Are $6.5 million in voter-approved conservation bonds really expired?

Good morning from Augusta, where the State & Capitol Daily Brief has received two musical requests from people who are looking forward to the Legislature’s adjournment. Names are being withheld to protect the innocent but check out this 1965 anthem of unrest and this delightful song I didn’t know called How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?

Now that you’ve got some tunes going, let’s talk about the State House. There’s little on the agenda today but you can expect more developments from Tuesday’s revelation that approximately $6.5 million in voter-approved conservation bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future Program have effectively expired because of Gov. Paul LePage’s refusal to sign them and let the money be spent. 

Technically, the five-year deadline for the bonds isn’t until November but because of the lengthy process to sell a general obligation bond, Maine does so only in June. Is it possible that an exception can be made in this case, if the governor so chooses? Maybe. However, the Legislature is one vote away from taking LePage and future governors out of the process altogether. On Thursday, lawmakers will vote on Republican Sen. Roger Katz’s bill to remove the requirement that the governor sign off on the bonds

LePage is firmly on the record as a governor who is very frugal when it comes to borrowing, so he may be fine with letting the bonds lapse. However, Tuesday’s development could well affect the outcome of the Katz’s bill, which has already passed once. It garnered two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate — which is what is required to override a gubernatorial veto — before it was vetoed by LePage.

That bill is among the very few items the Legislature has to do on Thursday, we think. Only time will tell, though at this point we’re talking about 36 hours or less. — Christopher Cousins

Poliquin outpacing Cain in fundraising

I know, I know, congressional elections aren’t for another 16 months or so, but what happens now in terms of fundraising could have significant bearing on what happens next year. And let’s not forget, the campaign for Maine’s 2nd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives re-started mere months after the last election, which saw Republican Bruce Poliquin handily defeat Democrat Emily Cain. Cain called for a rematch in March.

Today is a campaign finance filing deadline Federal Election Commission and both Poliquin and Cain have released their tallies.

Poliquin reports that he has received more than $1.1 million through June 30, including nearly $380,000 in the second quarter of this year alone.

Cain’s totals are small in comparison. She reports $288,000 raised in this cycle, including $152,000 in the second quarter of this year.

What do these numbers mean? Not much, except that in addition to the challenge of unseating an incumbent, Cain has a lot of ground to make up in her campaign’s bank account.


>>Clean elections campaign raises $433,000

A state-level campaign finance deadline is also upon us and some of the numbers for ballot-question committee have started to trickle in. Among them is the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Ballot Question Committee and the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections BQC, which together raised more than $433,000 in the most recent reporting period. There were nearly 1,300 donations tallied from every corner of Maine, including all of the 151 House of Representatives districts, according to a press release.

That’s the kind of activity that shows major support building for a citizen initiative question voters will see on the ballot in November. The effort, which seeks to strengthen penalties for breaking election rules, require the disclosure of major donors in political advertisements and increase the amount of public money available for publicly funded candidates, already attracted 80,000 petition signatures in support of the initiative.

Stay tuned to the Bangor Daily News and the Daily Brief for more details about fund raising. — Christopher Cousins

Maine high school track star, 10-year-old Arundel girl to testify today for congressional aging committee

Did you see the video last month of Kate Hall breaking the 39-year-old national high school long jump record? If not, check it out by clicking here. It’s something to see, for sure. For most of us, traveling more than 22 feet without taxi fare requires several steps.

Hall, a recent high school graduate from Casco, has accepted an invitation from Maine Sen. Susan Collins to testify about living with Type 1 diabetes today to the Senate Aging Committee, which Collins chairs. Also scheduled to testify today is another Type 1 diabetes sufferer, 10-year-old Isabelle Levesque of Arundel.

The hearing, which is scheduled to begin at about 2:15 p.m., is called Diabetes Research: Improving Lives on the Path to a Cure.” You can watch live by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Pluto: Most amazing event?

Years ago I read two books about explorer Ernest Shackleton’s amazing 1914 attempt to cross Antarctica. As you may have heard, the expedition failed, leaving Shackleton and his men stranded on the desolate continent. But Shackleton and a few of the men boarded a small lifeboat they’d fashioned with a sail and set off through some of the world’s most tumultuous seas for tiny Georgia Island, some 720 nautical miles away. Despite the needle-in-a-haystack challenge of finding the island in the vast open ocean using only primitive navigation tools, they made it and Shackleton’s men were safe.

For years I’ve thought of that story as one of the most amazing feats of navigation I’ve ever heard. Until yesterday.

I spent hours reading about NASA’s successful navigation of a research satellite to the outer reaches of our solar system, to the planet that isn’t. In addition to traveling 3 billion miles through space, engineers faced significant challenges. Did you know it takes Pluto 248 years to circle the sun? That’s about how long the United States has been a country, meaning that Pluto has done only about one-third of an orbit since it was discovered by man.

The breakthrough on where exactly the dwarf planet would be yesterday, when the satellite would complete its more than 9-year journey, was made possible by studying a series of photographs of space taken over 20 years in the early 20th century.

That photo of Pluto is one of the great achievements of our time. Move over, Shackleton. — 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.