Good morning from Augusta, where the State House will be crowded with young men in tan and blue uniforms today.
And when I say young men, I mean really, really young men from Maine’s Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs. It’s Scout Recognition Day at the State House. It’s also Domestic Violence Day; more on that later.
If you’re a regular reader of the Daily Brief (if so, thank you and tell your friends!) you’ve picked up that I’ve been a volunteer for my local Cub Scout pack for the past five years. Last year, I took about 11 of our Scouts to the State House and Maine State Museum on Scout Recognition Day.
I was fortunate to secure honorary page slots for our Scouts in the Senate, which means they sit up front, under the Senate president’s rostrum, and circulate notes and documents between senators when summoned. There were boys from two of our dens, aged about 6 and about 10, respectively.
They were pretty busy early on with a bunch of procedural stuff and resolutions, but then the Senate went “at ease” for about 45 minutes, which is basically some no-man’s land between “in session” and “recessed” when everyone sort of mills around waiting for something to happen. The Scouts stayed on their benches up front and were starting to get a little fidgety from sitting in the chamber for so long, which is a feeling I can definitely relate to.
When the Senate went back into session, a debate started on “An Act to Ban the United Nations Agenda 21 in Maine.” The other den leader and I looked at each other and decided to yank our Scouts. It was close to lunchtime and the museum awaited.
I thought I was doing them a favor. I thought they’d appreciate it. But all I’ve heard from my Webelos den since then is that I ended their page session just when it was becoming interesting. So there you go.
Anyway, I suppose I should start writing about today, and not last year. I caught a few minutes of the Grammy Awards last night, just long enough to be introduced to Alabama Shakes, which took home three trophies. Their performance was fresh, unique and fantastic. Here’s today’s soundtrack. This is a new band I’ll definitely be digging into.
Oh yeah: Politics.
The House and Senate are starting an hour late this morning because of the weather and as usual when the full Legislature is in, there’s a busy schedule of committee work planned.
- Two Republican-sponsored energy bills, which have received a lot of attention already this session, are scheduled for work sessions in the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.
- The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee is holding a work session on a bill that would let non-resident landowners who own more than 250 acres to keep that land open for hunting.
If you’re at the State House today, give a Scout a pat on the shoulder for being a part of something positive. — Christopher Cousins
DHHS increasing mental health services in southern Maine
The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it will support a funding request from Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook to reopen 12 adult psychiatric beds, bringing the hospital to full capacity with 100 beds available.
Spring Harbor and Acadia Hospital in Bangor are Maine’s two private psychiatric hospitals, though both receive state funding. DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew said in a written statement that the new funding will create more options for Mainers suffering from mental illness and co-occurring disorders.
“There have been far too many cases of individuals in need of inpatient psychiatric services spending countless days in hospital emergency room waiting for psychiatric beds,” said Mayhew. “For some, it could mean many days of waiting.”
Mayhew attributed the available resources to changes that have been made in recent years that have stabilized budgets in the MaineCare program.
“Because of our efforts to stabilize Medicaid spending and through sound financial management, we are in a position to redirect our focus and funding to the state’s neediest and most vulnerable,” said Mayhew. — Christopher Cousins
Domestic violence groups to tout successes, urge more progress
The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, which includes several Maine groups and organizations, will gather at the State House this afternoon with the intention of spreading some good news.
“When we hear about domestic violence, we often hear bad news,” said MCEDV’s Regina Rooney in a written statement. “What the public may not know is that every day, people in our state are finding safety. Every day, people are rebuilding their lives after abuse. And every day, Mainers are engaging in prevention efforts to stop abuse before it occurs. These stories are important, too.”
Still, and as always, resources to stop domestic violence are falling short. Advocates blame, in part, exacerbating factors such as addiction, unemployment and lack of access to health care.
Among the coalition groups scheduled to gather today are the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition and the United Somali Women of Maine. — Christopher Cousins
- Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has announced that it will open offices in Portland, Bangor and Lewiston. So what, you say? Well, it means that the Clinton campaign is looking at Maine as an important state in the nomination process. In addition to coordinating staff and volunteer ground-game efforts, the offices will presumably be used as headquarters for what will likely be an aggressive phone bank effort. That effort will probably be intense in the run-up to the March 6 Maine Democratic Caucus. (Republicans caucus on March 5, just FYI.) The locations of the Clinton campaign offices are 185 Lancaster Street, Suite 221 in Portland; 20 Broad Street, Suite 409 in Bangor; and 805 Main Street in Lewiston.
- Mainers have another few weeks before the March 15 deadline to declare their candidacy for the Legislature. There are far too many announcements to include here, but we’ll occasionally highlight a few, such as: Republican Isaac Misiuk of Gorham, who ran and lost against Democrat Chellie Pingree in 2014 for the 1st Congressional District seat, has launched a bid for the South Portland-area House seat; Republican Sen. Linda Baker will face a primary challenge in the Sagadahoc County Senate seat from Guy Lebida; and long-time Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston will not run for the Legislature next year.
- CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly identified which House seat Misiuk is seeking.
- The BDN’s Troy R. Bennett has done it again with another witty and original song evoked from the headlines. You’ll recall his North Pond Hermit song, his “It’s going to snow” and the catchy “Run Piggy, Run.” Well, my friend Troy has done it again with “Keep your hands off my Gazetteer.” Read his blog. Listen to the song. Enjoy. — Christopher Cousins
- War won’t let go: PTSD bedevils Maine family — Beth Brogan, BDN
- No hero’s welcome: Iraq vet’s torment reveals Maine pension system flaw — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- What’s really behind the State House fight over tax conformity — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Mainer among those on ‘short list’ to replace Scalia on U.S. Supreme Court — Seth Koenig, BDN
- Veteran lawmaker Peggy Rotundo won’t run in 2016 — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- Lawmakers considering gas tax increase to help fund highway repairs — A.J. Higgins, MPBN
Marco, Marco, Marco: That’s Canada!
The Washington Post and other news organizations are reporting that Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s campaign has made an embarrassing mistake in a new campaign ad titled “American Morning.” The ad opens with an urban skyline and pro-American message. The problem is that the skyline is Vancouver, Canada.
The Rubio campaign has said it was all a big mistake.
Last week, Republican candidate Ted Cruz pulled an ad after it was revealed that there was a softcore porn actress in it.
There are so far no plans from the Rubio campaign to replace the Canadian footage with something from our own country, though I’m sure that’s coming. — Christopher Cousins