Lawmakers consider big raises for state troopers, Riverview workers

Good morning from … my living room. I don’t know if the weather forecasters were right about this snowstorm only hitting coastal Maine, though I can confirm for you that the snow is in fact falling in at least one coastal area. The kids have no school today and I’m wondering if this is good snowman snow.

As for the State House, I see no indication that the schedule there is altered. It’s a relatively light day, with only the Appropriations and Education committees scheduled to meet.

Appropriations has public hearings on two bills, LDs 1653 and 1645.

LD 1653, scheduled for public hearing this morning, was proposed by Gov. Paul LePage. It would provide raises of between 12 percent and 18 percent for most state-level law enforcement officers, including state police, game wardens and marine wardens. LePage introduced the bill in an effort to help recruitment and retention efforts in departments he says struggle to fill vacancies because front-line workers are underpaid. It’s unclear how much these raises will cost the state or how they will be paid for. As written, the raises would kick in at the beginning of May of this year.

LD 1645 is sponsored by Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta and also proposes raises for state employees, specifically workers at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor. Katz’s bill, which is scheduled for a public hearing beginning at 2 p.m., is designed to help the recruitment and retention of workers at those two hospitals by providing raises of between $2 and $4 an hour. According to the text of the bill, the raises would begin in July at an annual cost of about $1.9 million, about $700,000 of which would be supported by the General Fund. The rest of the cost would come from “other special revenue funds,” which usually means federal matching dollars.

The Education Committee is also scheduled to convene beginning at 1 p.m. for a series of confirmation hearing for LePage’s appointees to the Maine Maritime Academy Board of Trustees and the State Board of Education. You can check out the whole list by clicking here and if you want to listen in, click here.

If you’d rather listen to the super voice of soul sing with the boss of rock, click here. That’s your soundtrack, and maybe one of the best performances you’ve ever seen posted here. Enjoy. — Christopher Cousins

State of the National Guard Tuesday

Here’s an advance glimpse at tomorrow’s schedule: It’ll be a busy day under the dome. In addition to the House and Senate returning and a busy committee schedule, Maine National Guard adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Farnham, will deliver the State of the Guard address to a joint session of the House and Senate.

This marks Farnham’s first State of the Guard speech since he was appointed to his position by LePage and confirmed unanimously in the Senate in January.

Farnham, who was previously the wing commander of the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor, is a Brewer High School graduate and co-owner of Getchell Bros. Inc., a well-known ice-packaging business.

I trust the speech will go better than last year’s did. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Independent Sen. Angus King was in Poland on Saturday and Sunday to discuss national security issues with Polish and NATO officials. King also visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum and laid a wreath in honor of the more than 1.1 million men, women and children who lost their lives there at the hands of the Nazis.
  • The Maine Green Independent Party finished its caucus season on Saturday, according to its website, though no results were readily available. The Greens also have announced that they are seeking to hire an executive director to help with fundraising, organization and communications.
  • Gov. Paul LePage has scheduled his next town hall meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, at Mountain Valley Middle School at 58 Highland Terrace in Mexico. The meeting is open to the public.

Reading list

The no standardized testing blues

I gotta love my 11-year-old.

Me: “There’s no school today because of the snow.”

He: “Yesssss! Wait, what about the MEA testing?”

I’m unsure if this is an indication of a responsible young man or woefully misplaced priorities — 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.