Maine legislators target settlement money to help fund anti-drug plan

A $4.8 million proposal from legislative leaders aimed at fighting Maine’s drug crisis would mostly be funded by drawing from a pool of Wall Street settlement money.

That proposal, which would allow for 10 new drug agents and expand addiction treatment and education efforts, was rolled out earlier this month by a bipartisan group of legislative leaders, but funding wasn’t discussed in detail then.

But it is discussed in bill text that showed up online by Tuesday: It would use $2.5 million in funding from a settlement reached this year between Maine and Standard and Poor’s, a ratings company that Maine, the federal government and 18 other states accused of defrauding investors in the run-up to the recession.

At the time, Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, said that the $21.5 million gained by the state — the most ever at one time — would be earmarked for consumer protection and education.

Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, challenged her authority to spend that money afterward, but Mills’ office countered by saying the settlement is governed by court order and language giving the attorney general control of the money is common.

However, the recently proposed anti-drug bill directs that $2.5 million be moved to the General Fund’s unappropriated surplus — which could pay for the rest of the plan — “notwithstanding any other provision of law.”

The governor has already criticized the Legislature’s plan. In a letter to House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, after the plan was announced, LePage called it “nothing more than a few bullet points with no source of funding identified to implement your ideas.”

Now that a funding source has been announced — and because it’s one that has generated heat before — the package could face another challenge from the governor as public hearings on it kick off on Tuesday, a day before the full Legislature will convene for the 2016 session. — Michael Shepherd


Strimling, LePage ‘agree to disagree’ over steak

LePage and Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling met at the Blaine House on Tuesday over a lunch of steak and potatoes, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Strimling told the newspaper that the two discussed policy for 2 1/2 hours and it was a step toward restoring a working relationship between the liberal city and the conservative governor, who fought Portland over providing General Assistance to asylum seekers.

The two exchanged cellphone numbers and Strimling told the Press Herald that he brought a gift for the governor — a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

He also couldn’t help but invoke the title of his old column in the Bangor Daily News and the Press Herald, telling the newspaper that he hopes the two are “able to continue the conversation and build a relationship where we can agree to disagree.” — Michael Shepherd


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Notes from the dog

I’m used to reading Democrats’ policy criticisms of Republicans. I’m less used to reading that criticism written from the perspective of a Democratic dog.

But that’s what I got yesterday from Bartlet, the West Wing-named pug owned by Emily Cain, who’s running against Joe Baldacci for the Democratic nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2016 after losing to the Republican last year.

In a fundraising email from Cain’s campaign, Bartlet says Maine people and dogs, have “a bone to pick” with Poliquin, whom the dog accused of doing some “ruff stuff” in Congress.

After I flagged the email on Twitter, Cain responded to say she thought I’d make fun of a video of her and husband, Danny Williams, performing “The Christmas Song” before making fun of Bartlet’s email.

But I’m a sucker for cornball Christmas stuff and not really a fan of pugs (they’re the devil, according to some Tumblr page) so I’ll let you know if Bartlet ramps up the rhetoric. — Michael Shepherd

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.