LePage proposes cutting school aid, GA, revenue sharing over immigrant info sharing

Good morning from Augusta. Remember last year when Gov. Paul LePage pulled back 21 nominations to state boards and committees because he was angry about deliberations over a Public Utilities Commission nominee and then refused to nominate anyone else for months?

If that seems like ancient history, it’s because it is. LePage has been piling up the nominations since last October. Today’s Senate calendar includes numerous nominees in the education sector:

State Board of Education

  • John Bird of Rockland
  • Martha Harris of Winterport (reappointment)
  • Wilson G. Hess of Freedom
  • Elise M. McKendry of Jackman

Maine Maritime Academy Board of Trustees

  • Carolyn H. Brodsky of Scarborough
  • Gregory S. Fryer of Cumberland
  • Matthew E. Fendl of Ellsworth

University of Maine Board of Trustees

  • Theresa A. Sutton of Cumberland
  • John M. B. Craig of Waterville
  • Jason E. Coombs of Brunswick

All of these nominees are subject to a recommendation by the Legislature’s Education Committee followed by confirmation by the Senate. LePage has also made several other nominations to various boards and commissions, which you can see by reading today’s Senate calendar.

This afternoon’s committee schedule is relatively light and you can view it by clicking here. As reported yesterday in the Daily Brief, up for both public hearing and work session today is a proposal by LePage, LD 1647, which would suspend the driver’s license of anyone convicted of trafficking, distributing or possessing scheduled drugs. The bill would apply to everything in this section of law except for “trafficking or furnishing imitation scheduled drugs.

Expect this bill to die a quick death in the Criminal Justice Committee. — Christopher Cousins

New pressure on towns and cities regarding immigrants?

Gov. LePage is proposing to increase the pressure on municipalities to share information about immigrants with a new bill he has introduced, LD 1652, An Act Regarding Immigration Policies.

This bill would make any municipality that restricts, “formally or informally,” the exchange of information about any individual’s immigration status ineligible for state public school funding, state funding for General Assistance and state-municipal revenue sharing.

I’m not in a position to tell you exactly how this bill would affect municipalities, but it reflects LePage’s long-held goals of restricting what he calls illegal immigrants — largely asylum seekers — from receiving social service benefits such as General Assistance. State and local governments share funding responsibilities for General Assistance, but Maine cities and towns administer the program.

The LePage administration and the cities of Portland and Westbrook went to court in a battle over General Assistance eligibility for asylum seekers.

I also wish I could tell you what “formally or informally” in the bill’s language means. Because of the subject of the bill, in addition to the fact that it is being presented by the governor so late in the legislative session — when most committees are wrapping up their work for the year — it’s likely that this is another bill that will have a rough go in committee. Stay tuned. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • LePage has introduced LD 1653, An Act Implementing Pay Increases for Certain Law Enforcement Employees to Aid in Recruitment and Retention. The bill would provide pay increases for state police, game wardens and marine patrol officers of between 12 percent and 18 percent. The bill is scheduled for reference to committee today in the House. LePage has been an advocate lately for increasing pay for state-level law enforcement officers in an effort to help with recruitment and retention. It was unclear how much that will cost. 
  • The House and Senate are in disagreement about LD 742, A Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Require Signatures on a Direct Initiative of Legislation Come from Each Congressional District. The battle over this bill has been ongoing since last year, when the bill was originally proposed to require that at least 5 percent of signatures on a citizen petition come from each county. It has spurred a lot of heated debate, including a lengthy House revision of the “two Maines” fight in which Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake felt compelled to remind his colleagues that, despite his half-century of advocacy for northern Maine, they should grudgingly acknowledge that Cumberland County is part of Maine. The Republican-led Senate wants the bill passed and the Democratic-led House doesn’t. The disagreement means the proposal is dead.
  • Today is the deadline for party candidates for the Legislature to declare their candidacy with the secretary of state’s office, which means the roster for the June primaries — and to some degree the November ballot — will become clear. Stay tuned for more coverage.
  • Today is Maine’s 196th birthday. We were liberated from Massachusetts on March 15, 1820. Happy birthday Maine. Here is a bonus soundtrack.

Reading list

Beware the Ides of March, and floods

Today’s notice from the Maine Emergency Management Agency couldn’t be in any more stark terms:

“This time of year, melting snow and maybe a little rain sometimes encounter clogged culverts or drains, with unfortunate results. Caught by surprise by clogged drains or water in your basement? Julius Caesar didn’t pay attention to the oracle, either.”

Translation: Clear your culverts and drains or possibly be stabbed to death. Under water. Here’s your 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.