April 07, 2020

Measure to finance museum auction bids hits snag in Senate

AUGUSTA — Maine lawmakers, who must decide what to do with more than $200 million in surplus revenue, have deadlocked over fast-track legislation to give the Maine State Museum $162,000 for a planned auction of historical artifacts.

Museum representatives asked legislative leaders this week to back the appropriation for next Wednesday’s auction of the Berdan Collection at Cyr Auction Galleries in Gray. Among the items for sale is a watercolor of 1820s Congress Street in Portland depicting the original Maine State House.

In bipartisan accord, House and Senate leaders authorized expedited consideration of the emergency funding plan by the full Legislature.

The measure won preliminary approval in the House, without public hearing or committee review. But it bogged down in the Senate amid expressions of concern within the minority Republican bloc.

Critics of the pending bill have complained that spending on art or artifacts is not a high priority — or at least not high enough to justify shortcuts in the Legislature’s normal deliberative process.

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