Maine’s congressional delegation demands VA program fix

Good morning from Augusta, which should be reasonably quiet today, with three legislative committees set to do work today.

This week, the Maine Legislature’s biggest topic of discussion will likely be conformity with federal income tax changes, an issue that has consisted mostly of partisan posturing so far between Gov. Paul LePage and Democrats.

Two plans have been voted out of a legislative committee, but Democratic leaders wrapped up business on it last week without a vote in the House, which LePage told MPBN was “unbelievable.” But Democrats have other spending concerns, including scheduled state aid cuts to schools, and that’s where this week’s debate could lie.

Also, the political world is focused on tomorrow’s presidential primaries in New Hampshire, where Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump are the overwhelming favorites to win.

Here’s your soundtrack (some bad language) on the race to November.

Veteran care issues prompt Maine delegation letter calling for VA fixes

A recent VA Maine Healthcare System report that said just 48 percent of Maine veterans requesting health care since July got appointments under a program aimed at shortening wait times has prompted a call for fixes from Maine’s congressional delegation.

The delegation sent a letter to U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald on Friday asking the department to make improvements under the $10 billion Veterans Choice Program, passed by Congress in 2014 after a national wait-time scandal.

A January meeting at the Togus hospital revealed problems with Health Net, a California managed health care company that oversees the program in the region and doesn’t have employees in Maine, something that advocates say has harmed its provider network here.

The letter — from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin — asks the VA to work with Health Net to station an employee in Maine, funnel veterans into traditional private care programs to shorten wait times and continue a program aimed at improving care for rural veterans. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Three groups have submitted bids to build a massive state office facility within a mile of the State House in Augusta, according to the Kennebec Journal. It includes the family that owns Gardiner-based Pine State Trading Co., a Portland company and LePage ally Peter Anastos, the chairman of the Maine State Housing Authority who has the purchase rights to a state-owned garage on Capitol Street and said in a Friday email that he’s partnering with Opechee Construction for the bid.
  • Jay Williams, the U.S. assistant commerce secretary for economic development, will appear with King and Pingree in Portland this morning for what their offices are calling a “special announcement in support of entrepreneurship and job creation in Maine and across the nation.” — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • Our protagonist was “walking along” in Portland and found a “reddish and braided” ponytail at the corner of High and Deering streets “and I knew I had to bring it back to its owner so if you lost your ponytail I have it.”
  • Someone has an unsettling amount of “dooms day prepper food” for sale, including what looks to be popcorn in a can and stuff in boxes labeled in 2007 and 2008. (Don’t know what a prepper is? Here you go.)
  • You can have a “smiley face pillow” for $5. It’s a small price to pay for homemade comfort with “a smiley face on one side” and a “floral shag pattern” on the other. — 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.