AUGUSTA (AP) — Gov. Paul LePage’s administration urged lawmakers on Wednesday to hand over the power to choose Maine’s attorney general and state treasurer to the executive branch.

But the Republican governor’s proposals received an icy response from members on the State and Local Government Committee, who said they fear that doing so would put too much power in the hands of the chief executive.

“We’ve been swimming along fine for 200 years with the system that we use,” said independent Rep. Jeff Evangelos of Friendship. He said the governor’s effort was clearly a response to the fact that LePage and Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, “are not getting along.”

LePage and Mills have feuded publicly on a variety of issues and LePage has had to hire outside legal counsel in two recent cases because of disagreements with Mills.

Maine is the only state in the country where the attorney general is elected by the Legislature. Lawmakers also elect the treasurer. Under LePage’s bills, they’d be picked by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Such a move would require a constitutional amendment, which would ultimately need voter approval.

Hank Fenton, deputy legal counsel to LePage, told the committee that the lack of a “unitary chain of command” promotes “gridlock and disorder.” He says giving the governor the power to appoint the officials would make state government run more effectively.

LePage is also proposing to replace the secretary of state, who is also elected by the Legislature, with a lieutenant governor. He or she would run on the same ticket as the governor.

The committee is expected to vote on the governor’s bills in the coming days.


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