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Democratic loyalties further tested in Portland mayoral race

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

The endorsements just keep coming in Portland’s mayoral race.

On Monday, five former city mayors, including former U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, a Democrat, endorsed challenger Ethan Strimling, according to the Portland Press Herald. On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Brennan countered with an endorsement from House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, in a letter to the Press Herald.

These surrogates are furthering the messages that the Democratic candidates have been pushing in debates: Strimling says he’ll unite a divided council and city, while Brennan says Portland’s doing as well as ever under his leadership.

“A mayor has to listen to people from all walks of life,” Allen told the Press Herald. “If I’ve learned anything … it’s that no one side has all the answers.”

“Portland is flourishing under Mike’s leadership,” Eves wrote.

The race’s third candidate, Tom MacMillan, chairman of the Portland Green Independent Party, has also gotten into the action, touting support from former Democratic state Rep. Harlan Baker and former chairs of the state Green Party.

My colleague Seth Koenig been tracking endorsements in the race so far, and Brennan and Strimling have been testing Democratic loyalties. Brennan has gotten support from half of Portland’s legislative delegation, including Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, while Strimling has been backed by 11 of 17 city councilors and school board members and several unions.

The candidates will be debating at 7:30 p.m. today on WCSH-TV, Channel 6 in Portland. Expect to hear more about their supporters then. — Michael Shepherd

Legislative committees in session Tuesday

It’s been nice and quiet around the State House lately, with nary a legislator in the halls. But that will be a bit different on Tuesday, with a few committees set to do some minor work.

Most notably, the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee will work on two bills carried over from last session that deal with benefits for state workers.

One would increase cost-of-living adjustment caps for retired workers whose spouse died after receiving Social Security benefits and the other would increase benefits for state workers in rural locations who retire after 25 years of service when their place of work is closed, but haven’t yet reached age 65. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list Need a Democratic debate drinking game?

The top five Democratic presidential candidates will debate tonight on CNN, with coverage starting at 8:30 p.m. To get up to speed, here’s a scene-setter from The New York Times and a Vox primer on the biggest differences between frontrunner Hillary Clinton and her main rival, Bernie Sanders.

But if you need something to help pass the time, I like the looks of this drinking game at DebateDrinking.com. It’s simple enough, and it comes with a handy live scoreboard so you can follow along easier.

You pick a candidate to follow and drink your beverage of choice when your candidate mentions two unique words: “Families” or “guns” for Clinton, “inequality” or “education” for Sanders, “middle class” or “economy” for Martin O’Malley, “military” or “Reagan” for Jim Webb and “record” or “environment” for Lincoln Chafee. “Trump,” “trade” and “Syria” are the community words — everyone drinks when any candidate says them.

In the Republican debate on Fox News in August, followers of each candidate would have had to drink more than 30 times in the website’s game. So if you drink, do it responsibly. — Michael Shepherd

Poliquin not on petition to force Export-Import Bank vote

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, and happy Columbus Day. You’re probably not working today, so if you’re trying to decide whether or not Columbus is worth celebrating or not, give this piece on two myths about him a read.

After not signing Ex-Im petition, Poliquin still ‘likely yes’ vote on bank

On Friday, a bipartisan group of House Democrats and Republicans forced a vote on a bill that would revive the Export-Import Bank. That vote on the bank, which gives loans to foreign buyers of American goods and lapsed earlier this year, is set for Oct. 26, the New York Times reported.

More than 40 Republicans signed onto a rarely-used “discharge petition,” which forced the bill out of the House Financial Services Committee — where the committee chairman opposes the bank and has held onto the bill.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, however, wasn’t on the petition. He has taken heat for his past criticism of the bank, especially after General Electric Co. announced in September that if the agency wasn’t revived, it would move 500 future American jobs overseas, including 80 in Bangor.

Poliquin has been a critic of the bank. In a news release after the GE announcement, he called it “corporate welfare” that mostly benefits large companies. But he’s softened his tone a bit since then, offering amendments to bank legislation last week that he says would help him support renewing it and his office said he’ll be a “likely yes” vote.

This balancing act reflects that the bank is a key ideological issue for Republicans: Conservative members and groups led the charge against the bank earlier this year, saying it distorts free markets, but more moderate Republicans have split from them in the face of heavy lobbying efforts from business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Poliquin’s treading a thin line: He’s saying that he’s a likely yes vote, but a reason that he may not have wanted to sign the petition is that it took the bill out of the financial services committee, on which he serves.

