Will OPEGA make it out alive?
As reported here, the Maine House did not adopt the amendment attached in the Senate yesterday that preserves OPEGA. In a vote earlier this afternoon, the House “adhered” to its previous budget vote, meaning that it sent the bill back the Senate in the same form it did before. That version, voted out of the Appropriations committee along party lines last weekend, would de-fund and eliminate OPEGA, the investigative arm of the legislature that was established only a few years ago.
In a recent report on the budgets of the legislature and the governor, we found ample reason to save OPEGA, not the least of which is the fact that over the past couple of years it has spent less than $3 million, but found state budget savings of more than $20 million. OPEGA has done remarkable work in the time it has been up and running, and has produced a series of well-researched reports on state government.
The kind of standoff we’re now seeing between the House and the Senate has been pretty rare in recent years, with both bodies controlled by the same party. Remarkably, what seems to have happened is that a bipartisan group of Senators, brought together by the assault on OPEGA, have crafted an amendment to restore the agency and find the budget savings elsewhere. It won the support last night of six Senate Democrats and all but one of the Senate Republicans.
So will the Senate hold? What will happen next if the two bodies cannot come to an agreement?
This promises to be an interesting and important couple of days for the future of OPEGA.