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Committee Rejects Motion Calling For Maine Labor Commissioner's Resignation

On a narrow vote of 6-5, the Legislature’s Labor Committee rejected a Republican-sponsored motion calling for Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman to resign. Members of both parties were critical of Fortman and the Mills administration for failing to appear before them to discuss problems with the unemployment program.

The meeting was supposed to be a follow-up to a hearing last month where Fortman announced several steps to end the backlog of thousands of claims for unemployment benefits. State Sen. Shenna Bellows, a Democrat from Manchester, blasted Fortman and her boss, Gov. Janet Mills.

“I and Democrats on this committee spoke out when Gov. LePage refused to allow his commissioner to come to the Labor Committee in the last administration. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now,” she said.

Several committee members from both parties expressed their anger at the failure of the adminstration to have Fortman or someone from the department answer questions, saying they have all had constituents contact them for an explanation for why they had not received benefits.

“They keep saying, ‘Just keep filing, just keep filing and we will get the money to you.’ Well, you know what? It doesn’t put food on the table. That doesn’t make the car payment, it doesn’t make the house payment. These people need to be helped and we need to do it now.” said Democratic state Rep. Donna Doore of Augusta.

The motion calling for Fortman’s resignation failed on a 6-5 vote. In a statement, Mills said her office had made it clear that Fortman would not appear and that any questions would be answered by the department in writing.