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Maine GOP Lawmakers Renew Call For Special Session

Robert F. Bukaty
AP File
In this file photo, the House gallery is vacant during the legislative session in the House Chamber at the State House, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

A half-dozen Republican members of the Maine House of Representatives are calling for a special session of the legislature to deal with spending and other issues related to the pandemic.

State Rep. Joshua Morris, a Republican from Turner, says he wants “real” hearings.

“We have to submit the questions in advance,” says Morris. “It’s not the same as us being able to ask her questions there. And I think that is by design, because she doesn’t want to be accountable.”

The group, which held a press conference outside the statehouse Thursday, says the legislature should decide spending and other policies surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. They also say Maine’s economy has been hurt by the decisions of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and by ongoing problems with unemployment compensation payments.

“We are one-hundred days out from the legislature adjourning, and I am still getting calls daily from people that have not received unemployment benefits,” says Augusta Rep. Justin Fecteau.

At an online briefing for legislators earlier in the day, Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman acknowledged that there are problems with the system, but said the agency is working to replace staff that had been cut under the LePage administration.

“You need more qualified, trained staff. That is the primary bottleneck, and we are getting people on board as quickly as possible. It does take time to train people.”

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.