Does Republican senator’s bow-out clear the way for a Troy Jackson return?

Good morning. The parking lots are filling up for a busy day at the State House, I assume. It’s about 6 a.m. and I’m sipping coffee in my living room, still in my jammies. But judging by today’s schedules, it will be a busy day.

The clearest predictor I’ve found about how busy my work day will be — and I’ve heard others say this as well — is how full the free parking garage on Capitol Street is when I arrive in the morning. There’s a little insider secret for you, not that it’s ever likely to benefit your life.

Anyway, the House and Senate are in today, though for the most part those bodies continue to coast as committees work through bills and legislative leaders strategize about when to bring forward some of the more high-profile bills of the session.

Of possible interest is the confirmation of three of Gov. Paul LePage’s appointments to the Land for Maine’s Future Board, which are on today’s Senate calendar along with several other nominees to boards and commissions.

Two of the three LMF nominees — Robert Meyers of Bath and Fred Bucklin of Appleton — come to the Senate with unanimous recommendations from the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. The third, Harry K. Ricker of Turner, had three votes against him on the committee, which may or may not cause problems for Ricker’s nomination. We’ll see.

The Senate could also take up LePage’s veto of LD 1460, which aimed to increase funding for indigent legal services. LePage’s veto of the bill was overturned in the House on Tuesday, 136-9.

The House calendar looks pretty light, though I noticed that representatives will consider referring this interesting bill from LePage to the State and Local Government Committee: LD 1609, An Act to Designate the Maine Lobster as the State Crustacean.

How do we not yet have a state crustacean? The horror!

I have a feeling that bill might have an easier time than the failed one last year that tried to make the Labrador retriever the state dog.

If you’re interested in today’s committee schedule, click here. One bill that will garner some interest today is LD 1547, An Act to Provide Access to Affordable Naloxone Hydrochloride for First Responders, which is proposed by Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. Naloxone is a medication that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose, which LePage has said repeatedly he doesn’t support public funding for.

Until next time, — Christopher Cousins

Sen. Edgecomb won’t seek re-election

Republican Sen. Peter Edgecomb has announced that he will not seek another term for his Aroostook County seat, clearing the way for an election battle between former Democratic Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash and Caribou City Councilor Tim Guerrette.

Edgecomb, who was elected to the Senate in 2014 after Jackson chose to run for Congress, previously served four terms in the House of Representatives. He said in a written statement Wednesday that he has opted to spend more time with his family. Guerrette, a firefighter and paramedic, as well as a small-scale cabbage farmer, was first elected to the Caribou City Council in 2015.

Jackson, who is well-known across portions of Maine for his past posts in legislative leadership and unsuccessful 2014 primary run for the 2nd District congressional seat, announced in January that he will try to re-take his old seat. — Christopher Cousins

More bills into the queue?

The Legislative Council, which is composed of five Republican and five Democratic legislative leaders, is scheduled to meet this afternoon to accomplish a range of business, including making decisions on whether to allow several bills to be considered this year. Some of the bills in question were tabled as long ago as October 2015 and still await action.

You can see the agenda for today’s meeting and the list of bills in question by clicking here. Some of these bills are highly controversial, which explains why they remain tabled. They include welfare reform and energy bills, as well as some bond bills.

Several of the bills are sponsored by legislative leaders and are therefore bound in political posturing, I assume. Among those are two bills by Democratic House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe: An Act to Amend the Maine Criminal Code to Clarify the Prohibition on the Exercise of Improper Influence and An Act to Ensure the Proper Functioning of State Government by Ensuring Execution of Executive Branch Duties.

Though we can’t see the intent of the bills because they aren’t written yet, both of those appear to be aimed squarely at Gov. Paul LePage and with Republican support needed to bring them under consideration, they’re probably doomed. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • LD 1503, which would reform Maine’s lobster licensing system, emerged from the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee on Wednesday with a unanimous recommendation. Rep. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle, who sponsored the bill, said in a written statement Wednesday that the bill could solve a long-term, contentious problem of a lobster license waitlist with 300 names on it, some of whom wait for up to a decade for a license.
  • LD 1473, which would increase reimbursement rates for substance abuse treatment providers, also received a unanimous recommendation Wednesday from the Health and Human Services Committee. If enacted, the bill would increase MaineCare reimbursement rates to outpatient opioid treatment providers from $60 to $72 a week.
  • A coalition of stakeholders in support of solar energy will gather at the State House today to announce what they are calling “a breakthrough solution” to create more solar energy-generating opportunities in Maine. A mid-day press conference will be followed by a presentation this afternoon with the Energy and Utilities Committee.

Reading list

Things that go BOOM in the night

Just yesterday, here in the Daily Brief, I was saying how I’ve never experienced thundersnow and how I like things that go boom. The first part of that statement remains true but the second, not so much.

At 4:30 this morning there was a thunderclap near my house that was about as loud as I’ve ever heard. It was like we were IN the thunder. My wife and I bolted up in bed (I reflexively yelled a bad word) and my son ran into the room saying he had fallen out of his bed. He was so unnerved by it that he asked if we could trade beds for the hour or so we had left of sleep time.

All of this happened in the span of about 10 seconds. As I walked into his bedroom, a thought crossed my mind, illustrating how dedicated (or pathetic) I am when it comes to the Daily Brief:

“Well, at least I won’t have to think too hard about today’s soundtrack.” — 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.