Maine Democrat who switched to independent 5 months ago switches back

Good morning from Augusta, where the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee is gathering today to begin a probe into how money in the Fund for a Healthy Maine program is being spent.

The Fund for a Healthy Maine is supported by a 1998 class-action lawsuit that resulted in a 46-state legal settlement with the tobacco industry. The money, which since 2011 has brought between $50 million and $60 million in revenue to Maine every year, is designated for public health and disease prevention programs.

Earlier this month, Sen. Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls and Rep. Jeff Timberlake of Turner, both Republicans, called for an audit of the program by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to track how the money is being spent.

In particular, the lawmakers want a detailed accounting of where the money is going and to know how much of it is funding better health outcomes for Mainers and how much is being spent on salaries. Timberlake has also asked if any of the money is funding Planned Parenthood. Click here to see a general accounting of where the money is allocated.

The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability’s audit of the program would be separate from the review that’s beginning today at the Health and Human Services Committee at 10 a.m.

We’ll sort it all out for you. — Christopher Cousins

A Short time as an independent

That was quick. I mean short. I mean, you know what I mean.

In April, then-Democratic Pittsfield Rep. Stanley Short announced that he was leaving the party and would serve his constituents as an unenrolled representative. At the time, he told the Bangor Daily News that he was tired of partisan battles and that Democrats were not doing enough to “build up the middle class again.”

“What finally hit me is that the party has left me and people like me, as far as protecting the middle class,” he said.

On Friday, Short announced he has rejoined the Democrats.

“I have been a member of the Democratic Party for many years and I have now come to believe that my return is in the best interest of my constituents,” said Short in a written statement. “It is also without a doubt where I need to be to continue my lifelong fight for the working men and women of Maine. I obviously did not and will not agree with every position that another Democrat takes but as a member of the party I can play a role in the shaping of caucus strategy.”

Short’s district includes Clinton, Detroit and Pittsfield. I’m going to go ahead and bookmark the background stories on this issue. — Christopher Cousins

Eves and LePage on tour (no, not together)

Democratic and Republican lawmakers will continue a months-long statewide jobs tour Tuesday with visits to two of the midcoast region’s marquee businesses: the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and Hodgdon Yachts, both in East Boothbay. Tuesday’s agenda culminates with a brainstorming session at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole at 4 p.m.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick launched the jobs tour in January to highlight the need for more jobs and higher wages. To date it has visited York, Aroostook, Kennebec, Somerset, Waldo and Oxford counties. Eves and others hope it leads to successful legislation next year to improve Maine’s business climate.

In an unrelated tour by a politician, Gov. Paul LePage announced that he will hold his next town hall meeting Tuesday at Bucksport Middle School beginning at 6 p.m. The public appearance by LePage is the latest in a series of meetings he is holding across Maine to promote his policy agenda, including cutting the income tax and reforming welfare. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Editing all night, just for you

If you were interested in last night’s eclipse, you probably went outside and watched it, as did I. Conditions here on the coast couldn’t have been better.

“Is the moon OK?” asked my 5-year-old. “Why does it have blood on it?”

The Internet is clogged with photos and videos of the spectacle this morning, but why don’t you take a moment to see what a local guy produced? My friend and BDN colleague Troy R. Bennett was awake until 6:30 a.m. today shooting and editing together a stunning time-lapse video of the moon and skies. Check out the video and read his blog about it by clicking here.

“It turns out, the moon moves pretty fast,” he wrote.

Troy is an accomplished musician (one of his acts is called the Half Moon Jug Band, come to think of it) with finicky tastes in tunes, so I hope he doesn’t mind if I use the obvious song for today’s soundtrack. — 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.