My position on this bill, and my role in its ultimate demise are being distorted by powerful lobbyists with pleasant sounding names like the “Natural Resource Council of Maine.” Make no mistake about it, these groups are by no means pleasant. They have been lying to you and will continue to lie to you right up until Election Day.
Let me be perfectly clear: I voted in favor of LD 1649 which would have expanded solar energy throughout Maine. In fact, I voted for it multiple times. When Governor LePage vetoed the bill, I voted to override his veto.
My decision to support the solar bill did not come easily. I followed this bill very closely from the start. During the public hearing, a member of the Public Utilities Commission testified that in its original form LD 1649 would cost Maine ratepayers up to $22 million by 2022. I struggled with that and on behalf of my constituents, I frequently spoke to members of the Energy Committee to stay up to speed on any changes made to the bill. The bill was amended in the final days of session to ease the burden on ratepayers. Although I was still a bit uneasy about supporting it, I knew it meant a great deal to some of my constituents, so I voted for it. Governor LePage ultimately vetoed the bill and after reading his veto letter carefully, weighing both sides of the argument, I voted to override the veto.
However, the real story of the dishonesty and trickery that played out that day came after the veto was sustained in the House.
When it was apparent the House would sustain Governor LePage’s veto by a very slim margin, House Democrat Leader Jeff McCabe, switched his vote at the last possible second. I thought it was odd considering Jeff McCabe had been a loud and vocal supporter of the solar bill, and now suddenly he seemed to have a change of heart and was casting a vote against it. Then I realized what McCabe was up to.
By switching his vote at the last second, McCabe voted to sustain the Governor’s veto, putting him on the prevailing side of the vote. According to an obscure House rule, any member on the prevailing side of a vote can move to have the House reconsider, meaning we would have to vote on the veto all over again. Typically this motion occurs when new information comes to light that would cause someone to want to change their vote. This was not the case with Rep. McCabe, he just didn’t like the outcome. In theory, McCabe could continue to implement this same ploy over and over again until he got the desired outcome.
To add insult to injury, soon after he switched his vote, Jeff McCabe lied on the House floor about his motives for doing so and called the bill back up for reconsideration. His actions were so shallow and pathetic that he couldn’t even say the words without a condescending smile creeping across his face that even drew laughter from his fellow Democrats in the chamber. Their contempt for the voters of Maine was on full display.
I don’t see the humor in taking advantage of House rules for your own benefit and I certainly do not
condone, nor will I reward any member for lying on the floor of the Maine House of Representatives. In fact, I find the conduct of Jeff McCabe and his colleagues to be deplorable. After voting in favor of the solar bill twice, including a vote to override the Governor’s veto, it’s clear I support solar power in Maine. The decision made by my colleagues and I not to take part in McCabe’s shenanigans did not make a difference in the final outcome. There were 148 members present and voting meaning 50 “nays” would have sustained the veto. The final vote was 93-50, the veto would have been sustained regardless.
My hope is that next session we can revisit this issue and pass a better bill that advances solar energy in Maine that eliminates the cost to ratepayers entirely.
Rep. Michael Timmons represents House District 45 - Cumberland and part of Gray