Good morning from Augusta, where we’re wondering where Gov. Paul LePage is in the run-up to the November referendum on expanding Medicaid in Maine.
We’re used to the governor’s stony silence toward Maine’s newspapers and other reporters, but he has been largely absent from the public eye since late August. That’s after months of him making weekly radio appearance on WGAN and WVOM — which he seems to have stopped, at least for now.
Earlier this year, LePage said he would resume the town hall-style public appearances that marked much of his second term in office, but those have not materialized either. It’s less than seven weeks before the November election, when voters will decide whether to expand Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and the voice that’s been leading the opposition to that prospect for years is silent, at least publicly.
So where is he? We asked his office Tuesday about why no town halls, why no radio appearances and whether LePage would sit down for an interview to discuss the Medicaid initiative, but received no response. Here’s his soundtrack.
The HHS secretary took a private jet to Waterville
It’s an example of the Trump administration’s break with Obama-era policies on domestic travel. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s took private flights five times last week for official business, according to Politico. That’s astronomically more costly than commercial flights, which were used by his predecessors for domestic travel during the Obama administration. One industry official estimated the total cost of last week’s travel at a total of $40,000.
And one of of those trips was to and from Waterville. On Sept. 13, he flew in a charter from Washington, D.C. to Waterville’s airport. Then, he spent the night at the Point Lookout resort in Northport and spoke the next day at an athenahealth conference there, leaving for Portsmouth, N.H. in the late morning. The CEO of an encryption services company has a brief account of Price’s chat on his blog.
Lawmakers want to learn more about health care, special education
Legislative leaders agreed to let two task forces move forward on Tuesday. The votes at the Legislative Council, which is made up of Republican and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate, were uncontroversial. One of the task forces, which will study Maine’s health care system, will be accomplished at least partially with dozens of private donations ranging from $10 to hundreds, which were provided by donors from across Maine to the tune of around $7,000. The other task force will study special education cost drivers in Maine’s public schools, which has long been a controversial though untouched subject. Whether those task forces accomplish what they set out to do remains to be seen.
- LePage’s plan to put a forensic psychiatric unit in Bangor hit a snag Tuesday. Following a contentious hearing about the governor’s plan to build a step-down forensic psychiatric hospital, Bangor city councilors have called for a six-month moratorium ordinance.
- The University of Maine is trying to adjust its programs to meet Maine’s workforce needs. System Chancellor James Page told trustees this week that there is no way to meet those needs without public education playing an “integral” role.
- One of the labor unions at Bath Iron Works is talking about going on strike. The Bath Marine Draftsmen’s Association, Local 3999 of the International Union of United Automobile Workers, which represents about 700 workers, rejected BIW’s “last, best and final offer” on Sunday and say they will prepare to strike unless negotiations don’t succeed this week.
- Portland and Brunswick have taken steps toward celebrating indigenous people on Columbus Day. On Monday, Portland voted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the federal holiday and the Brunswick Town Council made a similar move while still observing Columbus Day.
- President Donald Trump lashed out at North Korea on Tuesday during a speech at the United Nations. He said that the U.S. would have to “totally destroy” the country unless it stops its development of nuclear weapons.
Elton John’s role in World War III
It all started when Trump referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a “rocket man” on a suicide mission. Then there was a bit of a Twitter storm quoting Elton John lyrics, including one who claimed North Korea had called Trump the “madman across the water.” (That’s the name of Sir Elton’s fourth album.)
“We are going to get thrown into nuclear war as a result of a Twitter duel of Elton John lyrics,” observed BDN editor Robert Long.
You heard it here first: The war will start late on a Saturday. Here’s your soundtrack.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.