Round-up: Religious freedom, Cain’s endorsements and Gary Alexander

The second regular session is in full gear after the gavels fell in the Maine House and Senate last week. Here’s a few items that crossed my radar screen that should be passed along, and some political news we’ll be following this week.

Burns ‘religious freedom’ bill on deck

Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, introduced a bill last session that would allow Mainers to sue the state if they feel the government has placed a burden on their religious expression. The bill, which was carried over to the second session, has wide-ranging implications, from pharmacists who may not want to distribute birth control or morning-after pills for religious reasons to any number of complaints that could be raised by individuals whose religious beliefs don’t jive with the state’s law allowing for gay marriage.

The Maine Women’s Lobby will assemble with faith leaders, civil rights advocates and others at the State House on Thursday, the day the bill is scheduled to be taken up for a public hearing by the Legislature’s Judicial Committee.  The group will discuss its opposition to the bill, which they say “could harm public safety, lead to discrimination, and dramatically increase the number of lawsuits clogging our court system.”

Meanwhile, the Christian Civic League of Maine sent an email out to supporters on Sunday, urging them to write letters to their legislators supporting Burns’ bill, and to show up on Thursday when the bill is taken up by the Legislature’s Judicial Committee.

We’ll cover the hearings and press events as they occur.

Gary Alexander to present Medicaid study to lawmakers on Tuesday

He was invited, then uninvited, then invited again. It’ll undoubtedly be the story of the day Tuesday as the controversial consultant presents the findings of h is Medicaid expansion study to lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee.

The Committee will take up two bills to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion on Wednesday. The report, which advises against taking the cash and expanding the program, was made public on Friday after Gov. Paul LePage’s administration held it in secret for nearly a month.

On Monday, the Maine Hospital Association published an OpEd urging the Legislature to approve the expansion. Interestingly, the group’s president said the Medicaid expansion would be funded in part by “substantial cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals.” Those cuts have already occurred, and the only way for hospitals to recoup some of the cost is expansion of the Medicaid program, said the group’s president, Steven Michaud.

Several Penobscot County Dems endorse Cain in CD2

On Friday, Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, announced the endorsements of her 2nd Congressional District bid by several key Penobscot County Democrats. Cain is engaged in a primary contest with Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, for their party’s nomination.

Cain was endorsed by six Democratic Representatives from the greater-Bangor area. The list includes three of the four Bangor delegates — John Schneck, Aaron Frey and Victoria Kornfield. Also endorsing were Reps. Archie Verow of Brewer, James Dill of Old Town, and Ryan Tipping-Spitz of Orono.

“Orono has been very fortunate to have Emily fighting for us in Augusta for the past decade,” said Tipping-Spitz — who replaced Cain in the House when she was elected to the Senate in 2012 — in a press release. “I would be proud to have her energetic voice continue to work on our behalf in Washington.”

The endorsement list also included 28 other Penobscot County Democrats, including local councilors and party officials. Cain has already been endorsed by several members of Androscoggin County’s Democratic delegation in Augusta, as well as the national group EMILY’s List. Jackson has received endorsements from several large union organizations, including the Maine AFL-CIO.

Stay on top of breaking #mepolitics news

Things will be moving very quickly on the potential Medicaid expansion championed by Democrats, the pending financial shortfall and fight over a supplemental budget, and myriad reforms to welfare promised by LePage and legislative Republicans. Keep checking the Bangor Daily News politics page for news as it breaks.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.