But Democrat Emily Cain, who lost to Poliquin in 2014 and is running against Joe Baldacci for the nomination in 2016, criticized Poliquin in a Friday statement, saying GE’s Bangor workers “should know where Poliquin’s priorities are.”

On Friday, Poliquin said in a statement that there’s “a lot of activity surrounding this issue … that does not relate to the use of a discharge petition.”

“When the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, with much needed reforms, comes to the House floor at the end of the month, I will likely vote yes to protect Maine jobs and taxpayers,” he said. — Michael Shepherd

LePage taking roadshow to Lewiston

Gov. Paul LePage will be at Lewiston High School on Tuesday for his fourth town hall since September, following appearances in Farmington, Bucksport and Bar Harbor.

That last one, on Tuesday, got somewhat confrontational, according to the Mount Desert Islander. Rep. Brian Hubbell, D-Bar Harbor, stood at one point to challenge LePage after he said the Legislature wasn’t prioritizing drug enforcement.

Lewiston could also provide a fun atmosphere to watch LePage: It’s a highly polarized Democratic city that backed LePage in 2014 and is now in the midst of a mayoral race pitting Robert Macdonald, a conservative LePage ally, against liberal activist Ben Chin and three other candidates.

Bring the popcorn. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list On Columbus Day, Maine state workers are among the lucky ones

You know how I said you’re probably not working on Columbus Day? Well, the Pew Research Center has an infographic to prove it.

Maine’s one of 23 states that give state workers a paid Columbus Day off. That makes it one of the most sparsely celebrated of the federal holidays.

We in the news business aren’t so lucky. So, bureaucrats, please return our calls and emails and we’ll catch you tomorrow. — Michael Shepherd


Hillary Clinton enlists Baldacci, Mills, Eves, Alfond for Maine campaign

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Hillary Clinton waves to supporters at a political rally in Scarborough last October. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton named the first 40 members of her Maine Leadership Council on Friday.

The list is a who’s-who of Maine Democrats: Former Gov. John Baldacci, Attorney General Janet Mills, Maine House Speaker Mark Eves and state Senate Majority Leader Justin Alfond are the headliners, and it also includes state Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake and former 1st District congressman Tom Allen.

It’s part of a national effort for Clinton. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the campaign plans to have these councils in all 50 states and members will be asked to identify volunteers and supporters and serve as surrogates for Clinton in the media.

In a news release, the Clinton campaign said Maine’s council will expand over the campaign’s course, and it will “help build a grassroots-driven volunteer team” aimed at winning the state’s Democratic caucus in March.

Clinton and her fellow presidential candidates have been spending most of their campaign time recently in states with February primaries and caucuses – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

But she swung over to Portland for a rally in September. That followed Maine appearances from Bernie Sanders, her top rival in the Democratic race, and Republican candidates Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

There has been no public Maine polling in the race, but Clinton, a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, is doing well here by early measures. Almost all prominent Democrats nationwide and in Maine who have endorsed a candidate are backing Clinton, and endorsements are seen as a top indicator of early success.

But Sanders, a progressive senator from Vermont, could pose a threat to her in Maine, even though a University of Southern Maine political scientist told the Bangor Daily News last month that Clinton should be favored in Maine and even if she loses, she should get the Democratic nomination. Still, the committee will try to prevent that outcome.

“I’m honored to be on Hillary Clinton’s Maine Leadership council as I believe that as our next President, she’ll be a tireless advocate for Mainers,” Mills said in a statement. “Over the course of her career, Hillary has developed a proven record of results as First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady in the White House, in the Senate, and as our Secretary of State – she’ll be ready on Day 1 to lead our country.”

Angus King submits bill to make college textbooks free

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where the political waters have appeared to calm, at least compared to what’s going on in Congress. For an institution where everyone usually knows what is going to happen before it happens, the leadership vacuum created yesterday when the election of a House speaker fell apart was rather stunning.

It will all work itself out in the end, right?

On the other hand, it’s an indication of the shattered state of politics (reminds me of this great Rolling Stones song), especially in the Republican party. And that’s both here and on Capitol Hill, where Republicans fighting with Republicans has become normal. The question is where it’s all headed. I think about this a lot but I don’t pretend to know the answers.

