By TOM BELL - Associated Press - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Republicans are angry that House Democrats used a legislative maneuver to squash Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to punish cities and towns that prohibit police from asking about a person’s immigration status.

Democrats say they quickly killed the bill to prevent LePage from “stirring up the politics of fear and hatred.”

The Democrat-controlled House voted 77 to 67 along party lines to block the bill Tuesday from being referred to a committee. The rarely used maneuver by House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, of Skowhegan, effectively killed the bill on the same day it was first printed.

The Democrats used their majority power to dismiss the bill before supporters even had the chance to speak at a public hearing, said Assistant Minority Leader Ellie Espling, of New Gloucester.

“I was absolutely furious today when this happened,” she said. “It’s sort of a nuclear option as far as maneuvers are concerned.”

Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon, a Democrat from Freeport, said the bill would encourage police to pull over people based on the color of their skin.

“We have no place for these blatantly racist, Trump-like maneuvers in Maine,” Gideon said.

The bill would have withheld state money from cities and towns that don’t let police seek information from federal agencies about people’s immigration status. The bill would have denied funds for schools and general assistance programs and also funds from the state’s revenue sharing program.

LePage has been trying since his election to use financial leverage on municipalities that provide assistance to immigrants without visas, a population that includes people seeking political asylum.