DHHS proposes controversial new test for adults with disabilities

Good morning, folks. They’re back.

Members of three legislative committees will convene today for what is expected to be hours of testimony for and against the now-very-familiar-unless-you’ve-been-under-a-rock bill to fight drug crimes and addiction in Maine.

For a bill with a price tag of only $4.8 million, the debate and political positioning in advance of today’s hearing has been something to behold. There have already been fights, led by House Republicans, over how it was devised in the first place, what it contained once it existed, how it will be funded and, as of Monday, the schedule by which it will move through the Legislature.

That said, today’s hearings with the Appropriations, Criminal Justice and Health and Human Services committees are sure to be long in both, well, longevity as well emotion. If you want to listen in, click here. If you’d rather listen to just a good old rock ‘n roll song, click here.

The House and Senate will reconvene on Wednesday. Expect fatter Daily Briefs. Well, maybe denser is the right word (wait, how can denser be the right word?). The point is that the Daily Brief is here every weekday to keep you apprised of what’s going on in state government.

If you’re reading this on the Bangor Daily News website, thank you, but it could be easier. Click here (and look to the upper right) to have the Daily Brief delivered straight to your email inbox every morning. It’s free and easy.

Related news: Since July the Daily Brief has been scheduled to send at 10 a.m. Starting Wednesday, we’ll move it an hour earlier, to 9 a.m. Let us know how that schedule works for you. — Christopher Cousins

DHHS moving to change how it supports adults with disabilities

The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed new rules that will govern how it distributes resources for home- and community-based services to adults with intellectual disabilities or autism. The new plan would replace a group planning process that involves families and medical providers to the use of a test to determine a person’s eligibility for the services.

According to advocates, there are more than 800 adults on waiting lists for these services in Maine and there is concern that implementation of the new test could bump some who are currently receiving services  out of the program.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. This is a substantive rulemaking process, which means the proposal requires legislative approval. — Christopher Cousins

LePage to claim immunity in Eves ‘blackmail’ lawsuit

An attorney for Gov. Paul LePage has filed a motion in U.S. District Court claiming immunity in a civil lawsuit filed against him by Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves over LePage’s role in forcing Good Will-Hinckley to rescind an employment contract with Eves in June of last year.

An immunity claim is routine in cases against public officials, according to BDN legal expert Judy Harrison, but according to reports, it could delay resolution of the case into 2017, or possibly later. The Dec. 31 filing by Boston-based attorney Patrick Strawbridge also sets the stage for a more extensive argument of up to 25 pages to be filed at a later date. — Christopher Cousins

Collins to visit innovative day center

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who chairs the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, will be in Falmouth today to tour the Stewart Adult Day Center, which is part of the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging and serves people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Collins, who also co-chairs a task force on Alzheimer’s, was among the supporters of a $2 billion funding increase last year for the National Institutes of Health, which included a $350 million increase for Alzheimer’s research.

In addition, Collins was co-sponsor of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which passed through the Senate last month but is still pending. Collins is scheduled to discuss her efforts in this area with senior citizen advocates and reporters later this morning. — Christopher Cousins 

Reading list

The most perplexing gift

File this in the “we didn’t have this when we were kids” or “unexpected teaching moments” category.

One of the gifts under the Christmas tree for my 5-year-old is something I’d never seen or heard of: A Perplexus Ball, this one in the form of the Star Wars Death Star. It’s basically a clear, hard-plastic ball with a small steel ball bearing inside that you have to negotiate through a series of difficult — no, maddening — ramps and tunnels. The idea is that you follow the numbers, which go from 1 to 115.

I’ve spend more than a few hours since Christmas with this thing and it’s a lot of fun. After all those hours I can maneuver the little ball to number 35 or so relatively reliably (my son can go almost as far as I can). Making it all the way to 115 seems like an accomplishment that’s in the distant future for me, if it’s possible at all.

A few days ago, I noticed a way to skip some 70 steps and go straight to 114 and then, the end. I’ve got to say I was a little disappointed that there’s a way to avoid most of the challenge, though I suppose complex games like this require an out to keep people from spiking the Perplexus on the ground, Gronkowski style. The dilemma now is whether I show my kids the trick. There’s a “road less traveled” lesson here. Do I help them find easier gratification or let them figure it out on their own?

I think I’ll let them figure it out themselves, though I’ll remind them often not to spike the Perplexus. — 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.