Lawmakers reconvene for push


AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine lawmakers returned to the State House on Monday after a three-week break hoping to wrap up some matters that have lingered for months in two or three days.

Action was intermittent and progress was slow, as if the recent hiatus had left members of the House and Senate a bit rusty.

Beyond a need to get back in the swing, lawmakers faced a need to familiarize themselves again with the status of some heretofore contentious items and calculate if there remained ways to advance their cause – either by reaching agreement on the merits of an argument or by building voting majorities through other means.

After working through Sunday night into the wee hours of Monday, the Appropriations Committee was back at it in public view, weighing options for stretching $730,000 in cash on hand to finance some of dozens of price-tag bills.

House and Senate leaders have been aiming at concluding the 2006 regular legislative session by midweek and Monday morning that was still the plan.

But all knew the process of legislation rarely adheres to a timetable and, after all, lawmakers up to now had not left the easiest things for last.

One of the most efficient yet hard to achieve ways to speed the disposal of bills is to foster a synchronization of House and Senate action so that both chambers have work to be undertaken at the same time. But despite professed intentions, a lengthy debate on one side of the capitol can leave lawmakers idle on the other side.

By and large, to the surprise of some, civility continued to hold sway. Neither Democrats nor Republicans had given up on core issues, but evident restiveness appeared to stem more from the hurry-up-and-wait pace of the day’s proceedings than from personal or even philosophical clashes.

One day after the Taxation Committee cleared a citizen initiative dubbed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights for a statewide vote, there was renewed speculation over whether an effort might be made to place a competing measure on the ballot.