Good morning from Augusta, where the debate over how to fight drugs in Maine will begin again with the introduction of new law enforcement-related bills, some of which are aimed at increasing penalties for drug crimes and establishing new drug patrols on state roads.
Three retired police officers — Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville; Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, and Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton — have sponsored legislation that will be introduced today to the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee.
- LD 1523, A Resolve to Provide Wage Parity for Supervisors of Law Enforcement Personnel (Davis). This bill would appropriate funds to provide a 5 percent increase in salary to law enforcement supervisors, including park rangers, marine wardens, game wardens and state troopers.
- LD 1526, An Act to Permit Disclosure of Certain Intelligence and Investigative Record Information by a Criminal Justice Agency to a Nongovernmental Advocacy Program for Persons with Mental Illness (Burns). This bill allows state-level law enforcement agencies to share information about someone with mental illness with a non-governmental agency as long as the agency abides by state law.
- LD 1534, An Act to Reduce the Trafficking of Illegal Drugs in the State (Burns). This bill would create the Maine State Police Drug Interdiction Unit to conduct drug trafficking patrols on state roads.
- LD 1536, An Act to Provide Ballistic Vests to State Law Enforcement Officers (Burns). This bill would provide up-to-date ballistic vests for all state-level law enforcement officers and police canines.
- LD 1541, An Act to Increase Sentences Imposed for the Illegal Importation of Scheduled Drugs (Cyrway). This bill raises the class of crime — and therefore sentences — for the illegal importation of scheduled drugs. It also would create the crime of aggravated illegal importation of scheduled drugs, which would produce elevated penalties in drug cases that involve defendants with prior convictions or the involvement of children in drug crimes.
The House and Senate go back into session Tuesday. Have a good week, folks! — Christopher Cousins
Two well-known, but polarizing candidates file for legislative bids
It’s the time of year when lots of candidates are filing to run for the Maine Legislature, and while we’ve highlighted some of the key races in stories already, we’ve got to take some time to recognize the more off-beat notables.
Political observers will notice two controversial names on the Maine Ethics Commission’s list of candidates: Democrat Joanne Twomey of Biddeford and Republican Blaine Richardson of Belfast.
Twomey filed to run for the seat now held by Sen. David Dutremble, D-Biddeford, who isn’t running for re-election. She’s a former legislator and city mayor who is now best known for throwing a jar of Vaseline toward Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, at a town hall meeting last year.
Richardson, who is running for the seat now occupied by Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, ran low-dollar campaigns in 2012 and 2014 for the seat in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. He has put forward some fringe beliefs, including advocating a ban on all land and air travel last year after news of the country’s first Ebola case broke.
Still, he outperformed expectations in both campaigns, winning 40 percent of votes in his Republican primary loss to Kevin Raye in 2012 and 11 percent as a long-shot independent in the 2014 race won by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican.
Richardson ran as an independent in 2014 but is back in the Republican Party for this year’s legislative contest. — Michael Shepherd
Touting school choice in Augusta
Maine Department of Education Commissioner-elect Bill Beardsley, along with students and parents involved with public charter schools, private schools, homeschooling and virtual schools will gather today at the State House for a press conference to kick off National School Choice week.
Beardsley and the LePage administration have long supported allowing students to attend any school they wish, which has been a point of contention, particularly when the Legislature was debating implementation of the state’s new charter school law in 2011.
National School Choice Week involves more than 16,000 school choice events across all 50 states. — Christopher Cousins
RIP, Lois Snowe-Mello
Former long-time legislator Lois Snowe-Mello died Sunday while in hospice care, according to a Facebook post by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn.
Snowe-Mello, 67, a Republican from Poland, served in the House for eight years, beginning in 1996. She was first elected to the Senate in 2004, where she served three non-consecutive terms.
Snowe-Mello has been ill recently, according to Brakey, who called her his “unofficial grandmother.” He said Monday morning that she encouraged him to run for the Legislature and helped on his campaign.
“Lois was a spitfire,” wrote Brakey. “She had strong opinions and was never afraid to speak her mind. This is part of what made her a great public servant: She always stood up for what she knew to be right.” — Christopher Cousins
- Mills, LePage administration spar over hiring of lawyers — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Windham prison in need of $173 million in renovations, warden says — Susan Sharon, MPBN
- LePage plan would house mental health patients in Windham Correctional Center — A.J. Higgins, MPBN
- Channel 7 to air LePage’s town hall from Husson on Tuesday — Judy Harrison, BDN
- Court master: Vacancies endanger Riverview staff, patients — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Why it’s so hard to establish a new political party in Maine — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- The yeas and nays: How Maine’s congressional representatives voted last week — Targeted News Service
- Bill to regulate, license midwives wending through Augusta — Abigail Curtis, BDN
- Legislators to scrutinize lottery advertising tactics, impact on poor — Dave Sherwood, Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
- Sen. Collins gives advice about scams aimed at senior citizens — Rodney Brooks, The Washington Post
- Maine Legislature contemplates new GMO food labeling bill — Kathleen Pierce, BDN
- Energy tax incentives: Let the government pay you for buying green — Tony Reaves, BDN
- Donald Trump says he could ‘shoot somebody’ and not lose voters — Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times
- Bloomberg’s possible entry into presidential race gets mixed reception — Steve Holland and Valerie Volcovici, Reuters
Susan Collins shovels snow — in style
You probably heard about the huge snowstorm that buried the mid-Atlantic states over the weekend. But did you know that Maine’s senior U.S. senator shovels her own snow? More than one person sent me this photo, which shows the senator sporting some sweet cheetah-print boots:
I also couldn’t help but notice the shovel. I was a little surprised to see that it is not a made-in-Maine Snofighter or Pink Snofighter shovel from Mt. Waldo Plastics, a Frankfort-based shovel-making business owned by Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau and his wife, Stacy. I assume it’s difficult to bring a snow shovel onto a commercial flight, which maybe explains a lot.
Thibodeau has a close relationship with Collins and whether she knows it or not, she is indirectly helping him make the shovels. I visited Thibodeau’s factory over the summer and saw that in addition to having her campaign signs posted all over, he was using one to catch molten plastic that oozes out of his shovel mold.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. — Christopher Cousins