Poliquin invades Cain’s home turf to share his fix for student debt

Good morning from Augusta.

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit by Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves against Republican Gov. Paul LePage, prompting the speaker’s immediate vow to appeal the decision

Ever since July of 2015, Eves’ suit against the governor has hung over the State House like a dark cloud with promises of thunder and lightning after the 127th Legislature finished its work. While that’s still possible, Tuesday’s court decision signaled clear skies ahead, at least for now. Eves is term-limited out of office, erasing the prospect of him having to recuse himself from debates and votes — which he did during a failed bid earlier this year to impeach LePage.

In addition to the court, LePage has also been investigated by the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability and Government Oversight Committee, which resulted in no legislative action against LePage.

What does this mean for LePage’s ability to use his influence against people he doesn’t approve of? It will continue if people cross LePage. After all, Eves is just one name on LePage’s hit list. Let’s not forget that LePage also sent packing Maine National Guard Adjutant General James Campbell and Maine Community College System President John Fitzpatrick. — Christopher Cousins

Poliquin treads into Cain territory with college savings proposal

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin visited the University of Maine at Orono on Monday to introduce a new bill designed to help families save money for college. Poliquin’s proposal would make changes to what are called 529 college savings plans by increasing tax deductions for money deposited in savings plans, allowing employers to match contributions tax-free and implementing incentives for employers to administer the program for employees.

The fate of Poliquin’s proposal, titled the Help All Americans Save for College Act of 2016, remains to be seen, but it is a clear shot across the bow of Democrat Emily Cain’s campaign against him. Cain is a UMaine graduate and former employee with deep ties to the university. She represented Orono for 10 years in the Maine Legislature, and support for her is as strong there as it is anywhere in the 2nd Congressional District.

Poliquin’s bill will undoubtedly become campaign fodder, with the congressman touting its merits and the challenger arguing that with single-digit participation rates in 529 plans, the proposal only nibbles at the edges of the monumental student debt load in this country. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Sen. Susan Collins, both Republicans, hosted a visit to Maine on Tuesday by Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin. Shulkin announced during his visit to Cary Medical Center in Aroostook County and its Community-Based Outpatient Clinic that the VA plans to extend the pilot Access to Rural Health Care program, which helps veterans access services without traveling to the Togus VA medical center, which for many in northern Maine is hundreds of miles away.
  • As Mainers prepare to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana this November, the concept is having trouble elsewhere. The Vermont House of Representatives resoundingly defeated legalization in a 121-28 vote on Tuesday. To date, no state has legalized marijuana through its Legislature. Maine legislatures have consistently rejected similar measures during the past decade. Check out an analysis of Maine’s ballot question by the BDN’s Michael Shepherd by clicking here.
  • Cain, who as I’ve just mentioned is challenging Poliquin for the 2nd Congressional District seat, has hired Daniel Gleick as her new communications director. According to his LinkedIn page, Gleick has spent the past four years working for Washington, D.C.-based Hilltop Public Solutions, which has had him working on numerous political campaigns. At the top of his list of clients is former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell in Bell’s failed campaign to be the mayor of Houston, Texas.
  • Gov. Paul LePage will host a public town hall meeting tonight in Lewiston. The event begins at 6 p.m. at the Lewiston Ramada and Conference Center at 490 Pleasant Street.

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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.