Part of me longs for the day when our two-party system cedes to the rise of a third and perhaps fourth political party that despite remaining outnumbered by Republicans and Democrats, would go a long way toward derailing partisan gridlock and forcing more compromise.

After all, that’s how the population looks. We’re not divided into two political groups. Here in Maine, more than a third of registered voters are independents, yet there are only a handful of independents in the Legislature. And that says nothing about all the shades of Republicans and Democrats among us.

I didn’t mean for your Friday Daily Brief to turn into a think piece, but I’m curious what you think about our two-party system or how the situation in Washington will resolve itself. Throw me an email at ccousins@bangordailynews.com and maybe I’ll build a future post around your responses. — Christopher Cousins

King submits bill to make college textbooks free

U.S. Sen. Angus King has partnered with two Democrats on a bill that would make high-quality college textbooks available for free.

Anyone who has gone to college knows that after paying thousands of dollars in tuition and room and board, the bill at the bookstore at the beginning of every semester can often be a punch in the gut. I remember several classes for which the book cost well in excess of $100 — or for which there were multiple books. And that was more than 15 years ago. King says the cost of textbooks has risen more than 80 percent in the past decade.

Oof. That punch in the gut is worse than it used to be, apparently. The College Board said the average full-time student pays more than $1,200 for his or her books in an academic year.

The Affordable College Textbook Act would create a competitive grant program to create textbooks under an open license, allowing students and professors to use them freely.

There will likely be a hefty price tag on this piece of legislation and no Republicans on the sponsor list might be an indication that the legislation is doomed before it can ever get off the ground. We’ll keep you posted. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list Did you know it’s a holiday?

Hat tip to my wife for pointing out this piece of crucial information this morning: Today is National Fire Prevention Day, National Moldy Cheese Day as well as Curious Events Day.

I’m curious what would happen if I set fire to moldy cheese but I’ll try to refrain even though whatever consequences arose would be my wife’s fault.

Tomorrow is Hug a Drummer Day so I think I’ll hold off on celebrating until then. — Christopher Cousins

Why conservatives shouldn’t want Paul Ryan to be House Speaker

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Official portrait.

After Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced he wouldn’t run for Speaker of the House, some in his caucus cried. The upheaval and chaos was just too much.

Now some conservatives say they want Paul Ryan to be the next Speaker, with Ryan reluctant to take on the position.

That would be a huge mistake for them.

Democratic candidates would benefit by having Ryan in the Speaker’s chair. A lot.

A Ryan Speakership would nationalize House elections around Ryan’s misguided, unpopular and cruel budget.

The Ryan budget involves huge transfer of wealth from the middle-class and poor to the top level of the income spectrum. It does that with its combination of tax cuts and cuts in programs.

That combination is deeply unpopular, as are Ryan’s proposals to privatize Social Security and voucherize Medicare.

Moreover, it’s so cruel that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops specifically criticized the Ryan budget as failing fundamental moral tests.

Ryan used to be considered a sort of policy wonk, but the existence of many magical asterisks in his budgets and unfounded empirical views on supply side economics have undermined his reputation.

Ryan himself did a poor job of defending his ideas in his 2012 debate with Vice President Joe Biden.

None of this has made his plan less supported by the House Republican caucus.

In fact, as columnist Jonathan Chait astutely pointed out, the presidential campaign can be summarized as who will sign the Ryan budget. All the Republican candidates would. All the Democratic candidates wouldn’t. Yet this has gotten rather limited attention.

Making Paul Ryan the Speaker means more attention to that horrific budget plan, and forces every candidate to take a position on it.

Instead of incumbent Republicans focusing on local issues, the campaign is nationalized around something that’s not popular and not good policy.

Given the way congressional districts are populated, it will be hard for Democrats to win back the House. But a number of incumbent Republicans would be endangered by making the Ryan budget central to 2016 House races.

Indeed, the ads write themselves.

Cain, Baldacci both take aim at Rep. Poliquin

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Emily Cain and Joe Baldacci, the two Democratic congressional candidates in Maine’s Second District, seem to be squarely focused on Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin, whom they hope to face next November, with less attention or criticism spared for each other.

“We’ve got to get rid of Bruce Poliquin. He’s bad for Maine people, he’s bad for Maine’s economy,” Cain said in a recent interview with me and Ben Chin on the Beacon Podcast. She contrasted her positions as instead being “on the side of Maine women and families.”

