January 6, 2013

Maine constitutional officers to take oaths

By GLENN ADAMS, The Associated Press

AUGUSTA — Ceremonies marking the opening of the new legislative session will wind down Monday with Gov. Paul LePage's swearing in of three constitutional officers and the new state auditor.

Democrat Janet Mills returns to her former job as attorney general and Democrat Matthew Dunlap as secretary of state when they are sworn in by the governor.

Neria Douglass, also a Democrat, takes the oath of office for state treasurer. Douglass could not seek re-election to the state auditor post because of term limits.

Pola Buckley will be sworn in as state auditor. Buckley, who's been principal auditor in the Department of Audit, is the only one of the four top officers who is not a former legislator.

The Legislature gets down to business on Tuesday, returning from a long break since its Dec. 4 start.

Maine's constitutional officers are elected by the Legislature, instead of by voters.

Mills, Dunlap and Douglass replace Republicans - Attorney General William Schneider as attorney general, Charlie Summers as secretary of state, and Bruce Poliquin as treasurer - after the Democrats took back their legislative majorities in November.

The majority party traditionally fills the offices, which often serve as a springboard to higher elective offices.

In November, Summers lost a race for U.S. Senate to independent Angus King. Dunlap lost a June primary for Senate to Cynthia Dill. Others have used the prominence of the attorney general's office to run for governor, most recently Democrat Joseph Brennan, who served two terms in the Blaine House.

The secretary of state's duties are perhaps the most far-reaching, touching the lives of virtually every Mainer. The office conducts state elections, administers motor vehicle registration, licensing and testing, oversees the state archives and keeps records relating to more than 80,000 businesses and nonprofit corporations.

The treasurer's office manages the state's cash and debt. It represents Maine in the sale of state bonds. The attorney general represents the state in legal civil disputes and prosecutes the more severe crimes.

The auditor's office primarily audits the financial statements of the state and expenditures of federal programs in the state.

With state fiscal problems in mind, legislative leaders from both parties agreed in December to steer away from a potential conflagration over pay and to compensate Mills and Dunlap at incoming salary levels, less than what they were getting in 2010 before Republicans took control of the Legislature. Mills will be paid about $92,248 a year; Dunlap will earn $69,264.

Douglass will earn the entry-level salary of $69,264 a year; Buckley will earn $81,566.

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