Daily Brief: More education makes GOP more skeptical about climate change

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage will make a renewed push for his plan to beef up the apprehension and prosecution of drug criminals.

The Republican governor has proposed funding for an additional four District Court judges, seven additional Maine Drug Enforcement agents and four assistant attorneys general, all with an eye toward fighting drug abuse.

Today he and his public safety chief, John Morris, will meet with reporters in an attempt to drum up support for the plan.

A similar proposal by the governor failed last year, and lawmakers on the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee have indicated they’re unlikely to support the proposal this year, either.

Rep. Lori Fowle, D-Vassalboro, is the House chairwoman of that committee, and told Morris during a committee hearing last week that she was uncomfortable increasing funding for law enforcement without similar increases in funding for drug abuse treatment, rehabilitation and education. Initiatives that address the “supply side” of the drug equation, but not the demand, make for bad policy, she said.

It’s the same argument employed by Democrats to defeat the initiative last year, and one that seems to increasingly irk Morris. He said the question of treatment is outside his purview, and that his request shouldn’t be denied based on what is or is not happening in the Department of Health and Human Services.

“I’m a cop. My job is to arrest people. My job is to stop the supply,” he said Friday. “There are other people who are working on rehabilitation and education and others. Please let the police officers do what we have been put on this earth to do, and that is to stop the supply of this menace to our state.”

Given that Democrats control the committee and the House, it’s unlikely LePage will get his additional law enforcement without consenting to some additional treatment spending in DHHS — or perhaps easing back on proposed cuts to state spending on methadone, a plan that’s riled Democrats and health professionals.

The debate is long from over. — Mario Moretto.

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College-educated Republicans more skeptical of climate change

Interesting survey results released recently by Gallup indicate that Republicans with higher levels of education are more likely than their less educated partisan colleagues to dismiss concerns about climate change.

Among Republicans, 74 percent of those with college degrees say the seriousness of global warming is “generally exaggerated,” compared to just 57 percent of Republicans with high school degrees or less.

For Democrats, the opposite is true. Higher educated Ds are less likely by 12 percent (15-to-27) to say that concerns are exaggerated. (Note that Democrats are much less likely in general, regardless of education, to dismiss climate concerns than are Republicans).

Here’s Gallup’s “bottom line”:

“… Education appears to harden the partisan battle lines, rather than build common bridges. College graduates who are Republicans are actually more likely than college graduates who are Democrats to say they understand a great deal about the issue, but well-educated Republicans find this understanding leads them in a different direction than it does Democrats.

Partisan affiliation more so than education plays the dominating role in the American public’s attitudes about global warming today. Education does not mitigate the partisan divide in beliefs about global warming but instead strengthens it.

— Mario Moretto.

Budget bills up for House vote

While the governor meets with the press, lawmakers in the House are expected to vote on LD 236, one of two supplemental budget packages crafted and approved last week by the Appropriations Committee.

The bill affects state spending through the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, and includes funding items related to DHHS, and the Department of Corrections. Among its provisions are 29 additional positions at the troubled Riverview Psychiatric Facility in Augusta and $2.5 million to fund continued operation of county jails. The bill also rejects about $5 million in cuts proposed to the Fund for a Healthy Maine, which were proposed by the governor.

The budget package was unanimously approved by negotiators on the Appropriations Committee, but that doesn’t guarantee there won’t be debate on the floor of the House.

A separate supplemental budget bill, LD 232, would authorize Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills to draw down federal funds to help pay for efforts to prosecute provider-based Medicaid fraud. The money already exists in her budget, but LePage has refused to sign the routine financial order that would allow her to use it.

Majority Democrats on the Appropriations Committee gave the bill a green light, but Republicans opposed it, saying it encroached on the authority of the governor.

That bill may come up for a vote in the House today as well and if it does, expect sparks to fly. — Mario Moretto.

Reading list

Changes coming to Daily Brief

We started Daily Brief this year as an effort to keep invested readers abreast of what’s going on in Augusta, and to provide insightful, interesting political news to start your day. The response has been huge, and we’re so grateful that you continue to check in with us every morning.

Starting tomorrow, we’re changing the look of the Daily Brief e-mail. The response has been so successful, we’ve decided to promote the email as its own product, so that even people who don’t read State & Capitol can stay caught up with all the latest #mepolitics news.

Those of you who have been with us from the beginning shouldn’t worry, though. The Daily Brief will still appear in your inboxes each morning during the legislative session, online at bangordailynews.com and on the blog at State & Capitol. We hope you enjoy the change. Thanks so much for reading. — Mario Moretto.

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.