The Maine House is expected to take up a proposal today for an independent investigation that could lead to impeachment of Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Here’s what you need to know.

Why impeachment?

Critics of the governor say he crossed the line when he pressured an organization that serves at-risk youths to rescind a job offer to House Speaker Mark Eves. An independent investigation of that matter found that the administration withheld a quarterly payment to Good Will-Hinckley as the governor worked behind the scenes to fight the hiring of Eves. Nine lawmakers who are pressing for impeachment want an investigation into other alleged abuses of power, as well.

How does it work

The impeachment order would require a simple majority in the Democratically controlled House to launch an independent investigation into the governor’s actions. The panel would report back by April 1, and then the House could vote whether to impeach and refer the matter to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds majority necessary to convict seems unlikely at best.

Counting votes

Even a simple majority in the Democratically controlled House is not a slam dunk. The Maine House is comprised of 78 Democrats, 69 Republicans and four independents. Some Democrats already have indicated they oppose impeachment, saying the governor’s actions were inappropriate, but not illegal. Lawmakers pressing with the impeachment order say they’re doing it on principle, even if it’s a longshot.

What’s next

If there’s support to get the ball rolling, then the investigation would distract from the Legislature’s work and further harm relations between the governor and lawmakers. Critics of impeachment say a failed effort would serve only to embolden the governor. Either way, a federal civil rights lawsuit by Eves is moving forward. The lawsuit accuses the governor of misusing his office by threatening to withhold state funding to blackmail Good Will- Hinckley into rescinding the job offer.

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