Good morning from the State House, where all eyes continue to focus on the Appropriations Committee, where a final deal on a two-year spending plan remains elusive.
Lawmakers expected a deal to get done overnight, but members of the committee were sent home just before 9 p.m. as leaders from both parties in the House and Senate continued negotiating in an effort to secure support from House Republicans, who have threatened to scuttle a deal struck by their Senate counterparts and the Democrats.
While it’s the members of the budget-writing committee who ostensibly bear the responsibility of negotiating a budget, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the holdup is among party leaders, who are now dictating the committee’s schedule.
Sen. James Hamper, R-Oxford, and Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, — the top lawmakers on the committee — both said Wednesday night that they were unaware of the nature of leadership’s talks, and that at this point, there was little for their committee to do but wait.
Meanwhile, a bill to fix a $36 million typo in the state’ omnibus energy law that imperiled the state’s energy efficiency programs still awaits final action in the Senate. The bill was scheduled for a vote yesterday after cruising through the House a month ago, but was postponed for reasons unknown, although the bill has become a partisan flash point.
It’s silly season in the Legislature, with the budget deal coming down to the wire and the House and Senate plowing through stacks of bills in multiple sessions, five days a week, as lawmakers work to get out of Augusta by the end of June.
Legislature enacts law to ban sale of powdered alcohol
The product has not even hit shelves in Maine yet, but lawmakers on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill to ban the sale and possession of powdered alcohol.
The stuff is exactly what it sounds like — alcohol reduced to powdered form, which can be added to water to create cocktails on-the-go.
Lipsmark LLC, the company leading the charge on the product, markets “Palcohol” as a product for hikers, bicyclists, campers, travelers and others who may want to enjoy a drink, but don’t want to carry heavy bottles of booze to do it.
Maine is one of 39 states where bills related to powdered alcohol were introduced this year, and many of those were outright bans, as Maine’s is. Proponents cite concerns that the product will too easily fall into the hands of minors, and that the stuff could be snorted because, apparently, at this point, people will snort any powder you put in front of them.
“This is a matter of public safety, especially for young people,” said Rep. Mick Devin of Newcastle, the bill’s sponsor. “Ingesting powdered alcohol could easily lead to overdoses and more alcohol-related car accidents.”
Palcohol’s creator has said the product is just as safe as liquid alcohol, and more convenient to boot.
The bill now heads to Gov. Paul LePage’s desk, where it will either pass into law or be vetoed. It’s worth noting Devin is a Democrat, and LePage threatened last week to veto all bills sponsored by Democrats until lawmakers pass a constitutional amendment to kill the income tax. Isn’t politics fun? — Mario Moretto.
GOP’s conservative base is shrinking, says Gallup
And now for a national item: Fewer people in the GOP are self-identifying as both socially and fiscally conservative, with almost a quarter of Republicans saying they are moderate or liberal on both fronts, according to poll data released recently by Gallup.
At just 42 percent, the number of “Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who describe themselves as both social and economic conservatives” has hit its lowest level since 2005, the polling group reports. Here’s what Gallup said the polling figures mean:
“The recent shift in how Republicans view themselves ideologically may have significant implications for the coming GOP presidential nomination fight, particularly in terms of how the candidates will try to position themselves to maximize their appeal. Republican candidates are dealing with a party base that is today significantly more ideologically differentiated than it has been over the past decade. A GOP candidate positioning himself or herself as conservative on both social and economic issues theoretically will appeal to less than half of the broad base of rank-and-file party members. This opens the way for GOP candidates who may want to position themselves as more moderate on some issues, given that more than half of the party identifiers are moderate or liberal on social or economic dimensions.”
You can read the full analysis here. — Mario Moretto.
- Threat of government shutdown haunts budget talks — Mario Moretto, BDN.
- Vote imminent on PUC nominee amid ‘crisis of confidence’ — Darren Fishell, BDN.
- Mainers’ premiums could skyrocket without ACA subsidies — Jackie Farwell, BDN.
- Senate amends concealed carry bill in effort to win LePage support — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal.
- LePage: I had nothing to do with robocalls targeting GOP senators — Christopher Cousins, BDN.
- Portland mayor Mike Brennan announces re-election campaign — Beth Brogan, BDN.
- Here are the programs LePage would consider slashing to pay for income tax cuts — Mario Moretto, BDN.
On this day …
On June 4, 1912, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to enact a minimum wage law, which established regional boards to set wages that would “supply the necessary cost of living and to maintain the workers in health.”
I did a good amount of searching to find out what wages were actually established by the regional boards but could not, for the life of me, find an answer. However, the report that led to the law showed that it was not uncommon for women in factories to earn less than $5 per week. That wage would equal about $119.49 today, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator (although I had to use the 1913 calculation because the service doesn’t go back any further).
Today, volunteers in the Maine People’s Alliance and Maine AFL-CIO’s campaign to raise Maine’s minimum wage will officially launch their signature-gathering effort in Portland. The goal is to secure enough signatures to get the increase on the 2016 ballot.
The groups’ goal is to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020. That’s equivalent to about 50 cents per hour in 1913, a wage that would result in a $20 weekly salary, assuming you were lucky enough to work just 40 hours.
One of the referendum groups looking to legalize recreational marijuana is also beginning its signature-gathering campaign in Portland today. Since I know you’re interested, I crunched the numbers for how much the price of weed has changed since 1913.
If it’s “$305 for a high-quality ounce” in Maine today, that would have been about $12.76,– about two and a half times the weekly salary of the factory workers mentioned above. That figure is a little suspect, obviously, as it factors for inflation only but still …Yowza. — Mario Moretto.