workforce, capitalize on our state's economic engines, and help Maine's small businesses thrive."
A Thursday news release said Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, and Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, will co-chair the Joint Select Committee on Maine's Workforce and Economic Future, established by a legislative joint order Thursday.
The release said the committee will have three goals: "addressing the workforce skills gap to better connect the needs of workers and businesses," "investing in places like downtowns and Main Streets," and "strengthening Maine's small businesses to help them compete in today's economy."
BILL DETAILS COMING
As of 4 p.m. this past Friday, legislators, with some exceptions, are barred from submitting any more bills due to cloture. That deadline doesn't apply to the governor's office.
Suzanne Gresser, the state's revisor of statutes, said historically 25 percent of all bills for a given session come in on cloture day.
"You can always hold out hope that that's not going to happen this time," she joked Friday morning.
Gresser's office will be processing the last bills over the upcoming days, so we'll get a look at lawmakers' intentions when they're printed. Democrats' ideas, as they have the best chance of passing, will likely be most relevant.
But the bills that are assured not to pass are often the most interesting.
Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016, Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted 370-7652 or at: