Maine again looks to ban soda, candy purchases with food stamps

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has called a Monday news conference to announce another proposal to ban soda and candy purchases with food stamps, a long-standing goal of the governor, who has floated similar changes since 2013.

It’s an uphill battle: Federal law doesn’t allow states to regulate purchases under the federal and state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, so Maine has to ask the federal government to make the change.

A bill in the Maine Legislature directing the administration to pursue the waiver died earlier this year, but the Maine Department of Health and Human Services can request a waiver without legislative approval.

The administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, hasn’t taken kindly to similar measures, rejecting a 2011 request from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban soda purchases with food stamps, according to the New York Times. An anti-poverty advocate there cheered that decision, saying Bloomberg’s proposal “was based on the false assumption that poor people were somehow ignorant or culturally deficient.”

In a statement, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said at the news conference, Commissioner Mary Mayhew will discuss the administration’s attempt to “focus more on nutrition in the Supplemental ‘Nutrition’ Assistance Program.” — Michael Shepherd

Democrats hit Poliquin (again) on college funding

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Friday that they’re launching a round of digital ads against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin on college funding.

It’s an issue that Democrats have pushed hard since Poliquin’s March vote for a House Republican budget proposal that would freeze the maximum Pell Grant award of $5,775 for 10 years. Pell Grants go to low-income students.

After that, the campaign arm for House Democrats placed a critical ad in the University of Maine’s student newspaper and Maine Democrats hit Poliquin again for it at an Orono news conference in August.

It’s all part of the game in one the most targeted House races in the country. Democrat Emily Cain, who lost to Poliquin in 2014, is facing Joe Baldacci in a primary for the 2016 nomination. Independent Mike Turcotte has also entered the race.

Poliquin’s office has pushed back against this narrative, releasing a list of talking points on his budget vote, saying his vote to freeze grants would shield the program from a shortfall projected for 2017.

It’s an argument that should continue to play out as this campaign goes forward. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • When I think of a “chaise lounge,” I think of this. I don’t think of this, but whatever, it’s free on the curb in Portland.
  • A man ran into a woman a few times at BJ’s Wholesale Club in Auburn on Friday, “lastly in the parking lot talking about the weather.” She was “cute and driving a Toyota 4 wheeler” (that might be a 4Runner unless they make ATVs) and carrying a container of “spring mix.” The man described himself as “blond, whatever.” He’s selling himself short, but he wants to get in touch.
  • There’s a Mountain Dew cooler available in Limington. It’s “awsome for ur pary hosting” and you can “fill it up wirh ice n ur favorite beverages n enjoy frosty drinks through out ur activities.” Strong pitch, but the asking price is $75. — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.