The commission investigating the mass shootings in Lewiston is just starting its work but may face an early challenge from some lawmakers who expressed concerns about a request that the Legislature give the commission subpoena powers.

“It will be a hard sell for my caucus unless there is a role for the legislative branch to play,” said Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle. “I’m not saying Senate Republicans need to be there specifically. I’m saying this branch of government … involve them.”

Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said granting the Lewiston shooting commission subpoena power “will be a hard sell for my caucus unless there is a role for the legislative branch to play.” Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Stewart and other lawmakers reacted Tuesday to a request made the day before by the Independent Commission to Investigate the Facts of the Tragedy in Lewiston. The commission is asking that the Legislature grant its members subpoena powers so they can properly investigate the Oct. 25 mass shooting in which 18 people died.

Gov. Janet Mills, who created the commission with an executive order this month, supports the request and has said she is working on legislation for lawmakers to take up at the start of the session that begins Jan. 3.

It would take a bipartisan vote of two-thirds of the Democratic-controlled Legislature to grant the power as emergency legislation so that it would go into effect in time to aid the investigation.

Democratic leaders expressed general support for the request Tuesday. But Republican leaders in the House and Senate are divided on the issue.


Stewart and Assistant Senate Minority Leader Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, said they have reservations. House Minority Leader Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, and Assistant House Minority Leader Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester said they support the subpoena power request.


“I am very hesitant to do that given there are no legislators on that panel and I think that first and foremost the people’s voice needs to be part of some sort of investigative review of the shootings,” Keim said.

“My inclination is that we would not do that, that we would find some other source of, maybe the Legislature’s own authority to do that investigation or another option,” she said. “Just a blanket authority for them in their current makeup to have subpoena power, I don’t see that as something I will find support for myself.”

Stewart and Keim said lawmakers have lacked input on the commission.

“We haven’t been involved at all,” Stewart said. “(Mills) hasn’t asked us our thoughts about the composition of the commission or the purview of the commission except that after this initial meeting … the takeaway is they need more power.”


“I don’t think many folks are going to be keen on the idea,” he said. “Certainly folks in my caucus aren’t going to be keen on the idea unless the Legislature plays a meaningful role going forward.”

Stewart said it’s not too late for lawmakers to be consulted on the makeup of the commission, and he called for more transparency, criticizing an executive session the commission held Monday to discuss staffing.

Keim, the lead Republican senator on the Government Oversight Committee, said that committee could be looked at as a venue for getting involved in the investigation or obtaining the materials the commission might seek because the committee already has special subpoena power.

“There are a lot of options out there for doing some hybrid work,” she said. “We don’t want to waste resources … but I think the Legislature can be creative and come up with some model that respects the people’s voice and the legislative authority we should safeguard.”


Ben Goodman, a spokesperson for Mills, said in an email that the commission “is comprised of nonpartisan individuals who are highly respected for their abilities, their expertise, their impartiality, their integrity and their fair-mindedness – a point that many lawmakers rightly recognized when the commission was established.”


“The commission has a crucially important mission – to seek the truth for Maine people about the tragedy in Lewiston – and each commissioner is wholly dedicated to that cause,” Goodman said. “The governor and the attorney general hope that lawmakers will aid the commission, not impede it, as it seeks answers for Maine people in an impartial and timely manner.”

Goodman said the governor and members of her staff spoke with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about the commission before its creation.

The subpoena power will be critical to the work of the commission, a spokesperson, Kevin Kelley, said in an email Tuesday.

“As commission members made clear at the public meeting, they hope and expect people will cooperate with this independent investigation,” he said. “There may be circumstances, however, that the investigation could be delayed or impeded without subpoena power and that is why they unanimously agreed to seek that approval.”

Christine Kirby, a spokesperson for Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said in an email that Jackson is “generally supportive of making sure the commission has the tools to do its work,” but said it is hard to comment further on support for the subpoena powers without having yet seen the language of the request.

House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, supports the request for subpoena powers for the commission “so they can conduct a transparent and comprehensive review,” spokesperson Mary Erin Casale said.


“She will be monitoring the process closely,” Casale said.


Republican leaders in the Maine House support the request for subpoena power, while one Democrat agrees lawmakers should have had more involvement.

House Assistant Minority Leader Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, at the State House in March, supports subpoena power for the commission, saying, “I think we just need to get the job done. I don’t want to spend a lot of time waiting for the Legislature to get back in session and then debating.” Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“The victims, their families, as well as the Maine people deserve to know the details of how the system failed us on October 25th,” said Faulkingham,, the house minority leader. The Maine House Republicans are committed to bringing daylight to this situation…. If subpoena powers are required to determine the truth, then I am inclined to support the request.”

“I absolutely will support it,” said Arata, the assistant house minority leader. “As a member of the Government Oversight Committee, I know how frustrating it is when you’re trying to do your job without being able to get all the info we need.”

The oversight committee is currently appealing to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court a lower court’s ruling that lawmakers are barred from accessing confidential child protective records.


Arata said she has not been concerned by a lack of involvement from lawmakers in the commission’s formation.

“I think we just need to get the job done,” she said. “I don’t want to spend a lot of time waiting for the Legislature to get back in session and then debating. … I think it’s important to expedite this process. The families in Lewiston and the surrounding areas are waiting for answers and I think they should have them quickly.”

On Monday, Rep. Adam Lee, D-Auburn, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, in response to the commission’s request, saying that, “perhaps it would have made sense for the governor’s office to work with the Legislature to establish a broad and robust commission with meaningful authorities and power in the first place.”

“From my perspective, any discussion of subpoena power must also include a legislative discussion of the composition, scope and public nature of the commission,” Lee said in an email Tuesday.

Note: This story was updated Nov. 23 to include a response from Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham.

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