AUGUSTA, Maine — After months on the other side of the capital city, leaders of the Maine Legislature on Thursday teased a return to the State House after Gov. Janet Mills sped up the state’s reopening timeline.
Lawmakers have conducted committee meetings remotely and met sparingly at the spacious Augusta Civic Center since convening in December, which has cost additional money and slowed legislative business down. Legislators are now in a special session and face decisions on a brand-new budget bill and other fiscal policy provisions that must be made by summer.
The Democratic governor on Thursday announced that she would be rolling back indoor and outdoor capacity limits on May 24. In response, Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, issued a joint statement saying they would explore plans to reopen the State House.
“Maine people have put in the work and they’re the reason we are on the edge of normalcy,” they said.
The seat of Maine’s government has been largely closed and session has not been held there since March after the pandemic arrived in Maine. Certain people, including the media, staff, lawmakers and contractors are allowed in the building, but members of the public are not unless they are guests of the governor’s office or lawmakers.
A session originally scheduled for this week was delayed until next Wednesday after two lawmakers tested positive for the virus within a week. Logistics for future dates beyond then are still being worked out, according to the statement.
It was likely the Legislature would have to consider returning home soon anyway. Margaret Noel, the acting director of the Civic Center, said the facility will be booked from June 1 to June 20 due to a mix of graduations and city voting, making it unavailable for legislative business.
Senate Secretary Darek Grant, a former Augusta city councilor, had discussed the possibility of another session in the building at the end of May but indicated the lack of June availability would not be a problem, she said. Grant did not return a request for comment.