Pingree launches new effort to aid military sex assault survivors

Good morning from my living room, folks, where it feels like the lull after the storm. I’m not used to looking up the legislative calendar first thing in the morning and seeing almost nothing there. Luckily for the Daily Brief, the political world never sleeps.

As of early Tuesday, there has been no indication that Gov. Paul LePage will issue any line-item vetoes. That means the Legislature won’t have to convene on Wednesday and that we won’t likely see action in the House and Senate again until April 29 when lawmakers return to consider regular vetoes. It’s certain, after all, that LePage will veto a number of bills that were sent to him by the Legislature last week.

Of interest at the State House today is a planned presentation by the conservative Maine Heritage Police Center on the topic of health care. Specifically, the think tank will unveil “Health Care Costs in Maine,” an analysis of price variations between hospitals for identical services.

That press conference begins at 1 p.m. at the State House. I wonder if MHPC will discuss the cost of a bad case of loving you? Here’s their soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Pingree seeks protections for military sex assault victims

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said Monday that she is trying to block national intelligence agencies from forcing applicants for security clearance to disclose if they have received counseling in the wake of a sexual assault.

Victims of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder have long been exempted from disclosing any counseling they received on what is known as Form 86 — which anyone seeking security clearance must complete. Since a 2013 intervention by Pingree, survivors of sexual assault have also been exempt from disclosing that they have received counseling, according to Pingree. That may change soon as Form 86 is reworked and possibly stripped of all exemptions from the counseling question — including for people with PTSD, sexual assault survivors, and people who have been divorced or lost loved ones.

“I want to express my urgent concern that the counseling exemption for [military sexual trauma] survivors included in your interim guidance — that has proven to be so successful and so significant for survivors of rape in the military — is poised for elimination,” wrote Pingree in an April 13 letter to James R. Clapper Jr., director of national intelligence. “I ask that you do not go back, changing the rules yet again and expecting that the best of intentions will somehow eliminate the stigma of counseling or the fear that any mention of counseling will derail a career.”

Pingree cited a number of sexual assault survivors that fear of having to disclose past counseling would block security clearance approval and hinder their careers. Pingree said she has heard that the revised Form 86 could ask applicants if stress or trauma has ever affected them at work and if so, would ask them to report any counseling they have received. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation have lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to allow the export of shellfish to the European Union. Because of an impasse involving reciprocal auditing agreements, only two states — not including Maine — are being audited by the EU to determine whether shellfish products are suitable for export. Read the delegation’s letter to the FDA by clicking here.
  • Gov. Paul LePage will hold a public town hall meeting today beginning at 6 p.m. at Biddeford High School, 20 Maplewood Ave., in Biddeford. It marks LePage’s first town hall since the Legislature recessed and the first since he canceled a town hall in Newcastle last week without warning or notification to the public.

Reading list

Brothers in legs finish marathon together

Amid this great story about yesterday’s Boston Marathon by the BDN’s Ernie Clark were some very touching bits about brotherhood. One was how 58-year-old Michael Westphal of Great Cranberry Island, who has Parkinson’s Disease, completed the marathon Monday for his first time since 1986. He did so with his brother, Rolf, at his side.

The Westphals were one of at least two brother teams from Maine to compete on Monday. Twin brothers Wade and Ward Boudreau of Gardiner crossed the finish line with identical times.

Runs in the family, I guess. — 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.