Maine governor proclaims civil emergencyBy ALANNA DURKIN , Associated Press
Oct. 9, 2013 7:20 PM ET
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday proclaimed a civil emergency in Maine, a move his administration says will allow him to suspend rules, laws or policies to better manage the impacts on the state of the partial federal government shutdown.
The proclamation comes as the country endures the second week of a federal government shutdown which already has caused dozens of Maine state employees to be temporarily laid off. Thousands more federally funded state jobs could be at risk.
The governor's Chief Legal Counsel Carlie McLean said the proclamation will provide the Republican governor more flexibility to address disruptions to state services and ensure that furloughed employees receive unemployment benefits as quickly as possible.
"By exercising this proclamation now we are anticipating that if an unforeseen circumstance arises, we could try to take a creative approach to addressing it to protect public health," she said.
Then-Gov. John Baldacci signed a similar proclamation in 2009 during a flu epidemic, which allowed clinicians giving flu shots to become temporary employees of the state, protecting them from legal liability.
Christopher Quint, executive director of the Maine State Employees Association called the move completely unnecessary and unwarranted. He said the union was notified of the proclamation Wednesday afternoon but was given no details about what it would mean for Maine state employees.
"Does this impact our collective bargaining agreement? Will employees still be getting notice (of layoffs) or will he just be treating them as any other at-will employee?" Quint said.
"Not only am I concerned, but I think every Maine citizen should be concerned about this," he added.
McLean wouldn't elaborate on what actions the administration might take, but said it is "not anticipating something specific that the public is not aware of." She said the proclamation simply provides the administration ability to make necessary decisions going forward.
House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick said Democrats were surprised to learn about the governor's move on Wednesday and urged the governor to lay out what laws he intends to suspend.
"We are calling for transparency, accountability and collaboration as we move forward," he said in a statement. Legislative leaders plan to meet with LePage on Thursday morning to discuss the impact of the shutdown on the state.
The state already has laid off 56 federally funded state workers and has said that more than 2,000 state employees are at least partially funded by the federal government.
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