LePage vetoes ‘what’s a pint?’ bill; Pingree leads charge for Robin Hood tax

Good morning from the State House, where Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to restructure the Maine Forest Service nears a recommendation from the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.

That committee convenes today at 1 p.m. for work sessions on three bills that all address forest service staffing issues. LePage proposes to separate forest rangers’ firefighting and law enforcement responsibilities and has included provisions in his biennial budget proposal to do so. This comes after LePage vetoed a bill in 2014 that would have allowed rangers to carry firearms. The Legislature sustained the veto

In the Health and Human Services Committee, proponents of certain opioid overdose medications will gather for public hearings on LD 140, which would allow the friends and family of a drug addict to possess and administer a life-saving medicine called naloxone hydrochloride, and LD 812, which would allow for the use of a category of medications called opioid antagonists, which block the effects of the drugs. 

The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee is taking testimony today on a number of hunting-related bills, including some that would allow hunting on Sundays. Bills like these have been presented in every Legislature for years but have failed to go anywhere because of protests from landowners and non-hunting outdoors enthusiasts. This year, the bills focus on the issue as an economic boost for Maine. The committee is also looking at a proposal to lower the hunting age in Maine from 10 years old to 8 years old. 

The Taxation Committee, as it often does, will hold work sessions on a series of bills related to the tax code. Those include bids to exempt a range of items, from fuel used by farmers to equipment used by loggers, from sales taxes. There are also two bills to prevent individuals and businesses from abusing overseas tax havens. 

In what I call “pack the room” bills, the Education Committee will work a bill that would prohibit standardized testing of children prior to the third grade and the Judiciary Committee will take up the ever-controversial issue of the use of aerial drone vehicles fitted with cameras. 

If you want to see today’s committee schedule in detail, or if you’d like to listen to one of these hearings online, check out this website. — Christopher Cousins 

What’s a pint? We may never know

Gov. Paul LePage on Monday issued his fourth veto of the session, this time of a bill that sought to define what constitutes a pint of beer in Maine. LD 122, sponsored by Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford, which passed unanimously in the state Senate but faced Republican opposition in the House, would have set that definition of 16 ounces, which is a relief because that’s also how my middle school science teacher defined a pint.

LePage argued in his veto letter that the bill represented the belief among some people that the intrusion of government is the answer to every problem.

“I am not, nor have I ever been, one of those people,” wrote LePage, who wrote that Maine already has laws protecting deceptive trade practices and that Patrick’s law would force restaurant and pub owners to subject themselves to more government inspections and in some cases require them to buy government-approved glassware.

“If any restaurants in our state provide unsatisfactory service or serve smaller-than-expected portions to the public, then I trust the people of Maine will vote with their feet — and their wallets — to frequent the establishments that serve them well and to avoid those that do not,” wrote LePage.

The effort to override LePage’s veto should begin in the coming days in the Senate, where the bill originated. — Christopher Cousins

Pingree pushing ‘Robin Hood Tax’

On Wednesday, activists across the United States will hold rallies in support of something called the Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street, the funds of which would be used to, according to supporters, narrow the economic inequality gap. Maine’s event will be held at Rep Chellie Pingree’s Waterville office at 1 Silver St.

The Robin Hood Tax is included in a piece of legislation called the Inclusive Prosperity Act, which could raise more than $300 billion annually by attaching a no more than 5-cent surcharge to every $10 in the trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives.

Proponents advocate for using that money for universal healthcare, eradicating AIDS, student debt relief, funding jobs at living wages, infrastructure repair and fighting climate change. — Christopher Cousins

ACLU honors Gagne-Holmes

Sara Gagne-Holmes, who until recently was the executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, was honored recently with the 2015 Justice Louis Scolnik Award.

Gagne-Holmes is now a senior program associate with the John T. Gorman Foundation, which works to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in Maine. Part of the ACLU of Maine’s reason for recognizing Gagne-Holmes is because of her work on a case involving immigrants denied access to General Assistance by a new policy enacted by Gov. Paul LePage. That case is still pending.

The award is named after retired Maine Supreme Court Justice Louis Scolnik, 92, who co-founded the Maine Civil Liberties Union. Scolnik and his jazz band, the Smedley Trio, played at last week’s award presentation. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

The dumbest thing Emmet Meara ever did

If you’re not a reader and fan of BDN super-veteran reporter Emmet Meara, you’re missing out. I first met Emmet, who covered the Rockland area for the BDN for decades, probably 12-14 years ago during a ballot recount in Augusta. I was young and pretty much in awe of the guy (I’m still in awe, but no longer young) so I asked him what the best story he ever wrote was. He shrugged.

“I dunno,” he said. “Maybe 30 Rockland lobster festival stories?”

It’s possible that I’ve misunderstood that statement for all these years, but I took it to mean that journalism isn’t an art form, nor should it be. We’re separated from most other writers by the fact that most of our work has a shelf life of about 24 hours, at the very most. And most importantly, that moment with Emmet taught me that my priority is what’s best for the community I cover.

Anyway, I really didn’t mean to get all sappy on you here. I only meant to highlight this hilarious column by Emmet, under the headline “Buying land in Florida turned out to be the dumbest thing I ever did.”

“Paul Gibbons, my personal and highly paid attorney, was against it from the start,” begins the column. I’ll let Emmet take it from there.

The one thing Emmet was obviously wrong about was the bit about journalism not sometimes producing artistic masterpieces. — 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.