Good morning from Augusta, where progress is being made, but slowly. The House and Senate have both progressed to the phase of the session when many of the bills that come through require debate.
The emerging story of this session is the number of bills that die because of disagreements between the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House. That’s not just me making things up. There’s data!
According to the eminently helpful Jon Clark at the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis, who crunched the numbers Tuesday afternoon so they don’t reflect yesterday’s late-day House and Senate sessions, about 56 percent of the 416 bills on the Legislature’s docket have reached final disposition. Here’s where it becomes interesting:
Of the 236 bills with final disposition, 28 have died between the House and Senate in nonconcurrence. That’s 12 percent, which is easily the highest since Gov. Paul LePage took office in 2011. Last year, in the first year of the 127th Legislature, 114 of 1,278 bills died between the bodies, or about 9 percent.
For comparison, 3 percent of bills died between the bodies in the 126th Legislature, when the Democrats had majorities, and 1 percent suffered that death in the 125th, when Republicans had the majority.
This calls for a soundtrack, though I’m feeling a little like Captain Obvious with this one.
Does that support the notion that the Legislature is gridlocked and accomplishing little this year? That’s a complex question that can be answered in different ways.
Are they accomplishing substantive changes that improve Maine? Not so much, comparatively speaking.
Are bills going into law? Yes. As of today, Gov. Paul LePage has signed 54 bills into law in 2016. And counting, presumably, though his frustration with the Legislature is growing. His message in public lately has shifted largely to the narrative that he’s given up on progress until January, when the new Legislature is seated.
That’s presuming Republicans make gains in the balance of legislative power, and not just any Republicans. They’ll have to be Republicans who agree with the governor. — Christopher Cousins
LePage: ‘I am done with drugs, period’
Remember about 3 second ago, when I was discussing LePage and his ability to work with the Legislature? When it comes to the fight against drug addiction, the governor says the fight is over and he blames the Legislature.
During his weekly radio address on WVOM on Tuesday, he said he’s fed up with the drug fight and frustrated about the rejection of his bill to ramp up penalties for drug convictions. On Monday, it died because of a disagreement between the House and Senate, as we’ve been discussing this morning.
“If they want drugs, let them have drugs,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve tried everything I can and the Legislature keeps killing the bills so hey, have at it, boys.”
The governor speaks as if the Legislature doesn’t want to fight the drug problem, but that doesn’t hold up when you look around. The Legislature and LePage did agree to hire more drug investigators and funnel more money to treatment and recovery, remember? That was in January. And there are still several anti-drug bills pending, such as one sponsored by Republican Sen. Scott Cyrway of Benton, which would increase penalties for drug importation. There’s also a bill proposed by Attorney General Janet Mills which would correct inconsistencies in Maine law for drug crime convictions.
Right now, it sits between the House and Senate in nonconcurrence. — Christopher Cousins
LePage: I’m not done with Angus King
In comments at the Orono-Old Town Kiwanis Club on Tuesday evening, the governor lashed out at independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, criticizing the former governor for his private dealings in the energy sector, which LePage said have benefited King to the tune of more than $100 million.
Hat tip to BDN reporter Abigail Curtis for capturing these comments.
“He ripped us off royally,” said LePage. “I can’t wait until 2018. I think that’s the guy I’m going to go after.”
Is LePage planning a run for the U.S. Senate? That seems to be what he’s suggesting, though let’s remember he has made similar claims before including during appearances on the Howie Carr show. And this isn’t the first time he’s singled out King.
LePage then gave his now-familiar assessment of how politicians fall into three groups: “backbenchers” who do nothing but follow others, people who enter politics to enrich themselves (like King, according to LePage) and people who are in it for the right reasons (like LePage, according to LePage).
“I’m here for one reason,” said the governor. “I took a 70 percent cut in pay to be your governor. I will have given up about $1.8 million. There’s no room in public service for people who do it for themselves.” — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Maybe you’ve noticed: The Bangor Daily News is providing sustained throughout-the-day coverage of the Legislature’s marathon sessions in the countdown to adjournment. You can see yesterday’s liveblog in the reading list, below. For today’s click here.
- The first courtroom showdown between LePage and Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves will play out today in U.S. District Court in Portland, when attorneys for LePage will argue for the dismissal of a civil lawsuit Eves filed against the governor last year. The suit argues that LePage violated Eves’ rights when he forced Good Will-Hinckley to rescind an employment contract with Eves by threatening to withdraw state funding for a charter school. LePage counters that he acted within his executive authority. Today’s hearing is one step in what has already been and what will continue to be a long process.
- Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins added to her trophy cabinet Tuesday when she received the Champions for Children award during a summit hosted by the Save the Children Action Network. Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles said in a written statement that Collins and the other recipients were honored “for their dedication to improving access to high-quality early childhood education here and ending the preventable deaths of mothers and children around the world.”
- A lot of you are cramming to finish your taxes this week, I presume. Hear this: Maine Revenue Services urges caution in the wake of recent data breaches. Here’s something that didn’t occur to me: One of the first steps you should take if you suspect your personal data has been compromised is to call Maine Revenue Services. The number is (207) 626-8475.
- New Balance claims Defense Department strung it along on military sneaker contract — Patty Wight, MPBN
- Poliquin won’t be delegate to GOP national convention — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- (Liveblog) Last days of LePage’s least favorite Legislature — BDN staff
- Maine group joins in post-Panama Papers lobbying effort — Darren Fishell, BDN
- By one vote, Maine Senate agrees to Medicaid expansion, but faces LePage veto — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- LePage changes story on how southern Maine could lose 900 jobs — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Why the path to a North Woods national monument could run through Portland — Seth Koenig, BDN
‘It’s a boat, BANG, it’s a boat, BANG’
Earlier this year, BDN reporter Darren Fishell had some fun with video from the Senate and re-edited Republican Sen. Roger Katz’s appearance at the rostrum on Franco-American Day into a catchy little song. It’s a lot of fun; check it out.
And yes, it’s catchy. Enough so that my two boys are still singing it a month later with varying degrees of accuracy. Yesterday, I noticed my 5-year-old was saying “it’s a boat” instead of “it’s a vote.” His brother corrected him.
“Oh I didn’t even know that,” he said. “Wait, what’s a vote?”
Even at home, I’m a political reporter. — Christopher Cousins