Good morning from Augusta, where the full Legislature is returning for a special session. We told you last week, and several times before that, what to expect at the State House today but there is at least one new development.
Reappointments of five sitting judges has become a hot topic. On Sunday, Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon announced that she had received five letters from Gov. Paul LePage withdrawing his nominations of three Superior Court and two District Court judges. The governor offered no explanation for the move in his letters and his office did not respond to questions from the Bangor Daily News. A spokesman for Senate President Mike Thibodeau said Monday morning that Thibodeau also received the letters.
However, those letters do not appear on either the House or Senate calendar. All that is included in those documents, as far as they relate to judge appointments, are LePage’s letters nominating them. It’s possible they will be included on a supplement to the regular calendars. We’ll keep you posted on developments about this throughout the day.
There’s another withdrawal by LePage on the House Calendar. Former University of Maine at Fort Kent and Unity College President Wilson Hess of Freedom was nominated for reappointment to the State Board of Education, but his nomination has also been withdrawn.
There’s still plenty to do. Lawmakers must solve two rather immediate issues: One flagged by the federal government with Maine’s new food sovereignty law and another by LePage with funding for a state data agency. But constitutional concerns with ranked-choice voting still linger and LePage also wants to delay the implementation of Maine’s new recreational marijuana market. All of these things have to be dealt with during the special session in one way or another.
- Maine’s November referendum on expanding Medicaid is being closely watched. With a battle over the Affordable Care Act raging in Congress and Medicaid funding in the crosshairs for some, Question 2 on the November ballot is viewed by some as a litmus test for Obamacare and Republicans’ efforts to unravel it.
- Susan Collins helped Senate Republicans pass a budget blueprint that could be an initial step toward tax reform. The Senate voted 51-49 on Thursday to pass the $4 trillion budget plan, but they now have a harder task — passing tax reform. It’s a priority of President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans, who are itching for a large legislative accomplishment after failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But Congress hasn’t drastically changed the tax code since 1986, so it’s an issue fraught with peril.
- Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is criticizing the voter fraud commission he sits on. Dunlap is one of two members who said in a letter to the committee’s leaders last week that he is not privy to some of the committee’s correspondence and other information. Dunlap requested all correspondence between the committee and the White House since Sept. 12.
Our ‘hero’ gets his due
We ask you to forgive us for self-promotion, but it isn’t about us: The Bangor Daily News had a great day at the Maine Press Association’s annual award ceremony on Saturday, where Matthew Stone was named Maine’s journalist of the year.
And the group’s unsung hero award went to a familiar face for Daily Brief readers — our editor, Robert Long. (You may see more typos than usual in here because he’s off today but he’ll probably send Chris and I some type of message by noon.) Here’s his soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd. 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.