Support split on LePage’s bond blockage, but memories of Grateful Dead in Augusta live on

Good morning from Augusta, where the Appropriations Committee is working double duty. Public hearings on a range of bond proposals will occupy them through the afternoon and more work on the biennial budget will begin again this evening. 

There were indications on Tuesday that the committee was nearing conclusion of the budget. If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s clear now that without a major change in tack that revives the possibility of an income tax cut and the reversal of earlier rejections of welfare reform measures, the committee is headed for a 9-4 split report. 

There are six bond issues on the docket, ranging from projects that address sea level rise and ocean acidification to investments for parks, putting land in conservation and infrastructure spending on culverts, bridges and highways. 

The House and Senate both have deeply stacked calendars and debate on numerous bills is expected. Legislative leaders will decide later this morning what to take up and what to leave for another day. — Christopher Cousins

‘And’ bill close to passage

The bill to fix a typo in a piece of 2013 energy legislation that funds Efficiency Maine energy conservation programs is within one vote of being sent to Gov. Paul LePage for consideration. LD 1215 has been creeping through the Legislature for weeks. On Monday, it was nearly mired in the House by procedural moves by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport, which would have delayed its passage, but that effort was dropped as quickly as it began.

Fredette has been trying to attach the creation of a Cabinet-level energy commissioner to the fix of the typo but his bill to do so is mired in the Legislature’s Energy Committee. It will be interesting to see if LePage vetoes the bill, as he has threatened to do, when the bill reaches his desk. It was unclear when the Senate might take its final vote on the measure. — Christopher Cousins

Committee opposes governor’s authority to block voter bonds

The Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday voted 8-5 in favor of a bill that would eliminate the governor’s power to withhold voter-approved bonds.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, would require the release of bonds unless certain conditions exist, and in that case would require the governor to provide a detailed explanation. It also eliminates the requirement that a governor physically sign a bond and puts the onus on the state treasurer to issue the bonds.

LePage has withheld voter-approved bonds repeatedly during his tenure to use them as bargaining chips to achieve his goals. He is currently standing in the way of the release of $11.5 million in bonding for the Land for Maine’s Future program, which would fund some 30 conservation projects. LePage has said repeatedly that he’ll approve the bonds if the Legislature agrees to his plan to use revenue from timber harvests to fund an energy program.

The 8-5 vote means the bill will go to the Legislature with a divided report. Passage of the bill will depend on support from both parties and it’s going to be a hard sell for many Republicans. It’s likely the governor would veto this one. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Grateful Dead to play Augusta, forever

Click here for your sunshine, daydream, walking in the tall trees soundtrack.

On Oct. 12, 1984, the Grateful Dead performed one of their best shows EVER at the Augusta Civic Center. That’s according a story posted at Rolling Stone on Tuesday, which cited a 2013 Rolling Stone article that named the Augusta show as one of the Rolling Stone 20 Essential Grateful Dead Shows. If it’s in Rolling Stone twice, it must be true.

The Augusta concert will be preserved forever, again, on a new 80-disc box set called Thirty Trips Around the Sun. If you don’t want to just stream the Augusta concert on YouTube, you can buy the box set on Sept. 18. It includes one full concert for every year of the band’s long, strange touring career.

I watched some of it last night and I’m pretty sure I spotted then-Gov. Joe Brennan in the audience.

Hat tip to an old friend, who as a recovering Deadhead who now works in Augusta shall remain nameless, for researching past the Rolling Stone article to learn that a SECOND Dead show in Maine — July 3, 1988 in Oxford — is also part of the box set. My friend (I’m talking SERIOUS Deadhead) drove to Oxford from Ohio to be there.

I grew up about six miles from Oxford Plains Speedway. I wasn’t at the concert but I remember it, or rather the day after, very well. I was 13. My friend and I filled the back of my dad’s pickup truck with returnable beer and soda bottles. I used the money toward a bike.

I observed in an email to my friend that if he discarded any beer cans, maybe he helped pay for my bike and we’re just making the connection now. Like the effect of him tossing a beer can on the ground rippled through the still water of time to this very day.

“I do recall some Heinekens flowing as the parking lot slowly cleared,” he wrote.

Maybe I’ll order the box set after all. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.