AUGUSTA, Maine — A small group of Republican lawmakers who don’t like some of Gov. Janet Mills’ executive orders during the pandemic plans to use a Maine Statehouse appearance to make a statement about getting back to work.
Republicans protested the governor’s actions while lawmakers were sidelined in the summer and fall but the Legislature failed to reach a consensus for reconvening during the pandemic. The current plan is for the bulk of committees to convene in a few weeks.
Republican Rep. Shelley Rudnicki, of Fairfield, said her group will gather in the House chamber to make a point on Tuesday.
“We are a co-equal branch of government and the governor is making decisions without any input from the Legislature. It’s time for us to get to work,” said Rudnicki, who accused the governor of “unprecedented and draconian” actions while the Legislature was sidelined.
The governor’s office has vowed to work with legislators and to keep an open-door policy, even though Rudnicki contends she’s been shut out.
“The governor has been working hard every day to protect the lives and livelihoods of Maine people, guiding Maine to one of the lowest per capita COVID death and case rates in the nation and committing more than $250 million in economic recovery grants to Maine small businesses as well as keeping the unemployment trust fund funded. The governor is not interested in making the pandemic political,” spokesperson Lindsay Crete said.
The Legislature began its session last month and Senate President Troy Jackson will be in Augusta this week. The appropriations committee meets Tuesday and other committees will begin meeting later this month after the drafting of bills is completed. All told, more than 1,800 bills are up for consideration in coming months.
Rudnicki said the group wants lawmakers to reconvene immediately to deal with COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the governor. Dozens of bills in the revisor’s office deal with the pandemic.
The group of lawmakers consists of House Republicans, along with a libertarian. Several will be traveling from Aroostook County, a long drive, to drive home their point, Rudnicki said.
Jackson brushed aside the group’s appearance as a political stunt and said “lawmakers all across the state have been working since December.”
“Our job is to work for the people of Maine, not for a photo op. I don’t send out a press release just because I am doing my job. Like most of my colleagues, I will continue working today, tomorrow and in the months to come to deliver for the people of Maine,” he said.