Good morning from Augusta, where proponents of marijuana legalization will announce today that they’re suing the Maine secretary of state’s office over its decision to disqualify the issue from the 2016 ballot.
The move was expected since Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s decision was released last week, and it could largely revolve around 17,000 signatures notarized by Stavros Mendros, the president of Olympic Consulting, a Lewiston signature-gathering firm.
Backers of the initiative, led by the national Marijuana Policy Project, submitted more than 99,000 signatures — well above the just over 61,000 valid signatures needed to get on the ballot. But Dunlap’s office invalidated nearly 48,000 signatures for a range of problems.
Campaign leaders had 10 days to file a lawsuit challenging the decision in Superior Court, and they announced Thursday that they would file the suit in Kennebec County and release more details at an afternoon news conference in Augusta.
There’s a lot at stake for marijuana advocates, who want to make Maine just the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana. Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd
Correction: Maine would be the fifth, not the fourth, state to legalize marijuana. The post has been updated.
Democrats to release welfare reform plan
Democratic legislative leaders called a Thursday morning news conference to unveil a welfare reform agenda, but they didn’t release details ahead of time.
It’s an issue that Republicans have hammered them on in recent elections: Gov. Paul LePage won re-election in 2014 largely on that issue and since then, his administration has been aggressively pushing changes on that front.
Democrats have groped for a message to match, but in particular, Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, has gotten more muscular on it this session, pushing for limits on lottery ticket purchases with welfare money.
That came after the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting found in December that public assistance recipients got more than $22 million in lottery prizes since 2010, which likely means they spent hundreds of millions on the lottery.
Alfond, House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and other top Democrats will speak at the State House news conference at 9:30 a.m. — Michael Shepherd
- Community Health Options, a Maine-based healthcare cooperative, is eyeing a premium increase after losing $31 million in 2015, according to the Portland Press Herald. Once one of the top-performing groups that were created under the Affordable Care Act, the cooperative saw an enrollment and claims explosions that forced it to suspend sales of individual plans.
- U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, has introduced a bill that would give National Guard members and reservists a tax deduction now available to federal employees who travel 50 miles or more for work. — Michael Shepherd
- Maine Legislature passes tax conformity, school funding deal — Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News
- Florida company buys shuttered East Millinocket paper mill — Darren Fishell and Nick Sambides Jr., BDN
- Brewer students persuade state lawmakers to support lobster bill — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Maine chief justice urges more case managers to fight drug epidemic — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Tesla likely to benefit from LePage deal with Quebec — Darren Fishell, BDN
- Design changes make Maine-built ‘stealth’ destroyer less stealthy — Beth Brogan, BDN
- Demolition stops at Bucksport mill site after lack of payment — Bill Trotter, BDN
- Portland pipeline dries up, reviving talk of oil sands service — Seth Koenig, BDN
Best of Maine’s Craigslist
- We brought you one story of forlorn Craigslist love from the Democratic caucuses earlier this week, but there are more: An Uber driver who took a woman named Taryn to the Portland caucuses — “I told you you look like Tyra Banks,” he notes — wants to reconnect, as does a man who saw a woman in Freeport and was “feeling more than the Bern at the caucus.”
- A man is “looking for a girl to smoke weed and build Legos” with and describes himself as “a 17 year old trapped in the body of a 39 year old.”
- “What I’m looking for is my future wife, plain and simple and I don’t care how far and wide I have to search in order to find her!” — Michael Shepherd