“We need to remember the pledge he took to the Republican National Committee, that basically hands over his political agenda to them in exchange for unlimited campaign cash. Now that is so against the Maine tradition of political independence,” Baldacci had said on the previous podcast episode.

Most of our conversations with the candidates focused on their policy stances on a range of issues, but on many they were happy to contrast their views with Poliquin.

Their criticisms of each other were more veiled, but pointed towards a couple of issues that might be relevant to the Democratic Primary.

“I definitely support raising the minimum wage, I always have, and I have voted for it at least five times as a state legislature and in fact I’m the only person running in the whole race that who successfully voted for and been a part of passing a minimum wage increase in our state,” said Cain.

Baldacci has made the minimum wage his signature issue over the past year, but failed to pass a local increase in Bangor.

“I’m the only candidate in this race that has opposed tax breaks for the rich, and I would continue to do so,” said Baldacci. “I think rank and file Democratic voters want someone who will stand up for basic democratic values, like protecting the middle class.”

Cain voted for the 2011 state budget, which contained large tax cuts that primarily benefited the wealthy. She distanced herself from that vote in the 2014 Democratic Primary, but seemed to embrace it when running against Poliquin in the General Election.


Mostly, though, on issues from foreign policy to climate change to retirement security to reproductive freedom, the two candidates were in agreement, and agreed that Poliquin has to go.

“Bruce Poliquin is bad news for Maine people and, to me, the more people who are saying that, that’s a good thing,” Cain said when asked about how she views the Primary.

Liberal group files complaint against Poliquin, other U.S. House members

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is among 23 Republican House members who were named in an ethics complaint from the liberal American Democracy Legal Fund on Wednesday, claiming they’ve used congressional office resources to campaign.

It revolves around the members’ signing of an agreement with the the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for their caucus, in which they trade campaign money and support in the 2016 election for agreeing to a list of requirements, including a legislative agenda and fundraising for the committee.

Those members are part of the NRCC’s “Patriot Program,” which provides help to vulnerable Republicans. Poliquin’s race next year in Maine’s 2nd District is expected to be one of the most hotly contested races nationwide, with 2014 Democratic challenger Emily Cain running again for her party’s nomination against Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci. The group spent more than $1 million in the race last year.

In this case, the American Democracy Legal Fund says the members are improperly coordinating their legislative strategies with the NRCC, which “plainly contemplates the use of official resources to accomplish that task” in violation of law and House rules.

But for the group, these kinds of calls for investigations are common: This year, it’s flagged potential violations from Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, as well as other conservative groups and figures.

On Wednesday, Brent Littlefield, Poliquin’s political adviser, dismissed the complaint as “catnip for the news media to ignore substance in favor of politics.”

“While some want to talk politics a year before an election, Congressman Poliquin just passed his first authored bill through Congress helping parents and he has passed an amendment to encourage job creation around former Maine military bases,” he said.

Who will Poliquin back for U.S. House speaker?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to meet behind closed doors today to pick their candidate for speaker ahead of a formal floor vote near month’s end, according to the Washington Post.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is the favorite to succeed John Boehner of Ohio, who announced his retirement last month, but Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Daniel Webster of Florida are also running.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District will be the only Mainer in today’s caucus, and he hasn’t said who he’ll vote for.

In a statement after Boehner’s announcement, Poliquin said he’s looking for a candidate who will “help end Washington’s regulations that are hurting our small businesses,” protect gun rights, “reduce wasteful government spending, balance the federal budget, repeal the parts of ObamaCare that are hurting Mainers” and ensure that veterans are getting “the health care they were promised, earned and deserve.”

But Poliquin has ties to leadership: Both Boehner and McCarthy campaigned with him in 2014 and Boehner raised money with Poliquin on Mount Desert Island earlier this year.

Given that, McCarthy might be the best bet for Poliquin’s vote, but that remains to be seen. Hopefully we’ll get an answer today. — Michael Shepherd

Gun debate coming to … the Augusta City Council?

The Augusta Police Department has between 60 or 80 seized guns in its possession and at tonight’s meeting, the City Council will decide whether to sell or destroy them, according to the Kennebec Journal.

City Manager William Bridgeo told the newspaper that Augusta has guns ranging from “pea shooters” to those that could be worth thousands of dollars. Citing past precedent in other cities, Deputy Police Chief Jared Mills said the city could sell the guns to a licensed dealer, have an auction or destroy them.

