Does the governor make it all up as he goes along?

First, to all you anti-marijuana people out there who like to prattle on about the negative effects of marijuana on users’ thought processes, I have one name and one name only:  Governor Paul LePage.

Nothing I use for medicine could create that convoluted a thought process — especially with the way he is handling LD 88, a bill designed to fix flaws with the recreational marijuana referendum passed in November. The legislature passed it unanimously (which is a big deal and I’ll get to that in a minute) with the hope of a quick signature from the governor so it could go into effect immediately, rather than 10 days from now were he not to act on the legislation at all.

One of the things the legislature was attempting to do with LD 88 is to clarify that possession by minors is still prohibited. Lawmakers wanted that clearly established before January 30 when possession of recreational marijuana becomes legal. LD 88 also places a moratorium on the retail sale of recreational marijuana until February of 2018.

The governor says he won’t sign it. LePage says he needs $1.6 million in funding, and he is insisting the oversight be done by the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations instead of the Department of Agriculture as proposed by Question 1 in November. LePage wants those changes now.

With all due respect to our governor — I hear he’s also insisting on that now — go figure. I thought I remembered reading that LePage favored a moratorium, so I Googled it. Sure enough — all the way back in the beginning of this month — LePage did support a moratorium, but the upfront cost he said he needed all those few weeks ago was $5 million, not 1.6.

As for insisting on changes, I don’t understand what the governor doesn’t understand about why the legislature is putting the moratorium in place:  to provide ample time for making changes to the language behind Question 1 and to figure out the logistics and cost of implementation. Our lawmakers have already even created a special committee to handle the issue, and I’m sure they’d welcome input from our state’s chief executive.

However, our state’s chief executive would do well to see that, while legislators may welcome his input should he want to work collaboratively, they can also shut him out if he doesn’t want to. A unanimous vote in both chambers after a unanimous vote in the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee seems like a pretty serious message about LePage’s relevance in his final years.

Which brings me to my second point:  Congratulations 128th and Rock on!

Somewhere on the front page of some national news outlet, there should be a headline about the Maine Legislature acting in a bipartisan and even unanimous fashion so soon after a horridly contentious election cycle. Like the idea of the moratorium or not, our lawmakers deserve some serious respect for their performance.

I had the good fortune to attend part of the Veterans and Legal Affairs work session in that tweaked and approved LD 88. The members ability to communicate with each other, the chairs ability to control the tempo, the staff’s ability to orchestrate the flow of information — it was legislative poetry in motion. Literally.

I wish we had a chief executive who took the time to make a big deal about what our legislators just did. A newly formed committee tackled one of the bigger issues facing our state in a timely and unanimous fashion in the opening days of a new session, quickly followed by their colleagues in their respective chambers doing the same. The bill itself was a bipartisan collaboration between the respective leaders of the House and Senate. 

Only a couple of months after the divisive bloodbath that was Election 2016.

Big chunks of the electorate haven’t even mentally recovered yet, and our legislature jumped out of the gate ready to be effective. The 128th Legislature deserves headlines and standing ovations, not the cold shoulder from our governor. Here’s hoping the legislature keeps up the good work!

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.