Maine Democrat Gov. Janet Mills reversed her decision last week to allow restaurants in the state’s southern counties to reopen June 1, suggesting to owners they sell already purchased perishable foods to prisons at the government contract rate.
Just days before restaurants in Cumberland, York, and Androscoggin Counties were slated to reopen to allow for indoor dining with health and safety measures in place, the governor reversed course, claiming an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the region.
“A date for the reopening of dine-in services in these counties is yet to be determined,” the Mills administration said.
Mills’ decision to block the restaurants from reopening as the vacation season is underway, caused an uproar among business owners who had already purchased sufficient food for potential customers, called back employees, and implemented health and safety measures, the Maine Examiner reported:
Mills was the recipient of further backlash, however, when she advised restaurant owners stuck with perishable foods of the “opportunity” to sell their provisions to the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC) “at a price equivalent to the price paid for the same items through MDOC’s food contract.”
In a statement to Breitbart News, Maine Rep. Larry Lockman (R) said Mills “imposed martial law lite” on Mainers back on March 18.
“Her dictatorship has been marked by no less than 55 executive orders,” he said. “The first one forced restaurant owners statewide to close their dining rooms, without any prior notice, and toss the contents of their food lockers into the dumpster. Now she’s sucker-punched dining establishments in Maine’s three southern-most counties with her flip-flop on re-opening.”
The Mills administration said in a statement released Saturday MDOC would “support” the restaurants:
The MDOC has capacity to purchase perishable and non-perishable food items, except for dairy, at a price equivalent to the price paid for the same items through MDOC’s food contract. Purchased food will be served to staff and inmates. Restaurants interested in selling to MDOC would need to be a registered vendor (PDF)with the State of Maine. Payments to vendors typically take two weeks.
“I hope this move will provide some measure of relief to businesses in these counties as we work to protect public health, keep Maine people healthy and alive, and mitigate the spread of this deadly virus so we can safely reopen,” Mills said.
“There is no scientific basis for these orders,” Lockman said. “It’s all about the arbitrary exercise of unchecked executive power by an unreconstructed 1960s radical who posed as a moderate to win election in 2018.”
As the Bangor Daily News reported Tuesday, to date, 284 Mainers have been hospitalized with the infection caused by the Chinese coronavirus, and 89 people have died. There have been 2,349 confirmed and likely cases in the state. Those who have fully recovered from the illness number 1,586, leaving 674 active and likely cases, a drop from 684 on Sunday.
Last week, a federal judge allowed to stand Mills’ order requiring tourists to self-quarantine for two weeks after entering Maine, which is known as “Vacationland.”
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a statement of interest in support of a lawsuit by campground and restaurant owners.
According to a statement by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division:
The United States Constitution requires government to protect the privileges and immunities of all citizens in our nation. These privileges and immunities include the right of Americans to travel freely anywhere in our country, and state governments cannot limit the right of out-of-state Americans to travel to their state unless doing so is substantially related to protecting the public safety. The Department of Justice remains committed to defending the constitutional rights of all Americans no matter where they live. The department will continue to be especially vigilant of any infringement on the right to travel that unduly harms the ability of Americans to earn a living and support their families.
In response to the DOJ’s statement of interest, Mills said, she was “deeply disappointed – and frankly disgusted – that the U.S Department of Justice is making a concerted effort to undermine the health of the people of Maine.”
The governor added the DOJ did not raise similar objections “when the President and his own task force took steps to limit travel.”
Mills said the required quarantine for visitors is “a proven tool to prevent the spread of this deadly disease.”
“It seems to me that [the DOJ’s] only actual ‘interest’ here is, at best, political or, at worst, to harm Mainers, not defend them,” she stated.
Lockman, however, said, “Jackboot Janet has effectively killed Maine’s summer tourist season, and, with it, hundreds, perhaps thousands of family-owned independent businesses.”
“I’m afraid the damage to Maine’s fragile small-business economy will be permanent and irreversible,” he added.