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Dozens Of Advocacy Organizations Press Maine Lawmakers To Set Special Session Date

Mal Leary
Maine Public
Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors is among dozens of community leaders calling on lawmaker to come back in for a special session.

Representatives from 126 organizations, ranging from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce to advocacy groups for direct care workers, are calling on Maine lawmakers to set a date for a special legislative session to complete their work. 

“Direct care services will be cut by 12 percent on June 30 if the Legislature doesn’t come back and prevent this crisis and fund direct care workers,” said Lydia Dawson, executive director of the Maine Association of Community Service Providers, at an Augusta news briefing Tuesday.

Lawmakers adjourned the second regular session last month after failing to extend it, leaving hundreds of issues unresolved, from bond proposals to keeping current pay levels for direct care workers.

The groups called on lawmakers to vote to call themselves into session before the end of the month.

Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors said House Republicans will be a focus of the groups because they previously blocked efforts to extend the session.

“The problem was with the House Republicans on not securing the needed vote," Connors said. "But I think that we all have the responsibility to reach out, to make them aware of our collective - I don’t want that to be lost on anybody, that this isn’t a coalition that comes together on many occasions. It is very diverse.”

Matt Timberlake is president of the Ted Berry Company, a construction firm. “I am here to urge the legislative body to reconvene and complete some of the critical, unfinished business it has," Timberlake said. "The impacts to the construction industry will be enormous if a comprehensive bond package is not passed.”

Credit Mal Leary / Maine Public
Maine Public
Matt Timberlake, of the Ted Berry Company, urges lawmakers to set a date for a special session at an Augusta news briefing Tuesday.

In a statement, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon praised the organizations' effort.  “I applaud all of the organizations who showed up today and demanded action. Their advocacy displays the critical issues still outstanding," she said. 

But House Republican leader Ken Fredette sees the issue differently.  “House Republicans will support returning for a special session once the Appropriations Committee agrees on a final package that sets reasonable priorities for the State of Maine and does not waste taxpayer dollars," Fredette said in a statement. "The Legislature already passed a $7.3 billion two-year state budget last year, so most of our work is done.”