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Legislators want more say in COVID-19 policy

Some of the leaders of the Maine Legislature say lawmakers need more of a say as Gov. Mills implements her policies for reopening Maine’s economy amid coronavirus

AUGUSTA, Maine — In early March, the Legislature voted to give Gov. Mills extra authority to implement strategies and orders to fight the virus, including stay at home orders and other measures. But a number of lawmakers now say the Governor hasn’t been properly consulting and informing them of her plans and actions.

The loudest complaints have come from Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Dana Dow, who has asked Legislative leaders to call a special session to vote on rescinding the emergency authority given the Governor. 

Dow told NEWS CENTER Maine that isn’t the major concern, however. He says lawmakers are hearting many complaints about Mills’ plan for reopening the economy, and need a chance to have input.

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“I think it's not safe to open everything all at once,” Dow said. “We can open quicker than we are, we have to do that or it will ruin the economy if we don’t.”

Dow says legislators need to be part of those decisions.

Senator President Troy Jackson, a Democrat, said calling a special session to revoke the Governor’s special authority is a bad idea. But he agreed Legislators need more of a role in formulating the policies and says he is asking the Governor to appoint a special advisory council of lawmakers, health experts, and business owners to better inform the Governor.

“I think having business owners be able to be on an advisory council, hear some of these things, hear health experts talk, business owners (talk), so we all understand and hear what’s driving some of these decisions. But at the same time bringing forth ideas the administration probably hasn’t heard or thought of at this point.”

Jackson says he brought up the advisory council idea to the Governor at the start of the pandemic response, but the idea didn’t go anywhere. Now, he is trying again. And says if the Governor won’t agree to it, maybe the Legislature will move on its own. 

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The Legislature has also exerted some muscle by telling the Governor they want to question the Labor Commissioner on the problems surrounding unemployment benefits. That hearing with the Labor Committee will take place Wednesday at 1:00 pm, and the public will be able to listen on the Legislature’s website.

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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