Former Gov. Paul LePage known as a 1980 settlement on the coronary heart of negotiations over tribal rights “a performed deal,” saying Tuesday that he wouldn’t have restricted cell sports activities betting to tribes.
LePage, a Republican operating in opposition to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, criticized his successor’s April deal granting the Penobscot, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy tribes unique management of cell sports activities betting after a years-long push from the tribes for a extra sweeping deal.
The laws was the product of a vow from Mills to restore an extended rift between the state and tribes that deteriorated additional throughout LePage’s eight years in workplace. However the Democrat has resisted a lot of tribes’ wider effort to renegotiate the settlement, which has largely relegated tribes to the standing of cities and cities within the state.
“I feel it was settled within the Eighties,” LePage mentioned after being questioned by a reporter at a Rotary Membership occasion in Bangor. “It’s a performed deal.”
LePage’s aversion to negotiating with the tribes confirmed stark variations with Mills, who has made progress with tribes but additionally annoyed them and damaged with members of her personal celebration with opposition to a tribe-backed plan that might give them management over pure assets, land acquisition, taxation and different coverage areas.
The previous governor’s remarks involved Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation, who mentioned the sports activities betting association would create jobs for rural communities and assure that income stayed in Maine whereas making certain that tribes had been now not shut out of gaming right here. A smaller in-person betting market was reserved for casinos and off-track betting parlors.
“I’d suppose any candidate for governor can be about native self-governance, self-sufficiency, extra jobs and extra [retention] of these assets in our state,” Francis mentioned.
LePage forged doubt on the necessity of reopening negotiations across the settlement, which resolved a long-running tribal lawsuit that known as into query the possession of two-thirds of modern-day Maine. Tribes assented to extra regulation at the moment in change for $80 million, an association that they’ve come to remorse.
“You don’t reinvent the wheel each time you want more cash,” LePage mentioned. “They negotiated pretty, and it took a very long time and now they wish to reopen it as a result of they need extra.”
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Mills’ marketing campaign didn’t reply to a request for remark. Each the present governor and LePage have been a part of an extended historical past of state officers who’ve tried to protect Maine’s energy in negotiations with the tribes relationship again to the Nineteen Seventies, when some state-level politicians didn’t wish to settle as a result of they thought Maine would win in court docket.
LePage had a extra fraught relationship with tribes throughout his tenure, together with in 2015, when he rescinded an government order promising collaboration in a transfer that tribal members noticed as retaliation for a dispute over water-quality requirements. The Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes pulled their representatives from Augusta the identical 12 months.
Mills opened her tenure with a number of olive branches to the tribe, together with changing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day and tightening the long-disputed water requirements. The final two years have been extra of a slog. Final month, the governor lobbied key members of Congress in opposition to a tribal-rights invoice sponsored by Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District and being thought-about now.
The governor is dedicated to bettering the connection with tribes via collaboration and never litigation, Mills marketing campaign supervisor Alex Raposo mentioned.
“She’s going to proceed to work arduous to realize that aim,” Raposo mentioned.
Francis mentioned LePage’s suggestion that the tribes merely need more cash was “insulting” and betrayed a “shallow” understanding of why that they had fought for extra self-governance within the Legislature for the previous two years, including that sovereignty would permit the Wabanaki tribes to be self-sufficient and handle disparities inside their communities.
“This has nothing to do with cash,” he mentioned. “We’ve by no means requested the state of Maine for a dime. What we mentioned is, ‘Get out of our approach.’”
BDN author Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.