Good morning, folks. I have news for you: The center of the political world today is Iowa, where the first meaningful votes in the presidential nomination process will finally be cast during caucuses this evening.
It’s been months and arguably years leading up to this day, so enjoy it. Not that the experts expect any excitement. I, for one, will be finding something else to do tonight. Likely I’ll be streaming music from YouTube, as usual. I’m feeling a little country today so maybe some Gram Parsons? It reminds me of Iowa for some reason.
Anyway, in Augusta the focus remains on the tax conformity bill you’ve read about at least two or three times in the Daily Brief. I’ve lost track. The $38 million bill is on this morning’s work session schedule for the Legislature’s Taxation Committee, which tabled it last week because Democrats and one Republican refused to endorse it until Gov. Paul LePage’s administration commits publicly to a plan to fund it.
I expect some squabbling over the details, but that the committee and Legislature will likely go along with aligning Maine’s tax code with recent federal tax code changes, just as it has for several years running.
Also coming up today is the presentation of a new report to the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on how to improve services for Maine’s veterans. That presentation begins at 10 a.m. and as with most legislative hearings, you can listen in through your computer by clicking here. To prime yourself for that, read Scott Thistle and the Sun Journal’s summary of the report, published last week, by clicking here.
Speaking of Scott, who is the most dedicated ski buff I know, stay out of his way today. He’s definitely one of the people who isn’t happy about the forecasted 50-degree Feb. 1 weather. As for me, I think I’ll leave my coat on the rack today, and I’m eyeing my flip flops. — Christopher Cousins
GOP attacking Cain on Iran nuke deal
Republicans are doubling down on their first major attack line on Democratic 2nd Congressional District hopeful Emily Cain: the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
It has been an issue since last year. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, opposed the deal, but Cain — who lost to him in 2014 and is running again for the seat this year — offered qualified support for it.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for House Republicans, has picked the issue back up after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry conceded that Iran could funnel some of the sanction money freed up under the deal to terrorist groups.
On Monday, the Republican group will run robocalls in the 2nd District hitting Cain for supporting an “extreme liberal agenda that could make America vulnerable to another terrorist attack,” according to a transcript provided by NRCC spokesman Chris Pack.
This is an enormous amount of spin around a complicated topic. (Vox’s explainer video is highly recommended.) In a nutshell, Iran gave up much of its nuclear material and consented to regular inspection in exchange for the U.S. and other world powers freeing up $100 billion in Iranian assets frozen in banks.
It’s all aimed at preventing Iran from building a nuclear bomb. When I was working for the Kennebec Journal last year, a Colby College expert told me while the deal is “the least bad option” for the United States because of increased scrutiny, opponents have legitimate gripes because of where the money could go.
So, a Republican saying Cain wants to fund terrorists is the same as a Democrat saying Poliquin wants Iran to build a nuclear bomb. It’s not an issue that lends itself well to sound bites. Take that into consideration when the robocalls come to a telephone near you. — Michael Shepherd
- The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will submit its petitions to state officials today in an effort to place on the November 2016 state ballot a citizen-initiated referendum to legalize recreational marijuana. The campaign claims to have collected more than 100,000 signatures, about 61,000 of which will have to be verified by the Maine secretary of state for the ballot question to move forward. Today is the deadline for ballot question petitions to be submitted, so…
- A coalition of public school supporters called Stand Up for Students has also been collecting signatures toward a November 2016 referendum that would create a 3 percent surcharge on Maine taxable income above $200,000 in order to increase the state’s share of funding for public schools to 55 percent of the overall cost. This group says it has gathered 75,000 signatures that have been pre-validated.
- Report: Maine’s state veterans agency is ‘dramatically underfunded’ — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- For Gov. LePage, all politics is personal — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Maine GOP: Welfare-tax question won’t make 2016 ballot — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- The yeas and nays: How Maine’s congressional representatives voted last week — Targeted News Service
- Plan for former mill complex to bring new life to ‘ghost town’ — Abigail Curtis, BDN
- Advocates urge increase in methadone clinic reimbursements — Susan Sharon, MPBN
- When moms battle addiction, these programs keep their families together — Jackie Farwell, BDN
- Rubio up, Cruz wobbling, Trump OK as candidates make final Iowa pitches — David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau
Grammar problems with my fish tales
I made it out ice fishing for the first time this year on Saturday and by the looks of the balmy weather forecast, it may have been the last. Luckily for me and a bunch of Cub Scouts I spent the weekend with at Camp Hinds in Raymond, the fish were biting and they were big. Every Scout who was with us brought a pickerel or a cusk up through the ice, all of which were in excess of 18 inches long. None of those boys will ever forget it, which made the day a huge success.
Except for this: I didn’t let it darken anyone else’s spirits but there I was, thinking about today’s Daily Brief and what the plural of “cusk” is. We caught five of them, after all.
Cusks? Cuskses? Cuskuses? Cuskae? And what if I want to refer to those creepy things that grow from their chins, which I don’t know the noun for? The cusks’ whiskers?
The Internet says “cusk” works in both the singular and plural, like “moose,” but it was not helpful with the plural possessive.
Fishing should not be so stressful. — Christopher Cousins