As solar bill failed, Republican supporters hid from the vote

As solar bill failed, Republican supporters hid from the vote

The last day of Maine’s legislative session on Friday saw a bevy of Governor Paul LePage’s vetoes either overruled or sustained, but none with more drama than the veto of compromise legislation to promote solar energy.

An initial vote on the bill fell just short of the two-thirds necessary to overrule the governor’s veto, but proponents of the plan to increase solar installations and create a comprehensive solar policy for Maine thought they could still win. They eve managed to pick up the support of a couple of key Republicans. When a second vote was held, however, several legislators they were counting on suddenly couldn’t be found.

“Five House Republicans who had voted for the override the first time left the chamber and hid in the House Republican office to avoid voting for the bill and therefore halting any chance of a turn-around,” explained Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Why didn’t they stay in the chamber and vote against the veto? Apparently in some strange universe they believe they could trick their constituents into thinking they only voted for the bill and never against it. What fools do they take us for?”

Several supporters of the solar legislation say they witnessed the representatives sitting together in the House Minority Office. It appears they “took a walk,” in the parlance of the legislature, to avoid having to oppose Governor LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette on a critical vote.

As a spreadsheet posted on the Solar for ME Facebook page shows, Representatives Kathleen Dillingham, John Picchiotti, Brian Hobart, Michael Timmons and MaryAnne Kinney (and Rep. Tim Therialt, an ostensibly pro-solar Republican who also missed the initial vote) were present for votes shortly before and after the override attempt that they missed. The vote failed 93 to 50, with 99 votes likely needed to overcome the governor’s veto.

“Too many Republicans fell in line behind the governor today. They turned their backs on Maine workers, Maine’s homegrown solar industry and new investment for Maine,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon in a statement after the vote. “An amazing collaborative effort created the opportunity to grow good-paying jobs of the future and modernize our economy. I thank the 12 Republicans who refused to throw that all away and chose good policy over partisan politics.”

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