December 19, 2013

LePage to allow commissioners to testify at hearings

Lawmakers say the change is a positive step forward.

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA — Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that he will allow his commissioners to testify at legislative committee hearings, ending a policy that Democrats said was preventing them from doing their work.

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Maine Gov. Paul LePage says his department heads can testify in person at legislative committee hearings, changing a policy that required them to answer questions mostly in writing.

Press Herald File Photo

For several months, LePage had told his commissioners to answer questions from legislative committees largely in writing instead of in person. He said Democrats had been wasting his commissioners’ time by keeping them in hearings for several hours strictly to berate them and score political points, he said.

Democrats criticized that policy, saying it was slowing down their work and preventing them from getting answers to important questions.

LePage told reporters Thursday that all his commissioners will be able to go back and work with the committees after legislative leaders sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to “always maintain the highest degree of regard” toward those involved in hearings, including representatives from LePage’s administration.

Jodi Quintero, a spokeswoman for Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick said Democrats are pleased that LePage will again cooperate so lawmakers can continue to move Maine forward.

The tension between lawmakers and the governor over the appearance at committee hearings has simmered since lawmakers finished last session in July. Lawmakers said Thursday that the agreement to move forward was a good thing as lawmakers prepare to return in January.

“I think it’s a positive step forward between the legislative branch and the executive branch to start the new session,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette, of Newport.

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