By the time the bill was officially reported out of the committee, it had morphed from 29 pages to 45, increasing confusion as to what was in it. In both the House "debates" that followed that week, Republicans held firm, defeating Democrats' amendments. For hours, Democrats lined up to rail against the process by which the bill was being passed, and Republicans remained largely silent in their seats. At around 8 pm on May 12, the House voted final passage, 78-68, with only two Democrats in support and no Republicans in opposition, and sent it down to the hall for final Senate approval.
"That's when it got really interesting," says Alfond.
Republican leaders suddenly realized that the bill had a fiscal note attached, meaning that the legislature was obligated to budget the money to pay for it. Ordinarily, this is done by sending the bill to the Appropriations Committee, a serious-minded sanctuary from the rough-and-tumble political strife where, as Dutson puts it, "a lot of the partisan crap stays outside the room." The committee would then consider the fiscal impact and incorporate the costs into the annual budget, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
But House Speaker Nutting and Senate President Kevin Raye (R-Perry) had a different proposal: the Appropriations Committee should vote to exempt LD 1333 from its own review, an action requiring a simple majority. An hour before midnight, the Appropriations Committee was called into session to rubber-stamp the unusual move. While the Republicans did as their leadership expected, passing the measure around midnight, their house chair, Representative Patrick Flood (R-Winthrop) was so upset he tendered his resignation from his committee post.
"I submitted my resignation to the speaker largely because I really couldn't be a part of leading such a late-night, rushed effort that would be out of step with the time-honored legislative process and the respect I wish to convey always to the committee," Flood says. "I wish it had been handled differently." (He later agreed to stay on, after "being given assurances over the weekend by the speaker that he would do everything possible to avoid this in future.")
It was now well after midnight early Saturday morning and, with nerves fraying, Senator Raye agreed to postpone the vote until Monday, though the damage to the bipartisan spirit at Appropriations may already have been done. "I sat there [in Appropriations that night] and listened to Democrats level borderline personal rhetoric toward their Republican counterparts and it was brutal," says Dutson. "I think everybody in the room that listened felt it was well beyond the level of discourse that would be useful as we go to fashion the budget."
On Monday morning, the superintendent of the Bureau of Insurance, Mila Kofman, announced her resignation, with four years left in her term. Kofman didn't respond to our interview request, but told the Lewiston Sun Journal that she had made her decision shortly after LePage was elected and that the governor's office had chosen to announce it when they did. (Kofman, a champion of consumers and nemesis of the insurance companies, also told reporters that she shared the governor's desire to lower insurance costs and increase access, but disagreed with him on how that would best be done.) Later that day, the Senate passed LD 1333, 24-10, with three Democrats in support: Bill Diamond (R-Windham), Elizabeth Schneider (D-Orono), and Nancy Sullivan (D-Biddeford). LePage signed it into law May 17, though some of its provisions won't take effect until 2014.