Good morning from Augusta, where the Maine Legislature will hit the ground running with a big hearing next week. But the issue they’re examining may be moot in a big way.
I’m talking about the struggle between Gov. Paul LePage’s administration and most of the Maine Legislature over a new, 22-bed mental health facility to house forensic patients, or those deemed not guilty of criminal acts or unfit for trial. The administration has identified funding for the building, which will cost between $3 million and $5 million.
Everyone agrees that a new facility is needed to regain federal certification at Riverview Psychiatric Center, but it’s now the subject of a political struggle at the State House.
The governor originally wanted to put the new facility next to Riverview in Augusta, but the plan was blocked twice by Democratic legislative leaders who wanted more information about it. LePage now says he’s putting it on state-owned land in Bangor.
On Thursday, the Legislature announced that its Appropriations and Financial Affairs and Health and Human Services committees will hold a joint hearing on the originally proposed Augusta facility on Jan. 5 — a day after lawmakers return in earnest for the 2017 session.
Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, called the hearing to ask the committees to report back with recommendations to the Legislative Council, the panel of 10 legislative leaders that must approve new construction on the capitol complex in Augusta.
But LePage called the Bangor location “a done deal” on WLOB on Wednesday, saying his administration won’t be participating in any legislative hearing on the matter.
“They can have the meeting, but the executive branch will not be present. It’s over,” he said. “We’re done. We’re moving on. We’re not re-opening this.”
That doesn’t bode well for the committees who want new information. But Rep. Patricia Hymanson, D-York, the health committee’s new House chairwoman, said it’s still worth having and that LePage “has been known to change his thinking from minute to minute and day to day.”
“Maine people deserve to have a lot of questions asked about this facility and we are up to the task of asking these questions,” she said. — Michael Shepherd
- Maine Attorney General Janet Mills signed onto a letter asking President-elect Donald Trump to keep climate change rules ushered in by President Barack Obama. Mills joined 13 other Democratic state attorneys general on the letter. Obama’s Clean Power Plan looks to limit emissions from coal-fired power plants. But West Virginia is leading a court fight to repeal the rules, lining up against less coal-reliant states including Maine. Trump has said he’ll kill the rules.
- Today’s the last day for Maine legislators to submit bills. Cloture is today at 4 p.m., after which we’ll get a glimpse of the titles of most bills the Legislature will consider in 2017. Titles of bills submitted by agencies and departments are already available. However, the governor can submit bills anytime and the Legislative Council can allow after-deadline bills, so these aren’t all the bills we’ll see in the New Year. — Michael Shepherd
Just a reminder that we’ve been posting the Daily Brief less frequently over the holiday season. We’ll be back on the normal, daily schedule on Tuesday after the New Year’s Day holiday. — Michael Shepherd
- 2016: Maine’s top stories of the year — Bangor Daily News
- Anti-marijuana forces urge Maine lawmakers to delay legalization — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Study: Make big changes to energy rules to aid Maine’s struggling loggers — Darren Fishell, BDN
- Former Portland Press Herald opinion writer dies in shooting — Beth Brogan, BDN
- Obama ousts 35 Russian operatives, imposes sanctions after election hacks — Reuters
- Vladimir Putin won’t expel U.S. diplomats as Russian foreign minister urged — The New York Times
- The luxurious, 45-acre compound in Maryland being shut down for alleged Russian espionage — The Washington Post
- Developer proposes nearly 300 housing units on Rufus Deering property in Portland — Jake Bleiberg, BDN
- Even in Maine, more people are going without cars — Fishell
Best of Maine’s Craigslist
- Neckless or necklace?: Someone in Scarborough is selling a “heart neckless,” but being neckless would make it hard to wear a necklace.
- Half of this was nice: A woman says she’s glad her ex “found someone who makes you happy even if I would gladly cut the smile off of her face.” But she’s headed to Florida and moving on. Here’s her soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd