On Feb. 10, James Hamper, R-Oxford, Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, ordered the ejection of University of Maine junior Mary Manley from a hearing about taxes and school funding.

Manley had driven from Orono to Augusta to testify – this young woman’s first public act of political concern.

Manley’s interest? Implementation of Question 2, the ballot initiative passed by Maine citizens to impose a small income tax surcharge on the state’s wealthiest individuals to support our poorest public schools. Hamper, who opposed the initiative, is among those now seeking to block its transition into law.

Hard as it is to believe, Hamper had Manley ejected from the hearing simply for “making a face,” which she described in a Maine Beacon column as “just my shocked expression as a result of his shouting at those in attendance.” Portland Press Herald reporter Scott Thistle corroborates this in his Feb. 10 article, “Hearing gets heated as lawmakers take close look at LePage’s budget and tax plan.”

“I won’t take faces,” Hamper said. “You, out. Go. Good-bye. See you later. Not welcome here.”

This is a shameful abrogation of Manley’s right to freedom of speech, which she sought to exercise in seeing the will of Maine voters made law. Hamper’s selection of a woman victim – he reportedly said, “You’re an example. Out.” – also smacks of misogyny.

Some civics lesson.

Not coincidentally, Hamper was emboldened to behave this way just days after Republican U.S. senators ousted Democrat Elizabeth Warren from the Senate floor simply for attempting to read a letter at the confirmation hearing of now-Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.

Maine must resist the Trumpist culture of bullying, misogyny and gagging opposing points of view now flowing downhill from Washington.

At stake? Nothing less than our freedom of speech and our political process.

Sen. Hamper owes Mary Manley and the people of Maine a public apology.

Susan Beegel


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