Good morning from Augusta. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins toed the Republican Party line late Tuesday when she cast a key vote to kill a consumer protection rule that made it easier for consumers to file class-action lawsuits against banks and credit card companies.
Collins didn’t announce her stance on the rule before the vote, but she ended up being one of the deciders. The moderate Maine senator didn’t take a position on the rule when the Bangor Daily News asked her about it in September, but she later told The Wall Street Journal that she would likely support it. She ended up being one of 50 Republicans to vote to nullify the rule, which allowed Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tiebreaking vote that sends the legislation to President Donald Trump’s desk. U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent, voted with Democrats and two Republicans to keep the rule.
Her argument against the rule matches that of most in her party. Republicans have largely argued that the rule was an overreach that won’t serve consumers well because arbitration cases often result in quicker relief than class-action lawsuits. Democrats have argued that the rule is needed now more than ever, especially after the Equifax breach in September and the long sales scandal at Wells Fargo. In a statement, Collins matched her party’s argument, calling the rule “regulatory overreach that arose from a misguided attempt to help consumers.”
But the federal consumer protection watchdog says arbitration is rarely used. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began implementing the rule in 2015 and issued it in July, citing a 2015 study that found 34 million consumers received class-action payments over five years as opposed to just $360,000 in relief to 78 consumers via arbitration. Republicans have often warred with the CFPB since it began in 2011 under former President Barack Obama, but Collins was one of three Republicans to vote for the 2010 law that created it.
- A job training nonprofit from Brunswick is suing the governor. Coastal Counties Workforce Inc. filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court that seeks to force the LePage administration to provide federal grant funding for 2016 and 2017. Gov. Paul LePage had previously told the feds he would no longer participate in the program or accept the approximately $9 million Maine receives from it each year.
- The backer of the York County casino proposal said he has ‘no intention’ of selling rights to the facility if Maine voters approve it next month. Northern Mariana Islands developer Shawn Scott, who would be the only one with rights to the new casino under Question 1 on Maine’s 2017 ballot, debated state Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, a casino opponent, on Maine Public’s “Maine Calling” on Tuesday. Scott said he has “no intention” of selling rights to the casino, which could be worth $200 million. But there’s reason for skepticism, since he sold the rights in 2004 to what became Hollywood Casino in Bangor for $51 million after bankrolling another referendum. A lobbyist connected to the project also told lawmakers in January that selling the rights is the plan.
- Physician-assisted suicide could be coming to a ballot box near you. A group of Mainers is in the process of launching a petition drive to put the question to referendum. “Death with dignity,” as supporters call it, is meant for terminally ill patients who choose to end their own lives. The concept of allowing physician-assisted suicide has been introduced twice in the Legislature in recent years but has failed.
- The Trump administration wants to raise prices at Acadia National Park. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to create a “peak season” fee of $70 per private vehicle. Weekly passes to Acadia sold between June and October would cost $20 more than the current $25 per-vehicle fee. The cost of an annual park pass would increase from $50 to $75. The increases, which are proposed for 17 national parks, is meant to generate enough revenue to deal with maintenance backlogs.
- Meanwhile, there’s a new proposal that would make it harder for presidents to create national monuments. A congressman from Utah has proposed a bill that would require environmental reviews and approvals from governors as well as county and state governments for monuments larger than 10,000 acres. The bill comes as the Trump administration ponders reversing some monumental decisions made by previous presidents.
- A rail group wants to bring the Amtrak Downeaster as far north as Rockland. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which handles Maine’s contract with Amtrak’s Downeaster service, wants to extend the Boston-to-Brunswick service to Rockland as a pilot program. The organization announced its goal Monday at its annual board meeting.
A girl named Roland
My family welcomed a new kitten on Tuesday, which we adopted from our local humane society. The folks there might be great at rescuing at-risk animals but their cat-naming could use a little help. Her shelter name was Paisley, despite the fact she is mostly white with faint brownish markings.
We surprised our boys with her but will let them name her if they come up with anything good. I know personally that this is risky. My then three-year-old sister was given the same opportunity in the early 1980s and for the next 15 years we had a cat named Fuzzy.
There have have been no decisions yet. My 7-year-old likes Crystal, which might work with her brilliant blue eyes. The 12-year-old likes Winnie or Willow, which are also my wife’s favorites. He’s always been sort of a mama’s boy and the cat has the coloring of a pussywillow.
I have proposed Roland, which I have been trying to name something in our house, including one of our sons, for years. So far my wife’s veto power has prevailed.
“I may come get Roland this afternoon if that works for you,” I told her foster father, who also happens to be BDN editor Robert Long, on Tuesday.
“Sure,” he replied. There was a paws. And a pause. “You know Roland is a girl, right?”
“Also my favorite Stephen King character,” I replied. “Don’t judge.”
The debate continues. If you say it quickly, Roland sounds like “Rollin’,” which I’d also be OK with for the sake of her soundtrack. For now she’s just “Kitty.” — Christopher Cousins
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.