Capitol Thought Police

Capitol Thought Police

While Maine citizens are finding their gun rights frequently undermined by proposed bills in the legislature, the legislature recently started using armed security officers to protect themselves from citizens who dont say what they want them to.

For anyone who hasnt attended a public hearing since the practice started (sometime last year) its a startling sight.

Asked what would trigger a guard being sent to a hearing room, an inside source said “controversial” bills and/or a large attendance at a hearing.
Right now there are two guards, one for the State House and one for the State Office Building (Cross Building), but if controversial bills are a criteria, what does the future hold?

Under the leadership of the Democrat majority, the legislature has gotten noticeably touchy.

My first run-in with that touchiness was before the Education Committee a dozen years ago and it was over the word “foolish.”

Democrat legislator Steve Bost (now City Manager of Brewer) gaveled me out of order at a hearing before the Education Committee on a bill which would change the method of selecting a Commissioner of Education. I had called the bill foolish, explaining that it had been tried before and didnt work.

When I asked why he was pounding the gavel, Bost said that I was insulting the sponsor of the bill. I protested that I was calling the bill foolish, not the sponsor, but it made no difference to him.

The armed guard at the door of last weeks hearing was no stranger to Julian Holmes, an activist from Wayne, Maine, who had come to offer testimony in opposition to all of the anti-referendum bills before the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee.


Julian Holmes from Wayne, Maine

Holmes had displeased Senate Chair Neria Douglass, an Auburn Democrat, just weeks before at an earlier hearing. Bost-like, she had pounded her gavel frequently and called Capital Security to show him she meant business.

In a nutshell, Holmess “crime” had been to challenge the legislators hearing the bill to apply the bills disclosure requirements to themselves, but Senator Douglass said that personal comments wouldnt be tolerated.

According to a Lewiston Sun Journal story the next day titled Capitol Securitycalled to hearing, “She (Douglass) told him to keep his comments to the bill, or else hed be escorted from the room. I assure you this is totally relevant, Holmes said. You hold on a minute now, Douglass said, banging her gavel.”

It made me long for the old days when legislators bent over backward to make citizen input a comfortable experience. As long as a citizen didnt use foul language, or pull a gun on the committee, they were left alone to express themselves as they saw fit. (The only constraint, if there were one, was time. Sometimes there was a limit on the number of minutes of testimony one could give.)

Once we were made to feel that the State House belonged to the citizens of Maine; now its obvious that it does not. It belongs to the party in power. The State House has been made over in more ways than one.

Theres something very chilling about having to watch every ordinary word when speaking to a committee of elected representatives, about legislators threatening citizens with calling the cops because they dont say something the way somebody with a gavel wants it said.

As it turned out, once “foolish” was ruled out of order, armed thought police werent far behind.

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