Kennebec Journal

PORTLAND – Democrat Patrick McGowan, a former legislator and Baldacci administration official, called for a smaller state government Tuesday with proposals to reduce the size of the Legislature and limit the number of bills that can be proposed.

Standing on the steps of Portland City Hall — the site of Maine’s original State House — McGowan said he is responding to a public that is fed up with government.

One of four Democrats running for governor — and one of three with state government experience — McGowan said his six-point plan would save the state $10 million to $15 million over a two-year period.

“We have a high ratio of legislators to citizens in our state,” he said, with 186 legislators for 1.3 million residents.

Maine ranks 10th in the country for the size of its legislature but 40th in population, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Proposals to cut the number of lawmakers and limit the number of bills have been rejected by the Legislature in recent years.

Rep. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, almost succeeded in getting support last year to reduce the House from 151 to 131 members. After much debate, the measure failed.

McGowan wants to reduce the House to 99 members and the Senate from 35 to 24.

Flood also tried, and failed, to limit the number of bills. In recent years, lawmakers have proposed about 2,000 bills; McGowan wants to limit it to 1,000. That would shorten legislative sessions, he said.

McGowan is also proposing to change legislative terms and term limits. Legislators would be eligible to serve three, four-year terms. They now can serve four consecutive two-year terms.

In 2007, voters rejected a ballot question — with 67 percent of the vote — to extend term limits from eight to 12 years.

“This aims to not only ease the burden of the campaign season on Maine citizens, but also to improve a system that did not place enough emphasis on experience,” McGowan said.

McGowan’s opponents in the June 8 primary are Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, former Attorney General Steve Rowe and Rosa Scarcelli, a businesswoman who runs a statewide housing company.

Scarcelli re-released details of her government reform plan Tuesday, saying she originally put forward her ideas for a smaller Legislature and fewer bills in November. She also has proposed to increase term limits, from four terms to six.

One new idea from McGowan is to create the position of lieutenant governor, who would run for office alongside a gubernatorial candidate and serve as second in charge. The Senate president is now Maine’s lieutenant governor, so Mitchell would take over if anything happened to Gov. John Baldaccci.

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

[email protected]

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