AUGUSTA – Republican state senators re-elected Paul Davis of Sangerville as their leader Monday for the 122nd Legislature which will convene for the first time Dec. 1 for organizational meetings.
During the two-hour, closed-door session, Senate Republicans also elected Sen. Carol Weston of Montville as assistant minority leader. Pending what is perceived as the unlikely reversal of a recount in Bangor’s Senate District 32, Senate Democrats will continue to maintain the 18-17 advantage they have held over the GOP in the 121st Legislature.
Reporters waited outside the conference room of the Maine Motor Transport Association, a lobbying group for the transportation industry, until Davis emerged to explain why he closed the meeting. Last week, the entire organizational meeting of House Democrats was open to the public. House Republican and Senate Democratic leaders have said large portions of their meetings scheduled for today also will be unrestricted.
“I closed it mostly because of tradition,” Davis said, explaining that all leadership meetings with which he has been associated always have been barred to the media.
Davis did offer to allow reporters to attend a retreat for GOP senators that will be held later this month to determine the Republican agenda for the next year. But that agenda and how best to advance it apparently were the focus of Monday’s leadership election which pitted Davis against Sen. Karl Turner of Cumberland.
Turner, an investment adviser, said his personal experience could be used to strengthen ties to the business community as Republican leader. He said he had specific ideas on how to retain and expand GOP victories in the Senate and how to use administrative staff.
“I interwove a lot of private-sector experience which I thought was a valuable piece that I could bring to the table that Paul did not have,” he said.
Davis said tax reform would continue to be a priority for Senate Republicans. Gov. John E. Baldacci already has stated he will have a tax reform proposal for lawmakers to review in January. House Democrats also have said tax reform is an issue of uppermost concern for their members.
Davis will be left to negotiate with new Senate Democratic leaders on the composition of legislative committees and which assignments will be offered to Republican senators. Although they hold the majority by a single vote, Senate Democrats are not obligated to respect any GOP requests for committee assignments. Davis said all GOP senators had been assigned to the committees of their choice two years ago.
“I expect the same this year,” he said. “We are 17, we’re not 18 members, but we represent about 49 percent of the people in this state. Each individual is important and we have a right to expect our people to go forward and represent us in the best places as we see them.”