Good morning from Augusta, where the House and Senate will convene this morning for the first time this year on a Wednesday. It’s an indication that legislative leaders are poised to start moving bills through the process at a faster pace.
In the spotlight today is the annual State of the Judiciary address by Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, who was confirmed for a third term and sworn in earlier this month by Gov. Paul LePage.
The members of the House and Senate, along with the rest of the Supreme Judicial Court, will gather in the House chamber at 10:45 a.m. for the address. You can listen in by clicking here. Saufley is known to discuss big-picture needs of the judicial branch, which most people associate with putting criminals away but which has a much broader role. Last year, Saufley discussed efforts to divert people awaiting trial from the state’s county jails system.
Of interest on the legislative committee agenda are several bills for which there are public hearings and then immediately, work sessions and presumably votes. That could mean some of these bills will be spring-boarded to the Legislature or could live and die in an Augusta minute.They include:
- LD 1624, An Act to Eliminate Inactive Boards and Commissions
- LD 1635, An Act Authorizing the Deorganization of Oxbow Plantation
- LD 1633, An Act Authorizing the Deorganization of Cary Plantation (here’s your Fab Four soundtrack)
- LD 1609, An Act to Designate the Maine Lobster as the State Crustacean
Also of interest today is a work session on LD 1600, Gov. Paul LePage’s bill to block the federal government from using a national monument designation — which does not require congressional approval — as a way to advance plans for a national park in the Katahdin region. Check out this prior story by the BDN’s Nick Sambides Jr. if you’re interested in that one. — Christopher Cousins
State stonewalls Libertarian lawsuit
If you’ve been paying attention, this is all review: Last year, a group of Maine Libertarians enrolled nearly 6,500 people as Libertarians in an effort to create a fourth political party in Maine. Or at least they thought they did. The secretary of state’s office ruled in December that only 4,482 of the signatures could be verified as registered Maine voters — which was short of the 5,000-vote threshold the Libertarians were trying to achieve. .
In January, the Libertarian Party of Maine Inc., a Brunswick-based nonprofit, sued the state and later asked for an injunction to force the state to re-enroll its voters immediately, look into why so many registrations were invalid and declare the Libertarian Party valid in time for the primary election in June.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Janet Mills responded to the claims made by the Libertarians with a new filing in U.S. District Court. All you probably need to know about the filing is that the word “deny” appears 59 times in the 9-page document, which culminates with Mills asking the court to throw out the case.
John Branson, the Libertarians’ Portland-based attorney, has said he hopes for a resolution in the case — and a restoration of the Libertarian enrollees — by the end of March. — Christopher Cousins
- Families of missing and murdered Mainers whose cases remain unsolved will converge on Augusta today in favor of LD 1605, which seeks to extend the statute of limitations in homicide cases from two years to six years. The bill, which is part of a multi-pronged attempt this year to help bring resolution to cold cases, is scheduled for a public hearing today.
- Support for allowing local food producers to more easily send their goods to market is growing in Congress. Independent Maine Sen. Angus King and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky will introduce the PRIME Act (it’s a pretty forced acronym, so I’ll leave it out), which would allow small farmers to sell to consumers, restaurants and grocery stores without using one of a limited number of USDA-inspected slaughterhouses. The PRIME Act is identical to a bill co-sponsored last summer by Democratic Maine U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, which is still pending.
- Florida company buys shuttered East Millinocket paper mill — Darren Fishell and Nick Sambides Jr., BDN
- Maine Community College System hires Langhauser as new president — Nick McCrea, BDN
- Maine legislative leaders, LePage near tax conformity deal — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Lawmakers seek funding for Clean Election expansion — Mal Leary, MPBN
- LePage signals support for switch to presidential primary — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- LePage nominates prosecutors, lawyer to serve as judges — Judy Harrison, BDN
- LePage sees tribal land as way to boost Maine maple syrup output — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Portland man makes it from prison to the White House — Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post
- Trump wins Michigan, Mississippi; Dems in tight race in Michigan — John Whitesides, Reuters
Aren’t there any good lobster jokes?
In honor of the effort to honor lobsters as Maine’s state crustacean, I set out this morning to provide a little humor for your Wednesday morning by Googling hilarious lobster jokes. I failed:
How does a lobster answer the phone? “Shello?”
Waiter, waiter, this lobster’s only got one claw! It must have been in a fight, sir. “Then bring me the winner.”
Why don’t lobsters share? “They’re shellfish.”
Come on, people, represent. If we’re going to have a state crustacean (which probably seems a little strange to the rest of the world, except the B-52s) we need better jokes than these. Here’s some fodder, though maybe it’s a “you had to be there” kind of story:
Years ago I took a friend from out-of-state to pick up some boat-price lobsters from a fisherman I know in Thomaston. When we arrived, the boat had just tied up and crates of just-caught lobsters were being hoisted to the dock.
“Are they fresh?” asked my friend, to my horror. The grizzled captain cast a wry glance at his sternman and said:
“If ye wanted ’em any fresher ye should’a been here five minutes ago.”
Now that’s funny. — Christopher Cousins