UPDATED: #MEGOV LePage Skips NE Governors’ Regional Opioid Abuse Summit; Dismisses as “Chit Chat”
(5pm UPDATE) Despite earlier today acknowledging the futility of such a move, moments ago Governor LePage’s office issued a statement calling on Democrats to reconvene and pass his “war on drugs” bill:
- “Drug trafficking by ruthless, out-of-state street gangs is on the rise, but Democrats are still pretending Maine does not have a problem with violent drug crime. Organized drug gangs are flooding the state with cheap heroin, but Democrats remain obstinate. They refuse to provide the manpower law enforcement agencies need to prevent these criminals from addicting Mainers with this killer drug.”
“We even identified funding to add MDEA agents, judges and prosecutors to help combat the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. That money is still sitting there. I could call the legislature back to take up my bill, but Democratic leaders could simply recess immediately and go home. I cannot force them to do something they are not willing to do.”
“Democratic leadership stated they won’t call the legislature back unless there is an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ They don’t think that deaths from drug overdoses, babies born addicted to drugs and violent street gangs peddling poison on our street corners amount to an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ But Maine people do.”
More via BDN:
Lawmakers had attempted to revise the bill to make it more politically palatable, but LePage signaled he would veto anything but his original proposal and a bipartisan panel of legislators unanimously moved to kill the bill.
Democratic leaders in the Legislature have said they will not bring lawmakers back to Augusta until the next session begins in 2015. While LePage has the constitutional authority to call lawmakers back into session, he said Tuesday that it would be pointless. Lawmakers, if they chose, could simply recess immediately upon being called back to Augusta, he said.
Earlier this month, Governor LePage issued a statement on the then newly released 2013 drug-induced death statistics in Maine, which read in part:
“Our Administration is focusing on the fact that Maine is subject to ever-increasing numbers of out-of-state drug trafficking organizations establishing drug markets in the state. This disturbing trend tears at the very fabric of our communities and puts our children at risk.
As I have said in the past, we must be proactive in combating drug dealers and target our limited resources to better protect our communities.
I think we all agree we also need to find more effective and efficient ways to treat addicts and provide them options that lead to successful long-term outcomes. In fact, the State has increased substance abuse funding in recent years from $7 million to more than $9 million. However, until we are able to curb the amount of drugs coming into our state, we will likely see the number of drug-induced deaths continue to rise.”
So with that in mind, it was quite startling to learn that LePage intended to skip a private meeting of all New England governors held at Waltham MA’s Brandeis University today with the goal of regionally addressing opiate abuse, sharing information and developing strategies. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had previously unveiled his plan to deal with opiate abuse as he called for the summit:
Patrick said he planned to meet with his counterparts from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine next week to discuss ways they could collaborate to reduce opiate abuse in New England.
Representatives for Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy, Vermont’s Peter Shumlin and New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan confirmed the governors would attend next week’s summit. A spokeswoman for Maine’s Paul LePage, the sole Republican governor in the region, said he would not attend due to a prior commitment.
Today Maine learned what that “prior commitment” was- a photo op in Augusta:
- Crime is down according to the Uniform Crime Reporting Division at the Maine Department of Public Safety. Governor Paul R. LePage and Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Morris will release details at a news conference Tuesday.
Governor LePage credits the overall decline to a variety of factors, including more coordination between law enforcement, the courts, prosecutors and domestic violence advocates.
“Maine is one of the safest states in the country. We can all be proud of that,” said the Governor. “Our police departments across Maine deserve to be recognized for the work they do. However, while we have good news to report, we still have issues to address. There are some disturbing trends we have identified, which we cannot ignore. Protecting the public’s safety is the greatest responsibility of government.”
— Paul R. LePage (@Governor_LePage) June 17, 2014
However at today’s press conference, LePage wasted no time in pointing fingers at the other five governors for his no-show:
A spokeswoman for Maine Gov. Paul LePage said he did not attend because of a scheduling conflict but wanted to be kept apprised of details. LePage later complained, however, that as the only Republican governor in New England his point of view might not be heard.
“So rather than listen to chit-chat, I’m here trying to get the work done,” LePage said during a news conference on crime statistics in Maine.
The governor’s office even tweeted the message:
I dont want chit chat about drugs. I want action. Funding is there to pay for my bill to fight drug crime. Let's get it done! #mepolitics
— Paul R. LePage (@Governor_LePage) June 17, 2014
A reminder: At the original press conference where he stood with multiple administration and state law officials, Paul LePage also went on record as calling marijuana a “gateway drug”.