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Clashes Foreseen Between LePage Administration and Maine's New Democratic AG
12/06/2012   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

A lot of things have changed at the State House since Nov. 6. Republican Gov. Paul LePage no longer has members of his own party controling the Legislature, and he has to work with Democrats who now occupy several prominent posts, including state attorney general. Democrat Janet Mills is now back in that position as the lawyer representing Maine, having lost the job two years ago in the Republican sweep of 2010. Gov. LePage now finds himself relying on an attorney general with very different perspectives than his own. Mills says she will advise the LePage administration on legal issues, but acknowleges there will likely be differences of opinion in the months ahead. A.J. Higgins has more.

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Clashes Foreseen Between LePage Administration and Listen

It's been 10 years since Maine's governor and attorney general were not of the same political party. With this week's election of new constituional officers, and the departure of Republican Attorney General Willaim Schneider, Gov. Paul LePage will now be advised by Janet Mills, who comes directly to the job after serving as vice-chair of the Maine Democratic Party.

"I had a party hat for two years, and I ran as a Democrat," she says. "So on basic matters of policy, I might find disagreements with the governor on many issues. But that will not interfere or bias the legal advice the office gives him or his commissioners from time to time."

Mills says she would not recommend suing the federal government over a questionable Medicaid amendment plan. She might not be inclined to see the display or removal of a labor mural as government speech -- a position held by Schnieder. And she says she might not share some of Schnieder's other positions, such as supporting school choice and a statewide Call to Prayer day.

But Mills says she will always evaluate the requests for legal review from the Legislature or the governor in terms of what's in the best interests of Maine people.

"You have to make a decision about whether or not this case affects Maine people, whether or not this case comports with your views of the Constituton or public policy," Mills says. "Same thing happens when you're receiving a request from a department head or the governor about joining some lawsuit or bringing some lawsuit: How does this case affect the public interest? How does it affect Maine people, first and foremost? And will it make difference in their lives? Those are the issues I'll look at."

Meanwhile, there are some cases already in the pipeline that Mills says she may want to reevaluate. Former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill is a Cape Elizabeth lawyer and former member of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee. She says Mills and LePage will likely clash on health care law, but that many of the disagreements are apt to be behind closed doors.

"The day to day work of the office won't change," Dill says. "But when it comes to political things that the attorney general does, I think we will see a significant change."

Former Republican Assistant Senate Majority Leader Debra Plowman predicts Mills will be less independent than Scnieder was as attorney general.

"It'll become very evident that the attorney general is the employee of the majority party, rather than an independent constitutional officer," Plowman says. "I think you're going to see a huge difference."

Janet Mills became Maine's first woman attorney general in 2010. She jokes that as the result of this week's election, she has now also become the second woman to hold the job.


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