© 2021 Maine Public
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Maine Senate Divided On Bill Requiring More Transparency For Contracts Entered During Emergencies

Rick Bennett
Robert F. Bukaty
Former Maine Republican Party chairman -- and now state Senator -- Rick Bennett speaks at the Maine Republican Convention, Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Bangor, Maine.

The Maine Senate has deadlocked on a bill that would require the governor to publish no-bid contracts initiated during a state of emergency.

The proposal, sponsored by Republican Sens. Lisa Keim and Rick Bennett, was prompted after the state labor department paid global consulting giant McKinsey and Company more than $6 million to help fix its unemployment claims system during the pandemic.

McKinsey is the same firm that last year settled a multistate lawsuit for its role in "turbocharging" the opioid crisis, a settlement that yielded the state $3.8 million.

During Wednesday's floor debate, Bennett noted that McKinsey was one of several consulting firms that won contracts during the pandemic across multiple states but delivered questionable results.

"This Legislature and the people of Maine deserve to know about no-bid contracts as soon as possible, particularly in times when the executive branch is granted extraordinary powers. We deserve to know who we are doing business with and why," he said.

The Mills administration testified against the bill, calling it superfluous because its procurement division publicizes some details of state contracts.

The proposal, however, would require disclosing the contract in its entirety within 72 hours.

Democrats control the Senate and largely opposed the bill, but four joined Republicans in an effort to revive it, resulting in a 17-17 tie.

The Senate could vote again on the proposal on Thursday.