A group of Republican lawmakers plans to travel to the Maine Statehouse on Tuesday to call on their colleagues to get back to work, accusing Democratic leaders of dragging their feet. Legislative leaders countered that the work already is underway and the appropriations committee is meeting Tuesday.
Republicans protested in the summer and fall when the Legislature failed to reach a consensus for reconvening during the pandemic. The current plan is for the bulk of committees to convene in a few weeks.
Republican Rep. Shelley Rudnicki, of Fairfield, said her group will gather in the House Chamber to make a point.
"We are a co-equal branch of government and the governor is making decisions without any input from the Legislature. It's time for us to get to work," said Rudnicki, who accused the governor of "unprecedented and draconian" actions while the Legislature was sidelined.
Republicans decried some of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills' executive orders imposed because of COVID-19, but the Legislature failed to reconvene when Republicans and Democrats couldn't agree on the scope of work to be conducted during the pandemic.
The Legislature is currently in session and Senate President Troy Jackson will be in Augusta this week. The appropriations committee meets Tuesday and other committees will begin meeting later this month after the drafting of bills is completed. All told, more than 1,500 bills are up for consideration in coming months.
Rudnicki said the group wants lawmakers to reconvene immediately to deal with COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the governor. Dozens of bills in the revisor's office deal with the pandemic.
Rudnicki also accused the governor of paying lip service to having an open-door policy to lawmakers by ignoring her messages.
The governor's press secretary said Mills has limited face-to-face meetings but welcomes dialogue with legislators.
"The governor has been working hard every day to protect the lives and livelihoods of Maine people, guiding Maine to one of the lowest per capita COVID death and case rates in the nation and committing more than $250 million in economic recovery grants to Maine small businesses as well as keeping the unemployment trust fund funded. The governor is not interested in making the pandemic political," Lindsay Crete said.
The group of lawmakers consists of House Republicans, along with a libertarian. Several will be traveling from Aroostook County, a long drive, to drive home their point, Rudnicki said.
Rudnicki acknowledged it's a symbolic gesture since both chambers are controlled by Democrats.