Mayhew to address Legislature’s watchdog committee on Riverview

Good morning from Augusta, where the story of the day will be long-awaited testimony from Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew on staffing concerns at Riverview Psychiatric Center.

The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee voted last month to ask Mayhew and Jay Harper, the superintendent of the state-run psychiatric hospital on Augusta’s east side, to appear before the committee.

The 92-bed hospital has struggled for years, losing federal certification in 2013 because of a range of issues, including the deployment of sheriff’s deputies who used Tasers and handcuffs to restrain violent patients. Mayhew has recently touted gains at the hospital, but recertification hasn’t come.

Staffing problems are also coming to a head: Dozens of current and former hospital employees said that mandated overtime is crushing morale at a Tuesday meeting convened by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, the co-chairman of the oversight committee, according to the Kennebec Journal.

At that meeting, the president of the union representing mental health workers at the hospital said those mandated shifts add up to between 18,000 to 24,000 hours a year in forced overtime, a problem exacerbated by 11 mental health worker and 19 nurse vacancies, the newspaper said.

Expect those issues to be at the forefront of Friday’s committee meeting, which is set for 9 a.m. and can be streamed here— Michael Shepherd 

Real estate group wants local permit appeals to go straight to top court

The Maine Real Estate and Developers Association is pushing a carry-over bill before the Judiciary Committee that would hand major land-use permit appeals straight to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Appeals of local permitting decisions now go to Superior Court. They can then be appealed to the state’s top court.

A full draft of the bill has not yet made it before the committee, but the president of the real estate group, Michael O’Reilly, said at the group’s conference Thursday that it will push for the bill’s passage during this session.

Opponents of local developments have used the appeals process to delay projects, he said, which could in some cases permanently derail a project if any range of economic conditions changes.

The idea of streamlining the judicial review of local planning board appeals had support last year from the group GrowSmart Maine, the Associated General Contractors of Maine, the Maine State Chamber, the Maine Association of Realtors, the Maine Association of Planners and the Maine Municipal Association.

“When major development proposals are hung up for years in the courts and ultimately abandoned, land use activity in that area comes to a standstill,” wrote Maine Municipal Association lobbyist Garrett Corbin in testimony submitted last year. “Even long term land use planning becomes difficult for the affected neighborhoods in the community.”

The change in appellate procedure would apply only to “significant decisions” that the final draft of the bill would determine. — Darren Fishell

Quick hits

  • After a unanimous vote on Thursday, the Maine Senate sent a bill to Gov. Paul LePage’s desk to revive $6.5 million in conservation bonds for five years. The governor would still have to issue them, however, and while his office has said he’d be “amenable” to that, he told MPBN that he will let the bill become law without his signature, renewing past criticism of the Land for Maine’s Future program.
  • Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, has asked Attorney General Janet Mills to weigh in on the constitutionality of an effort to place ranked-choice voting on the 2016 ballot, according to the Portland Press Herald. However, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has said it’s likely unconstitutional and Mills’ office has said it agrees with that assessment.

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • In the “tools” section, a post is headlined “SEX.” But it’s a diversion: “Now that I have your attention, I’m looking for a large 100 lbs. + anvil.”
  • Someone in Farmingdale wants to trade a “kudu horn wall sconce” — “responsibly culled” — for an exterior door.
  • Sara in southern Maine is looking to find out where Rusty is. The two were pen pals while Rusty was in jail.
  • Ceramic figures of Jesus were found in a small box at the Wal-Mart in Biddeford: “Someone must of kicked the box cause a few of the statues have little pieces broken but i still would like some help to find out who they belong to,” says a Good Samaritan. — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.