How is LePage’s civil emergency not like other civil emergencies?

Under the Maine law, the governor has the right to declare a civil emergency.

But usually the scope of the emergency is pretty specific and the time period  may be delineated.

In 2007, Gov. Baldacci declared one to help “expedite weekly fuel tax reimbursements for logging truck operators and other off-road diesel users.” In 2009, Baldacci declared another because of the H1N1 flu and had a second, a seven day one waiving rules on the delivery of heating fuel. In 1998, Gov. King declared a civil emergency because of the ice storm.

But the civil emergency just declared by Gov. LePage in response to limited federal funds coming to Maine because of the shutdown looks rather more broad.

The declaration states, “I do hereby declare a State of Civil Emergency as of October 9, 2013 and exercise my authority to suspend strict compliance with laws or rules that prevent, hinder, and delay effective management of the emergency.”

Moreover, this declaration did not come from the office of the Attorney General.

In fact,

Attorney General Janet Mills said Wednesday evening that her office had not been consulted about LePage’s proclamation.

“The first I saw of this was when it came across the email a few minutes ago,” she said. “I have no idea what he wants to do or intends to do, and his proclamation isn’t clear about that.” [source]

Moreover, the law itself seems to apply mostly to physical disasters. (There is also a portion strictly on energy emergencies and another for an oil spill emergency.)

Here’s the language in the law laying out the governor’s powers:

After the filing of the emergency proclamation and in addition to any other powers conferred by law, the Governor may:

(1) Suspend the enforcement of any statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business, or the orders or rules of any state agency, if strict compliance with the provisions of the statute, order or rule would in any way prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency;

(2) Utilize all available resources of the State Government and of each political subdivision of the State as reasonably necessary to cope with the disaster emergency;

(3) Transfer the direction, personnel or functions of state departments and agencies, or units thereof, for the purposes of performing or facilitating emergency services;

(4) Authorize the obtaining and acquisition of property, supplies and materials pursuant to section 821;

(5) Enlist the aid of any person to assist in the effort to control, put out or end the emergency or aid in the caring for the safety of persons;

(6) Direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the State, if the Governor determines this action necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster mitigation, response or recovery;

(7) Prescribe routes, modes of transportation and destinations in connection with evacuations;

(8) Control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area, the movement of persons within the area and the occupancy of premises therein;

(9) Suspend or limit the sale, dispensing or transportation of alcoholic beverages, explosives and combustibles;

(10) Make provision for the availability and use of temporary emergency housing;

(11) Order the termination, temporary or permanent, of any process, operation, machine or device which may be causing or is understood to be the cause of the state of emergency for which this proclamation was made; and

(12) Take whatever action is necessary to abate, clean up or mitigate whatever danger may exist within the affected area. [2011, c. 626, §2 (AMD).]

By the way, no other governor in the country has taken such a step in response to the federal government’s shutdown. How come forty-nine other states could avoid it and Maine, according to the administration, can’t?

This is all perfectly legal but certainly there would be less of an uproar if the governor had communicated about it with relevant groups before issuing the declaration. With discussions on-going with unions, why wasn’t this brought up with them?

[Note: original post has been edited to clarify language and to add an additional example.]

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.