LePage to attend Trump’s ball on Sunday. Will they do more than dance?

Good morning from Augusta. Gov. Paul LePage has been in Washington, D.C., this week for a host of events, including an annual conservative conference and President Donald Trump’s black-tie ball for governors on Sunday.

The Republican governor has a speaking slot on welfare reform — one of his signature topics — at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday. There, he’ll speak alongside J. Scott Moody, the former CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center who now works for the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC.

Around this event, the Republican Governors Association is also holding its annual meeting. On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will address that group, according to POLITICO.

LePage political adviser Brent Littlefield said LePage will also attend the annual Governor’s Ball on Sunday. It’s a regularly held event timed to coincide with the National Governors Association’s annual meeting.

However, governor’s office has been somewhat coy about LePage’s schedule this week. On Wednesday, LePage spokesman Peter Steele said only the governor was traveling to Washington for the RGA meeting.

Spokespeople didn’t answer more detailed questions Thursday about his schedule and contact with the Trump administration, including whether he has met with members of the president’s team on or before this trip. The Bangor Daily News made a Freedom of Access Act request for his recent schedule on Thursday.

Littlefield referred questions on those subject to LePage’s office, but he said LePage, his wife, Ann LePage, their daughter, Lauren, and Chief of Staff John McGough will be in Washington with the governor, who he said is “working hard” to spur economic growth in Maine.

“That has been his focus,” he said. “It continues to be his focus.” — Michael Shepherd

Today in A-town

A legislative committee is expected to approve more than $24 million in emergency funding for addiction treatment, higher education and other agencies. The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. today to give a final recommendation on the supplemental budget proposal for this year. It’s expected to sail through the Legislature as early as next week. Gov. Paul LePage’s original proposal was uncontroversial. 

The package now includes a $4.8 million compromise between Democrats and LePage to use state and federal funding to expand opiate addiction treatment to 400 Mainers. It also includes $7.6 million to the University of Maine, $7 million to rescue the embattled Maine Military Authority, $4.8 million to rehabilitate fish hatcheries and $500,000 for disaster assistance.

Quick hits

  • Progressive activist Ben Chin is running again to be mayor of Lewiston. His Thursday announcement came after he announced that announcement last week. Chin, an organizer with the progressive Maine People’s Alliance, was the runner-up against Mayor Robert Macdonald in a historic 2015 race where Chin raised $90,000 — 15 times more than the conservative mayor, who is now term-limited. Independent Mark Cayer, a former city council president, also plans to run in 2017.
  • Public health groups descended on Augusta to fight LePage’s effort to redirect funding from prevention programs to Medicaid. The governor’s budget proposal would nearly eliminate tobacco and obesity prevention programs under the Fund for a Healthy Maine, redirecting those dollars to increase reimbursement rates to providers under Medicaid. It’s similar to what LePage proposed in 2015, arguing that money is better spent at the primary care level, but public health groups have said cutting prevention work would lead to higher youth smoking rates and more expensive care down the road. Many testified against LePage’s proposal on Thursday in front of the Appropriations Committee, including the Maine Public Health Association, American Heart Association and the Maine Medical Association.
  • The campaign that led the fight against recreational marijuana in Maine applauded the possibility of Trump enforcing federal law on it. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that the administration may increase enforcement of federal laws banning recreational marijuana use in states that have legalized it — a group that Maine joined at the ballot box in 2016. Advocates worried about that more after Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions, a longtime marijuana hawk, as attorney general. In a statement, Scott Gagnon, the chairman of Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities, which fought legalization here, said his group would “welcome and support the Trump administration taking a smarter approach to enforcing federal drug policy that puts public health ahead of profiting off addiction.”
  • Democratic legislative leaders are heading to Fort Kent for a town hall meeting. It’ll coincide with the Can-Am Crown International sled dog race on March 3 at the University of Maine at Fort Kent at 6:30 p.m., featuring Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport, Assistant Senate Minority Leader Nathan Libby of Lewiston and Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden of Lewiston. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

When it takes two to put on pants

I came downstairs yesterday to hear my older son struggling in the living room. He was trying to help my younger boy button his pants.

“Mmmrrrrraaarrgggh,” he said (there’s no good way to spell the noises he was making. “Dad, I think these pants are too small.”

There was more grunting and struggling, like they were trying to remove Excalibur from the stone or help Sisyphus carry his load up the hill. Then, “I got it!” said the older boy. Both of them cheered.

“But,” said the younger one, “I have to go pee.”

The most surprising thing is that I’m surprised at all. Here’s their soundtrack. —Christopher Cousins

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.