Independent lawmakers gain clout in Augusta with staff, office space

 

AUGUSTA — A caucus of independent lawmakers is likely to have an outsized influence in the Maine House of Representatives in 2018 given that it could wield seven coveted votes in a chamber closely split between 74 Democrats and 70 Republicans.

The group of six independent lawmakers, bolstered by their own office space and part-time staff, includes three former Democrats and two former Republicans. A member of the Green Independent Party also is caucusing with the group.

Among the hot-button issues in the upcoming 2018 legislative session, lawmakers will have to figure out how to fund a Medicaid expansion in Maine, make the retail sales of recreational marijuana work and pass laws to address the state’s ongoing opioid crisis. ...

... Also caucusing with the group is Rep. Ralph Chapman of Brooksville who is a member of the officially recognized Green Independent Party. ...

The group of independents and Chapman have been working together for several months now, and having dedicated staff will be helpful, she said, pointing out that the office space the Legislative Council approved for them will be shared with American Sign Language interpreters who use the space once a week. ...

COHORT REFLECTS STATE’S MAKEUP

Maine has an independent streak, with about 40 percent of its voters registered as unenrolled, picking no party to affiliate with, according to data from the Maine Secretary of State’s Office. ...

A RETREAT FROM PARTISAN POLITICS

The group, if they do end up voting as a block, will hold significant sway not only in bills that need a majority of votes to pass out of the House, but also votes that require a supermajority of two-thirds, including overrides of possible vetoes by Republican Gov. Paul LePage and bills that would be enacted as emergency legislation. ...

 

 

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