Gov. Paul LePage wasn’t home on Wednesday because of a quick jaunt to Washington, D.C., to stand beside President Donald Trump at two news conferences. Maine’g governor also used the opportunity to bend administration ears on infrastructure and trade policy.
That’s a key issue for LePage, who has already asked Trump to undo former President Barack Obama’s 2016 designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument near Millinocket.
It’s unclear whether Trump alone could undo a monument, but Congress could. Maine’s monument wasn’t included on a list of monuments that will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
However, Trump’s order also allows for monuments created “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders” to be reviewed, and LePage is arguing that Maine is covered because of local opposition and a symbolic vote against it in the Legislature.
But the real legislative battle in Washington will be over the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows unilateral presidential designations. Many Republicans — particularly in western states such as Utah — want to rein in by adding provisions for state and local control over monuments.
“Congress can do anything. It’s up to Congress,” LePage said Thursday on WGAN. “They passed the Antiquities Act; they can change it.”
It’s safe to say that Maine isn’t the biggest target. Utah Republicans want two national monuments designated by Obama there rescinded. On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said she hasn’t heard any talk of legislative efforts to repeal Maine’s monument.
But LePage was busy on other issues on Wednesday as well. He was by Trump’s side when he signed another executive order to ensure federal compliance with laws allowing local control of education standards.
He also had two private meetings. One was with Trump’s advisor on infrastructure, where LePage’s office said he raised the need for expanded rural broadband service and improved port and rail transport. The other was with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the impact of a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union on Maine’s lobster industry.
On one hand, the governor is using his federal connections to try to get Washington out of Maine. On the other, there’s a lot the feds can do to boost infrastructure and other industries here. That’s a constant tension in Maine politics. — Michael Shepherd
- ‘Buy America, Build Maine Act’ headed to Senate for consideration. The act, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, would require the state to give preference to native companies in awarding public works contracts. The bill would also give Maine companies an advantage: If their bid on a project is higher than an out-of-state bid, they would have the opportunity to match the lower bid. The bill was voted out of the State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday with a partisan, 7-4 vote with Republicans opposed. It will come to the Senate for debate in the coming weeks. Similar efforts in recent legislatures either failed or were vetoed by LePage. — Christopher Cousins
- Collins’ bid to create National Diabetes Commission goes to U.S. Senate. The bill, sponsored by Collins and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, would create a national panel of health experts to explore new research and prevention avenues. A related bill has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The National Clinical Care Commission Act received a unanimous endorsement Wednesday from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. — Christopher Cousins
- Angus King’s Zika virus bill moves ahead. The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday unanimously supported King’s bill to fight the spread of the Zika virus. The Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health Act would authorize public health tools — and up to $100 million a year in grant funding — aimed at mosquito surveillance and control. The bill also authorizes research into new public health measures and requires report-backs to Congress In 2016, 44 states reported cases of pregnant women with evidence of a Zika infection. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican senators, now heads to the full Senate for consideration. — Christopher Cousins
Today in A-town
The House and Senate are in this morning for sessions that are becoming increasingly busy as we wind toward May. In the House, there could be debate today on a bill that would force the release of $15 million in voter-approved senior citizen housing bonds, which Gov. Paul LePage has refused to sign. The bill comes out of the Appropriations Committee with a partisan 8-5 recommendation.
There are a number of other divided reports. The House could also debate and vote on a bill that would return the normal costs of teacher retirement from municipalities to the state at a cost to the General Fund of more than $22 million a year. That expense has been shifted from the state to the local level in recent years, under LePage. That bill comes from the Education Committee with a 7-6 recommendation for passage.
Also on the House calendar for possible debate today is a bill that would end daylight savings time in Maine and put Maine in the Atlantic time zone. Should you be prepared to reset your clocks? We’ll see. While you wait, here’s a soundtrack.
- The Senate will vote to confirm to gubernatorial appointments that came from committees with unanimous endorsements. A number of other bills are possibly up for debate, though at the State House bills don’t come up for debate until leadership wants to debate them, whether they’re on the calendar or not.
- In committee action this afternoon, the Taxation Committee will hear testimony on several bills that would changes Maine’s tax code; the Judiciary Committee will examine changes to the Maine Tort Claims Act; the Health and Human Services Committee will be presented with more bills that make changes to how social service benefits can be used in Maine; the Education Committee is taking testimony on proposed new high school graduation standards; and the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee is hearing two new bills that promote solar-powered electricity generation. Check out today’s full committee schedule by clicking here.
- At 1:30 p.m. today is a meeting of the Legislative Council, which is made up of the 10 legislative leaders from both chambers. We haven’t seen the agenda for that meeting but it’s likely the committee will consider whether to allow new bills into the legislative process, among other business. We’ll let you know if anything major happens. — Christopher Cousins
- Maine monument’s future in doubt after Trump orders review of national monuments — Nick Sambides Jr., BDN
- Mining bill clears major hurdle, divides environmental activists — Anthony Brino, BDN
- Is Question 2 driving doctors out of Maine? — Jackie Farwell, BDN
- These 3 careers are adding the most jobs in Maine — Rosie Hughes, BDN
- Regulators allow Stored Solar to return state aid deposit, take subsidy later — Darren Fishell, BDN
- Collins again ranked most bipartisan U.S. senator — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- FairPoint to phase out regulated landlines in 5 more Maine communities — Fishell
- Recruiting international students is balancing Maine high school budgets — Robbie Feinberg, Maine Public
- White House unveils dramatic plan to overhaul tax code — The Washington Post
- Treasury secretary says Trump ‘has no intention’ of releasing tax returns — The Washington Post
Uneven parenting of my sons
I had to take my older boy to school early today so he could work on a math project, leaving me with the younger son and about 40 minutes to kill before school started.
We went to Cafe Creme, one of my favorite morning stops in downtown Bath — which I don’t do nearly often enough because I’m usually headed to Augusta. Cafe Creme is one of my older boy’s favorite places on Earth. I think sitting here (I’m in one of the comfy couches as I write) makes him feel hip.
“Should we tell Caleb we came here?” said the younger boy.
“Why shouldn’t we?” I said.
“He might get jealous,” he said, drinking a hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate drizzled on top through a straw. I thought of the older boy, in a classroom laboring over his math. Yeah, Cafe Creme is better than math, by a long shot. I’m such a cruel parent.
Now, back to my Sriracha-potato-and-egg croissant. Here’s our soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins
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