Maine Senate keeping public in the dark?

Senate Democrats have announced that, on Tuesday evening, they will convene a caucus to “nominate and select leaders for president, majority leader, assistant majority leader, secretary and assistant secretary.”

This meeting to select Senate leadership is closed to the public.

To be convened behind closed doors.

To keep the public in the dark.

Maine’s Freedom of Access Act is silent on whether elected officials may caucus by party in secret, and so they do because the law does not say they can’t.

Caucuses are generally convened to discuss party business. And, in fact, the Maine Legislature’s own list of definitions defines a caucus as a meeting of “members of a legislative group, most commonly a political party, to decide on policies or strategies.”

But, in convening Tuesday’s caucus, the Dems aren’t conducting the party’s business of “policies or strategies.” They are conducting the public’s business of selecting and electing Senate leaders.

Under FOAA, public proceedings are defined as “transactions of any functions affecting any and all citizens of the state by . . . the Legislature of Maine and its committees and subcommittees.”

Without question, election of Senate leadership will affect any and all citizens of this state, which makes these elections our business.

The Dems do not make up the entirety of Maine’s Legislature, but they are now a majority, which means they are the power brokers because majority rules.

The Dems can call Tuesday’s meeting whatever they want, but what they intend to do behind closed doors is transaction of Senate business — not party business — which means they must meet in public.

Last Tuesday, the public gave Maine’s Democrats what they wanted: control of the Senate. And now, one week later and in their very first collective act, the Senate Dems announce they are going to meet in secret?

A secret meeting is no way to select our leaders.

It’s certainly no way to open the incoming legislative session.

The Senate Republicans have already secretly caucused to elect their leaders, but as the minority party they have no say on who will be Senate president. The Dems have that control.

The Senate, no matter the party, has traditionally locked the public out of caucuses while their peers in the House have been much more open.

We elected these people to represent us. Don’t we have a right to know what they’re doing?

*

There are a number of local events planned starting today and lasting through mid-week to honor veterans as we observe Veterans Day.

Maine offers a special gift that lasts a lifetime: Maine residents who were honorably discharged (or received a general discharge under honorable conditions) are eligible for free, lifetime day-use passes to most of Maine’s state parks and historic sites.

Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walter Whitcomb said, in a press release, that Maine is “honored to be able to offer this small token of our gratitude to Maine veterans in recognition of their outstanding service to this country.”

While it may be a small token, it’s a tremendous gift of access to some of the most beautiful and interesting areas of our state. It’s a gift that honors the men and women who have fought for us, and it’s the least we can do to thank them.

Park passes are available through the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. To apply, call 626-4464, email mainebvs@maine.gov, or go online to the Department of Conservation.

Accept the gift. You’ve earned it.

*

In Peru last Tuesday, among dozens of other things voters decided, they decided to enact an ordinance to allow the street-side electronic sign at the Peru Fire Station on Route 108 to display different messages “in a format that would not district drivers.”

The ordinance passed 562-305.

Before this vote, the municipal sign was allowed only to display a single static message.

Now that one sign — and no other — can scroll through several displayed messages, including “dissolving or fading the message” in a manner that will be safe for drivers.

Does a town really need an ordinance to do that?

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

Amedeo Lauria's picture

Ahhh no Ron...

Just one big AMERICAN pile!

Maple, Oak, Cedar, Ash, Elm, Burch...it doesn't and shouldn't matter.

At least until the left decides they should be recycled in separate piles in clear plastic bags at my own expense.

Amedeo Lauria's picture

Ron...

thank you for making my point so clearly. Back to raking my leaves. Maine the way LIFE should be! Mine's great by the way.

RONALD RIML's picture

Back to raking your leaves???

Are you separating them into 'straight leaf' piles and 'gay leaf' piles, or simply intermingling them the way God intended????

CRYSTAL WARD's picture

LSJ smoke screen

Oh My after over 100 years of closed door Political Party caucus meeting the LSJ all of a sudden has a problem with ONLY the majority (Democrats) party caucus .
What a smoke screen !!! When the Republican had, as they always have, a closed door selection process last year NOT a word from the LSJ. More election 2012 sour grapes by the LSJ editorial staff (WHY I wonder after over 200 years is this a big issue in 2012??? Even in Washingtons time the Federalist met in closed door caucus meeting -- the LSJ has had a looooooooooooooog time to bring up this non issue.
This is a made up issue.

Amedeo Lauria's picture

Judith Meyer...

you are a brave person to speak your mind here in this forum.

Soon they will be calling the LSJ to silence you as well. Agree with them...they love you, disagree they despise you.

Hang in there!

Democrats to Mainers...move along...nothing to see here. This doesn't concern you it is our "private" business. Close the doors on your way out.

I've got to stop drinking milk...doesn't feel good rushing out of my nose when I read these responses.

RONALD RIML's picture

Get a life, Amedeo..

This doesn't smack of Bigotry

MARC A JALBERT's picture

Help me here:

I guess I just don’t understand your problem with the closed door selection of the Democratic leaders for the upcoming future? Are these leader selections of any great importance to us, the general public? You say they are?

