Good morning from blustery Augusta, where the subzero wind chill is no match for Tuesday’s warm display of bipartisanship at the State House.
Every lawmaker including Gov. Paul LePage agreed to an amended version of the long-discussed anti-drug bill that creates 10 new drug investigators and funnels $2.4 million to treatment and recovery programs. LePage signed the bill immediately after it was enacted in the Senate. As an emergency measure, the bill went into effect immediately.
Despite all the attention it’s attracted, the bill is far from being the comprehensive, end-all solution to Maine’s drug crisis, but everyone agrees it’s a start. LePage has said that he has more proposals in mind to fight drugs. He plans to introduce them in the coming weeks. There are a handful of anti-drug bills still under consideration by the Legislature.
Also receiving unanimous support Tuesday in the Senate were several of LePage’s nominations to boards and commissions, including Col. Douglas Farnham of Brewer as the new adjutant general of the Maine National Guard.
Will the bipartisan love continue? We’ll see. An immediate test will play out this morning in the Legislature’s Education Committee, which is considering bills to delay the implementation of a new statewide standardized test for public school students and a second bill that would allow Maine schools to opt out of using the controversial Common Core State Standards. Both bills are in work sessions today, which means the Education Committee might vote on recommendations to send to the full Legislature.
You can see today’s lengthy list of committee hearings and work sessions by clicking here.
Also scheduled for a meeting this afternoon is the Legislative Council, which is a committee of legislative leaders that still has a number of bills it needs to decide whether to permit to move forward for consideration this session. Because the second legislative session is supposed to be reserved for emergency and carry-over bills, the evenly split 10-member Legislative Council must vote on new proposed legislation from lawmakers. I don’t see an agenda for that meeting yet, but stay tuned. — Christopher Cousins
Gun control measure advances
Maine Moms Demand Action, a coalition of groups that favors criminal background checks for all gun sales, says it has collected enough signatures to put on the November 2016 state ballot a question that would require background checks for all Maine gun sales. The group delivered what it said were 85,000 signatures to the secretary of state on Tuesday.
If at least 61,123 of those signatures are certified as valid, the question will move to the November ballot.
Under current state and federal law, anyone who purchases a gun from a licensed firearms dealer is required to be cleared by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The same check is not required for guns sold in private sales. This new initiative would change that.
Given Maine’s high percentage of gun owners and historically hands-off public attitude toward firearms regulation, expect forceful and well-funded opposition to the measure if it qualifies for the November ballot. — Christopher Cousins
- LePage signs anti-drug bill after Legislature finds new funding source — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Is Maine’s anti-drug bill good politics but bad medicine? — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Group aims to add 10,000 Maine jobs from sales elsewhere — Darren Fishell, BDN
- Maine and the other states with declining populations: What’s the cause? — Mike Maciag, Governing
- Maine Senate president aims to cap electric rates — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- Town of Hancock seeks funds to remove pollution at former tannery site — Bill Trotter, BDN
- Brewer native confirmed to lead Maine National Guard — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Augusta’s Gannett House to transform into First Amendment museum — John Krinjak, WABI
- Maine Teacher of the Year: Students need more than the curriculum to succeed in life — Talya Edlund, Special to the BDN
- Dunlap, McCabe, Beliveau among Bernie Sanders’ 60 Maine endorsements — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Sarah Palin endorses Donald Trump’s presidential bid — Jenna Johnson, Washington Post
Bold endorsement: To snow or not to snow?
Depending on which weather forecaster you believe, Maine is in for either a dusting or another snowpocalypse over the weekend. I was amused this morning by a Facebook post by Democratic Rep. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan:
“Today I am endorsing the pending snow storm because we need snow. Also due to the fact that it could be a dusting to 3 feet sounds like a predictable range.”
McCabe, the House majority leader, is becoming an expert at staying on the safe side of endorsements. If this weekend’s storm brings less than 3 inches or more than 3 feet, you’ll read about it here.
Here’s your soundtrack, which, to be clear, does not denote support nor opposition to any endorsements by Maine lawmakers. — Christopher Cousins