Good morning from Augusta, where legislators are gathering to solidify the agenda for the session that begins in January.
A panel of legislative leaders will convene today to take individual votes on whether to allow another 45 bills — including proposals to allow cities and towns to ban guns on their property and fight videotaping at polling places — to be considered during the January session.
The Legislative Council is considering requests for another 26 after-deadline bills and another 19 that were tabled at meetings in October and November. By law, a majority of the 10-person panel, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, has to agree that a new bill is an “emergency” to allow legislators to consider it in during the “short” legislative sessions that occur at the beginning of even-numbered years.
There’s already quite a workload for the session: More than 150 bills were carried over from the last session and approximately 80 more bills have been advanced so far, including some that deal with Maine’s drug crisis, conservation bonds and government contract reform.
But some other high-profile bills could move forward on Thursday. A bill that would allow municipalities to enforce some of the same gun possession limits as the ones that apply at the State House, sponsored by Republican Sen. Linda Baker of Topsham, may struggle to find support from her fellow Republicans, but Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, told the Portland Press Herald that he has found at least one Republican to back the poll videotaping one.
Other notable bills up for consideration include:
- A proposal from Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton, that was motivated by the case of a Waterville principal and would increase penalties for school officials who seek sex with students.
- bills from Rep. Michelle Dunphy and Sen. James Dill, both Democrats from Old Town who want to adjust the property tax valuation of the city’s soon-to-close mill and assist laid-off workers there, respectively.
- and welfare reform bills from Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, and Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook.
Of course, legislators always float some bills that don’t quite look like emergencies. Case in point? Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, is sponsoring “An Act to Encourage Roller Derby.” — Michael Shepherd
Pingree supports ban on assault weapons, high-capacity clips
Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree has announced that she has thrown her support behind the Assault Weapons Ban of 2015, which would prohibit the sale, transfer, production and importation of what she called in a news release “military-style weapons” and high-capacity magazines.
The bill, authored by Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, would specifically ban the following:
- Semi-automatic rifles and handguns that can accept a detachable magazine.
- Semi-automatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds.
- Semi-automatic shotguns with a military-style feature.
- Any ammunition feeding device that can hold more than 10 rounds.
- A list of 157 specifically-named and listed firearms.
The bill would also beef up the background check process and extend it to 14 days for the sale of an existing assault weapon.
“Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are the weapon of choice for mass shooters in the United States,” said Pingree in a written statement. “We cannot continue to stand by as these weapons of war are bought and sold freely. I’m proud to be a sponsor of the assault weapons ban of 2015. This bill will save lives and reduce the toll of gun violence in our country.” — Christopher Cousins
LePage says he ‘lost the energy to keep fighting’ against conservation bonds
Independent Rep. Geoff Evangelos of Friendship, who is leading an effort to impeach Gov. Paul LePage for a variety of issues, claimed a small victory Wednesday after LePage abruptly decided to release conservation bonds that he has been blocking for months.
“I’ve just lost the energy to keep fighting because this is going to result in an impeachment trial and I’m not interested in challenging them for an impeachment,” LePage said Tuesday during an interview on WVOM-FM. “They’re trying to make up excuses every day to impeach me, so they’ll have to find another one.”
Evangelos said the release of the bonds is the first measurable victory that stems from the prospect of impeachment proceedings.
“LePage’s admission on WVOM radio that he violated the will of the people in blocking voter-approved bonds, in conjunction with his acknowledgement of the seriousness of the impeachment process, proves that our strategy is working,” said Evangelos. “A committed group of legislators … have accomplished more in two weeks in reference to the governor’s obstruction over voter-approved bonds than the entire Legislature was able to do in the last session.” — Christopher Cousins
- Judge rules against Penobscot Nation in lawsuit over river rights — Judy Harrison, BDN
- Maine public aid recipients won $22 million from state lottery since 2010 — David Sherwood, Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
- Portland lawmaker’s PAC fined $2,000 for late filing — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- King, Collins tout $1 billion in proposed defense bill for new destroyer — Beth Brogan, BDN
- Maine ethics board slaps conservative lobbyist with nominal fine — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Bankrupt Bucksport power generator sues General Electric — Darren Fishell, BDN
- How and arts program is bolstering social engagement for Mainers 55 and older — Meg Haskell, BDN
- Freeport flag ladies claim harassment by picketer — Beth Brogan, BDN
Accomplished Maine trombonist dies
Trombonists never get the respect they deserve. My high school band teacher, the late Terry Eldridge, called trombone practitioners the “most noble ones.”
On Wednesday we lost trombone legend Don Doane, who was known as a long-time music educator in Westbrook schools and for his earlier professional career with the likes of Duke Ellington, Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson.
Check out my friend and colleague Troy R. Bennett’s tribute to the Doane by clicking here. And watch the video; that’s your soundtrack for today. — Christopher Cousins