Good morning from Augusta, where the Legislature is returning to town after most members had four-day weekends. May they be fresh and ready for some serious lawmaking.
Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick will learn whether lawmakers on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee will buy into his “Put ME to Work” bill, which seeks to invest $5 million over the next five years in the state’s community colleges to build partnerships with private businesses. Under the partnership, the businesses would chip in either matching funds for in-kind services to help the education system establish a new pipeline of workers for jobs with high wages and good benefits.
While the bill does have some Republican support among its sponsors, it was dismissed earlier this year by Gov. Paul LePage, who said the state is already forging relationships with private businesses and doesn’t need to spend money to keep it going.
One of the bill’s Republican sponsors in Sen. Andre Cushing of Hampden, who is also hoping for a positive vote from the Labor Committee today on LD 1364, which would make changes to the state’e Pine Tree Development Zones, which offer a range of incentives for businesses. Cushing proposes to extend the cycle of benefits for businesses while lowering their costs by striking a provision that the businesses offer group health insurance. It would also introduce a new way of calculating the base salary the businesses must pay to employees, going from an annual average to a weekly calculation based on quarterly Census figures.
The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will decide on some interesting bills that could affect hunters and fishermen, including an amendment to the Maine Constitution — which would have to be approved in a referendum — that would “protect people’s right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.” Sponsored by Rep. Karleton Ward, R-Dedham, the referendum would also clarify that hunting and fishing is the preferred method of wildlife management in Maine.
Is red the new orange? Up for both a public hearing and work session is an interesting proposal by Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, which is unlikely to find much support: An Act to Allow Hunters Whose Religion Prohibits Wearing Hunter Orange Clothing to Instead Wear Red.
While I don’t know the story behind Thibodeau’s sponsorship of this bill, I’m guessing he brought it forward at the request of a constituent. I’m also guessing that the fact blaze orange is a long-established signal to sportsmen in the woods to hold their fire, lawmakers won’t be eager to make any changes.
As we’ve stated before in the Daily Brief, it’s difficult or impossible to establish what the House and Senate will do, usually until minutes before they go into session. . Calendars for the House and Senate are published each evening before session but they are very much in flux. Bills can be pulled from or added to the voting agenda at any moment, and often are. We’ll do our best to keep you posted.
Keeping track of hundreds of bills moving through the process will become more difficult as the Legislature nears adjournment next month. If you want to stay abreast, follow the State & Capitol Daily Brief, or better yet sign up to receive it every morning in your email inbox. — Christopher Cousins
Governor LePage vetoed six more bills on Friday afternoon:
- LD 134, a Resolve to Study the Impact of Winter Ticks on the State’s Moose Population, sponsored by Rep. Roland Martin, D-Sinclair. “As the Legislature is well aware, I generally do not support resolves or studies because I believe the people of Maine have sent us to Augusta to act,” wrote LePage in his veto letter. “We are not a taxpayer-funded think tank.” LePage also wrote that Maine is already collaborating with New Hampshire on a winter tick study.
- LD 464, An Act to Improve Science and Engineering Education for Maine’s Students, sponsored by Rep. Michael Devin, D-Newcastle. LePage vetoed the bill because he said it requires schools to change their science curricula without providing funding.
- LD 525, a Resolve to Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to Report on Efforts to Reach in Rural Areas Persons Who are Elderly, Disabled or Mentally Ill, sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville. LePage wrote that he vetoed the bill because it is duplicative to work already being done by a range of state and local agencies.
- LD 682, An Act to Ensure the Administration of Written Driving Tests, sponsored by Rep. James Gillway, R-Searsport. LePage wrote that he opposes changes to Maine’s driver education programs.
- LD 737, An Act to Amend the Laws Regarding Learner’s Permits and Intermediate Licenses, sponsored by Sen. Kimberley Rosen, R-Bucksport. This bill has been dubbed “Taylor’s Law” though the legislative process in memoriam of 15-year-old Taylor Darveau of Bucksport, who died in an October 2013 car crash in a car being driven by a 16-year-old with an intermediate license. It is against Maine law for intermediate drivers to carry passengers who are not immediate family members unless an experienced driver is also on board. This bill would offer families decals to put on their vehicles, which would serve as notices to other drivers and law enforcement officers that an intermediate driver is behind the wheel. “This particular decal could allow criminals to easily identify vehicles in which the driver will most likely be alone and young,” wrote LePage.
- LD 880, An Act to Permit Rate-adjustment Mechanisms for Water Utilities, sponsored by Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco. LePage said he opposes this change to the rate-adjustment process because he said it doesn’t provide enough inclusion in the process for rate-payers.
- Is a stagnant Maine Legislature turning into Congress Jr.? — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Can this summer’s tourism season keep up with last year’s momentum? — Darren Fishell, BDN
- Tax reform unlikely this year, says Democrats’ top budget negotiator — Mario Moretto, BDN
- Partisan struggle over Maine energy policy persists — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- Fading away: How Maine’s veterans groups are being tested by time — Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN
- Oversight of inmate benefit account relies on county vigilance — Judy Harrison, BDN
- The yeas and nays: How Maine’s congressional representatives voted last week — Targeted News Service
Unhappy Memorial Day
It was just as it should be.
Maybe you read last week about problems at the Bath American Legion that threatened to cancel the City of Ships’ annual Memorial Day parade. Locals wouldn’t let that happen and thanks to an anonymous $5,000 donation and a last-minute scramble to save the parade, it marched on.
My son and I, who are involved in the local Cub Scout pack, were among the participants. Hundreds of people lined the streets to watch, not unlike parades in picturesque Bath dating back centuries. After the parade, the American Legion led a somber ceremony at City Park to honor dead servicemen and women.
The Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts stood in a respectful and attentive line. Some of these kids were as young as 7 and under most circumstances, can be difficult to keep focused. That wasn’t the case on Monday. Even at their age, they clearly grasped the importance of the day, a fact which in itself chokes me up.
The traditional playing of “Taps” hit us hard, like it does for so many others. As a tear welled in my eye and I looked across the faces of the Scouts, their sad expressions left no doubt — not that there ever was one — of the reasons why a Memorial Day parade is worth saving. — Christopher Cousins