Good morning from Augusta, where we only get one chance a year to use this picture, and use it we will.
That’s from just before St. Patrick’s Day in 2013, when Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill allowing bars to open at 6 a.m. on Sunday if the holiday falls then. (So you don’t have to thank the governor if you drank early at Brian Boru.)
Democratic friends, I give you the late, off-key Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” with former Gov. Joseph Brennan at a 2008 campaign stop in Portland for Barack Obama.
That stop was in February, so it’s not a St. Patrick’s Day moment, but you can’t get much more Irish than that. — Michael Shepherd (h/t Ben Goodman)
U.S. Senate rejects attempt to undo state GMO labeling laws
The U.S. Senate rejected a bill that would have prohibited states from requiring labels on genetically modified food, a type of law that Maine has helped pioneer.
A bill backed by large agricultural interests and sponsored by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, got just 48 of the 60 votes it needed to pass a cloture hurdle on Wednesday, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
It was response to Vermont’s GMO labeling law, which was passed in 2014 and takes effect in July. Maine also passed a labeling law then, but it’s not as strong: Four nearby states have to pass similar laws before it takes effect.
Pro-labeling advocates have a popular argument, touting polling that says 88 percent of Americans favor labeling. But the scientific necessity of these labels has been questioned and opponents have said it will drive up costs and imply a nonexistent health risk.
Both of Maine’s senators — Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King — voted against the measure and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, called it “a win for consumers.”
“Now we should move forward with a reasonable bill that requires clear, simple on-package labeling that tells consumers if they are buying something that contains GMOs,” she said. — Michael Shepherd
- The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee will hold Thursday work sessions on four welfare bills, including proposals rolled out by Democratic leaders last week and a LePage proposal to align Maine’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with federal work requirements.
- U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, bucked his party on Tuesday to vote against a bill that would roll back regulations on coal refuse-to-energy plants, saying in a statement that it would harm the environment with “no direct benefit for Maine’s small businesses and communities.” — Michael Shepherd
- Task force warns budworm outbreak could harm Maine’s economy — Darren Fishell, Bangor Daily News
- Maine bills would limit opioid prescriptions — Patty Wight, MPBN
- Trump warns of unrest if denied GOP presidential nomination — Steve Holland, Reuters
- Maine Senate leader seeks tougher law against impersonating veterans — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- State asked to kick in $1 million for historic schooner repairs — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- After his pick withdrew, LePage appoints Democrats’ choice for Kennebec sheriff — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Portland city councilor says he forgot to file signatures for Senate race — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Bill to suspend driver’s licenses for convicted drug dealers stalls — A.J. Higgins, MPBN
Yesterday was Franco-American Day at the Maine State House, which was marked with ployes being cooked in the hallways, traditional music and inductions into the Maine Franco-American Hall of Fame.
But it also spices things up in the Legislature, which conducts bilingual sessions. Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, and Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, presided in French.
Katz’s performance led to this short remix video from BDN colleague Darren Fishell. It’s your soundtrack today. That gavel beat is infectious. — Michael Shepherd