The Maine Senate unanimously approved three new members of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, as well as four other gubernatorial nominees during a special, in-person voting session Monday.

Thirty of the Senate’s 35 members convened in the State House on Monday morning for the first gathering of the chamber since the Legislature abruptly adjourned in mid-March because of the developing coronavirus pandemic. To allow members to maintain at least a 6-foot buffer from each other, the senators met in the larger House chamber. They were also required to wear face coverings during the brief session.

In unanimous votes, the Senate endorsed three nominees from Gov. Janet Mills to serve on the Maine Ethics Commission, an independent state agency that oversees campaign finance and lobbyist disclosure laws, administers the Maine Clean Elections program and conducts legislative ethics investigations.

William Schneider of Durham, who previously served as Maine’s attorney general, will fill one of two open Republican seats on the five-member panel, while former state lawmaker David Hastings of Fryeburg will fill the second seat. Dennis Marble, a town councilor from Hampden, will fill the long-vacant independent seat.

The three will join two Democrats already serving on the commission: William Lee III of Waterville and Meri Lowry of Portland.

The Senate also approved the following nominations for the Maine Gambling Control Board: Charmaine Brown of Monmouth; Steven Silver of South Portland; and Andrew Conant of Hancock. Working with staff in the state’s Gambling Control Unit, the board oversees and regulates the state’s two casinos as well as advance deposit wagering.

The Senate also unanimously approved the reappointment of David J. Mitchell of Calais as District Court judge.

All of the nominees had been previously endorsed by legislative committees. There are other gubernatorial nominees who have yet to be considered by committees or the full Senate.

The state’s two top leaders, Democratic Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Sara Gideon, have tried twice to bring the entire Legislature back for a special session to complete work that was shelved because of the coronavirus. But Republican lawmakers, who have previously accused Mills of overstepping her authority in her administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, have twice blocked those efforts because they say any special session should be limited to issues related to COVID-19.

However, the Maine Constitution does allow the Senate President to call a special session for gubernatorial nominations.

“While I cannot reconvene the entire Legislature without my Republican colleagues joining me, I can reconvene the Senate for a confirmation session. The nominations are the only items that can be taken up in a Senate confirmation session,” Jackson said on Twitter Monday morning.

“As we head into the fall election, it is important that we have a fully functioning, bipartisan (Ethics) commission,” Jackson wrote. “I’m hopeful we will be able to approve Republicans Bill Schneider and David Hastings, as well as Independent Dennis Marble without much fanfare or controversy.”

There was no debate or discussion about any of the nominees during the brief Senate session.


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