Poliquin says national VA problems are also plaguing Togus VA Medical Center

Good morning from Augusta, where attorneys for the Legislature and governor’s office are scrambling to meet a Friday filing deadline in a legal dispute in which 65 bills hang in the balance. 

As my colleague Mario Moretto reported on Monday, the conflict over whether LePage missed a deadline to veto bills enacted by the Legislature has escalated from verbal jabbing all the way to the state’s highest court in a matter of a couple of weeks. It’s all leading up to the delivery of oral arguments on July 31, just 10 days away. 

The stakes are high and both sides say they’re convinced they’re right. This will be interesting to watch. 

Though the legislative session has adjourned, there are several interesting political tidbits to fill you in on. Well, let’s get to it. — Christopher Cousins 

Poliquin to visit Walter Reed VA center

Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District called for more support for veterans on Tuesday with a column published in The Hill and a Tuesday morning visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Poliquin and three of his colleagues argue that even though medical benefits and services for veterans were at the center of a controversy that saw national VA Chief Eric Shinseki resign in 2014, many of the problems that existed then still exist today.

“Reports have indicated that a year since former Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned, the number of veterans waiting for health care has increased 50 percent,” reads the column. “We are also seeing many of these national problems plague other VA hospitals across the country, such as those in Pennsylvania and Maine. Yet, the president and his administration have done nothing to help fix these issues. This isn’t fair and it isn’t right.”

The column, which went on to praise President Obama for signing the bipartisan Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, did not detail what problems exist at Maine’s VA hospital in Togus.

The next battle for House Republicans will be the VA Accountability Act, which according to the column would give the VA secretary move authority to demote or fire employees for performance or misconduct. That piece of legislation could be headed for a vote by the end of July. — Christopher Cousins

Susan Collins and Richard Gere teaming up to fight homelessness

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and actor Richard Gere meet in Washington to discuss ways to combat homelessness. (photo courtesy of Susan Collins)

Sen. Susan Collins and actor Richard Gere are teaming up to fight homelessness, which is an issue both of them have been involved with for years.

As chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee (which is known in Washington by the acronym “THUD”, ha!), Collins has long called for stronger funding for better coordination between federal, state and local governments.

Gere, who according to a press release has for a decade been involved in charity work with the New York Coalition for the Homeless, is also starring as a homeless man in a new movie called “Time Out of Mind.”

According to a column Collins penned last month, there are nearly 195,000 homeless children and teens in the U.S., who together comprise about one-third of the total homeless population.

Gere isn’t the first celebrity to lend star power to Collins’ efforts. In June, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” recording artist and 1980s pop icon Cyndi Lauper testified before the THUD committee. However, as Scott Thistle of the Sun Journal reported, the real star of that hearing was Maine woman Brittany Dixon, who found herself homeless at age 18. Check out Scott’s story by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

Moretto storms  ‘Maine Calling’

If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting BDN political reporter Mario Moretto, you probably learned that he has the gift of gab. If you’ve been reading his articles and “Daily Brief” posts, you also know he’s a gifted reporter.

Don’t believe me? Tune in at noon today to Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s radio program “Maine Calling” to hear Mario and State House Press Corps Godfather Mal Leary break down recent developments under the dome. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Which Maine actor would play you?

BDN quiz builder extraordinaire Seth Koenig has compiled a new quiz that in just a few short minutes can tell you which Maine actor would play you in a movie.

While I assume it’s a fine quiz and urge you to give it a whirl, I admit I didn’t do it myself. Mr. T isn’t from Maine and if Mr. T isn’t one of the choices, I’m staying away. Pity the fool. — 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.