Lawmakers looking for better ways to put a drink in your hand

Good morning from Augusta, where the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will spend much of the day pondering better ways for us all to have a drink or two, maybe at no charge. No joke. 

Among the bills on the committee’s docket this morning are bids to authorize free wine samples at restaurants, to allow sales representatives to serve spirits or wine at tasting events, and An Act to Allow B.Y.O.B. Function Permit Holders to Hold Tailgating Events

Call your representatives, people. 

Seriously, though, the Legislature deals with numerous bills every year involving the consumption of alcohol. In addition to wanting access to more varieties of booze, liquor sales are big business in Maine which provide a mountainous stream of revenue for state government. 

The Health and Human Services Committee is considering taking votes on a range of bills today, including one that addresses the financial liability of funeral practitioners and another that promotes the disposal of unused medications. Republican Rep. Paul Stearns of Guilford, a retired school superintendent, has an interesting bill before that committee today that would create a state Medicaid officer who would work with school districts to ensure that they receive all the Medicaid reimbursement dollars they are entitled to. 

It’s hard to predict how a bill like that would fare. Medicaid, of course, is an issue that immediately puts people’s hackles up these days and as with many bills, this one might sail to enactment but die at the end of the session when there is no money to fund it. We’ll see.

Other than those items, it should be a quiet day at the State House. Even the hard-working Appropriations Committee is taking the day off. — Christopher Cousins

Passenger trains to Bangor?

Train service in Maine has been expanding rather than shrinking in Maine in recent years, with the largest development being the addition of Amtrak passenger rail service that links Brunswick and points south to, well, the whole of North, Central and South America.

We’ve already reported about a bill that would study the feasibility of sending passenger service to Lewiston-Auburn, which so far is charging through the State House like a locomotive (sorry, couldn’t help it). Now, Rep. Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, hopes to put a bill to study bringing passenger rail service to Bangor on the fast track, too (Get it? Fast track?).

A lot of pieces would have to fall into place for trains to go to Bangor, including a finding by the Maine Department of Transportation that the tracks are in good enough shape to handle the trains. Service to the Queen City would let Bangorians travel south, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who hope the trains would also bring people north to the city’s increasingly active concert waterfront and, of course, the casino.

LD 1174 will be sent on a rail to the Legislature’s Transportation Committee in the coming weeks. — Christopher Cousins

Beware of warmer weather

Sun Journal state politics editor and ardent ski buff Scott Thistle is one of the only people I know who wants cold temps and snow pack to stick around. The rest of us are looking forward to warmer weather.

The trouble is, the longer temperatures stay chilly, the slower the snow will melt (call me Captain Obvious). Inevitably, there will be a warm snap and suddenly it will be 70 degrees, turning all of that snow into flood zones.

Gov. Paul LePage announced Thursday that he has signed an executive order establishing emergency response disaster and recover teams all over Maine. That came after recommendations were made to him earlier in the day by the River Flow Advisory Commission, the Maine Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Maine Geological Survey and the National Weather Service.

Not to be an alarmist, but most of Maine set or came very close to setting records this winter for both low temps and copious snowfall. If we’re to see substantial flooding, ice jams or other melting-related misery, this could be the year. Be safe out there. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

No wonder I didn’t catch any fish

I didn’t fish Maine’s lakes as often as I typically do this winter, partially because the deep snow and slush made conditions difficult. Still, I went out four times and my catch tally was ZERO. It’s so embarrassing.

I assumed it was just because my fishing skills are miserable, but Sen. Angus King has given me an out. In a press release Thursday, which followed up on a forum he attended in Naples about the effects of climate change on my fish count, King said shifting temperatures are already affecting freshwater habitats.

That is by no means a funny or comfortable prospect. But when it comes to my fish stories between now and next time I wet a line, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. — 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.