Maine Governor Paul LePage stepped up pressure on the Maine Legislature earlier this month.
stating that he wanted 10 additional drug enforcement agents hired or he would be deploying the Maine National Guard to work alongside the state’s current drug enforcement agents.
This aggressive move comes in the wake of legislation passed back in July that allocated funds for the hiring of four new drug agents to address the flow of heroin into the state. However, no new agents have been approved, and the Maine DEA does not believe that the positions will be filled until December.
Governor LePage is not willing to wait. The deployment of the Maine National guard for this purpose may not even be within his legal responsibilities as governor, however, LePage believes that the threat posed by heroin distribution within the state warrants drastic measures.
Alongside this, LePage is pressuring legislature to expedite the hiring process of additional agents in the hopes that the national guard will not need to be deployed. Alongside the national guard announcement, he also asked that Maine lawmakers convene a special session to provide funding for more agents. It is within his authority to call for a session, but in this case he is asking lawmakers to call for one of their own volition.
Maine lawmakers are in support of the bill, but representatives like Senate President Mike Thibodeau are asking Governor LePage to provide more detailed plans for budgeting the new positions. Lawmakers are also concerned about how Governor LePage intends to deploy guardsmen alongside the Maine DEA. The guard is already working in a support role to Maine Drug enforcement, but the governor has stated that it will begin to play a more active one come December 10th if new positions are not approved.
In general, the state of Maine’s drug enforcement program is in flux as a variety of positions, including judges, prosecutors, and drug counselors, are being filled alongside the 4 DEA positions approved in July. This month’s legislative session will have a massive impact on the Maine DEA and on the future of drug enforcement in the state.