Governor Paul LePage has signed a bill that encourages greater transparency of financial disclosures from public officials. LD 1806, ""An Act To Promote Transparency in Government," was signed earlier this month and improves the current disclosure requirements of Legislators and certain executive employees.
It was discovered that between 2003 and 2010 the state paid nearly $235 million to organizations that were run by state officials or their spouses.
"It is reasonable to ask our elected leaders to disclose who is paying them. It is good for the health of our democracy and the people of Maine," said Governor LePage. "This will increase trust in the system and ensure that people have the opportunity to take appropriate action and make decisions accordingly."
The bill requires legislators, executive branch officials and constitutional officers to identify if they or family members, who hold executive or management-level positions outside state government, were paid more than $2000 by the state. Additionally, the executive employee must identify the source of the compensation, the type of economic activity and the title of the position held by themselves or an immediate family member.
The bill also mandates an executive employee whose employment has ended to file a statement of finances and a statement of positions within 45 days after the termination of employment relating to the final calendar year of the employment. Current law creates a loophole in that if an executive employee leaves office or state employment before the financial disclosure deadline they are not required to file their finances. This measure ensures that loophole is closed.
Meanwhile, Legislators have indefinitely postponed LD 1805, "An Act To Implement Recommendations of the Right To Know Advisory Committee Concerning a Public Records Exception for Proposed Legislation, Reports and Working Papers of the Governor." The bill created a public records exception for proposed legislation, reports and working papers of the Governor and the Governor's office that is parallel to the public records exception for the Legislative and Judicial branches in existing law. Under the law, proposed legislation, reports and working papers would have become public records at the adjournment of the legislative session for which those documents were prepared.
Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, proposed an amendment to LD 1805 that would have eliminated the public records exception from the Legislative Branch. Legislators are currently afforded the right to temporarily shield public records for proposed legislation, reports and working papers. The amendment created a level playing field between the Executive and Legislative Branches, which the Governor supported. A majority of Republicans and Democrats rejected Sen. Dill's amendment, which was never taken up for debate.
"This is political hypocrisy! There are three branches of government which were created equal. However, the Executive Branch has been tagged as the black sheep. This exception is applicable to both the Legislative and Judicial Branch, but not the Executive. It is hypocritical of Legislators to offer themselves the right to exempt working papers and refuse to look at the amendment offered by Sen. Dill," said Governor LePage. "The lack of courage which is looming over the Legislature right now is overwhelming," added the Governor. "If we are to be an equal government let us become completely transparent and lift the exception for all branches of government," Governor LePage concluded.