By Adam Lee, Special to the BDN
Bangor Daily News op-ed
Last year, my employees shook more than 10,000 hands with the words, “thank you, we have a deal.”
Typically this is followed by a lot of paperwork, but the handshake seals the deal. If on the original copy of the paperwork there is one set of numbers and on the final copy there is a different set, maybe a number got transposed, so we go back to the original documents. We don’t renegotiate, we don’t throw the deal out and we don’t try to raise the price. We honor a deal. Because believe or not, even car dealers have integrity.
Last month, the Maine Public Utilities Commission was determining the budget of the Efficiency Maine Trust based on a bill that had been approved by the full Legislature in 2013, vetoed by the governor, then overridden by the full Legislature. In the final printed version, the word “and” was dropped by mistake. Democrats and Republicans agree it was an error and can even pinpoint exactly where the error occurred. The end result was that the Public Utilities Commission believes this substantially changed the meaning of a portion of bill. This change resulted in lowering Efficiency Maine’s funding from over $59 million to $23 million per year. Everyone agrees, Republicans and Democrats alike, the legislation intended the cap on the Efficiency Maine Budget to be roughly $59 million.
There are two bills being submitted to fix this problem. One bill wants to put the missing “and” back, and that is it. The other bill basically wants to renegotiate the original legislation. It will put the missing “and” back if the Legislature agrees to a series of major changes: elevate the head of the governor’s energy office to a commissioner’s position. Have the executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust be appointed by the governor himself instead of the trust’s board, whose members are appointed by the governor. There are other changes included as well.
What is the message this sends? Take advantage of a misprint to hold the state hostage because you can?
I have 18-year-old twins, a boy and a girl. I taught them at a young age that when we make a deal and shake hands on it, it is a deal that cannot be broken. This is how I was taught to do business.
I am ashamed and embarrassed that several of our legislators think it is OK to try and take advantage of what everyone agrees was a simple mistake.
Everyone agrees on what the original legislation said. Everyone agrees with what the original intention was.
Not everyone agrees with the bill. Those who don’t agree should put in a bill to accomplish what they think is right. However, this has nothing to do with fixing the original bill.
I have been told I am naive. I know I am naive. But I am not dishonest. And when I make a deal, in writing or on a handshake, it is a deal.
I do not understand how any legislators could face themselves after trying to take advantage of what was a typo in this or any bill.
What is the message this sends to the public? That there is no depth too low for our politicians to sink?
Just because politicians are held in low esteem does not mean they have to sink to the lowest possible level.
What is the message they are sending my children? Don’t honor a deal if you can get away with changing it? Should I tell my son, who will be a fourth-generation car dealer, that this is how I want him to sell cars? Try to use a typo to get what you want? That you don’t have to honor a deal if you can get away with changing it?
I hope our politicians in Augusta will do the right thing and gain some of the respect they deserve by reinstating the “and” that was dropped from the original bill without any further alterations thereafter.
Adam D. Lee is the chairman of Lee Auto Malls. He was the first chairman of the Efficiency Maine Trust.