Good morning from Augusta, where officials are readying for an election in just over three weeks that you may have already forgotten about if you knew about it at all.
Mainers will vote on June 13 on a $50 million bond issue for economic development, $45 million of which would be earmarked for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades in seven targeted sectors, including aquaculture, forestry, agriculture and composite materials.
That money would be administered by the Maine Technology Institute and would have to be matched on a one-to-one basis with federal or other funds, while the other $5 million in the bond package would be given to small businesses showing potential for growth and public benefit.
The Maine electorate loves bonds, passing 82 percent of the ones proposed since 1990, according to research from University of Maine at Farmington political scientist James Melcher, who noted that a June bond issue hasn’t been defeated in Maine during that time period.
In case you needed any more certainty that this one’s going to pass, Maine has passed 16 of 18 economic development bonds since 1990. They’ve passed with a 55 percent vote, on average. They’re Maine’s best-performing widely used type of bond, passing a greater percentage of the time than transportation, education or natural resources bonds.
The bond had wide support in the Legislature, passing with just 10 votes against it in the House of Representatives after testimony from A-list constituent groups including the University of Maine, the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and The Jackson Laboratory.
The sometimes bond-averse Gov. Paul LePage signed it into law contingent on this spring’s election, which was a change of tune of sorts after her vetoed a similar $20 million bond proposed by the Legislature, arguing that it should have funded this through appropriations and not borrowing.
It’s not a bad argument. If this bond passes, Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes estimates that the state will pay nearly $14 million in interest to borrow the money. The Legislature could just appropriate $50 million, but they’d have to find other money to do so. Borrowing allows the state to pay this money back over time.
That’s why it’s such an attractive option for politicians, even those as conservative as the governor. And nothing’s sinking this question based on Maine’s history. — Michael Shepherd
- Susan Collins and Angus King urge support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Maine’s two U.S. senators were among 48 senators who are lobbying the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies to support the program for the upcoming fiscal year. The LWCF and its Forest Legacy Program has funded more than 40,000 recreation projects in all 50 states, putting more than 2.5 million acres of land in conservation. Read the full letter penned by the senators by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins
- Maine’s congressional delegation urges funding for new VA medical facility leases. In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, all four members of Maine’s delegation asked for funding for 24 VA medical facility leases, including a proposed VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Portland that would consolidate the existing Saco and Portland CBOCs. Congressional authorization is required for leases that cost more than $1 million but none have happened since 2012. The Maine delegates have authored legislation in each of their chambers to authorize the pending leases but those bills have not been resolved. Read the complete letter to the VA by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins
- King will hold a discussion about the Republican American Health Care Act today. The independent senator, who caucuses with Democrats, and AARP Maine will bring together people from across Maine “who would likely be hurt by the House-passed bill,” according to a news release. The event begins at 10:15 a.m. at the Bangor Public Library. — Christopher Cousins
Today in A-town
There is little on today’s State House calendar, which has only the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee meeting this morning to vote and make recommendations on four bills.
However, the budget-writing committee could come in to take some votes on the two-year budget after a Sunday meeting behind closed doors. You’ll be hearing that intermittently over the next couple of weeks, with the committee keeping an unpredictable schedule.
One of the bills up in State and Local Government Committee — which so far exists only as a concept draft online — would require governors to make timely nominations for education commissioner.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-South Portland, is a shot at LePage, who from November 2014 until earlier this year refused to appoint a commissioner because Democrats opposed his choice, William Beardsley. Millett’s bill proposes putting a 90-day time limit on appointing a permanent commissioner.
That’s about it on the Augusta docket today. We’ll keep an eye on the budget and action will pick up tomorrow when the full Legislature returns to town for the first of what looks to be three consecutive days of churning through bills. — Christopher Cousins with Michael Shepherd
- State to close Machiasport prison next month — Alex Acquisto, BDN
- LePage refuses to put up road signs for North Woods national monument — Nick Sambides Jr., BDN
- How much LePage’s plan to end Maine Turnpike Authority could cost drivers — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Biden urges Colby graduates to pursue and spread dignity — Cousins
- Joe Biden disses Hillary Clinton: ‘I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate’ — Aaron Blake, The Washington Post
- Maine’s biggest electricity reseller allowed to keep operating in New York — Darren Fishell, BDN
- These offshore Maine islands are populated only by sheep — Nick McCrea, BDN
- The cost of higher education can saddle farming dreams — Lauren Abbate, BDN
- Trump summons Muslim nations to confront ‘Islamic terror of all kinds’ — The Washington Post
- McMaster does not deny details of Trump’s discussion with the Russians — The Washington Post
- Senate Democrats reject Lieberman for FBI director — Politico
Sharing the stage with a legend
I like seeing college graduations. I have heard many journalists complain about the tedium of speeches all on the same themes year after year and the pain of watching hundreds of students file past the podium to collect diplomas that cost $200,000 or more.
To me, the positive energy that swirls around a commencement ceremony of any kind tastes just fine.
I attended Colby College’s commencement on Sunday (my report is in the reading list, above) under pristine skies and a light spring breeze. Former Vice President Joe Biden was the speaker and the graduates were pretty impressed. One of them, Michaela Garrett, a psychology major from Spruce Head, told me the news Biden was coming hit the student body with a jolt that lasted days.
Muhebullah Esmat, a senior from Afghanistan, gave the only student speech during the ceremony. He was pretty impressed to be standing next to Biden, but maybe not for the reasons you expect.
“I always wondered what it would be like to meet a meme celebrity,” said Esmat. “Today, I am lucky enough to finally realize that dream with former Vice President Joe Biden.”
Some of the memes of Biden as he left office were genius. Like this one:
Trump: Can I get past?
Biden: What’s the password?
Trump: I don’t know.
Biden: Loser says what?
Or this one:
Biden (whispers): What if I just played it from my phone real quick?
Hillary: We’re not playing The Imperial March when he gets here, Joe.
Biden took it in stride. Or at least, he appeared to. That the former vice president’s legacy among some is tied to internet foolery must be a little annoying. Here’s Joe’s soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins