Lawmakers to unveil plan to fight drug addiction in Maine

Good morning, folks. One epic political story has ended and another continues.

You’ve probably heard by now that incumbent Mayor Robert Macdonald was re-elected on Tuesday as the mayor of Lewiston, despite being far out-spent by his challenger, Ben Chin. Never before has a mayoral race in Maine attracted such widespread attention. Check out Michael Shepherd’s fascinating breakdown from last night, which will take you from Chin’s defeat party in Lewiston, to the city’s mills in 1860, and back again.

In Augusta, the state’s war on drugs continues to ramp up. Legislative leaders are expected to announce an agreement they’ve struck in recent days regarding action they’ll take when the full Legislature returns to Augusta next month. It’s widely expected that the plan will include a mix of new resources for law enforcement, treatment and recovery services all aimed at fighting a growing drug problem, particularly heroin.

Gov. Paul LePage has been trying to force the issue for months, calling for the creation of 10 new positions in the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and promising to call on the Maine National Guard to join the fight against drugs if lawmakers don’t agree.

Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond of Portland told reporters last night that the plan includes the 10 new agents.

“It will happen,” he said.

The question now is whether LePage will back the plan even if it does include the 10 new agents. In no uncertain terms, the governor said during a town hall meeting in Portland Tuesday night that he believes treatment of heroin addicts is of limited value.

“We spent $76 million on treatment in 2014,” said LePage in response to questions from the audience. “You can go up to $150 million and you’re not going to solve the problem. … I think that’s a disproportionate share of money spent on trying to treat and the success rate is very low.”

An audience member shouted, “Does drug treatment work, Mr. Governor?”

“Not with heroin,” said LePage. 

Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau, in a letter to LePage on Tuesday, said that in addition to the agents, the package will include “comparable funding for additional treatment, prevention and drug education programs.”

Thibodeau pledged to have the bill approved by the Legislature and on LePage’s desk by Jan. 14, 2016.

Stay tuned to bangordailynews.com for updates about today’s announcements. — Christopher Cousins


Poliquin’s child support bill approved

Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin has had a bill he sponsored approved by the House and Senate and signed by President Obama this week, which is a relatively rare accomplishment for a freshman congressman.

Poliquin introduced the Child Support Assistance Act of 2015 in April. It seeks to help single parents secure child support payments by making it harder for the other parent to hide property or funds. It does so by allowing the head of a child support enforcement agency to access the parent’s credit report.

The provisions of the bill were rolled into the Transportation Bill, which was signed into law by Obama on Dec. 4. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list


Today only: Be a clown

It’s national Weary Willie Day, named after a turn-of-the-century character made famous by Emmett Kelly, who was the first to hatch the idea for a sad, down-on-his-luck clown.

The idea didn’t catch on very well at first but struck a nerve during the Great Depression. Nationalcalendarday.com suggests that you wear some big shoes, pantomime or force yourself and your friends into a tiny car.

If none of that is quite your speed, it’s also National Pastry Day. Have a strudel. — 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.