Good morning from Augusta. Gov. Paul LePage is back in Washington, D.C., this morning for a meeting with President Donald Trump and three other Republican governors. But we’re not sure what it’s about.
They’re booked for more than an hour on an undefined topic. The meeting is scheduled from 11:35 a.m. to 12:40 p.m., according to online versions of Trump’s daily schedule. LePage told WGAN last week that he was going to the nation’s capital on Monday and could ask executive branch officials about sheriffs’ concerns with federal immigration detainer requests.
But his office is staying mum. LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz didn’t immediately respond to a Monday email seeking comment on the meeting agenda. He last met with Trump in June on energy issues, but he was with Vice President Mike Pence last month to lobby for passage of the stalled Graham-Cassidy bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.
The company also doesn’t give us much of a clue. LePage and Trump will be joined by Govs. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Matt Bevin of Kentucky and Phil Bryant of Mississippi. Bevin and Bryant also endorsed Graham-Cassidy, but Sununu opposed it and Trump has shifted his focus to tax reform. We’ll have to see what leaks out of the meeting today.
LePage makes his choice for finance chief
On Friday, LePage nominated Alec Porteous as the next commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. Porteous, who joined the administration in 2014, was chief financial officer for the Department of Health and Human Services before being moved over to the finance department on an interim basis after the sudden resignation of former finance chief Richard Rosen during tense state budget negotiations. He faces vetting by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee and confirmation by the Senate, perhaps when the Legislature convenes for a special session.
- The Legislature will convene for a special session Oct. 23. LePage set that date on Friday so lawmakers can return to take up a bill regulating recreational marijuana, a legal conflict related to Maine’s ranked-choice voting law, a food sovereignty bill that has the federal Department of Agriculture concerned and a potential funding snafu related to a state mapping agency. But the Portland Press Herald reported that House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, a Newport Republican and gubernatorial candidate, is likely to oppose the marijuana bill that the LePage administration has been disengaged on. The session could be a bumpy one.
- The Coast Guard is casting blame on the owner and the captain of a cargo ship that sank in a 2015 hurricane, killing 33 people, including five Mainers. A new report from the U.S. Coast Guard found a number of safety violations aboard the El Faro, evidence that the crew suffered from fatigue and a failure of the captain and owner to notify the Coast Guard of repairs that had been made to safety equipment and the ship’s boiler system.
- LePage isn’t the first Maine governor to consider removing county sheriffs from office. Those kinds of threats emerged during Maine’s long Prohibition era more a century ago during the governorship of Waterville’s William T. Haines, leading to three sheriffs being removed after the Legislature’s recommendation within four months of Haines’ inauguration. The rules around removing sheriffs were amended in 1917, cutting the Legislature out of the process.
- Trump is taking criticism for lashing out at the mayor or San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Trump cited the “poor leadership ability” of the mayor in a series of tweets. Trump lauded the performance of federal agencies so far in the aftermath of the storm, which has left the island devastated and a majority of its residents without basic necessities such as water and electricity.
- Counterprotesters to a rally at the State House on Saturday said the rally advocated a thinly veiled white supremacist agenda. One of the speakers — a Libertarian congressional candidate from Massachusetts — criticized the media for what he called distorted coverage of deadly rallies in Virginia last month and said he supports the right to display Nazi symbols. The size of the counterprotest was nearly double that of the State House rally, according to reporting from Maine Public.
Worst of the worst
In light of the wrenching news that a gunman in Las Vegas has killed at least 50 people in the worst domestic mass shooting in modern U.S. history, today’s Daily Brief ends on a somber note. There is no soundtrack today. We urge a moment of silence to honor the victims and cherish your loved ones.
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, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.