The Elephant Not in the Room

Posted:  Monday, October 15, 2018 - 11:45am
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A few months into my first term in the Maine House of Representatives the federal government passed legislation allowing internet service providers to sell personal information about their subscribers. In response to this new federal law, a group of Maine legislators, Representatives and Senators, met to discuss options on moving forward legislation that would offer consumer protections for Mainers around this issue. I was invited to this meeting and we assembled in the House Speaker’s office.

After some discussion around the federal law and what some states were doing in response to it, the conversation shifted to how we would move a bill into committee. Because of the reactionary nature of this effort, we had missed the deadline on submitting legislation and all new bills needed to be passed through Legislative Counsel, which is evenly split with Democrats and Republicans. As different options were presented I felt it necessary to note to the group the “elephant that isn’t in the room… there isn’t a single Republican here to talk about this.” The group, which was comprised of some middle and higher level legislative leaders of the Democratic party and one other independent, was pretty convinced that the Republicans would have little desire to work with them so their efforts were better placed thinking of “work arounds”.

Needing to go back to my committee work I asked the group if they minded my talking to the Republican members of Legislative Counsel about allowing this bill to go in “after deadline”. They voiced no opposition and offered some encouraging words.

Over the next 2-3 days I sought out these Republican leaders and inquired to their comfort in allowing an internet privacy/ consumer protections bill to have a committee hearing, which needed their consent (because Legislative Counsel is evenly split it would have actually only taken one Republican agreeing with the Democrats to get into committee). Not surprisingly, all but one of the five Republican leaders happily agreed to allow the bill through.

As I relayed this information to the Democratic I recall one leaders eyes widening when told that both House Republican leaders were fine with letting the bill have a hearing. When asked how I was able to facilitate their agreement, although slightly confused by the question, I answered the best way I could.

“I went up and talked with them.”

The bill passed 9-1 in favor out of Legislative Counsel and we continued to work on the issue.

I bring up this story to highlight one of the benefits of being an Independent lawmaker and to showcase how I have been an effective legislator in Augusta. I am looking forward to continuing to serve the good people of District 94 and hope that I have earned your vote on November 6th.  For more information please feel free to contact me or visit my website at owencasas.com.

Paid for and authorized by Rep Owen Casas