A first-term Republican representative from Durham who missed 67% of the days that the full Maine Legislature convened during the second session is asking voters to reward him with a second term.

Rep. Joseph Galletta, R-Durham, missed more legislative days than any other member of the House of Representatives. According to an analysis by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Galletta missed 28 of the 42 session days this year, citing personal reasons. He did cast roll-call votes on veto day, however.

A first-term representative, Rep. Joseph Galletta, R-Durham, missed more legislative days than any other member of the House of Representatives.

All of his absences were excused by his fellow lawmakers, and Galletta received his normal salary, according to legislative officials.

A Press Herald analysis of excused absences this year found that at least 13 of the 151 House members – 11 Republicans and 2 Democrats – missed at least five of 42 session days this year because of health or personal reasons. But it’s not yet clear how many roll-call votes those lawmakers missed; that information will not be ready for weeks.

Galletta, whose financial disclosures list him as a landlord and president of three auto sales and accessory businesses, is running for reelection to his District 98 seat. He did not respond to repeated interview requests last week from the Press Herald to explain why he missed so many days or why voters should reward him with another term.

House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, defended Galletta in a text message.

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“Joe is one of the hardest-working men I know,” Faulkingham said. “He has two car dealerships and has a lot of responsibility to run his business so his employees have jobs. Joe shows up when it matters. Joe represents the working citizen I would like to see more of in the Legislature.”

Maine has a citizen Legislature, which means members who aren’t retired or wealthy have other jobs and careers. But they are paid to do the public’s work during sessions. They earn $16,250 for the first session and $11,670 for the second, though that compensation will increase for the next Legislature to $25,000 and $20,000, respectively.

State law says members cannot be absent without leave for five legislative days in the first session of their two-year term in office and three days in the shorter, second session, which just ended. Legislative leaders are charged with deciding whether to deduct pay from members for each day they miss without leave.

House rules require members to disclose the reasons for their absences in order to be excused. Those reasons are listed in an order posted on the business calendar that is voted on by the full House. The Senate does not have such a rule, but absences are routinely excused by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.

After failing to keep attendance during the first regular session last year, the House this year routinely passed orders formally excusing members who missed days because of health or personal reasons, including work at other jobs.

It’s unclear what led to the change in practice, although the Press Herald previously reported on the lack of attendance records last year in an article that used roll-call votes to measure participation.

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Galletta, who earned 52% of the vote in the 2022 election and won the seat by 215 votes, was assigned to the Labor and Housing Committee but did not participate in any of the committee’s meetings this session, according to a committee co-chair.

Legislators can still register their votes on committee recommendations if they are not present when the votes are taken, but Galletta’s name appears on only one divided committee vote this session. He joined Democrats in supporting a bill that would have extended collective bargaining rights to agricultural workers. He changed his position later, however, and joined Republicans to sustain the governor’s veto of L.D. 525.

In the first session last year, Galletta participated in only 54% of the 367 House roll-call votes.

Another lawmaker missed 43% of session days this year.

Rep. David Haggan, R-Hampden, missed the second-most session days, taking 18 personal days.

Haggan told the Press Herald that, as a middle school history and social studies teacher, he needs approval from the superintendent and school board to miss school days to serve in the Legislature. Haggan said he was approved for 40 session days in the first session and 30 days for the second.

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Lawmakers are allowed to participate in committee work via Zoom, which Haggan did, but must attend session days in person.

Haggan said he chose to miss more days earlier in the session this year, when bills are largely being referred to committee, to make sure he can be there later in the session for all of the important floor votes that determine which bills become law and how much money is spent.

“I sort of bank my days when nothing’s happening in the early part of the session,” Haggan said. “Then when mid- to late March hits, I start going on a regular basis.”

Haggan, who’s retiring from teaching this year and running for the District 10 seat in the Senate, participated in about 90% of the roll-call votes in the first session.

Rep. Kevin O’Connell, D-Brewer, works at Versant Power as a lineman. He said he missed 14 session days because he had to work to restore power to customers after a series of storms last winter. He had previously expressed frustration on the House floor that those days would be marked as “personal” days, rather than having to work.

O’Connell, who participated in 74% of the roll-call votes in the first session, is not running for reelection, saying he can no longer afford to miss so many days of work.

“We are a ‘working’ Legislature,” O’Connell said. “It’s difficult, if you’re not independently wealthy or retired. It’s hard if you are a blue-collar worker, trying to take time off. You still have a life and bills to pay.”

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