Here we are in early August and the Legislature is finally headed to Augusta for what may possibly be its last day of session for 2017, though don’t count on it. There is talk about a special session later this year, but for now, let’s concentrate on today.
The Legislature, which by law was supposed to adjourn for the year on June 21, is coming back to tie up loose ends, which include 27 bills vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. Twenty-five of those vetoes were delivered to lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon, including high-profile bills to raise Maine’s legal age to buy tobacco to 21 and a ban on cellphone use while driving unless your device is set up for hands-free operation. You can check out all the new veto letters by clicking here.
Left over from last month is a marquee solar energy bill that has been under debate for months, but which LePage is trying to kill. Lawmakers delayed final action on it in July while supporters tried to craft amendments that would garner the two-thirds votes needed for the bill’s survival.
That’s a relatively heavy load of vetoes for one day but far from LePage’s record. In April of 2016, the Legislature returned one final time on veto day and overrode 20 of 33 LePage vetoes. In June 2015, the House and Senate overrode 64 line-item vetoes in a state budget bill — each one requiring two votes — as well as more than a dozen line-item vetoes in the Highway Fund budget.
The vetoes shouldn’t take long, but amendments to the solar bill and possibly another bill that would make female genital mutilation a crime, could consume a lot of today. There also bond bills to deal with and a probably doomed attempt to remove a lawmaker from his seat, which you can read about in quick hits below.
One item on today’s Senate calendar that most lawmakers will have no trouble voting for is a sentiment that honors the New England Patriots for their historic 25-point come-from-behind overtime Super Bowl (that’s football if you’re not sportsy) victory in February.
There are too many sponsors on the resolve to count (though we’ll be on the lookout for misguided red votes), but our only question is what took so long? Here’s your sound and video track, which we at the Daily Brief have watched more times than we’ll admit in public, and which one of us was in Houston to see live.
We’ll have up-to-the-minute coverage of all of it throughout the day. As is usual at the Bangor Daily News, we’ll keep track of developments through our live blog and fancy veto widget, which you should bookmark and check back on frequently. — Christopher Cousins
- LePage took his fight with Maine’s U.S. senators to the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. The governor has been hammering Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King since their Friday votes against a Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but he ramped it up on Tuesday with a Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined “Maine’s Two Senators Let Us Down.” It was similar to a radio address from LePage on Tuesday, saying the two senators “are worse than out of touch — they are downright dangerous” to Maine and the economy. — Michael Shepherd
- Lawmakers will also hold votes Wednesday on bond proposals, but Republicans still look poised to reject two bonds backed by LePage. Not much has changed since the Legislature’s last session in July, when action on a $40 million student debt relief bond and a $55 million commercialization bond for Maine’s biomedical industry was stalled for lack of support from Republicans. The Republican governor was pessimistic about their fates in a WVOM interview on Tuesday, saying, “There’s no investment coming into Maine, so we’re going to have to reinvent ourselves as a state but it’s the Republicans that are saying no and I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe they’re so narrow-minded.” He vowed to “campaign very hard” on the issue before the 2018 session, a possible allusion to more town hall meetings across the state between now and the new year. — Michael Shepherd
- A Republican representative is trying to have a Democratic rep expelled from the House because of his violent statements against Donald Trump. Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, will introduce a House order today against Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, that seeks to discipline him for an obscene Facebook rant last month that ended with Hamann saying “Trump is a half-term president, at most, especially if I ever get within 10 feet of that pussy.” The post, which Hamann has said was a form of political satire, caused a state and national uproar. Hamann was expelled from two legislative committees by House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, made the subject of a Secret Service investigation, and in late July he resigned from his job at Good Shepherd Food Bank, citing threatening calls and other communications to the organization. Hamann apologized for the post during a July 20 speech on the House floor but that’s not enough for Lockman, who is calling for Hamann to be booted from the House under a provision of the Maine Constitution that allows a member to be expelled for misconduct. The order is unlikely to gain enough traction in the Democrat-controlled House. — Christopher Cousins
- Maine’s U.S. senators are supporting legislation to extend offshore wind energy incentives. Collins and King joined a group of Democratic senators to co-sponsor a bill that would replace tax credits for offshore wind facilities that are slated to expire in 2019 with a new investment tax credit on the first 3,000 megawatts generated. The University of Maine is a leader in offshore wind development and Collins said in a statement that the bill would “help accelerate the development of this promising industry in America.” — Michael Shepherd
- LePage again rips Collins, King for health care votes — Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News
- Why small solar threatens the companies that deliver electricity in Maine — Darren Fishell, BDN
- Dunlap again refuses to give Maine voter data to Trump fraud panel — Steve Mistler, Maine Public
- Maine officials oppose Trump cuts to heating assistance — Fishell
- LePage blames Republican lawmakers for stalled student debt relief package — Steve Collins, Sun Journal
- LePage issues 25 new vetoes, jeopardizing several public health proposals — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Reporter who wrote story on ‘insane’ phone call from Scaramucci talks to Maine audience — Bill Trotter, BDN
- AG Mills joins lawsuit to challenge EPA over smog rules — Trotter
- Poland Spring’s plan to take water from Lincoln wins regulators’ OK — Fishell
Cubs fan irks Chris Christie at ballgame
Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who for a time was visiting Maine on a regular basis in support of LePage’s re-election bid, and who was for a few weeks LePage’s preferred presidential candidate, has seen his approval rating sink to 15 percent in Jersey. He’s not taking it well, judging by a 30-second video clip from a Brewers-Cubs game on Monday.
We don’t know for sure what the Cubs fan said to Christie as the governor walked past with a fresh plate of nachos (reportedly, it was something along the lines of “you suck,”) but we do know that Christie went nose-to-nose with the man and told him angrily, “you’re a big shot.”
That was kind of weak, in our humble opinion. Apparently Christie didn’t learn anything from LePage about how to levy a quality insult.
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