Happy Monday from Augusta, where it’s a good thing the House and Senate have some of the most comfortable seats in the state. Lawmakers will be spending a lot of time in them for the next few weeks. As of today, both chambers will be on a five-day-a-week schedule, meeting at least twice a day and eventually, three times.
Legislating under the cover of darkness is coming soon. This is when things can become a little crazy. Bills that one side or the other see as priorities have been working through the process for months and in some cases, sitting idle on the docket as a matter of strategy and timing.
Predicting what will be debated becomes more difficult because legislative leaders can issue supplemental calendars, and will — and can — take just about any bill from unfinished business on any day.
I’m a little stressed out just thinking about it. Here’s some relaxing music. I discovered over the weekend that Squirrel Nut Zippers has a live album (from six years ago) and this version of Blue Angel is just what I need this morning. It’s your soundtrack.
With the House in Democratic hands and the Senate with a Republican majority, ’tis the season for bills to die between the chambers, which means one end of the hall votes yes and the other votes no.
Buckle your seatbelts, folks, if you want to keep up. Or don’t. We’ll try to keep y’all apprised of the ins and outs here at the Bangor Daily News.
Busy times like this are when the concept of the Daily Brief is most valuable, in our opinion. If you haven’t signed up for the every-morning email newsletter version, you can do it by clicking here. Then all you have to do is sit there and the daily political news will come to you. — Christopher Cousins
LePage attacks ‘job-crushing, anti-business’ environmentalists
Gov. Paul LePage has long been known for his personal letters to Mainers and they don’t always end with “Love, Paul.” In fact, in these letters the barbs can be frequent.
On March 14, Neil Gallagher of Brunswick sent the governor an angry letter lamenting his use of “wanted” posters at recent public appearances. The posters depicted people LePage labeled “job killers,” including staff from the Maine People’s Alliance, the AFL-CIO and the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).
“I keep thinking that the governor and his craven staff cannot sink any lower…” begins Gallagher’s letter, which ends with his pledge to make another donation to the NRCM in an effort to neutralize LePage’s stance against the organization.
LePage replied with the suggestion that Gallagher’s donation is a waste and that the NRCM’s environmental policies are preventing economic development. LePage highlighted the environmental group’s stance against large-scale metallic mineral mining in Maine.
“it is easy for residents of wealthy coastal towns to defend the policies of the Natural Resources Council of Maine,” wrote LePage in his March 22 letter, which was provided to the Bangor Daily News by the administration. “As they enjoy low rates of unemployment, nice homes and neighborhoods and thriving and successful business, residents of these towns may be unfamiliar with the harsh crisis facing rural Maine, especially in Northern and Downeast Maine. … The job-crushing, anti-business policies of NRCM are preventing rural Mainers from getting the kind of jobs they need to raise themselves out of poverty.”
To be fair, the opposition to the mining rules was about the rules themselves and fears that they would not protect the environment nor guarantee that mining operators would clean up when they leave.
Everett “Brownie” Carson, who for more than two decades led the Natural Resources Council of Maine, is running this year as a Democrat to represent the Senate district that includes Brunswick. If he wins, he will combine three things that irk LePage: Southern Maine, environmental activism and legislators. — Christopher Cousins
- A new bill that would allow commercial sailing vessels to serve alcohol to passengers was accepted last week for consideration during the waning days of this legislative session. The Legislative Council, composed of five Republican and five Democratic leaders, voted to let Democratic Sen. David Miramant of Camden submit a bill that would allow liquor licenses for vessels that have overnight passengers. The bill is expected to be scheduled for a public hearing soon.
- The AARP of Maine, Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves and others will gather this morning at the State House in another effort to pressure Gov. Paul LePage to release $15 million in voter-approved bonds that would create new and affordable senior citizen housing throughout Maine. Nearly 70 percent of the voters in November 2015 approved the bond, which had received bipartisan support in the Legislature. The chorus of voices calling on LePage to release those bonds has been growing. Meanwhile, the governor’s publicly stated reasons for holding the bonds back have been shifting.
- Expect all talk, no action on Maine welfare reform — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Food fight: Why the debate over food sovereignty continues — Abigail Curtis, BDN
- Zombie legislation: Why many passed bills never become law in Maine — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Angus King asks National Park Service director to visit Katahdin region — Nick Sambides Jr.
- States could make billions taxing internet access. Will Congress let them? — Moneytips.com
- The yeas and nays: How Maine’s congressional representatives voted last week — Targeted News Service
- Democrats rip DHHS for welfare program spending changes — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- GMO labeling advocates make new push in Maine — Kathleen Pierce, BDN
- Law change could make Maine vanity plates more risque — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
Things I’ll hear in my dreams and nightmares, plus all day every day
Now that the Legislature is beginning its five-day-a-week, possibly three-times-a-day marathon sessions, Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves and Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau will be spending hours upon hours at their respective rostrums (rostra? I don’t have time to research the plural of rostrum right now).
While theirs are unquestionably important positions in the Legislature, I’m sure Mike and Mark would tell you that most of their time is spent reciting the same scripts, over and over again. Here are some examples:
- Chairs are very powerful in Augusta. Dozens of times a day in the House and Senate, you’ll hear “the chair recognizes…” or “the chair understands…” or, to the shame of the poor chair, “the chair is in error.”
- “Finally passed as an emergency measure.” FINALLY. It was an emergency, after all.
- “Tabled until later in today’s session.” The State House is one of the only places I know of where “today” doesn’t mean “the day we are currently experiencing.” In fact, this turn of phrase could refer to a day weeks from now, or never. I swear I am not making this up.
- “Truly and strictly engrossed.” Because just plain old engrossed isn’t good enough.
- “Joint session.” This doesn’t mean what it meant when you were in college.
- “Special appropriations table.” I just wrote a whole story about that.
- “It’savote!” Even when there was no vote, it was a vote. And saying “It’s [space] a [space] vote” would take way too long.
- “They clerk will read the bill…” Almost every time, the clerk starts reading the bill and is immediately interrupted. This would be rude anywhere else.
- “The express desire…” No, the Legislature is not speed dating or hitting on you.
- “This bill has received its two several readings.” I have no clue what this one means but it’s my favorite. — Christopher Cousins