Daily Brief: More changes in Democratic leadership; fashionable and ready for snow

The chatter in the State House for the next couple of days will be the same as the chatter is everywhere else in New England, and at long last I’m not talking about deflated footballs. It’s going to snow and this incoming storm looks to be a doozy. Stay safe, people. 

I expect state offices in most of Maine — including the State House in Augusta — will be closed for some of all of the day on Tuesday (though this is NOT your official notification of that) but let’s pretend for a moment that the Legislature will be in full swing. 

The House and Senate are scheduled to hold sessions on Tuesday and Thursday this week and there is a long list of committee meetings where the actual work of making laws is expected to accelerate. Some committees will likely begin to hear responses from their constituencies about what remains to be the political focal point: Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal.

Just seeing the list of scheduled visitors will give you a sense of what it might be like. This is the first and last time I will put a list this long and dry in your Daily Brief, but it provides a sense of the scope of issues our citizen legislators, some of which have been in public office for only a few weeks, face on a daily basis.

The Education Committee has a full Monday docket including (get ready for it) the Maine Adult Education Association, the Maine Education Association, the Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities, Educate Maine, the Maine Historical Society and Maine Connections Academy. 

And that’s just in the morning. 

In the afternoon are scheduled the Maine Principals Association, the Maine State Cultural Affairs Council, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, the Office of the State Historian, the Maine State Museum, the Maine State Library, Maine Public Broadcasting Corp. and the Maine Humanities Council. 

That’s just one day in the life of an Education Committee member. Think of this next time someone suggests to you that being a lawmaker is easy.

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Troy Jackson staying in politics

Troy Jackson, a former state senator and representative from Allagash who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for the 2nd Congressional District seat that was eventually won by Republican Bruce Poliquin last year, will remain firmly entrenched in state politics. On Saturday, Jackson was chosen to become Maine’s delegate to the Democratic National Committee.

That means Jackson will have a say in how the national committee’s resources are used when it comes to Maine and he’ll have a vote at the national party convention when it’s time to choose presidential candidates. But Jackson, an everyman politician whose speech at last year’s Democratic State Convention in Bangor was a searing and memorable tear-jerker where he sowed his own northern Maine Grapes of Wrath tale, said he’ll wear his activist hat in the new position.

“I believe this party is the best vehicle for achieving the world we want,” he said in a prepared statement. Jackson replaces Phil Bartlett, who gave up the post to become the state Democratic party chairman last year, and joins Maggie Allen of Madison, who is Maine’s other DNC delegate.

The Maine Democratic State Committee also appointed a new executive director to take over for Mary Erin Casale, who announced her resignation last month after five years at the helm. Jeremy Kennedy will assume oversight of party operations and staff, fundraising and planning of the party’s conventions. When Democratic State Chairman Phil Bartlett isn’t available, Kennedy will likely also be the party’s backup spokesman.

Kennedy appears to be suited well for the position. He has been the party’s finance director and led its Get Out the Vote efforts in 2012 and 2014, which were both successful in terms of sheer numbers of voters at the polls, despite considerable losses for Democrats in 2014. Kennedy has also worked for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007 and the unsuccessful 2009 No on 1 campaign that failed to reject a people’s veto of same-sex marriage in Maine. Kennedy lives in Portland with his partner, Democratic State Rep. Matt Moonen.

Charter schools in the spotlight

Today is Maine Charter School Day at the State House and this is National School Choice Week across the country. That means the Hall of Flags at the State House will be full of charter school advocates and students.

In addition to an event that hopes to garner publicity for the state’s charter schools, it’s also an important day for charter advocates to make connections with lawmakers who will vote on a range of charter school-related bills this year. One of the most interesting so far is coming from the LePage administration and will seek to spread funding for the schools across the state, as opposed to the current practice, which puts much of the financial pressure on charter schools’ neighboring districts.

Six charter schools have launched in Maine since the state legalized them in 2011 and Maine Virtual Academy, a second statewide online school for middle and high school students, will open in the fall.

Reading list

Throw fashion out the window

A top winter survival tip from the Snow & Ice Management Association: “Wear the right Shoes.”

“While fashion is great, the right shoes to navigate snow and ice place the entire foot on the surface of the ground and have visible, heavy treads and a flat bottom.”

These people apparently don’t know that in Maine, L.L. Bean boots are more stylish than Manolo Blahnik high-heels.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.