Good morning from Augusta, where a Republican representative has called for a Maine Ethics Commission investigation of a former Democratic colleague for allegedly breaking rules that apply to State House lobbyists.
Rep. Sheldon Hanington, R-Lincoln, made the request for an investigation into former Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, in a letter Thursday afternoon to the Maine Ethics Commission. Hanington alleges that Goode, who was term-limited out of office in December 2016, is a lobbyist for the Maine AFL-CIO.
That would violate a law enacted unanimously and signed by Gov. Paul LePage in 2013 that bars lawmakers from becoming paid lobbyists in Maine until at least one year after leaving office.
Hanington alleges that Goode has testified before numerous legislative committees this year and identifies himself as the AFL-CIO’s legislative and political director on his written testimony.
“When questioned by committee members, Mr. Goode has acknowledged being a paid lobbyist working for the Maine AFL-CIO,” Hanington wrote.
Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, said Thursday that Hanington’s complaint was the first against a former lawmaker since the law took effect. Goode said this morning that he is in compliance with the law and has been in repeated contact with ethics commission staff.
Under the 2013 law, former lawmakers are limited to eight hours a month of paid lobbying, which includes virtually any communication with lawmakers, employees of the Legislature, Cabinet members and staff or constitutional officers. Any attempt to influence the outcome of pending legislation counts toward that limit.
“We totally understand and support this law. I’m well under eight hours a month,” said Goode by phone Friday. “I’ve documented all my time.”
Goode said he suspects Hanington’s complaint was lodged because he is advocating in favor of policies that offend “rich and powerful” Republicans, such as raising the minimum wage and advocating against tax cuts for upper earners.
“It really seems like these personal attacks are a reaction by powerful people who don’t want to focus on issues that Mainers care about,” he said.
Wayne said the maximum penalty for this violation is $1,000. The case has not yet been assigned a hearing date but the next steps will be for Goode to provide a written response and for the commission to vote on whether ethics commission staff should continue an investigation. — Christopher Cousins
Sportsman’s alliance head calls on LePage to boost conservation funding
The governor’s support for an award to perhaps the largest maple sugarbush in the country under the Land for Maine’s Future program has one of the state’s top conservationists calling on LePage to increase funding before the governor leaves office in 2019.
We reported this week that the LePage administration is supporting the Big Six Forest, which contains a 4,500-acre sugarbush in Somerset County, in a possible application to the program later this year. It could help complete a $6 million fundraising project to preserve the 23,600-acre property.
The project is notable on its own, but also because the owner, Paul Fortin, is a LePage donor who would get a $5.7 million easement if it goes through. LePage has been sharply critical of the Land for Maine’s Future program, blocking $11.5 million in bonds for much of 2015.
One of LePage’s key adversaries in that fight was the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, whose executive director, David Trahan, said the governor’s support of the Big Six showed him that it’s “time to have a little discussion” about whether the program needs more than the $4.25 million in old bond money left in its coffers.
“The governor could rebuild a lot of bridges with different groups around the state if he would show support going forward when this project’s done,” said Trahan, a former Republican lawmaker. “And the first thing he could do is replenish that program either by supporting a small bond or finding some money in his budget to pay for some projects through the end of his term in office.” — Michael Shepherd
- What would Trump’s plans for the Navy mean to Bath Iron Works? Speculation about Bath Iron Works adding jobs if President Donald Trump’s vision of a 355-ship Navy was tempered Wednesday by the vice chief of naval operations, who said at least an additional $150 billion would be needed to build enough ships to get the fleet to that size. Admiral Bill Moran, speaking at a Washington, D.C. event, argued that “we need to get on that trajectory as fast as we can,” USNI reported. “Our number, give or take, to get to 355, or just to get started in the first seven years, is $150 billion. That’s a lot of money.” As part of an expansion plan, the Navy would likely focus on adding attack submarines, aircraft carriers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. BIW only makes the latter and competes with shipyards in the South for contracts. Further, defense analysts are deeply skeptical that budget hawks in Congress would support so drastic an increase, especially amid ongoing questions from the Congressional Budget Office and others about persistent cost overruns in the Navy’s shipbuilding budget. — Beth Brogan
- Maine’s branch of the ACLU takes a shot at Trump’s immigration policy. In a Thursday letter to Maine law enforcement agencies, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine attempted to remind sheriffs and chiefs that they are not obligated to comply with new orders to hold individuals longer than they otherwise would because of Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds not issued by a judge. “Local law enforcement should know that they have a choice about whether to comply with the president’s demands when it comes to immigration enforcement,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director of the ACLU of Maine. “In fact, we’re all better off if they choose not to.” The letter is a Maine-based salvo in a multi-pronged legal assault by rights groups against Trump’s attempts to toughen immigration policy. — Robert Long
- Susan Collins will be in Brewer today. She will visit the Bangor Area Recovery Network and talk with its leaders about their work in the community, according to a news release. The event is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. The network provides a number of services to help people addicted to drugs. — Christopher Cousins
Today in A-town
The House and Senate are off until Tuesday but committees are humming along.
- This morning, the Health and Human Services Committee will take testimony on a trio of bills that have to do with the administration of life-saving medications for opioid addicts as well as a bill to expand Maine’s Medicaid program to cover lung cancer screenings.
- The Transportation Committee will hold a work session — and possibly a vote — on a bill to require Maine to comply with federal Real ID guidelines. Over in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee could be recommendation votes on a number of high-profile gun bills, including one that would prohibit the creation of a firearms registry and another that would lower the age requirement for carrying a concealed handgun from 21 to 18. The committee will consider votes on several other firearms-related bills this afternoon.
- There could be some interesting recommendation votes in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on bills to allow unenrolled voters to vote in primaries and to require new residency verification measures for all voters. After those high-profile votes, the same committee will consider bills that have to do with wine, beer and other malt beverages — though presumably the deliberations won’t include tastings.
Check the committee schedule for today’s full docket. — Christopher Cousins
- LePage now backs GOP health plan, urges support from King, Collins — Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Trump tells GOP it’s now or never, demanding House vote on health bill — The New York Times
- Nine health-care bill changes aimed at wooing moderates and the far-right — The Washington Post
- Bangor would be hardest-hit by Trump cuts to heating aid — Darren Fishell, BDN
- All but 2 Maine counties had more deaths than births in 2016 — Fishell
- Bangor needs $63 million to keep raw sewage from spilling into Penobscot — Danielle McLean, BDN
- Bill to protect against Maine oil spills likely dead — Jake Bleiberg, BDN
- Ex-legislator pleads not guilty to defrauding elderly widow out of $2 million — Judy Harrison, BDN
- Days before his death, Putin critic said in interview he knew he was in danger — The Washington Post
- U.S. Senate votes to overturn Obama broadband privacy rules — Reuters
Poliquin loses conspiratorial newspaper on REAL ID
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin couldn’t have expected this kind of flak when he urged Maine lawmakers earlier this month to finally comply with the federal REAL ID law for driver’s licenses.
The Fort Fairfield Journal published a front-page story comparing REAL ID to the biblical “Mark of the Beast,” saying it will make Mainers “economic slaves” who won’t be able to “buy or sell, open a bank account, or engage in any form business (sic) anywhere without having first submitted to a government mandated people tracking/controlling scheme.”
This is not an original thought, having percolated in far-right circles for a decade. There are more reasonable concerns about privacy and data warehousing under the law and passed its own 2007 law barring participation because of those concerns.
But who needs nuance? Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd
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