Daily Brief: King’s small-biz Obamacare fix; LePage’s opposition to Narcan

Good Wednesday morning. 

Gov. Paul LePage prepares today for his first Town Hall meeting in Westbrook later this evening . The event begins at 6 p.m. at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, where he will take questions about the proposed $6.57 billion two-year budget and the huge tax reform package it contains. 

In the coming weeks, the governor will be on to road talking about the budget with different groups that have invited him to speak, but the Town Hall in Westbrook marks the first — and so far only — such event that’s been publicized ahead of time and opened to the general public. 

Meanwhile, Legalize Maine is following up today on its publication of a 30-page bill to legalize recreational marijuana use in Maine. They’ll be holding a press conference at the Senator Inn this morning to go over the details of the plan. The group will have to explain why Mainers should support their legalization push rather than the one backed by Marijuana Policy Project, which has already scored several legalization victories around the country, and also wants to put the issue on the ballot in 2016. 

Elsewhere in Augusta, House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, will join senior housing experts to tout a new report on the need for affordable housing for the elderly. Eves has made seniors’ issues a hallmark of his speakership, and is expected to introduce several bills, including one for the creation of more affordable housing for seniors in each of Maine’s counties. 

A 13-member legislative panel convened to study college completion and affordability also plans to release its report today, as well as several recommendations for the Education Committee. — Mario Moretto

Don’t forget to sign up to receive the Daily Brief in your inbox every morning.

King wants bigger tax credit for businesses that offer health insurance

While 2nd Congressional District Rep. Bruce Poliquin is getting all the Obamacare headlines, U.S. Sen. Angus King is also sponsoring legislation that he says makes the Affordable Care Act better and, well, more affordable.

On Tuesday, King announced he’d introduced a bill to expand the tax credit provided by the law to small businesses that choose to offer health insurance to their workers. Under King’s proposal, the credit would be available to businesses with up to 50 workers, where the current law cuts off any businesses with more than 25 employees.

It would also extend the credit to businesses with higher average wages. Where current law says only businesses with average wages of $50,000 or lower qualify, King’s plan would make companies with average wages of up to $80,000 eligible for the credit.

The plan has other tweaks too, but the gist is that more companies would receive credit for providing health coverage. These are the same businesses that, under the law, aren’t required to provide health coverage to begin with. So the tax credit is a big incentive by the government to do it anyway.

“The small business tax credit that assists business owners in offering insurance to their employees is an important provision of the law,” King said. “But as studies have shown, Congress can adjust the credit to make it more effective. By expanding the credit and simplifying the process, like our bill does, we can further enhance the positive effects of the health care law and allow more people to access coverage through their employers.” — Mario Moretto.

LePage won’t support bill to expand Narcan access

Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that he’d oppose any effort to expand access to Narcan, a prescription drug that can be used to stop an opiate overdose in its tracks.

Last year, lawmakers passed a bill to get the drug, widely proven to save the lives of addicts in the throes of overdose, into the hands of first responders and family members. The original proposal would have allowed friends of drug addicts to carry Narcan as well, so that they could assist their friend in case of an overdose, and included a “Good Samaritan” provision designed to protect those who administer the drug from any civil or criminal prosecution.

LePage said that broad access to Narcan would only encourage addicts to keep abusing drugs, and objected to the sweeping nature of the bill. Ultimately, he agreed to a stripped down version of the bill, which only allowed family members and trained first responders access to the drug. .

Now, Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, has a bill to put the expanded access back into the law, as well as provide immunity for those who call for help when an overdose occurs. But LePage, again, is voicing his opposition.

“I don’t think that making it retail is good for society,” LePage told reporters on Tuesday. “I think professionals should be dealing with the drug issues.” — Mario Moretto

Reading list

Think (musical) springtime thoughts

It’s probably safe to say that the nonstop cold and seemingly ceaseless parade of snowstorms has made us all feel a bit glum at some point or another in the past few weeks. But there are already industrious Mainers among us who are planning ahead for the warmer, longer days of spring. Included among them: concert bookers.

Check out this list, compiled by the BDN’s Emily Burnham, of all the concerts coming up from now through April. With acts spanning the spectrum from Dweezil Zappa to Between the Buried and Me, there’s something for everyone.


Correction: A previous version of this post included an error. Legalize Maine will hold a press conference today at the Senator Inn, not the State House Hall of Flags.

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.