Here they come: New Legislature to return to Augusta, plus 7 stories you might’ve missed

BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett.

BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett.

The swearing in of the new Legislature on Wednesday marks the beginning of what are sure to be two years of partisan squabbles led by Gov. Paul LePage and Republicans emboldened by major gains they made on Election Day.

However, Wednesday’s ceremonies, which are usually celebratory in nature, will be overcast by the specter of a contested Falmouth-area Senate District 25 election that wasn’t settled even after a bipartisan recount two weeks ago. One of the priorities on Wednesday will be convening a Senate Electoral Committee to determine the outcome.

This issue has been heavily covered by the BDN and I’ve included some links further down in this blog if you’re interested in a recap. For now, though, let’s take a quick look at what to expect between now and when the Legislature returns in January.

On Wednesday, all legislators will be sworn in for the 127th Legislature. This is usually a touching ceremony with many of the lawmakers’ friends and family members making a day of it at the State House. The other major task that faces lawmakers on swearing-in day is the choosing of the state’s constitutional officers, which include the treasurer, the attorney general and the secretary of state.

Democrats still hold a slight majority overall in the House and Senate overall, so if they can keep their caucus together the current occupants of those offices should be safe. The real question is that Senate District 25 seat and how one more vote for Republicans — if it goes that way — could sway the outcome. Incoming Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport has signaled that he intends to resolve the issue — and seat Republican Cathy Manchester, who holds an 11-vote advantage following the recount — before the election of constitutional officers. There’s more on the constitutional officers below.

Between now and January, a major task for legislative leaders will be making assignments to committees. These decisions are of chief importance to lawmakers, virtually all of whom have a preference but the majority of whom won’t be seated on the committee of their choice. Though most all of the Legislature’s committees are notable in their own way, the most sought-after committees are usually the ones with the widest oversight: appropriations, education and health and human services. There has been lots of buzz about who might chair which committees but at this point it’s just buzz and nothing solid enough to try to predict here. One interesting note: Republicans holding the majority in the Senate and Democrats retaining their majority in the House means that each committee will be co-chaired by a Republican and a Democrat.

The Legislature re-convenes on January 7.

Here are seven stories from last week that if you’re anything like a normal person, you missed because you were celebrating Thanksgiving with your friends and family.


Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.