What a legislative ‘censure’ of LePage would look like

Good morning from Portland. The weekend brought more fallout from the controversy around Gov. Paul LePage’s comments last week about black and Hispanic drug dealers and his subsequent profane voicemail to a Democratic lawmaker.

One of the most jarring responses to the Republican governor came on Sunday from Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, who hasn’t criticized LePage much over the years, but said she shares constituents’ “deep concern” about his behavior.

“What I do not know is whether it is due to substance abuse, mental illness or just ignorance,” she said. “I certainly hope that his family and small circle of close staff are considering how best to address the issue. Things definitely appear to be out of control.”

Volk said “some sort of censure” would be appropriate and she “would welcome the ability to go on the record with a vote.” Jim Cyr, a spokesman for Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said Republican senators are discussing whether or not to hold a special legislative session on the subject.

Thibodeau, who has feuded with LePage since a 2015 budget battle, is expected to hold a news conference on Tuesday. Progressives have scheduled a rally in Capitol Park in Augusta that evening, after which they’ll attempt to make a circle around the Blaine House.

But Democrats want more. On Monday, the two Democratic leaders in the Maine Senate — Minority Leader Justin Alfond of Portland and Assistant Leader Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick — joined their party colleagues in the House of Representatives to call on LePage to step down and that censure “is not an option.”

In a statement, they said LePage has “displayed behavior that indicates he is not in control of himself and is unfit to carry out the serious duties of his office.”

But legislative rules make it unclear how this matter would be settled, even if the Legislature comes back into session. There’s no formal process for lawmakers to “censure” the governor.

The Maine Constitution says each legislative chamber can punish its own members for “disorderly behavior.” The first lawmaker censured by the Maine was former Rep. John Michael, an Auburn independent, in 2001.

The House can impeach the governor for and send him to a trial in the Senate. Progressive lawmakers tried and failed to do that to LePage in January, but the effort failed with no support from Republicans.

Instead of impeaching LePage, Democrats in the House passed a resolution that didn’t name him, but instead called for “an environment of civility” in Maine politics.

That’s likely the type of thing that would come if the Legislature re-convened. But when that was passed, lawmakers were already in session. Now, they’d have to come back to Augusta, and special sessions cost $43,000 per day.

For most, that’s probably too heavy of a price for a new piece of paper condemning LePage. But the fact that Republicans are entertaining a discussion about it tells you all you need to know about the seriousness of the governor’s latest controversy. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • LePage is scheduled to be in Boston with New England governors and Canadian officials on Monday. It’s the second and final day of the 40th Conference of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. Energy is expected to be a top subject, as Massachusetts passed a law this year requiring it to secure contracts for hydropower and offshore wind. Much of the hydropower will likely come from Canada, whose supply LePage has long urged tapping to reduce energy costs.
  • The Obama administration proposed a rule that would limit truck speeds and has been pushed by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. The rule, announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation, would require new, large trucks to be equipped with devices limiting them to maximum speeds, with 60, 65, and 68 miles per hour being discussed now. Collins, a Maine Republican, said in a statement that it “will undoubtedly save lives of roadway users and increase the fuel efficiency of commercial vehicle fleets.” The American Trucking Associations has advocated for this kind of rule for a decade, but the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has fought it, saying”highways are safest when all vehicles travel at the same relative speed.
  • In Maine on Friday, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson got pranked by his party colleagues. The former New Mexico governor and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, were in Portland for brunch before heading to an evening rally in Lewiston. That’s where party members asked Johnson, an athletic guy who once climbed Mount Everest on a broken leg, to open a glued-shut pickle jar. Watch it here.

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • Under the newly-assembled table?: A couple just moved to South Portland. They need to make friends and to assemble some tables. So, they’re offering alcohol and saying “we could all have fun getting drunk and doing that, lol or we could just get drunk.”
  • Lake service: Speaking of drinking, some men vacationing on a lake in Embden “would like some attractive women to serve us drinks” and will pay, because they can’t just bring a keg or make their own drinks like the hoi polloi. Here’s your soundtrack.— Michael Shepherd 
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.