Daily Brief: What does Susan Collins have in common with Cyndi Lauper?

Good morning from Maine’s capital, where the House and Senate are convening this morning and committees are scheduled throughout the afternoon. 

The focus on animals this legislative session continues today with a bill, sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Monaghan, D-Cape Elizabeth, that would prohibit the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops unless they were born and raised in the pet shop. The Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee has already heard public testimony on the matter and is expected to vote on a recommendation. 

Monaghan’s bill does not apply to a pet shop offering animals for adoption or to animals that were born and raised by the owner of the pet shop in a separate facility. The penalty for a violation is $2,500 and the revocation of the owner’s license. 

A public hearing on the bill last week attracted dozens of veterinarians, pet owners, and store operators. Some urged lawmakers to enact the law to discourage large-scale “puppy mills” from outside Maine while the pet store industry argued largely that the bill would hurt their businesses. 

The same committee will hear testimony on an issue that has come back annually over the past few years: the sale of raw milk in Maine. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeffery Hanley, R-Pittston, would exempt the small-scale sale of raw milk and raw milk products from licensing under certain circumstances. This has been a hot topic in Maine, which is seeing an increase in the number of small farms concurrently with a local food movement. 

The Education Committee has an interesting slate of bills before it today, including one designed to improve attendance at elementary schools and another that would allow schools to implement a firearms safety education program for elementary school students. However, the most controversial measure before the committee today might be a bill sponsored by Sen. Linda Baker, R-Topsham, which would require school administrators to complete 50 hours of classroom teaching time to have their education credentials renewed. If enacted, this would be a major change for Maine’s superintendents and principals beginning in 2017.

There are several other legislative committees working bills today. If you’re interested in seeing the list, click here. 

Are you enjoying the State & Capitol Daily Brief? Have it sent directly to your email or mobile device by signing up here. — Christopher Cousins

Cyndi Lauper and Susan Collins

Confession: Cyndi Lauper’s smash from the 1980s, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” is one of the tunes that I turn up whenever it comes on the radio. I have sung it at the top of my lungs while riding in the car. Hey, it’s a good song.

Anyway, Lauper does more than sing these days and she’s about more than having fun. On Tuesday she published an op-ed in The Hill, calling on Congress to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which allocates funds for programs to help homeless kids. Collins, along with Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, has presented an amendment aimed at heading off the trafficking of homeless young people.

“By providing homeless youth with the support and services they need, we can help prevent them from being trafficked in the first place,” Collins said Wednesday in a speech to the Senate.

Lauper’s support of the bill is based on a provision that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths, which she said make up about 7 percent of the overall population but a full 40 percent of the 1.6 million kids who are homless this country.

“Think about that,” wrote Lauper, who is a co-founder of the True Colors Fund, which works to support LGBT youth. “It’s impossible to ignore.”

In addition to sponsoring the amendment, Collins was instrumental in an effort to bring the measure to debate on the Judiciary Committee. She also authored a column in its support that detailed an incident in Bangor last year in which a police officer arrested a man and woman for trying to force a 13-year-old girl into prostitution.

If you don’t think human trafficking is real in Maine, here’s your proof. — Christopher Cousins

Workers converging on Augusta

The Maine AFL-CIO claims it will bring more than 200 Maine workers to the State House today for the annual Labor Lobby Day. Their intention is to roll out a “Good Jobs Agenda” in support of bills under consideration this year, including measures to raise the minimum wage, equalizing CEO-to-worker pay ratios, improving scheduling predictability for workers, buy America legislation and opposing Gov. Paul LePage’s biennial budget proposal.

The workers will lobby lawmakers later this morning, followed by a press conference at 11:45 a.m. The labor unions have been at odds with Gov. Paul LePage and many Republican lawmakers — specifically their efforts to bar unions from requiring union due in exchange for representation at the bargaining table — for years. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but your feet will grow

Yup, you read that right. Your inner muse and a $125 deposit could land you ownership of a beautiful western Maine inn, as long as you can make your case in 200 words or less. The Center Lovell Inn is worth more than $900,000 but this would be the second time it’s changed hands with an essay contest.

It’s a gorgeous inn in a beautiful part of Maine, but owning it won’t be a vacation. It demands hard work, dedication, and maybe bigger shoes.

Bigger shoes? Yeah, you’ll be on your feet a lot.

“My feet are getting bigger every year,” said 68-year-old owner Janice Sage, who won the 1805 inn with an essay contest in 1992. “I went from a size 10 C to 11 triple E.” — Christopher Cousins

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.