PORTLAND, Maine — Several emotionally charges issues bubbled up at the State House this past week.
Gov. Janet Mills (D-Maine) reintroduced a bill to expand access to abortion services in rural Maine. In a statement from her office, Mills said "Allowing advanced nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform medication-administered abortions, which are already permitted in other states, will ensure Maine women, especially in rural areas of our state, can access reproductive health care services."
The Maine Republican Party took issue with the reference to "medication-administered abortions," which refers to prescription drugs that women can take at home to terminate a pregnancy, claiming the governor was trying to mislead people since the bill would also expand certain in-office procedures.
Former state senator, Republican Phil Harriman, says "I don't think she was trying to mislead. But it certainly was inartful."
Democrat John Richardson, a former Speaker of the House, says in draft bills "you don't have all the language that will end up in the final form. Could they have been a little bit more careful about this? Yes. Do I think the governor will make sure that when there are hot button issues that come up in the future that they are vetted more carefully? Absolutely."
Opponents of the CMP hydropower transmission line project, known as NECEC, want the legislature to order a new study to determine whether supporters' claims of reductions in carbon emissions are accurate.
Richardson says part of the intent here may be to delay the project. "If you ask for a study," he says, "that's one way to kill a bill."
Harriman likens the opponents' strategy to a game of three- dimensional chess. He says "You've got the PUC which has to approve it, the land-use regulatory commission has to approve it, and the DEP has to approve it. So if you're one who believes this is not right for Maine, you're playing at all three levels of chess to delay if not deny this permit."
Another highly emotional issue was aired in a hearing that ran about 12 hours-- the question of whether to eliminate non- medical exemptions for having kids vaccinated.
Phil Harriman says "this is not a Democrat/Republican, rural/urban, conservative/liberal issue, this is about being exposed to a contagious disease, and should you choose not to have your child vaccinated, should they be welcomed into the public environment?"
John Richardson acknowledges that this is a tough call for lawmakers. He says "I think it's a very vocal minority that is going to be at these hearings and express themselves, and that's fine, they have every right to do that. But I think if you follow the science, and follow the research, you're going to come to the conclusion that you don't make exemptions when the public health is at risk.
Our NEWS CENTER Maine political analysts also talked about the vote in the U.S. Senate to terminate President Trump's national emergency declaration aimed at getting funding for a southern border wall.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the first Republican to say she would vote to block the declaration on constitutional grounds. Eleven other Republican senators joined her in that vote, but the number is far short of what would be needed to override President Trump's veto.
Harriman says "at the end of the day it's now going to end up in the courts."
And Richardson says he's proud of Collins and the other senators who stood up to the president. "The Senate is standing up for itself finally and saying 'the power of the purse resides here. We will make the decisions as to how money will be spent.'"
Political Brew airs Sundays on the Morning Report.