The Maine House Vote on LD 227 (Trans Trafficking Bill), Wednesday Evening, April 10th, 2024

Wednesday night, April 10th, 2024, was a long night, both literally and figuratively. The Maine House of Representatives has been putting in many hours this week, voting on mostly odious legislation late into the night. Lest one think that this is some kind of aberration or quirk, the House Dem leadership made clear earlier in the week that voting on bills in the middle of the night was actually part of their strategy this session:
“When asked whether it was good practice to make significant budget changes in the middle of the night, [Maine House Majority Leader Maureen ‘Mo’] Terry said, ‘absolutely.’ ‘We do a lot of things in the middle of the night towards the end of the session,’ the Gorham Democrat said. ‘It’s sort of the nature of the beast.’” (
So, it was not overly surprising that the Maine House put off voting on one of the most controversial bills of the year, LD 227 “An Act Regarding Health Care in the State,” until past 7pm (after a late afternoon of considering bills regarding minimum wage hikes for both educational technicians and farmworkers), and then did not vote on this bill until 11pm.
The bill has widely become known as the ‘transgender trafficking bill,’ but it also has provisions to allow for abortion trafficking as well. The House gallery was only sparsely populated, due to the legislation being taken up in the middle of the night in the middle of a workweek. Paid lobbyists dominated the few dozen people who observed the proceedings, although the public is allowed to attend and politely observe. Senate President Troy Jackson’s brother, Chace Jackson, was in attendance, being a paid lobbyist for The Resurgam Group lobbying firm. Also, several well-known, well-paid out lesbian lobbyists were in the gallery: Betsy Sweet and Laura Harper of Moose Ridge Associates and Charlotte Warren (also a former legislator herself).
When LD 227 was announced to be taken up for consideration by Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross, she immediately commented that 9 members were in line to speak to the bill, so everyone knew then that it would be hours of floor speeches both for and against the bill. Rep. Tracy Quint (R-Hodgdon), Rep. Scott Cyrway (R-Albion), Rep. Laurel Libby (R-Auburn), Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo), Rep. Michael Lemelin (R-Chelsea), and Rep. Micky Carmichael (R-Greenbush), among others, each gave powerful, impassioned speeches opposing the bill. But to no avail.
The bill’s fate was mostly a foregone conclusion, ultimately passing 80 -70 with just one or two legislators from each party crossing the aisle and voting differently than the majority of their peers. The majority Maine House Democrats were not ready to let go of the measure, however. Immediately after this vote, Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland), the former executive director of EqualityMaine, former campaign manager for the Janet Mills for Governor re-election effort, and an out homosexual himself, called for reconsideration of the vote which had just occurred. 
As a strong proponent of LD 227, it was initially confusing as to why Moonen would do so. When asked by Speaker Talbot Ross regarding the request, he succinctly stated that he was on the winning side of the vote and thus it was his right to be able to request reconsideration of the vote. He further requested that there be a roll call vote for the reconsideration. Mind you, this was now well past 11pm on a Wednesday evening. It was later determined that this request was a punitive measure by the legislative Democrats to rub the noses of the legislative Republicans in their victory on this measure. The reconsideration vote failed, with 84 opposing it, meaning that the original vote passing the bill was upheld. The last vote recorded on the reconsideration vote was that of Rep. Laurel Libby (R-Auburn) who held up the final reconsideration vote total for more than five minutes, having Speaker Talbot Ross asking her twice to record her vote, not wanting to give much satisfaction to the legislative Democrats in their victory lap celebration.      
The drama continued well after the vote concluded, however. In one of the dozen or more House floor speeches, Rep. Mike Lemelin (R-Chelsea) spoke prophetically to the past consequences of immoral bills passed by this Legislature and further prophesied to what he felt might be future consequences to the passage of LD 227. Lemelin spoke in plain language and cited the Bible prominently in his remarks, noting how God had dealt with Sodom, the land during the time of Noah, and the plagues He brought forth during the time of captivity in Egypt. 
These references and condemnations did not sit well with the majority Democrats, several of whom interrupted his remarks and rose to condemn his floor speech. Immediately after Lemelin concluded his remarks, Rep. Shelley Rudnicki (R-Fairfield) rose to state exactly one brief sentence in support of her colleague Lemelin and to express support of his comments. Her remarks lasted approximately 15 seconds.
The following day, on Thursday, April 11th, 2024, Speaker Talbot Ross filed censure measures against both Lemelin and Rudnicki, which were recorded in that day’s House calendar. Talbot Ross stated the conduct of both Lemelin and Rudnicki were “reprehensible.” The full House voted unanimously, without comment or a roll call vote, to allow the censure of both Republican legislators. Shamefully, the entire Maine House Republican caucus allowed this to occur without opposition to the measures.       
Both Lemelin and Rudnicki were forced to issue brief three-sentence, largely perfunctory, public formal apologies, which were read aloud on the House chamber floor and published in the following day’s House calendar for Friday, April 12th. The press, which were almost entirely absent for the floor speeches themselves, had a field day, condemning both legislators individually and the Maine Republicans generally, while reporting on the passage of LD 227. 
The bill has since passed the Maine Senate within the last day or two and has been presented to Governor Mills for either passage with or without her signature, or the issuance of a veto. The Governor has ten days to make a decision, but she rarely has taken the full amount of time allowed to her to decide.
The final takeaway from this bill’s saga is the utter animosity and acrimony between the parties in this Legislature. This, and several other bills, taken up over the past two years have been the most controversial imaginable (abortion, transgender immorality, guns), which has led to the Republicans being steamrolled by the Democrats time and time again. For the Republicans, there is only bitterness, bordering on anger, tinged with fatalism and hopelessness. The opposite is true for the Democrats. Elections have consequences, and this truism, borne out in full, will be the epitaph of the 131st Maine Legislature. 


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