UPDATE: Per a 3 p.m. press release by Gov. LePage, the civil emergency has been lifted. “I’m pleased that State government is back to normal and Mainers are back to work,” said LePage. “I want to thank Maine State employees for their patience during these past couple weeks. This federal shutdown caused a tremendous amount of stress and uncertainty for everyone.” Story coming soon @ bangordailynews.com.
This week, the shutdown ended. On Thursday, the governor said the state of emergency — and the broad authority it gives him — was still necessary in order to get the state back to normalcy.
Today, all laid-off state workers are back on the job, and things seem to have returned to normal. The U.S. government has assured the state that it will provide reimbursement for costs incurred and workers affected by the shutdown, including back pay for federally funded state employees.
So when will the civil emergency end?
So far, the answer is elusive. In a statement distributed at the time the emergency was declared, the administration wrote that “The end of the emergency is pending action from the President and Congress.” LePage’s press office has not enunciated a timeline when asked by reporters.
Democrats, who have called for an end to the emergency state, are antsy.
Jodi Quintero, spokeswoman for House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said Friday that leaders in her party had tried to speak with LePage on Thursday but were unsuccessful. Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said his constituents are perplexed:
“People are asking me out and about town, ‘What does the governor have up his sleeve? What’s he using this for?’” he said Friday.
Officials with the Maine State Employees Association, which has been at odds with LePage throughout the shutdown, are also scratching their heads.
“There’s zero reason to continue on with the state of emergency,” said Chris Quint, the union’s executive director, on Friday. “We really call on the governor to rescind the civil emergency, to move on from this ridiculous, weird time, and get back to doing the people’s work.”
Assistant Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz, R-Augusta, also seemed perplexed, but willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt.
“I don’t have any light to cast on this for you,” Katz said. “I have not had an opportunity to speak with the administration, and I’m sure the order will be lifted promptly when the need has abated.”
The day is still young, by State House standards, so it’s possible we’ll see a statement by LePage later this afternoon.