From today’s Times Record:

Frustration grew among local residents as state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, R-Dresden, addressed the status of the Land for Maine’s Future bonds on Wednesday night in Woolwich.

According to Todd Martin, outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Legislature will convene on Jan. 12 to attempt to override an anticipated veto by Gov. Paul LePage on LD 1454, a bill that will release a $6.5 million LMF bond that was approved by Maine vot- ers in 2010.

Pierce had voted in favor of LD 1454.

LePage is withholding the voter-approved bonds as leverage in order to get the Legislature to acquiesce to demands that revenue from timber harvested on state lands be used to fund an energy program.

Another bill, LD 1378, would have released the bonds, but was vetoed. The House then sustained LePage’s veto.

Pierce opposed that bill, and on Wednesday explained why.

“When 1378 first came out, I’m a freshman legislator … and I had not completely read the bill,” he said. “Shame on me. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.”

When asked why he had cast a “no” vote, Pierce explained that “if I can’t read the bill because they changed it or there’s an amendment, I have no choice but to vote no, whether it’s a good bill or a bad bill.

“If it’s a one pager — five or six lines, you can read it. But if it’s a two page, and they’re calling for the vote and you don’t have time to read it, it would be irresponsible of me to vote on something I didn’t read,” he added.

Some residents spoke out, encouraging Pierce to remain neutral by leaving the chamber, rather than taking a negative stance on a bill he hadn’t fully read.

Pierce responded: “What if I voted yes on a bad bill? I’d be in just as much trouble as voting no on a good bill. It’s a Catch 22 either way. Yes, you can get up and leave the room, but sometimes you’d be leaving the room a lot. I’m just being honest. There’s no guidebook to your first term and how to sort all this out.

“I’m not making excuses,” Pierce added. “But like I said, it’s a learning curve.” 

Eventually, Pierce said he would vote to support releasing the LMF bonds come January.

“If 1454 comes up and (LePage) vetoes, I’ll vote to override the veto,” he said.

Martin also clarified that while LD 1454 would release the 2010 bonds, it would not reauthorize the bonds that have already expired.

“We need to pass another bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Pouliot to reauthorize that money,” Martin said. “It’s not enough just enough to pass LD 1454 and override the governor’s veto. That’s the most important vote, but we also need to pass Rep. Pouliot’s bill to reauthorize that money for five years, and five years gets us past the LePage administration.”

Pierce also commended Pouliot’s work on the bill, and said he would also be in support of Pouliot’s bill as well.

After thanking Pierce for his willingness to talk to the community, Sandy Jaeger of Georgetown also shared her thoughts on the impact of his negative vote. 

“We voted overwhelmingly to pass that bill and I wish you could have taken our word for it,” said Jaeger. “What about all those who were promised the money and either have to sacrifice it, or have to borrow money? I mean, what about all those people, because you hadn’t read the bill and didn’t take the word of the people sitting here? … I’m so proud that all these people are here. It means so much to me — it really does. And when you didn’t vote to override, it meant a lot to me too and it was painful.” 

“Well, I think (Pierce) has gotten a strong message,” Charlie Durfee of Woolwich told The Times Record. “And if he flips his vote again, I’d be very surprised because that would be a clear signal that he’s not paying attention to his constituents.” 

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