Drug bill vote sets up another fight over Fund for a Healthy Maine money

Good morning from Augusta, where there’s a heavy schedule of committee work on tap. By my count, at least 30 bills will be in public hearings or work sessions today, which lends credibility to the notion that the Legislature is moving quickly in an attempt to avoid the late-session paper jam that plagued lawmakers in 2015 and countless prior years.

This year, there are more than 230 bills to deal with — depending on how many more legislative leaders give the green light — much fewer than the more than 1,400 submitted last year.

Today’s bills cover the range from child sex trafficking to elver harvesting to liquor laws. You can see the whole list by clicking here.

With all this work to do, it appears that there will be at least one bit of tradition taken off the agenda this winter: The State of the State address by Gov. Paul LePage.

Though he has been known to say one thing and do another before, LePage said Tuesday that is is considering submitting his address this year in the form of a letter. That’ll be too bad for a handful of male lawmakers, including House Speaker Mark Eves, who broke out their black dress suits with tails for last year’s State of the State. It was the first time I’d ever seen coat tails in real life. Here’s my soundtrack. And here’s yours.

It turns out LePage is pretty angry about impeachment or censure hearings against him, a spectacle which is expected to begin Thursday in the House of Representatives. Stay tuned. — Christopher Cousins

House Republicans proposing different drug bill funding source

The long-debated bill to fight drug addiction in Maine that fulfills Gov. LePage’s proposal for 10 new drug investigators — which is one of several to be considered this year — passed through the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday by a 9-4 vote, with the four House Republicans on the committee in the minority.

That sets up the same battle lines that existed in 2015 around the state budget proposal: House Republicans against the rest of the Legislature. The rub for House Republicans is the $3.7 million proposal’s funding source and according to House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport, LePage likely feels “exactly the same.”

Fredette proposes using unallocated money from the Fund for a Healthy Maine, which is supported by the proceeds of a class-action lawsuit against the tobacco companies. You can read Michael Shepherd’s full report here or wait until the reading list below.

Fights about how to use the fund date back probably as long as it has been in existence (1998), so expect some squabbling over it in the Legislature during the coming days. As an emergency measure and likely target of another veto from LePage, the anti-drug bill requires two-thirds support, which means at least some House Republicans will have to come along one way or another.

It just goes to show that nothing is easy these days in Augusta. — Christopher Cousins

Sawin Millett honored

H. Sawin Millett, a former Republican lawmaker and long-time administrator in the state’s executive branch, was honored Tuesday in Augusta when he was given the Commissioner of Conservation’s Distinguished Service Award.

The award was presented Tuesday by Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walt Whitcomb and Gov. Paul LePage.

Millett, who retired in 2014 after serving as LePage’s universally respected finance commissioner, has logged five decades in state government, including Cabinet posts for five governors, running the party gamut from independent to Republican and Democrat. He also served six terms in the Legislature.

Millett lives in Waterford with his wife, Barbara, and they have five children, 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Now there’s an accomplishment. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

‘The most Maine thing that has ever happened’

I’m concealing identities to protect the meat-eaters here, but I was more than a little amused yesterday when I saw a more than 40-comment thread on a friend’s question to Facebookers about how to cook 1.5 pounds of moose. I’m pretty sure the responses covered how to cook moose and every single other edible thing in the universe.

Braise, slow-cook, pan fry, chicken fry, broil, poach (poach, really?), but beat it full of holes first whatever you do (NO DON’T, said one commenter who threatened violence).

What to mix it with? Just about anything, looks like.

  • A “really peppery white gravy”
  • A coffee rub and then butter, garlic and mushrooms
  • “Serve it with poutine”
  • Salt and pepper and ONLY salt and pepper
  • Booze and seasoning
  • Moose fajitas, moose bourguignon (I don’t know what that is), moose burgundy, moose stroganoff, moose lasagne, moose stew, “jerky!”
  • Several votes for bacon

Then there was someone who was trying to be ultra helpful by posting an entire recipe, including words such as “rendering,” “woodsy flavors.” She suggested using turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, shallots, sherry, fresh herbs, a touch of cinnamon and a dollop of tarragon sour cream with cornbread dumplings on the side.

“It’ll be like you’re at camp,” she concluded, which I assume was sarcasm unless her camp experiences are very unlike mine. Shallots? If I’m at camp I’m lucky if there’s a stick of butter and pepperoni around.

Someone summed up this epic thread this way: “You getting 41 replies to a request for moose cooking tips is the most Maine thing that has ever happened.”

Well obviously, except for the part about bourguignon. — 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.