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It is a rough time to be a Republican in the State House during the third-straight term of Democratic control, but some are still having early success flipping the chambers against their leaders.
This should not be read as a trend so far, especially since Democrats still have opportunities to claw back some of the early Republican victories. But any continued issues could endanger bigger Democratic priorities, particularly in the more closely divided House.
The bills: One notable example of this came this week, when Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, was able to get a bill exempting gold and silver coins from the state sales tax. It passed by just a two-vote margin in the Senate, while the House required three roll-call votes to get it through in a 71-67 vote that saw 10 Democrats buck the rest of their party.
Brakey, a libertarian-leaning Republican, billed this proposal as a measure aimed at fighting inflation, since gold prices have been historically stable. The administration of Gov. Janet Mills opposed it, saying it would erode the sales tax base, particularly when combined with other measures in that policy area. The governor’s opposition may doom the bill, but the coalition is notable.
These kinds of coalitions are coming on other issues as well. Rep. David Boyer, R-Poland, a Brakey ally, won a Tuesday vote in the House on a bill that would force a Maine governor appointing an interim U.S. senator to pick someone with the same political affiliation as the senator being replaced. It was delayed in the Senate this week.
House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, was on the losing end Thursday on a progressive attempt to limit document preparation fees at car dealerships, something that was opposed by the industry. A coalition of Democrats and Republicans rejected the measure in a whopping 101-32 vote.
What’s next: House Democrats are mostly dealing with these close divisions now. It will be harder for Republicans to flip the floor in the Senate, where Democrats outnumber them 22-13. Because of that, the upper chamber may be able to stem any losses that Talbot Ross sees in the House.
It is also worth noting that the House has only had 146 roll-call votes so far. There were more than 500 in the 2021 legislative session. The floor fights — and perhaps the floor flips — are only beginning.