Good morning from Augusta, where a high-profile bill in the Maine Legislature that would allow courts to temporarily take guns away from potentially dangerous people may be on its last legs after the sponsor made changes in an attempt to get it passed.
The bill would create a new “community protection order” allowing police or family members to ask judges to take guns from people who may be a danger to them. The so-called “red flag” bill is sponsored by Sen. Mark Dion, D-Portland, who is also running for governor. It had a bipartisan list of co-sponsors, including six Republicans.
Dion’s bill had a public hearing earlier this month, where it was backed by police chiefs. That included Ellsworth’s Glenn Moshier, who said it may have helped his department after a 19-year-old student who had access to guns was charged after he allegedly threatened a school shooting.
Moshier said in testimony that the student’s mother now claims to have sold the guns, but that can’t be verified. The bill was opposed by gun-rights groups including the National Rifle Association, which has opposed similar bills nationwide, and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
Despite changes made to garner extra support, a Republican sponsor has spoken against the bill and progress hasn’t been made with gun-rights supporters. Dion filed an amendment to the bill on Thursday, which reduces the time of an initial seizure from 21 days to 14 days. After that, a judge must rule on whether the order should be extended.
However, David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said constitutional and other legal questions remain that will be hard to solve in the last scheduled week of a legislative session and that he would serve “in good faith” on a legislative commission to address the issue.
But Dion called that “just another stall” and said “I don’t think it’s as complicated as it is in their mind.” His amendment goes to the Judiciary Committee in a Friday morning work session, where Dion said he expects Republicans and Democrats to divide on the issue.
The panel’s co-chair, Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, is a sponsor of the bill, but she said in a Facebook post on Thursday that she opposed the bill before the new amendment was filed. This may be hard to get through a deeply divided Legislature.
Poll: Most Mainers still don’t like LePage
Paul LePage had the fifth-highest disapproval rating of all U.S. governors in a new round of polling. The Republican governor’s recent marks from Morning Consult have been quite consistent. In a round of polls taken in 2018’s first quarter, 53 percent of Mainers disapproved of his performance to 41 percent who approved of the governor.
Those ratings basically match his marks in the firm’s last two rounds of quarterly polling and rank the governor fifth from the bottom by disapproval and 12th-worst by approval. Only 6 percent of Mainers “didn’t know” or had “no opinion” on LePage, the lowest share for any governor. Maine has made up its mind.
Poliquin raises $2.5 million for second re-election bid
Facing yet another nationally targeted re-election, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is outpacing his 2016 fundraising haul. The second-term Republican from Maine’s 2nd District has raised more than $2.5 million through March’s end with just over $2.2 million left, according to a Thursday news release. At this time in 2016, he had raised just under $2.2 million overall in his ultimately successful re-election bid over Democrat Emily Cain.
Democrats are running a four-way race to oust him between conservationist Lucas St. Clair, Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden, builder Jonathan Fulford and bookseller Craig Olson. Reports on all candidates’ first-quarter fundraising are due to the Federal Election Commission on Sunday and none of the Democrats had released numbers by Friday morning.
Ballot question rule change bid falls short in House
A bid to raise the bar for citizen-initiated referendums is in peril following a vote in the House on Thursday that failed to garner enough support. LD 31 would lead to a referendum to amend the Maine Constitution such that signature gatherers would have to find a certain number of signers from each of Maine’s congressional districts — equal to at least 10 percent of the total votes cast for governor in that district during the most recent election. The bill needs two-thirds support in the Legislature and it didn’t get there.
Today in A-town
It’s Friday, but the House and Senate are in session. On the House calendar is a bill designed to protect substance-exposed infants, which lies in non-concurrence between the chambers, along with a “student loan bill of rights” bill that passed 20-15 Thursday in the Senate.
Another interesting bill coming to the House for initial consideration today is LD 1876, which would allow the attorney general’s office to activate financial orders within the department if the governor disapproves or takes no action within 30 days. LePage has blocked a number of financial orders regarding existing funds within the attorney general’s office dating back to at least 2015.
The Senate could revive a contentious debate over a citizen-initiated referendum to create a universal home health care system funded by an additional 3.8 percent in employment taxes for income above $127,200. Earlier this month, House Democrats refused to refer the bill to a committee and indefinitely postponed it. If the Senate opts to send the bill to committee, it could force another vote in the House, which would trigger a public hearing and committee process that some say is crucial to vetting the bill. Check out the full Senate calendar by clicking here.
- It’s decision time for Maine’s high court and ranked-choice voting. Attorneys involved in a legal dispute over the legality of using the voting method in the June 12 primary election argued their cases before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday. The court is expected to issue an opinion or ruling soon. Some of the justices seemed skeptical of the case because most of the outstanding legal issues could be solved with legislation.
- Floor debate grew testy in the Maine House on Thursday. At one point during a lengthy series of floor speeches on a bill to ban conversion therapy, Speaker Sara Gideon called an abrupt recess to let representatives cool ofl after a shouting match between supporters and opponents erupted. At numerous other times, Gideon admonished lawmakers not to impugn the motives of colleagues and to adhere to House decorum. The bill, which would ban therapy designed to persuade people to alter their sexual orientation, advanced with a 76-68 vote. Every House Republican voted against it.
- Maine’s two members of the U.S. House disagree on tougher food stamps rules. Poliquin touted the fact that work requirements and tougher fraud sanctions for SNAP recipients are included in a new farm bill proposal unveiled Thursday. Democrat Chellie Pingree from the 1st District said those proposals would make “it more difficult for these folks to get assistance is only going to make a bad situation even worse.”
- Prosecutors in the Marissa Kennedy murder trial are taking more criticism. A superior court justice is weighing whether to kick prosecutors off the case because of subpoenas they issued outside of Maine, in violation of the law. Proceedings in the Belfast courtroom grew testy during a hearing Thursday.
Today is Friday the 13th, which apparently frightened people long before it became a brand for a series of slasher movies. The official term for this phobia is Paraskevidekatriaphobia, which is Greek for some kind of psychological horror.
Also known as Friggatriskaidekaphobia, the condition that reportedly affects 8 percent of all Americans derives from the convergence of negative superstitions about the number 13 and Fridays. Go figure.
Symptoms include hyperventilation, nervous giggling and refusal to leave home. And “indulging in ritualistic behavior — for example, hanging shoes outside the window to repel evil, or eating garlic, or walking around the room 13 times.”
Sounds like just another day at the State House during the last week before adjournment.
I don’t suffer from Paraskevidekatriaphobia and I don’t get it. How can you not like Friday? And 13 is my wife’s favorite number. She says it brings good luck. Here is a soundtrack for the rest of us. — Robert Long
In honor of Patriots Day, a state holiday in Maine and Massachusetts, the Daily Brief will not publish on Monday, but will return on Tuesday, April 17. We might be taking the day off to run the Boston Marathon. Or not. Here is our soundtrack.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins, Michael Shepherd and Robert Long. If you’re reading this 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.
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