Pressure to free tabled LePage bill mounting on top Democrat

Good morning from Augusta and happy April Fools Day. I promise I will not try to trick you. I know a journalist who lost his job for publishing a story years ago about then-Gov. John Baldacci’s “plan” to put a tollbooth on the Sagadahoc Bridge on Route 1 between Bath and Woolwich.

So, you can let your guard down, for now, and be grateful that you’re not my kids. It’s 6:45 a.m., and I’m debating how long I let them believe there’s no school today because of a “power outage” caused by a chipmunk.

Weak, I know, but it’s working so far.

The House and Senate are in session on a Friday for the first time this year, with hundreds of bills left to go and three weeks until adjournment. Check out the House calendar here and the Senate calendar here if you’re interested. ‘Tis the season for all the high-profile bills you’ve heard about for the past few months to come up for debate and dispensation.

Of note on this afternoon’s committee calendar is Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond of Portland’s bill to establish a presidential primary in Maine. It’s likely there will be a committee recommendation by day’s end.

And, we’ll be keeping an eye out for fallout from yesterday’s 7-6 vote by the Labor Committee (read more about that in the Reading list, below) against Gov. Paul LePage’s nomination of long-time law enforcement officer Steven Webster to the Unemployment Insurance Commission.

Only a few more hours left until the weekend, folks. Here’s your soundtrack, from Loverboy, but not what you’re probably expecting. I gotta do it my way. — Christopher Cousins

The question Jeff McCabe still won’t answer

On March 15, Democratic House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan used a rare “tabled unassigned” procedural maneuver to essentially kill a bill proposed by Gov. Paul LePage that would hold back state funding to municipalities that resist the exchange of any individual’s immigration status.

The bill has approximately zero chance of enactment as long as the Democrats have the majority in the House, but McCabe’s move has angered Republicans. Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, has been asking McCabe on a daily basis to revive the bill but McCabe has refused to answer the question.

As of Thursday, McCabe has more than Lockman asking him the question. Fifty-nine House members delivered a letter to McCabe on Thursday, demanding that he let the bill, LD 1652, proceed through the process.

“No individual legislator should be allowed to single-handedly shut down debate and block a straight up-or-down vote on pending legislation,” reads the letter.

Will McCabe bend? We’ll see. — Christopher Cousins

Canada and U.S. entering talks over unfair trade in paper industry

Unfair trade practices between the U.S. and Canada in the paper making industry have long been blamed as one of the reasons that paper mills in Maine have had an increasingly tough go of it.

On Wednesday, Canada initiated talks over the trade dispute regarding supercalendered paper at the World Trade Organization by filing a request for consultations. According to Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, both countries have acknowledged that Canada has been providing export-related subsidies to their supercalendered paper industry to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers. Bates said Canada has refused to remove the offending subsidies for at least two years.

“It is ironic now for Canada to be invoking WTO remedies to address a legitimate U.S. response to massive large Canadian provincial subsidies that caused harm to U.S. companies and workers,” said Bates in a written statement.

Could the needle finally be moving on this years-long dispute? Stay tuned. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

My April Fools Day scheme has backfired and I’m terrified

As I wrote earlier in this column, I have already pulled a mild April Fools Day prank on my boys by telling them there is no school today. The fib didn’t hold up long and the only practical result of it is that now both boys are on the April Fools Day warpath.

They put salt in their mother’s coffee, risking their lives and anyone else my lovely wife encounters when she hasn’t had enough coffee.

And now, curiously, they keep asking when I’ll be done with this blog and when I’m coming downstairs.

Pray for me. — 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.