At MPA, we wake up in the morning thinking about how to move power from the wealthy and corporate interests that dominate our government and economy back into the hands of everyday people. One of the ways we do that is making sure that Maine people have the tools they need to participate in our democracy and hold our elected officials accountable.
Every year, MPA releases a legislative scorecard to show how your state legislators voted on the most critical issues that defined each legislative session and made the biggest impact on people’s lives. There are more than 1,500 bills typically heard in a two-year session, so we try to cut through the noise and highlight the votes that mattered the most.
Our scorecard covers a whole range of issues, because we know that Mainers struggle with a bunch of things at once: making ends meet, finding affordable healthcare, helping family members struggling with substance use disorder, sending our kids to underfunded schools, and facing discrimination. We take a comprehensive look at ALL bills that got a vote and select the ones that represent the full range of what makes a difference to the lives of Mainers.
This year, for the first time ever, we are adding a second score: Will of the Voters. This score looks specifically at votes over the last two years that had to do with upholding or rolling back citizen initiatives passed by voters, or messing with the referendum process. After the legislature has failed for years to make meaningful progress on a number of critical issues, it was irresponsible and downright anti-democratic for legislators to vote on rolling back laws that voters passed with overwhelming support at the ballot box.
It’s now July, and the legislature still hasn’t officially adjourned. Critical issues, including our entire Clean Elections system, are left unresolved. After years of dysfunction, it’s clear we need a sea change in the Maine state legislature.
We hope that you’ll take a minute to check out your own legislators’ score and another minute to share. Every Mainer should know whether their elected officials were actually representing their values.
The Maine People’s Alliance (MPA) is Maine’s largest community action organization, representing over 32,000 members across Maine. Throughout the organization’s 34-year history, MPA has worked on dozens of local, state and national issue campaigns. From holding corporate polluters accountable, to organizing to raise the minimum wage, to standing up for immigrant rights, MPA members have joined neighbors and friends to work for the kind of world in which we want to live.
To find out more about getting involved with the Maine People’s Alliance, visit www.mainepeoplesalliance.org. You can follow our work at Maine Beacon, our news site, at www.mainebeacon.com. You can subscribe to our weekly podcast about Maine politics on iTunes or here: www.mainebeacon.com/podcast-preview/.
To learn more about each individual bill, click the “details” box.
The range of bills we scored touched upon a number of issues, including: access to healthcare, treatment for opioid addiction, tax fairness, solar policy, student debt, fair employment practices, wages, discrimination, and the citizen initiative process.
This score looks specifically at votes over the last two years that had to do with upholding or rolling back citizen initiatives passed by voters, or messing with the referendum process. (Examples include the vote to roll back the minimum wage increase, and the vote to repeal the Stand Up for Students education surcharge, and a number of votes to make it harder to get on the ballot for a citizen initiative.)
We score bills that received a “roll call” vote (where the individual yes or no votes on a bill are recorded). Not every bill receives a “roll call” in both chambers. Sometimes that’s because the vote was never taken up by one of the chambers (such as was the case with a number of bills that died after House Republicans voted against extending the legislative session). Other times it’s because the bill passed “under the hammer,” meaning unanimously. We can’t score a bill if we don’t know how each legislator voted on it, so there are a few cases where we could only score it in the House or the Senate.
When legislators are elected to serve the people, their job is to show up. In recent years, the voting margins have been so slim that a single missing member of the House or Senate could pass or kill a bill. Unless an absence is excused, we do count absences against a legislator’s score, because we can’t differentiate between somebody missing a day in Augusta and somebody who’s “taking a walk” to avoid casting a vote. (This really does happen! https://twitter.com/tarynhallweaver/status/983749845575000064)
Yes, visit www.mainepeoplesalliance.org/2017scorecard.
First: Please share this scorecard. Every Maine has the right to know how their elected officials voted, and whether they were actually representing their constituents -or the interests of the wealthy and corporations.
Second: Get involved. Write or call your legislator to tell them your thoughts on their votes. And the ultimate form of accountability? Elections. We’ve got a big one coming up in November.
You can see if your legislators are up for re-election when you look up their score. Happy with how they voted? Volunteer to knock on some doors, make phone calls, and help get them back in office. (And throw them five dollars if they’re running as a clean elections candidate here: https://www5.informe.org/cgi-bin/online/ethics/cleanelection/home.pl) Unhappy with their score? Volunteer with the person challenging them.
Email MPA legislative director Taryn Hallweaver at email@example.com