Howdy folks, and good morning. Are you ready for another day of Maine politics? Ready or not, here it comes.
The first legislative hearing of the day is on a bill that we’ve been hearing about for weeks: Gov. Paul LePage’s attempt to block another national park or a national monument from coming to Maine. Sponsored by Rep. Stephen Stanley, D-Medway, LD 1600, seeks to insert a clause in law specific to the federal government’s authority to acquire land that would revert the parcel back to the original owner if the feds attempt to name the land a national monument.
Wow, that was a mouthful for so early in the morning. Here’s some Steve Winwood to ease the pain.
LePage has long opposed the creation of another national park or monument on and around land owned by the family of Roxanne Quimby and has vowed to do everything he can to fight it. His bill to address the possibility that President Barack Obama will designate the property as a national monument — an act that does not require congressional approval the way a national park designation does — will be introduced around 9 a.m. in the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee. That’s one of several interesting bills up for hearings and work sessions in legislative committees today:
- The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will consider LD 1447, another governor’s bill that proposes lifting the ceiling on government bonding for correctional facilities by $80 million and specifies that the money be spent on the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.
- In the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, LD 466 is on the docket. This bill contemplates altering the state’s provider of last resort policy, which forces telecommunications companies to maintain service even in the most rural areas.
- The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will hold work sessions on a number of veteran-related bills, including attempts to implement some of the recommendations made recently by the Commission to Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine’s Veterans.
- The Environment and Natural Resources Committee will continue what has been considerable work this year on the state’s solid waste management laws.
Check out the full committee work list by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins
If you’re going to yell at LePage, you should yell something intelligent
I attended LePage’s town hall meeting last night in Waldoboro, where more than 150 mostly supportive people packed the room. I’ve attended several town halls at this point and the governor’s message has been more or less the same: lower taxes, cheaper energy, welfare and education reform, jobs creation. It’s the question-and-answer session that becomes interesting.
There was a bit of heckling of the governor last night including one guy who wants drug laws relaxed and yelled at LePage, “Where do you get your weed? Where do you get your coke?” The man and his cohort were asked to leave.
For the record, LePage said he doesn’t do drugs except for some medications, and he said those aren’t opioids.
Another guy went on a tirade about LePage being a liar. He, too, was invited to leave. For the most part, the governor pushed on and just answered the questions.
One audience member asked LePage why he has endorsed Republican Donald Trump for president.
“First of all, he’s a little bit like me,” said LePage, which drew laughter from the audience. The governor did not provide a lot of details, but summed up his opinions about Trump this way: “I think the sheer fact that he understands that $19 trillion in debt is more than this country can afford is one reason that I support him.”
In case you missed it, Trump had a huge day in caucuses and primaries on Tuesday. Looks like LePage could be riding a winning horse. — Christopher Cousins
- Independent Sen. Angus King will highlight a recent story by the BDN’s Erin Rhoda today when he speaks on the Senate floor today in favor of legislation to combat opioid and heroin abuse. The Bangor Daily News will stream the presentation. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Rhoda’s breathtaking, heartbreaking piece, you’ve been seriously missing out.
- A bill to make the overdose reversal drug naloxone available without prescription, sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, cleared the Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday with an 8-2 vote in favor of it. Naloxone is already available over the counter in 15 states. The bill, LD 1547, has the support of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association and the Maine Harm Reduction Alliance.
- LD 1560, a bill to force commissioners of state agencies to appear before legislative committees when they are summoned, passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday with a party-line, 76-69 vote. Democrats supported it; Republicans opposed it. The bill was proposed in response to LePage’s refusal at times in recent years to allow his commissioners to testify to legislative committees. The bill faces votes in the Republican-controlled Senate and would then have to survive a more-than-likely veto by LePage. That means it has virtually no chance of enactment.
- The Maine Restaurant Association, Maine Innkeepers Association, Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Association of Maine will hold a news conference this morning to indicate their support for raising Maine’s minimum wage and creating a competing measure to a citizen-initiated referendum that will appear on the November ballot.
- THIS JUST IN: Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has announced a visit to the University of Maine’s Hauck Auditorium in Orono at 10:30 a.m. on Friday. Stay tuned to bangordailynews.com for details.
- Bernie Sanders to visit Maine today in advance of caucuses — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Hearing set for state bill that would block national monument — Nick Sambides Jr., BDN
- LePage suggests running mate who would ensure Donald Trump victory — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Summary shows not Maine crude oil rail shipments since shield law passed — Dave Sherwood, Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
- Maine Senate nixes bill to ease limits on brewers’ ‘to go’ sales — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- Trump, Clinton big winners on Super Tuesday — John Whitesides and Steve Holland, Reuters
- LePage proposes eliminating Maine estate tax — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Olympic skating medalist Michelle Kwan in Maine to stump for Clinton — Dawn Gagnon, BDN
‘Bernie Weisse’ beer debuts
Vermont beer makers Zero Gravity (who make some damn fine suds, in my opinion) launched a Bernie Sanders-themed beer called Bernie Weisse at noontime yesterday.
I haven’t tasted it but I hear it berns the back of the throat. — Christopher Cousins