November 17, 2013

Our View: Barring legislative testimony snarls state’s functioning

Gov. LePage’s order reining in communications between legislators and agency directors both fogs issues and feeds divisions.

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It’s hard to see how Gov. LePage can ensure an open and accountable government by dictating the format of communications between the legislative and executive branches.

2013 Associated Press File Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

TIMING OF ORDER RAISES QUESTIONS

LePage says the new directive was put in place to allow for greater transparency, but this doesn’t hold water. Verbal testimony at hearings can be taped and entered into the public record just as written testimony can. What’s more, state commissioners, bureau chiefs and technical staff were allowed to appear before legislative committees during the two years that the Legislature was Republican-controlled. Did it take LePage that long to come to a conclusion about the hearings?

Indeed, LePage himself has acknowledged that he changed his administration’s communication policy because he was barred from an Appropriations Committee work session.

Announcing the policy shift, he declared, “The state is not going to be run by committees. It’s going to be run by the chief executive of the state,” framing the legislative branch as a minor player in state government instead of an equal participant, along with the executive and judicial branches.

Once general manager of a discount chain, LePage took office declaring that he would run Maine like a business. Unfortunately, he continues to demonstrate that the skills he honed in the corporate world don’t translate to governance, which requires the ability to compromise and build coalitions.

The longer the governor’s directive stands, the lower the chances for a functioning government that actually serves the best interest of Maine and its people.

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