I see these proceedings as selection of people within the party who will be primarily the spokesmen for the party. It isn’t as though these are discussions regarding the people’s welfare here? I see this as Party business?

Transparency is compromised when meetings having to do with decisions affecting the citizenry are conducted behind closed doors, as our current Governor has done.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Government by definition

Government by definition affects citizenry. If it did not, then why have government?

 's picture

You said...

"The Dems can call Tuesday’s meeting whatever they want, but what they intend to do behind closed doors is transaction of Senate business — not party business — which means they must meet in public." So I guess everything discussed and all appointments will have only to do with the Senate. Is that correct? Nothing else.

JUDY MEYER's picture
staff

After this editorial was

After this editorial was written, the Senate Dems issued the following statement:
Please note that the Senate Democratic Caucus on Tuesday, Nov 13th at 5:30p will be open to the press. The caucus will be meeting at Sweet Chili Thai (aka Airport Thai) 75 Airport Road in Augusta.
SJ Editorial Board

Jason Theriault's picture

oh

Since you wrote an editorial about it, will the story about the meeting be on the front page?

I mean, unless you were making a big deal out of nothing, if getting Democrats to open their meeting up to the public was worth writing an editorial about, it obviously should be worthy of the front page.

Unless you guys write editorials about nonsense.

JUDY MEYER's picture
staff

We are planning to attend and

We are planning to attend and cover the caucus, now that it has been opened to the public. And I would never consider upholding the public's right to know writing "about nonsense." Never.

Jason Theriault's picture

I didn't say it was nonsense

I didn't say it was nonsense, I was just wondering if this is manufactured or not.

The press isn't invited into these meetings on the national level, and the result is in line for the presidency. So why should I care how the Democrats nominate people for Senate President?

Jason Theriault's picture

Sooo......

Can we expect to see the editorial board give a pat on the back for not only being responsive but for taking action to right this "wrong"?

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Here they go again on SJ

Question becomes , did your Editorial board have a public hearing or a poll by your patrons before your board made its delusional banter about your selection of an endorsement?

The decision of your choice and rhetoric was then placed upon the public before debate or a public hearing...behind a closed door....

Shame on you....is that you Dick Morris?

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Again, sounds like sour

Again, sounds like sour grapes. Get over it editorial board. The republicans met in private and got the minority leaders in place. And why weren't you writing all this when the Governor was making deals behind closed doors. Can we say this editorial board is sounding more and more like biased editors who will only bring up things they disagree with if it is against democrats.

JUDY MEYER's picture
staff

We have often criticized the

We have often criticized the governor for actions to shut the public out. Here's one example from March 2011: http://www.sunjournal.com/our-view/story/997677
However, in all fairness, it has been our experience that the LePage administration has been more responsive to the SJ's public access requests than the previous administration. I don't know whether the public would agree, but I can say that's been the case with requests made by our office.
SJ editorial board

RONALD RIML's picture

'Kiss My Butt' IS a Response....

I'll hand you that......

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I just don't get it....

Here we have just gone thru a much longer than needed election process, with everyone accusing everyone else of being underhanded, and deceitful. No one trusting anyone, yet everyone proclaiming transparency. Well, not so fast. Here we go, politicians picking up right where they left off. As employees of the people, they have no right to hide behind closed doors. They work for us, and we have a right to keep them accountable. I love that line, "No one said we couldn't do it"..I wish I had that line when I was five years old and burnt down my family's three story barn. When asked why I burnt it down, I could just have said, well, no one actually told me I couldn't burn it down. Then everything would have been all set. Just imagine how many things we could do, just because no one specifically said we couldn't do it.
That is not the kind of attitude I want to see in our elected officials, or anyone, for that matter. We need to demand true transparency from everyone elected to office...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Well stated, Frank; in a

Well stated, Frank; in a nonpartisan way.

 's picture

in the dark?

I understand your feelings may be hurt after being so hilariously wrong about the election, but now you're just being silly. "To keep the public in the dark." So, we'll never know who the new leadership is? Won't the actual, legal nomination and vote take place in the Senate?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Maine Senate keeping public in the dark?

ed , 12.11.09 20:00 ? hst
It's only a party , after all • A private party at that , it seems . This is not something for us to get our panties all in a bunch about . Smoke filed rooms , power brokering , American politics , the best government money can buy .
In a perfect world full of perfect people , perfect communication , all the time , everywhere. .uh .whelp .it doesn't exist
I believe this is what we should be concerned ( no : not the " financial cliff " ) with
Unlimited anonymous amounts of money can come from anywhere to support any candidate any where in these very United States under that new law the US Congress passed last session
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_%28organization%29
Henceforth , the communist gerintocray and monolithic & fascist China ( they are in the news to-day ) can support anyone they want here with their mega-bucks
That should concerns us more than partisan bickering behind closed doors somewhere in ME . What is the Republican party doing ? Rhetorical question . No one knows that answer to that question . Their meetings aren't a matter of public record , either . They generally do no thing and get no where , ƒast • /s Steve

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