What is LePage’s secret plan? Clues from other tea party governors

My fellow BDN blogger Mike Tipping has an incredible news story, complete with an audiotape.  Governor LePage told fellow Republicans that he plans to suddenly call a special session of the Maine Legislature which will remake Maine politically.

He tells them he “can’t divulge” what it’s about but, “I’m just trying to do what other Republican states have done this year and I gotta wait before I say too much more about it, but what I’m telling you is this: If we get this done, the state of Maine will be on the right track for the next 10 years. I promise you that.”

What could it be?

Gov. LePage says he would pass legislation on something that other Republicans have done, would upset Democrats a lot, and would affect Maine for about 10 years.

As the co-author of a new book on tea party governors and what they say I have been tracking what these governors have been doing around the country.

(By the way, the book is largely a collection of quotations from tea party governors, with quite a lot from Gov. LePage. It’s titled Tea Party Talk – The Governors and can found online as a CreateSpace paperback and as a Kindle ebook),

And these tea party governors have been pursuing a wide array of policy changes. It seems to me, however, that there are only a few things that could make a big difference for Maine Republicans’ political changes over a long period of time.

These are:

1. Changing the voting rules. All across the country, Republican governors and legislatures have made it more difficult to vote. In Pennsylvania, the voter photo id law affects about 800,000 people, of which a strong majority are Democrats or Democrat-leaning.

Maine considered such a law but passed an end to election day registration. When that was overturned by a People’s Veto, the legislature asked Secretary of State Summers to study photo voter id. Maybe they will pass this in November.

2. Curtailing collective bargaining, either for all workers or for public employees. It’s no secret that Governor LePage dislikes unions and has criticized public employee unions a good deal. The same is true with other tea party governors, such as Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Undermining what unions can do hurts them as political organizations. Since they tend to support Democratic candidates who are in tune with them on a host of policy issues, this could affect Maine’s future politics.

3. Making it harder to organize unions and for unions to collect fees from those they represent at the bargaining table. The Maine Heritage Policy Center and others closely linked to LePage really wanted him to make it harder for unions to organize and collect fees. Such laws have not passed in Maine yet.

Tea Party governors have pursued such laws. However, when Governor Kasich did so in Ohio, it was overturned 61-39% in a 2011 referendum.

This sort of policy serves Republicans because, like curtailing collective bargaining, it undermines unions and their possibility of being a countervailing political power.

Of course, this is just speculation, albiet based on knowledge about what other tea party governors have done.

However, these seem the most likely possibilities for LePage’s plan.

Notes: Several people suggested to me that LePage may propose a redistricting plan. Passing one in this fashion would be quite vulnerable to legal action. In fact, as former Attorney General Janet Mills points out below, this requires 2/3 of both houses of the legislatures.

My co-author of Tea Party Talk – The Governors, Jim Melcher of the University of Maine-Farmington, has suggested that the governor may try to pass changes in state workers’ pensions. These have been done by other tea party governors and are consistent with LePage’s and their negative portrayals of state workers.

As former Attorney General Janet Mills notes in the comments below, anything passed could not take effect immediately, unless it passed by a two-thirds vote. Moreover, attaining two-thirds would be quite unlikely.

And, of course, anything passed by the special session could be overturned by a People’s Veto.


Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.