A few months ago, LePage refused to do the normal work of working with the legislative branch. The governor was vetoing everything — until he decided that the normal veto process didn’t apply and forced the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to resolve the matter. The Court rebuked him.
Now LePage is emulating Kentucky Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couple.
Davis was fine with doing certain elements of her job, but not all of them.
In particular, Gov. LePage says he’ll take steps to change policy without the Maine Legislature and he’ll refrain from naming people to vacancies on boards and commissions.
As Mal Leary reports, this is drawing criticism from across the political spectrum.
Senate Majority Leader Garret Mason, a Republican from Lisbon Falls, says it’s unfortunate that the governor is leaving vacancies on various boards. A real estate agent, he says all licensing boards provide important services to Mainers.
“For example, to be a little selfish, the real estate commission,” he says. “I think that is something that a lot of people depend on every day to make sure that the law is being followed in regards to people who have sales agent licenses, making sure that people are getting their renewals on time so they can continue their business.”
House Speaker Mark Eves, a Democrat from North Berwick, has clashed repeatedly with LePage on many issues. He says the governor is abdicating his responsibilities by not nominating replacements to the various government boards.
“It makes government not be able to do what it needs to do for its people as it relates to creating jobs,” he says. “It means that the board of corrections and our jail systems can’t function adequately. It means a lot.”
As a nonpartisan political analyst points out, the governor’s refusal to carry out this part of his job will affect more and more Maine people over time.
University of Maine political science professor Mark Brewer says if the governor carries through with his promise not to name any replacements, it won’t be long before a lot of Mainers will be directly affected by boards and commissions that can’t approve deals, issue licenses or adjudicate disputes.
“Eventually that is going to be a problem for not only the functioning of Maine government, the executive branch in particular, but the government as a whole,” he says. “Eventually that will trickle down to the average Mainer. So really this is really an important matter that should be getting people’s attention.”
Unlike Kim Davis, he’s not refusing to follow a direct order from a court and so won’t be facing contempt charges and a fine or jail time.
But like Kim Davis, LePage’s actions do not respect the basic principle that public officials should do their jobs, and not just the parts they want to do.
His oath of office includes the obligation to “faithfully execute the laws.”
While national Republican leaders are trying to prevent a government shutdown because they know that would further undermine their party’s image, Gov. LePage has decided to engage in a slow motion shutdown.