George Mitchell, Angus King step into Question 1 debate with endorsement

Good morning from Augusta, where here, there and everywhere across the U.S., the federal government remains open on the first day of its new fiscal year, thanks to a continuing budget resolution that sustains funding for the government until Dec. 11.

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the stopgap budget bill, which passed 277-151 in the House and 78-20 in the Senate.

While Wednesday’s votes were a victory for millions of federal employees and those who depend on federal services, it was of course little more than a Band-Aid, meant to kick the can down the road for another few weeks while Democrats and Republicans in Congress play the latest round in a game of political chicken around the federal budget that has dragged on for years.

I wish I could say this was the new normal in Washington, but it’s all too familiar. — Christopher Cousins

Mitchell, King endorse Question 1

Supporters of Question 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot, which proposes a range of campaign finance reforms in state-level elections, will head into the final stretch of the campaign with the support of some influential endorsements.

Former Democratic U.S. Sen. George Mitchell and independent Sen. Angus King announced this morning that they support the measure, which was brought to the ballot by a citizen-led initiative.

It requires special interest groups that spend money on Maine elections to disclose their top three donors in all political advertisements; stiffens penalties and fines for breaking campaign finance laws; provides more funding for the Maine Clean Election Fund by cutting some $6 million in corporate tax breaks and implements new disclosure requirements for gubernatorial candidates after they win elections.

Mitchell and King said in a joint statement that the passage of Question 1 would be a step toward moving the election process away from the influence of wealthy donors and corporations and toward everyday voters. Both used the word “drowning” to describe the role money plays in elections.

“The political process is drowning in money,” said Mitchell. “Today there is more money in politics than ever before and at the same time, declining transparency. It is the worst of both worlds.”

Public opposition to Question 1 has been scant in the run-up to next month’s election, but is beginning to materialize, especially among Republicans. As reported here in the Daily Brief, Rep. Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, is among the increasingly vocal opposition. Gov. Paul LePage has said he opposes Question 1. Expect business groups with members who would be financially hurt by losing the tax breaks to weigh in as the vote approaches. — Christopher Cousins

Collins co-sponsors bill to help pregnant addicts kick the habit

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced Wednesday that she has co-sponsored legislation to bolster treatment options for pregnant mothers with the goal of decreasing the number of newborns who enter this world as opioid addicts.

The bipartisan Protecting our Infants Act passed unanimously Wednesday through the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is en route to a vote by the full Senate. The bill comes as opioid abuse in Maine and the U.S. is increasing, which means that sadly, so is the number of addicted babies. A recent Vanderbilt study cited by Collins found that the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome nearly doubled between 2009 and 2012 to 5.8 births per 1,000.

The legislation also follows a February 2015 Government Accountability Office report that discussed ways that federal programs could better fight prenatal opioid abuse.

The Protecting our Infants Act requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assess drug treatment and prevention programs to fill gaps and reduce redundancies; calls on the federal government to increase involvement by non-governmental organizations; and authorizes the federal Centers for Disease Control to improve data collection and response methods. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

‘Every good boy deserves…’ wait, what?

There’s no question that the times are changing and those who don’t adapt risk being left behind.

I’m usually receptive to change. As I explained earlier this week, I stopped putting two spaces after periods years ago. I try to be careful about saying “Merry Christmas” in case it might offend someone. I have even embraced the new ways my sons are being taught math after I realized that the new ways are helping them solve problems more in their heads and less on paper.

Last night, however, I found my breaking point. My 10-year-old is just starting trumpet lessons and as anyone who has studied sheet music knows, one of the first things you learn is a little trick to help you know which notes go with which lines and spaces.

In the spaces, in ascending order, is the word “FACE.” On the lines, from bottom to top, is Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. Like this:


In my son’s trumpet workbook, it suggests “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”

Really? What a limp noodle of a phrase.

Look, I know there’s an obesity epidemic and tooth decay and sugar highs to deal with, but can’t we leave tradition alone? Is fudge really so evil?

I have crossed out “does fine” in his trumpet book and replaced it with “deserves fudge.” Furthermore, I have suggested that he bring this up tomorrow with his music teacher. Yes, I am suddenly one of “those parents.”

Now here’s today’s goosebump-inducing soundtrack, with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, to help me, and maybe you, calm down. — 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.