Are legislators checking their mailboxes for LePage’s State of the State?

Good morning, folks, and welcome to Wednesday.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Gov. Paul LePage’s 2015 State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature. It may have been his last. As you probably know, LePage has announced he won’t deliver the speech this year in person, but will submit it to the Legislature in written form.

It’s more evidence of the governor’s disdain for the Legislature. LePage has publicly questioned why he would deliver a speech in the House of Representatives, where 52 lawmakers voted in favor of a resolution earlier this month that could have led to impeachment proceedings against him.

That leaves the Legislature and the public — after all, the State of the State is supposed to be for the benefit of the Maine people — reading instead of viewing. I asked the governor’s office on Tuesday when the letter will arrive and was told by a spokesman via email, “we’ll give you a heads up when it’s ready.”

Hmmm. Well, at least this gives us ideas for today’s soundtrack. Or maybe The Marvelettes are more your speed? — Christopher Cousins

Proposed DHHS test for adults with disabilities continues to draw fire

Late last year, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed the implementation of a test for adults with disabilities that’s designed to measure their capabilities and by extension, their qualifications for financial support from the state.

The department says the change represents an effort to spread existing resources, but service providers and families from across Maine have strongly opposed it on the basis that it would curtail support too far for too many people. They have also objected the use of the Supports Intensity Scale test because they say it doesn’t accurately measure a person’s ability. Since the change affects the allocation of dollars, part of the new rule requires legislative approval, which represents a possible foothold for the opposition.

Today, affected families and the Maine Association of Community Service Providers will converge at the State House to launch a formal petition against the proposed rule in an effort to force a review of it by the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. We’ll keep you posted about developments. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • LD 826, a bill that intends to spread access to broadband Internet services in Maine, is moving on to consideration by the full Legislature following the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee’s 9-3 vote Tuesday to recommend passage. The bill would provide $1 million from the General Fund to the ConnectME Authority, which is charged with facilitating universal availability of broadband Internet in Maine. The bill would bring total annual funding for the effort to $2.2 million. Among the supporters of better broadband for Maine is Gov. LePage, who said in a letter to the authority last year that better Internet is a crucial economic development issue.
  • U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, are taking heat for an energy bill amendment they introduced on Tuesday that involves the burning of wood and biomass products for heat and generating electricity. The amendment would change federal policy to “reflect the carbon neutrality of forest bioenergy,” but a Feb. 2 letter to King and Collins by a coalition of environmental groups takes issue with that stance. “Cutting and burning our forests to generate electricity is not ‘carbon neutral,'” states the letter. Collins disagrees. “Biomass energy is sustainable, responsible, renewable and economically significant as an energy source,” she said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

Reading list

I missed something important

If I had time and space, I’d explain to you how important a band Tower of Power has been in my life. My dad, who died in 2007, was a bass player and TOP was hands down his favorite band. He often remarked how many speakers he blew in his life listening to the band’s phenomenal bassist, Rocco Prestia. Dad and I saw them play four times and for my money, there isn’t a more talented band anywhere. I mean, they really blow your hair back.

I linked to a couple of Tower of Power songs in yesterday’s Daily Brief and received several emails from people who enjoyed them. I also heard from a friend of mine, who said “didn’t someone from that band just die?”

My heart was in my throat. I feared it was Prestia or the band’s iconic baritone sax player, Stephen “The Funky Doctor” Kupka, both of whom are in declining health. But it was trumpet player Mic Gillette, a founding member of the band, who died suddenly from a heart attack on Jan. 19.

Dad would be crying. And blowing more speakers.

Here’s another Tower of Power song for you, a smoking instrumental in honor of Mic Gillette. And here’s Tower of Power’s reminder to us all to not waste our days. — 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.