Senate President Troy Jackson Barrelled Over By Hymn Sing in State House

Augusta, Maine’s Cross Building was packed this past Tuesday afternoon/evening (March 05, 2024), with the transgendered minors and abortion trafficking bill (LD 227) having its public hearing being held on very short notice (just a couple of days) in the Joint Standing Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services. While the Cross Building is not technically the State House (it’s maybe 100 feet from the State House entrance), it is considered part of the State House complex since more than a half dozen legislative committees are housed in the Cross Building.
Termed-out Maine State Rep. Anne Perry (D-Calais) was the sole sponsor of the legislation, and there were no co-sponsors of the bill. That usually signals weakness from the bill’s sponsor, that there are no other legislators willing to sign on to promote the bill. Speculation is that this bill is a ‘message bill;’ that is, an unserious bill that sends a message to various nonprofit organizations (in this case, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Maine Family Planning, EqualityMaine, and MaineTrans.Net, among others) that the political party of the bill’s sponsor supports what these groups are doing and the bill is in some measure a reward or payback for the groups’ earlier support of that political party.
So, this bill (especially in an election year) will not endear itself to a majority of legislators, who will not want to be held accountable by voters in 8 months for supporting this highly-controversial bill. As if to underscore that analysis, the public hearing turnout in opposition to the bill was very significant. Although the bill’s chances at passage were limited at best, the big opposition turnout this week likely doomed the bill’s already minimal chances. The fact that people noticed this bill (out of the thousands of bills the Legislature takes up each session) did not bode well for its survival. Accountability is among the dirtiest of words in Augusta; this is an eternal truism.
The little media coverage that the bill’s public hearing generated pegged the turnout from the public at 100 opponents. My observation was that there were at least 300 people in the Cross Building after normal business hours (I stayed for two hours, until 6:30pm) to oppose the measure. There were between 10 and 12 pages of names of members of the public willing to testify in opposition to the measure, and that is not counting their family members and others who attended but were not going to publicly testify. There were hundreds of people there when I arrived and still hundreds when I left that night.
Importantly, Maine Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) was in the building (near another committee hearing room) to see the spectacle. Also in the building were 2nd Congressional District Republican candidate Austin Theriault (R-Fort Kent), who was speaking with Maine Source of Truth media personality Shawn McBreairty. Maine State Rep. Laurel Libby (R-Auburn), Maine State Rep. Tracy Quint (R-Hodgdon), Maine State Rep. Jack Ducharme (R-Madison), and Maine State Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo) spearheaded the opposition effort to the bill and Libby’s The Dinner Table PAC supporters were a prominent presence at the hearing.
Also prominent that night were evangelical churchgoers, who showed up in force to oppose the measure on moral grounds. Twice that night, gospel hymns broke out in the building’s lobby. Both “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art” were sung by opponents in attendance, with Ducharme lending his rich baritone voice to the impromptu choir. Senate President Jackson barreled into the building from the State House during “How Great Thou Art,” not acknowledging the very unusual sound of a Christian gospel hymn being sung en masse in the Cross Building, and kept walking at a brisk pace through the crowd until he got to a different committee room down a long hall in a different part of the building, where Jackson struck up a conversation with two lobbyists in suits.
The big takeaway from the afternoon/evening was the purposeful avoidance of the event by the mainstream media. There were reporters from the daily newspapers and Maine Public in the Cross Building that night, sequestered in their 1st floor State House Press Corps offices (lights were on, doors ajar). But no reporter dared venture up one floor to the packed committee room and overflow room to report on the LD 227 public hearing. My impression is that despite being news, this event did not fit the narrative of impartial legislators doing the people’s work. Indeed, while a few news items did trickle out eventually about the bill itself (misrepresented in the press as a harmless ‘shield law’), none really identified the hundreds of members of the public as overtly Christian, actively churchgoing, and holding traditional family values of life and moral living. The sole proponent of this bill (Perry) was not clearly identified as a stalwart pro-abortion feminist (a description which she undoubtedly would endorse herself). The scant reporting that came from the event was all half-truths and lying by omission (by what was not being said or by what was left unsaid).
I left the hearing while the committee was only on page 7 of the 12 pages of members of the public who had signed up to present testimony in opposition to the bill. An hour after I got to the Cross Building late Tuesday afternoon, many Boxes of Joe (Dunkin-brand coffee) arrived for those assembled, probably paid for by The Dinner Table PAC. Shortly before I left, many boxes of pizza arrived to feed the faithful churchgoers. It was going to be several more hours of opposition testimony, largely falling on the deaf ears of the Democratic majorities of legislators who populate these committees.


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