LePage and longtime foe seek common ground on how to help Maine loggers

Good morning from Augusta, where two arch-enemies of the past — Gov. Paul LePage and Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash — are preparing for what could be an interesting joint appearance on Friday in northern Maine.

The two will convene a roundtable in Aroostook County to discuss Canadian competition with Maine loggers and truckers. Jackson, a logger from Allagash, got his start in politics after leading a 1998 blockade of ports of entry for Canadian loggers working in the Maine woods. Because Canada has universal health care coverage, it’s cheaper for logging companies to use foreign workers. Jackson has often used his bully pulpit to highlight that. The event will be at 4 p.m. on Friday at Sly Brook Sno-Riders Club in New Canada.

It came about after LePage vetoed a Jackson bill aimed at favoring Maine loggers. Earlier this year, he sponsored a bill that would have made state and local governments buying wood products give preference to wood harvested in Maine by in-state contractors and ensure that Maine loggers are hired for jobs on state-owned land. But LePage vetoed it citing constitutional concerns. Jackson said LePage agreed to the roundtable after that. Spokespeople for the governor didn’t respond to a Tuesday request for comment.

“I don’t really need to be in-your-face with him,” Jackson said, “but when he leaves there, he won’t be able to say there isn’t a problem.”

These two politicians have a checkered history, but they’ve gotten along better recently. LePage directed his infamous “Vaseline” remark toward Jackson in 2013, so they’re largely known to the public as foes. But Jackson met repeatedly with LePage in the run-up to Maine’s government shutdown earlier this year, frustrating Democrats in the Maine House of Representatives when he offered in late June to eliminate a lodging tax increase that ended up being axed from the final deal in early July.

There’s also a side issue: LePage has broken with President Donald Trump on softwood tariffs, agreeing with Canadian officials, while Jackson backs the president. The governor’s close relationship with Canadian officials has been well-documented lately. He has argued that softwood tariffs on Canada by the Republican president would cost Maine jobs and that Quebec and New Brunswick should be exempted. The new tariffs have gotten a mixed response here: The operator of a Jackman sawmill said in April that it was adding jobs because of it, but companies with cross-border operations say it has hurt them. Jackson said Trump is right on the tariffs, but that this may only be a secondary issue on Friday.

Lawmakers are setting the agenda for January

The Legislative Council, which includes 10 leaders from the House and Senate, meets this morning. They will consider which bills they’ll allow for consideration when the Legislature reconvenes in January for the second year of the 128th Legislature. The second year is meant for emergency and budget matters, but those are loose definitions. Lawmakers have proposed several dozen bill concepts, which range from laws affecting beano games to a bill to change Maine’s citizen initiative system. The council is usually stingy about which bills to accept.

Those won’t be all the bills under consideration next year. Earlier this year, when the Legislature was working through some 2,000 or so bills, there were many that didn’t reach final disposition. Hundreds of them were carried over until January. Check out the council’s full agenda here, listen live by clicking here and watch bangordailynews.com for updates. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

Reading list

  • U.S. Sen. Susan Collins warned the Trump administration not to ignore the perils of climate change. During a Tuesday speech on the Senate floor, the moderate Republican pointed to a Government Accountability Office report that predicts the annual federal cost of dealing with climate change impacts could rise from $12 billion to $35 billion in 2050, saying that spending more to repair weather-related damage caused by climate change is “not a solution.”
  • An analysis found that a bill to fix the Affordable Care Act backed by both of Maine’s senators would reduce the federal deficit by $3.8 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that the compromise bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Patty Murray, D-Washington, would reduce the deficit and not substantially change the number of insured people. It’s co-sponsored by Maine’s two senators, Collins and independent Angus King. But it has a difficult road to passage — or even a vote — with Republican leaders opposing it so far while groping for a partisan plan that can pass.
  • The main advocacy group for Acadia National Park is decrying a Trump administration plan to steeply increase entrance fees. Friends of Acadia National Park said that “people’s relationships with the park” would change under any fee increase. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed a plan on Tuesday to hike to access Acadia and other popular parks. The cost for a one-week pass by car would rise from $25 to $70 between June 1 and Oct. 31.
  • One of the 88 patients reportedly harmed by a former Togus doctor hopes a recent report will spur national reform in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Jim Barrows, a Vietnam War veteran from Brownville, had a botched ankle surgery in 2006 performed by Dr. Thomas Franchini, a podiatrist who was forced to resign in 2010. Franchini was a subject of a bombshell USA Today report earlier this month illuminating 230 secret settlement deals reached between the VA and employees who had made mistakes. Barrows said the more attention that is paid to the issue, “the better chance we have a positive outcome for younger vets.”

A name tuff enough for a kitten?

Yesterday I wasted a minute or two of your life ruminating about what my family will name our new kitten. I wasn’t planning on stretching this into two days in the Daily Brief but “Kitty” isn’t named yet and this is easier than coming up with new material on a dreary morning.

We’re even further from a name than we were yesterday and there are at least a dozen under consideration. However, my wife surprised me last night when she suggested “Frankie,” which she said was inspired by one of the characters from the 1980s movie Tuff Turf. I don’t think I’ve seen the movie but I grew up listening to my dad’s vinyl copy of its excellent soundtrack.

All this just to include a bit of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack in the Brief. Here’s your soundtrack.Christopher Cousins

P.S. The Daily Brief’s editor is lobbying for “Captain Beefheart” for a name, but it was probably just because of the hard-to-resist Zappa soundtrack opportunity.

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.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.