It might seem hard to believe, but it’s getting to be crunch time for the Maine Legislature. According to state statute, they’re supposed to adjourn by June 19 – just a little over three weeks from now.

That deadline can be extended, and in recent years it often has been, but with Democrats in firm control in Augusta this session that shouldn’t be necessary. They’ve been moving forward at breakneck pace, dragging the state further to the left this session by passing things like taxpayer funding for abortions, banning foam containers and assigning Maine’s Electoral College votes based on how other states vote.

There are still quite a few big pieces of legislation that haven’t even moved out of committee yet, though, let alone gotten to the floor for a vote. A number of contentious bills on a wide variety of topics, ranging from guns to immigration to energy, will be considered in the coming weeks. Tuesday looks to be a big day on the gun control front, as the Judiciary Committee will likely be voting on bills that would establish universal background checks, impose a 72-hour waiting period and outlaw 3D-printed guns. Most of these bills don’t seem to have much momentum, as Gov. Mills has made it fairly clear that she’s not eager to impose new gun control measures. A possible exception in that area could the red-flag bill – Mills has supported a version of it in the past, and some version of it could yet emerge as a compromise.

Even if liberals aren’t successful in getting much done to curb Mainers’ Second Amendment rights, they have plenty of schemes afoot on other issues. L.D. 1589, sponsored by Rep. Craig Hickman of Winthrop, would severely curtail the ability of state and local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Essentially, it would turn Maine into a de facto sanctuary state – an especially concerning prospect in a state that has such a long international border. Maine should work to protect all of its citizens’ rights, to be sure, but we also should work to keep all Mainers safe – and that means fair enforcement of immigration laws, not simply ignoring them.

A number of pieces of legislation related to the Central Maine Power corridor haven’t been fully dealt with yet, either. The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee recently voted out a divided report on a bill that would require local approval from towns the project passes through, so that bill will face additional votes on the floor in both chambers. Given that Rep. Seth Berry, a vocal opponent of the project, serves as House chair of the committee, it seems likely that any bill intended to stymie the corridor will get a divided report and thus face more votes on the floor of the Legislature. With this issue drawing an intense reaction from many Mainers, debate over each of the bills related to the project will likely be long and drawn-out. That will be only further intensified by the disagreement among Democrats over the project, since Gov. Mills is a strong supporter of it.

In previous years, many of these bills would have simply been killed in committee on a bipartisan basis, since everyone would know that they had little to no chance of passing. If there were debates, they might not have taken that much time, since the votes would have primarily been held just to give one party or the other the chance to get on the record. Now, though, with the strong Democratic majorities and a Democratic governor, liberals are taking the opportunity to test their strength. That could lead to some lengthy debates and late nights at the State House over the next few weeks.

Against this backdrop, negotiators on the Appropriations Committee are still working to pass a new budget. With one party running the show, that may actually be one of the least contentious things this session for a change. Democrats hardly need any Republican support to pass Mills’ spending plan, so if they’re organized, the budget should not only reach the floor shortly, but also sail through.

As this session winds down, we’ll learn just how well Democratic leadership gets along with Mills. We’ll also see just where the fault lines lie between the progressive base and the party elite, which could be hugely important. Whether the next few weeks in Augusta are sleepy or full of fireworks will have big implications for Democrats for next year’s elections and beyond.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jimfossel


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