Republican lawmaker proposes bill to outlaw driving while you’re tired

Good morning from Augusta, where the sun has risen, at long-last, on a spring-like day. I hope.

Here’s some highlights from a long list of committee work scheduled for today:

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold two public hearings on interesting bills this morning. One bill, sponsored by Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, would make an intoxicated driver who causes the need for emergency services liable for up to $2,500 to pay for those services.

Right after hearing testimony on that bill, the committee will hear a proposal by Rep. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, to create the crime of operating a motor vehicle while fatigued and impose penalties consistent with the penalties for operating under the influence. What is “fatigued” in the bill? I suspect that will be the subject of a lot of testimony and debate but the bill says you’re tired if you haven’t slept for 24 consecutive hours or if your “alertness is so impaired by fatigue as to make it unsafe to begin or continue to operate a motor vehicle.”

It will be interesting to watch where these two Republican bills go.

The Education Committee, as it has for four years, will continue the debate about how to fund charter schools, particularly virtual charter schools, and explore ways for charter schools to collaborate.

In the State and Local Government Committee, Lewiston Democratic Rep. Peggy Rotundo is proposing a resolve that would require a study of understaffing in state agencies. It’s a seemingly dry topic, but an important one. There are positions open all across state government which are either behind help open by the administration, which seeks to eliminate more than 200 positions in the next two budget years, or because qualified candidates can’t be found. It’s doubtful that this bill would make it past Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s desk, given the governor’s past unwillingness to support study bills.

State and Local also has a bill in work session this afternoon on a bill by Republican Sen. Linda Baker of Topsham that would penalize legislators for excessive absences. Expect near-perfect attendance at that meeting.

The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee will consider a range of bills affecting labor laws, including allowing youths to be paid to referee sports games and for professional hair-braiding to be conducted without a barbering or cosmetology license.

The Taxation Committee is holding what looks like a full day of pubic hearings and work sessions on a range of minor changes to the tax code, such as providing tax credits to adult day care, respite and hospice services, but given the focus on tax reform by LePage in his biennial budget proposal, and now a new proposal unveiled last week by Democrats, any changes to the tax code this year are likely to happen in concert with a larger plan, if at all.

And late this afternoon, House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, will introduce a bill titled An Act to Protect Children and the Public from Electronic Cigarette Vapor. The bill would put the same restrictions on electronic cigarettes as currently exist on regular cigarettes.

The House and Senate return to session on Tuesday and should be busy in the coming days after a recent flurry of committee work.

How’s the Daily Brief working out for you? If you’re searching for it on the BDN’s home page every morning, don’t despair! We’ll send it straight to your email inbox if you take 10 seconds to fill out this little form. Most days it will arrive right around 8 a.m. — Christopher Cousins

Students march on Augusta

photo courtesy of Maine Students for Climate Justice

A coalition called Maine Students for Climate Justice marched around the State House Saturday to call for “a freeze to all new fossil fuel infrastructure in the state,” according to a press release circulated in advance of the event.

Yup, a “freeze” on all new fossil fuel investment.

I wasn’t there, but organizers said the event drew 250 students from 18 colleges and high schools:

  • Wayneflete School, Portland
  • Mt. View High School, Thorndike
  • Greely High School, Cumberland
  • Merriconeag Waldorf School, Freeport
  • Lincoln Academy, Newcastle
  • Islesboro Central School, Islesboro
  • Monmouth Academy, Monmouth
  • Washington Academy, East Machias
  • Fryeburg Middle School, Fryeburg
  • Chewonki Semester School, Wiscasset
  • Bates College, Lewiston
  • Bowdoin College, Brunswick
  • Colby College, Waterville
  • University of Maine, Orono
  • University of Southern Maine, Portland
  • College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor
  • Unity College, Unity
  • University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH

They marched from the State House around the nearby traffic circle and back, pausing on the way “for silence and raised fists at the Blaine House,” according to materials provided by organizers.

The students dispensed with the notion that whether climate change even exists is notable.

“There are still politicians who do not believe that climate change exists,” said Catherine Fletcher, a University of Maine student who helped organize the rally and who is part of a group that according to a press release has convinced the UMaine system to divest from all coal stocks. “There are still lawmakers who bring snowballs into Congress in defense that climate change is a hoax. There are still governors who think that climate change will be good for their state because it will lead to business opportunities. There is an embarrassing ignorance within the political system that needs to be addressed.” — Christopher Cousins

LePage gives $16,000 to organization that trains kids like Navy SEALs

LePage announced Friday that he has given $16,000 from his contingency fund to an the SEALSfit youth leadership program.

The SEALSfit program is administered by the Portland Police Department and the Maine Leadership Institute that involved a physical training regimen that is based on routines of the U.S. Navy SEALS. The weekly program consists of two, two-hour physical training sessions and one two-hour leadership training session for about 20 Portland-area high school students.

This is not the first time LePage has used his contingency fund this way. The BDN reported last year that he often uses to support charities of his choosing. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

‘207’ not cutting it?

The BDN’s Darren Fishell reported over the weekend that Maine’s ‘207’ telephone area code might run out of numbers by sometime in 2019. The primary cause? Where in the past most families had a single telephone line to share, the use of cell phones mean that each family member could be claiming his or her own little corner of 207.

What’s should the new area code be? That appears to be up in the air. Idaho already claims 208. — 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.