AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Just two days after voters turned Washington, D.C. upside down, it looked like almost routine business for the Maine Legislature. Tuesday's election did not change most of the fundamentals in the State House. Republicans will still control the Senate in the new, 128th Legislature, while Democrats will continue to hold the majority in the House. The primary difference is that the margins between the parties in both chambers will be narrower-- 4 votes in the House (depending on at least one uncertain face) and just one vote in the Senate.
On Thursday, Republicans chose their new party leads for the coming two years, and those faces will be unchanged from the current Legislature. House Republicans affirmed their continuing support for Minority Leader Rep. Ken Fredette and Assistant leader Rep. Ellie Espling.
In the Senate, they gave unanimous support for Mike Thibodeau to continue another two years as Senate President. Because the GOP holds the majority, Thibodeau is almost guaranteed to be elected President when the full Senate is sworn in in early December. Senators Garrett Mason and Andre Cushing will continue in their roles as Majority Leader and Assistant leader.
Thibodeau said all members of the Senate share the same obligation, to work for all citizens of the state "to make their lives just a little bit better."
Fredette said the narrow gap between the parties in the House should increase the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together on policy issues.
Democratic Rep. Sara Gideon, who appears to be the leading candidate to become the next Speaker of the House, echoed Fredette's comment, saying the parties will need to cooperate to get needed things done.
On the Senate side, current Assistant Minority leader Dawn Hill said she is considering running for leadership again when her party meets next week. Hill said she and Thibodeau had already started talking about issues and having the parties work together.
Democrats and occasionally Republicans -- especially those in the Senate -- clashed many times with Governor Paul LePage over the past two years. Now, House Democrats will have new leadership. Gideon said she has gotten along with the Governor, and said they have had a "respectful relationship" when they have discussed and disagreed on issues such as solar energy. She said she is hopeful that respect can continue.
Several Legislative leaders, from both parties, said they will need to focus attention quickly in the referendum questions passed by voters, especially the legalization of marijuana. They indicated there will be many details to work out to actually implement the new law, as required by voters, including how to regulate and enforce the growing, sale and use of the drug. In addition to that issue, there will be a new stage budget to pass and a host of other issues.
Thibodeau told GOP Senators they will face ‘an interesting few months".
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