Governor Mills Releases Letter to Presiding Officers

Augusta, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills today released a letter she sent last Friday to the Legislature’s Presiding Officers in response to their request for a “Re-Opening Task Force”. The complete text of the letter is below and attached.

As of today, Maine has reopened its economy on par with or to a greater extent than most other New England states. No other New England state has opened restaurants for indoor dining while Maine has opened them for both indoor and outdoor dining in thirteen of its sixteen counties. Further, in the three counties with high daily case counts and community spread, restaurants may open on June 1st for outdoor dining with continued take-out and curbside pickup food service, but not for indoor dining which presents a higher level of risk.

The data and trends on which these decisions are based are on the Maine CDC website and are explained by Dr. Shah in his daily press briefing.

May 22, 2020

The Honorable Troy Jackson
President of the Senate
3 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333

The Honorable Sara Gideon
Speaker of the House
2 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333

Dear President Jackson and Speaker Gideon:

I write today to respond to your request that I issue an executive order establishing a legislative advisory commission to make recommendations concerning the state’s public health response and several other matters regarding the COVID-19 emergency.

I believe this request follows what I consider to be a misimpression that our administration has not been responsive to or is not consulting the Legislature on matters of restarting Maine’s economy. As you know, I take seriously my responsibility as chief executive of the State of Maine to spearhead the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to take all reasonable and necessary steps to protect the health of the people of Maine and the health of the Maine economy. To that end, I have taken several steps, granted under authority unanimously provided by the Legislature, to protect our state.

Throughout this pandemic, our administration has strived to provide the Legislature, respecting its role as a coequal branch of government, with regular updates, and we have sought to keep open lines of communication. That is why, in part, I speak with not only you, but your Republican counterparts regularly and why I make my staff available to you as well. As you also know, we have fielded, and continue to field, hundreds of requests for information, suggestions on policies, and concerns over various matters every week from legislators and legislative staff, to which we strive to provide timely responses so that they, in tum, may serve their constituents. To further improve the distribution of information, my office has also been distributing weekly updates detailing the work of executive branch departments; those departments, in tum, are in frequent contact with legislators on committees familiar with their work. In addition, I have formed an Economic Recovery Committee, which includes well-known economists, labor and business experts and legislators, to examine the long-term impacts of the pandemic and make recommendations for policy measures for consideration by both the executive and the legislative branches.

I am not convinced that a formal commission, which you have requested be staffed, advised and informed by our already busy executive branch department heads and employees, would add anything to the robust flow of information and advice currently in place. As I have said repeatedly, the decisions this administration is making are made on the basis of fact, science and medical expertise, with survival of both the lives and the livelihoods of Maine people as our foremost goal. Every department of state government is fully invested in this effort, and we have not let up since day one. The success of our efforts is demonstrated by the low number of confirmed COVID-19 positive cases compared to other states. We are working hard to make sure our numbers remain low over the coming weeks and months, continuously consulting with medical experts, stakeholders and others affected by the executive orders. This administration always welcomes positive suggestions to inform our response to the pandemic, and we will continue to respond to them from you and other members of the Legislature. But I cannot agree to create a commission I believe would only divert from the critical and time-sensitive work we are doing and inject an unnecessary layer of political partisanship into these very sensitive decisions.

Instead, I seek your advice and counsel on another equally pressing and important matter. As you are aware, the State of Maine has received through the Federal government an allocation of $1.25 billion in Federal funding that the U.S Treasury Department has said can only be spent on necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been pressing the Trump Administration and Congress to provide more direct support to state and local governments as well as added flexibility for the funding that has already been received. My administration is awaiting action from Congress to adjust some components of the CARES Act and provide flexibility in terms of the timing and the way the funding can be spent. I will then seek your input on how these funds should be spent. It is my understanding that the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee is considering meeting to consider this very question. I welcome the opportunity to have this important discussion.

In the meantime, I continue to respect the Legislature’s authority, and my administration will, as it has been, continue to hear your input and respond to your questions as, together, we seek to protect the health of Maine people and support our economic recovery.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Janet T. Mills
Governor