Young Republican star wields Taylor Swift against Paul LePage

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is letting everyone know that he is still a factor in ongoing conversations about the budget and tax reform.

With the governor’s budget proposal dead and the parties seemingly still miles away on large-scale tax reform, it’s sometimes seemed that the governor has been sidelined as the Legislature works to come to an accord on both fronts. An agreement would ensure the lawmakers get the heck out of Dodge sometime before July, like they’re supposed to.

But on Monday, LePage torpedoed any speculation that he’s playing a diminished role. He followed through on a threat to veto all Democratic legislation, nixing 10 bills sponsored by the opposition for no reason other than partisan affiliation.

He also pledged to present temporary spending bills to prevent a government shutdown on July 1, which could take pressure off House Republicans who are currently blocking a budget deal, and put it on his Democratic rivals.

The machinations will surely continue today, and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop. Check regularly for new developments.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Daily Brief, ensuring you’ll be in the know about what’s going on in #mepolitics. — Mario Moretto.

Minimum wage bill clears the House

In an 81-66 vote, the House of Representatives on Monday gave initial approval to LD 92, a bill that would incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by in 2018.

“The need to raise the minimum wage is very real and couldn’t be more evident,” said Rep. Dillon Bates, D-Westbrook, the bill’s sponsor. “This modest increase is both a pro-worker and a pro-business initiative, bringing the minimum wage closer to a living wage and leveling the playing field for Maine businesses competing with big boxes. We will save taxpayer dollars by lightening the burden on social services, empower small Maine businesses and take action on an issue for which action is long overdue.”

The bill, backed by Democrats, faces an initial vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is likely to be rejected. Gov. Paul LePage has also indicated his opposition to a statewide minimum wage increase, and would likely veto the bill, even if it eked by the Senate.

Republicans in the House opposed the bill, saying it was a “job-killer,” especially for small businesses in rural Maine.

“We need to allow employers to set the wages that they can afford so they can continue to provide jobs,” said Rep. Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan. — Mario Moretto.

The early Emilys

Former state Sen. Emily Cain, a Democrat from Orono, raised eyebrows in March when she announced her 2016 candidacy for the 2nd Congressional District.

Observers scratched their heads about why Cain was jumping into the race again so early. After all, it was only four months earlier that she lost the open CD2 seat to Republican Bruce Poliquin.

But Cain isn’t the only “Emily” who’s decided to weigh in early. EMILY’s List — a Washington, D.C., political action committee that support pro-choice Democratice women — has announced that it will once again back Cain.

“Emily Cain is a pragmatic leader who is fighting to give Maine’s women and families a fair shot,” said Stephanie Schriock, the group’s president, in a written statement. “She has experience working to grow Maine’s economy, and she’s a powerful advocate for small businesses, students, and victims of domestic violence. The EMILY’s List community – now more than 3 million members strong – is excited to endorse Emily Cain’s campaign to bring commonsense Maine values to Congress.”

EMILY’s List poured nearly $81,000 into Cain’s 2014 campaign for Congress, making the group her largest contributor, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The group opposes Poliquin for his views on abortion, gay marriage and other issues. — Mario Moretto.

Veto watch

As mentioned above, the governor vetoed 10 Democrat-sponsored bills yesterday. The full list is here, and the reasons given for the vetoes were all the same: “I am vetoing all bills sponsored by Democrats because they have stifled the voice of Maine citizens by preventing them from voting on the elimination of the income tax,” LePage wrote.

LePage on Monday vetoed two Republican-sponsored bills as well:

  • LD 263, ” An Act to Provide a Minor with a Defense to Prosecution in a Situation that Involves Risk of Alcohol Overdose.” The bill, by Rep. Joyce Maker, R-Calais, is a “medical amnesty” law that would allow people under 21 to call emergency services in the event of an alcohol overdose without fear of prosecution for underage drinking. LePage said the bill was “well-intentioned” but that he would not support “the growing pattern of babying our children.”
  • LD 590, “An Act to Exempt a Fee for a Paper or Plastic Single-use Carry-out Bag from Tax.” The bill, by Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, was encouraged by the grocers’ industry, who said a new fee for disposable shopping bags in Portland should not be subject to taxation. LePage said in his veto letter that he would not support targeted tax exemptions while the question of comprehensive tax reform was still being debated.

All 12 vetoes face override votes in the House and Senate. Two-thirds support in both chambers is necessary to make the bills become law despite LePage’s veto. — Mario Moretto.

Reading list

Taylor Swift vs. Paul LePage

T Swift

Lee Jackson, a University of Maine student and chairman of the Penobscot County Republicans, took to Buzzfeed to criticize Gov. Paul LePage in the common tongue of his fellow millenials — the language of Taylor Swift animated GIFs. You can see his post here.

Jackson is a rising star in the Maine Republican Party. He’s a mover and shaker in the party’s youth organizing arm, #GEN207, and was named to the party’s “40 under 40” list of up-and comers.

He’s also upset about LePage’s veto of LD 263, the “medical amnesty” bill mentioned above, which would encourage young people to call emergency services if they or a friend had overdosed on alcohol by giving them a defense against being prosecuted for underage drinking.

“During his campaign, Gov. LePage promised to make Maine more youth-friendly; He even promised to follow our lead on some issues. But now… not so much,” Jackson said. Then he asked readers to sign a petition supporting the bill and contact their legislators to urge a veto override.

Haters gonna hate, yet that doesn’t mean we’re going to be quiet,” Jackson wrote.

Does the flap over LD 263 indicate “Bad Blood” between Jackson and LePage, the kind that might mean the two are “Never Ever Getting Back Together“?

Probably not. But it sure is fun to make awful Taylor Swift puns. — Mario Moretto.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.