September 23, 2011
Contact: Jodi Quintero [Cain], 207.287.1488, 207.841.6279
Good Morning. I am State Representative Emily Cain from Orono, the House Democratic Leader.
On Tuesday the legislature will reconvene for a special session to vote on a map that redraws the line between Maine’s two congressional districts.
We will also take up a proposal to increase the penalties for the use of the illegal drug known as Bath Salts. This drug is destroying lives, and the legislature took initial steps this year to put an end to its presence in Maine - but it is time to do more, and we look forward to supporting this effort to strengthen the law.
While the details are still being ironed out, I’m confident that we’ll pass something strong on keeping bath salts out of Maine, with support from both parties.
Congressional redistricting, however, is shaping up to be a more partisan showdown. You’ve probably heard a lot about this over the past few months. And like most people, you’re likely asking a pretty simple question right now: How does this REALLY impact me? Why should I care about redistricting?
That’s understandable – it’s hard to imagine how much different our lives would be depending on whether we’re waking up each morning in Congressional District 1 or District 2.
But the plan that we expect Republicans to push through on Tuesday will, in fact, have an impact on traditional Maine industries and reduce attention to the needs of some parts of the state.
The commission to draw the new congressional districts worked over the summer and arrived at two plans – one proposed by the Republicans, and one by the Democrats. Democrats drew a simple plan that changes the district of only 20,000 people within a section of Kennebec County.
Because it was clear, simple and non-disruptive, it won majority support of the commission, including the independent chairman. Republicans, on the other hand, proposed a radical, partisan plan that moves 360,000 people, seven counties, and nearly 140 communities to a new district.
If you work at one of Maine’s two major shipyards, you’d no longer share the ear of the first district representative - who has often served on the Armed Services Committee.
If you live in Oxford County or the Lewiston/Auburn, you would now share a district with Portland, so you’d likely see your congressperson less often.
If you own a family farm or catch fish for a living, you’ll now be competing with each other for the attention of the understaffed member of Congress.
This just doesn’t make sense for Maine. It didn’t make sense for the majority of the redistricting commission, who voted against it. It didn’t make sense to 4 out of 5 of all the Mainers who came to testify against it. So why did the Republican caucus push so hard for this dramatic plan?
The answer is that Republicans in Maine and nationally are not considering the practical impact of this massive shift on the people who live and work here at all – they’re purely looking at us as numbers, and how moving enough of us from one district to another could win them another seat in Congress, and one more electoral vote in the presidential election.
Make no mistake, their plan is bad for Maine - but what is concerning Maine people a lot more than the plan itself is how the Republican majority seems ready to push it through the legislature on Tuesday. It’s likely that when we convene next week, the Republican majority will ignore entire sections of Maine law, history and the will of the public and force their plan into law.
The rules say that two thirds of the legislature must agree on a redistricting plan before it can go into law. Democrats found their plan unreasonable, unnecessary and bad for Maine, so we didn’t agree with it. But rather than come back to the table and work out a plan we can all agree on, the Republican majority has instead decided to just change the rules to get what they want.
There are not a lot of issues that require at least two-thirds support of the legislature – for the most part, when a party is in complete power like the Republicans are they can get away with just about whatever they want. But there are some issues that are so important that they require at least two thirds of us to agree. This is one of them; but the Republican majority is employing every loophole and card trick that they can to ignore the rules or completely rewrite them on this issue.
We don’t always expect to agree with the people representing us in Augusta and Washington. But we do expect that they operate within a set of rules that guarantees everyone is heard, and the most important things have to earn the broadest support. It’s unfortunate that we can’t expect that from Augusta anymore. If you, like the vast majority of Maine people we’ve heard from don’t like their plan and agree that the rules we operate within are important, let your Republican legislators and leadership know before Tuesday. They might be able to ignore the rules, but they can’t ignore you.
I’m Representative Emily Cain. Thanks for listening.