Good morning from Augusta, where there are already signs of progress in Gov. Paul LePage’s efforts to transform the face of state government within the city. As reported last month, Gov. Paul LePage has proposed a $112 million bond in his biennial budget proposal for redeveloping state-owned property, including some of the buildings at the former Augusta Mental Health Institute and what is known as the “East Side” campus, as well as building a new office complex.
The bond proposed by LePage, which would come through the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority and as such needs only legislative approval and no referendum, is pending in the Legislature. However, the executive branch is celebrating a step in the direction of progress on this front this morning with the rededication of the Marquardt Building at 32 Blossom Lane in Augusta.
The building’s population has expanded in recent months to about 220 employees, at least on a temporary basis, including a move of Bureau of Motor Vehicle employees to the former AMHI building while an extensive roof replacement is done at the BMV’s Hospital Street building.
This morning’s ceremony at Marquardt is scheduled to include Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen and is sure to include some talk of LePage’s proposed facilities shuffle, which at the outset drew concerns from Augusta officials about the state eliminating some of its leases in the city in favor of renovating old state buildings. Also on the schedule this morning is state historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. who will discuss the history of the building. Shettleworth always paints a vivid picture and this should be interesting.
Across the river from the East Campus at the State House, parental rights over the education of their children is center stage in the Education Committee, which has a lengthy list of public hearings on their docket. Those include a bill to allow parents to opt their children out of standardized testing and a range of proposals to change the way schools measure students and award diplomas.
In the Health and Human Services Committee, the controversial issue of childhood vaccines will be explored during public hearings on three bills, at least two of which aim to increase childhood vaccination rates in Maine. This debate comes amid a nationwide measles outbreak which has rekindled debate around the always hot and emotional topic.
In other committee action today:
- There should be an interesting day of debate in the State and Local Government Committee based on two bills. Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, is proposing the establishment of a commission to study the reduction of unfunded and outdated financial mandates by the state on municipalities. And right after that, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, will present a bill he’s already taken some political hits on, which would require the governor to issue conservation bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future Program, which were endorsed by voters in 2010 and 2012. LePage is refusing to sign those bonds unless the Legislature agrees to his proposal to fund an energy program with proceeds from the sale of more timber taken from state land. Katz’s bill also eliminates the requirement that the governor’s signature is needed to sell bonds at all.
- The Judiciary Committee will consider a recommendation on a bill to clarify policies around removing minors from life support and a broad-ranging bill that seeks to implement recommendations from a committee that studied the treatment of mental health patients in Maine. Later in the day, Judiciary will open debate on bills to strengthen the state’s ability to collect child support payments on behalf of children.
- The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will consider a bill to allow veterans organizations to own and operate slot machines.
- The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee will consider making recommendations on four bills that are designed to be job creators, including a bid by Sen. David Burns of Whiting to appropriate $400,000 over the next two years for rehabilitation and renovation at the former Cutler naval base in Washington County. —
The House and Senate return to action on Tuesday. With the end of the legislative session in June moving ever closer, expect much of the debate at the State House to begin a shift away from committee rooms and toward the full Legislature. Most of the major bills of this session are still awaiting action and as always it’s going to be a sprint to the finish, but it will feel more like a marathon. — Christopher Cousins
5 more vetoes from LePage
LePage has shown that reaching for his veto pen wasn’t just a first-session phenomenon. There were five more vetoes issued on Friday:
- LD 4, An Act to Promote Industrial Hemp. LePage said the bill would put Maine in violation of federal law.
- LD 59, An Act to Protect Students’ Rights and Privacy Regarding their School Records. LePage wrote in his veto letter that the bill goes too far in terms of the state’s rights over private schools.
- LD 237, An Act to Address Recommendations from the Report by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability Regarding the Public Utilities Committee. The bill would create a new position at the Office of the Public Advocate, which LePage said would shift the organization’s focus too much toward the public.
- LD 455, An Act to Prohibit Deceptive Practices Regarding Negotiable Instruments. The bill would make it illegal for companies to solicit loans to businesses by sending a document that looks like a live check. LePage said the bill isn’t specific enough and that the practice is already restricted in the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.
- LD 1275, An Act Regarding Notice to the Public Pertaining to a Resident Person Deported From Canada to the United States for Committing a Sex Offense Against a Child. LePage said the bill is confusing and could pose a hindrance to law enforcement agencies.
The vetoes will be taken up in the House and Senate in the coming days. — Christopher Cousins
- Will too many paths to legal marijuana in Maine leave everyone lost? — Mario Moretto, BDN
- Senators press new postmaster general on slow rural mail service — Lisa Rein, Washington Post
- Obama to nominate Lewiston native to head Federal Highway Administration — Judy Harrison, BDN
- UMFK archivist curates 50 years of John Martin collection — Julia Bayly, BDN
- George Mitchell talks about his favorite teacher, Middle East peace — Bill Trotter, BDN
Amazing 4-year-old lost, finds her way home on Mother’s Day
Need a lift? Read Julia Bayly’s story about a little girl who wandered into the woods, triggered a search-and-rescue response, but found her way back home. — Christopher Cousins