Forestry issue exposes GOP legislators living in the Land of Oz

Maybe it’s because the Wizard of Oz is on the throne in the Emerald City, but with rare exception the Republicans in this session of the Legislature in Augusta forgot about their first principles and, like the scarecrow, the tin woodsman, the cowardly lion, seemed to be lacking in brains, heart and courage.

The forestry issue was the litmus test. The Republican State Committee, nearly unanimously, voted to oppose the Compact prior to the vote last November, seeing it for the more-big-government, more-regulation issue that it was. This act of courage by the Committee no doubt helped in defeating the Compact.

Common sense would say that the NO vote should have been a signal to the Legislature to give the industry a rest and just fund the present Forest Practices Act. The Act was fully funded in the session, but Republicans, with rare exception, followed the endorsement of the big boys of the industry and, along with Democrats, enacted more amendments to the FPA. In no time, the new law will rain more regulation on the little guys. The Democrat-controlled Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee did not hold a hearing on the new proposal to see if it should be enacted. There was no outcry from Republicans that a hearing was not held. Republicans as well as Democrats tried to tack on additional pieces of the defeated Compact before the final (unrecorded) vote.

In the book “The Wizard of Oz”, the field mice carried the lion out of the poppy field after he had been overcome, but before he succumbed. They were able to save a creature far larger than they were because they worked together. We saw the same theme in the defeat of the Compact played out by the grassroots efforts of people with little money but a lot of heart, actually carrying their well-funded opponents, the large landowners, to safety. They knew that what happened to the big guys today, would happen to the little guys tomorrow. But the Maine Legislature, including most Republicans, never understood the drama that was played out in the Compact vote. They stayed in their pro-Compact state of mind, even after it was defeated!

What a missed opportunity Republicans had in the post-Compact session to stand up for their constituents, to be relevant to what people want most, someone to fight for them in a way they cannot fight for themselves: to reduce the intrusion of more government in their lives and livelihoods.

What are Republicans for if not for smaller government? What industry is more worthy of protection from government than the forest products industry? It’s Maine’s largest, worth $7 billion a year. Where is the common sense of changing the rules of the industry every year or two when trees have a growth cycle of half a century? Have Republican legislators fallen for the micro-management theories of the Green groups? It appears so after seeing what they voted for (LD 2286).

Nothing so took the measure of Republicanism than this session. Those citizens who fought so long and hard to stem the tide of big government and hoped to find a champion of their cause in the GOP were sorely disappointed. It’s time the GOP rediscovers it’s principles and finds the courage to stand up for them. Not for the sake of the politicians, but for the sake of the people they represent. Otherwise, they’re going to stay the minority party.

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