In August, Honolulu officials decided to destroy $575,000 in guns, which drew condemnation from the National Rifle Association and other gun advocates who say perfectly good guns should be sold. Some in law enforcement argue that police shouldn’t put more guns on the streets.

Even in Maine, this has been controversial: In 2000, Saco city councilors voted 4-3 to allow to sale of 26 seized guns to the highest bidder. If that happens in Augusta, Bridgeo told the KJ that the money will go into the city’s General Fund.

We’ll see if it generates heat. So far, one person who posts on As Maine Goes, a conservative forum, said he’ll be there. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list Rolled by BDN lobster quiz

I’m usually pretty good at our quizzes here at the BDN. I like to think my random knowledge is one of the reasons why my bosses pay me.

I’m best at the news quizzes (and I should be), but I can hang at Maine history and name the state’s cities, too. But colleague Seth Koenig stumped me today on lobster trivia. I only got half the questions right.

I’m going to chalk it up to being kind of a bad Mainer. I don’t really like lobster. It’s just a middling meal for me, and I usually leave it for people who like it better. Pass the steak. — Michael Shepherd

No, I will not pay for your bumper sticker

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Political campaign signs at Broadway and State Street in Bangor in 2002. Gabor Degre | BDN

Let’s say you’re a teacher, single with no dependents, and make roughly $35,000 annually. This year, you would most likely owe the state of Maine about $1,650 in income taxes.

Congratulations! You just worked hard all year to pay for a state House candidate to run for office unopposed.

I’m sure it feels great that you spent an entire year working yourself to the bone so some candidate who doesn’t even have an opponent might buy buttons, bumper stickers, signs, a laptop or throw himself a party.

This is just one of the reasons why public financing of political campaigns is so offensive, and Question 1 on this year’s ballot, which seeks to expand the Maine Clean Election Law, is such an abomination.

Oh, the idea sounds nice, doesn’t it? Clean elections? Who is opposed to that? What is the alternative? Dirty elections? I don’t like dirty things, and certainly not elections. Sign me up!

Unfortunately it is just another Orwellian mind game. The quick, easy and superficial argument will typically win, but it often creates the most damaging law. That is certainly true of Question 1.

So what does Question 1 do? Well, it basically takes the existing “clean election” system, and supercharges it, by pumping a lot more taxpayer dollars into the system.

Now, gubernatorial candidates, who are not able to take advantage of the system currently, will have up to $3 million of your dollars available to them to run in the primary and general election. State Senate candidates can make use of up to $70,000 for their run. State House candidates get $17,500.

Back to that teacher, that means that for a Republican and a Democrat running in a single legislative district, it would take him or her and 21 coworkers to finance just that single race. For a state Senate race, it would take this hypothetical teacher and 84 colleagues, to pay for the race.

And in a replay of the 2010 Maine gubernatorial election, in which there were seven Republicans and four Democrats on the primary ballot, plus three viable independent candidates for the general election, the numbers get stomach turning.

In total, if everyone ran under the rules of this new proposal and the fund had enough money in it — which is what the proponents of this referendum want — the total bill for that race would have been $21 million in taxpayer funds. For anyone counting, that would eat up the entire Maine tax liability of 12,728 hypothetical teachers.

Twelve. Thousand. Seven. Hundred. Twenty. Eight.

And what do Maine people get for that tremendous investment? Insincere politicians polluting their television screens? Seeing their towns littered with ugly campaign signs? Their phones constantly ringing from robocalls and aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts? Hard-earned tax dollars being frittered away to a slimy cadre of consultants?

Oh, but it gets worse. Let’s say you’re a candidate running under this law, and that you pay thousands of dollars in “consulting fees” to a partisan firm. Let’s say you are joined by a hundred others in doing the same.

Suddenly, this partisan firm has millions of dollars at its disposal and can use the ambiguity of “consulting” fees to directly inject cash however they want, wherever they want, for the larger political goal of electing members of that party statewide.

Everything is legal. Candidates report those vague expenditures, funnel an immense amount of money to a de facto party organ, giving lucrative kickbacks to vulture consultants, who can then divert resources into swing districts, circumventing the intended purpose of the law. This has already been happening for years, by the way, all on your dime.

That is what you would be buying in Question 1. Everything you already hate about politics, only more of it, and paid for by your tax dollars.

The irony in the situation is that proponents of “clean elections,” and by extension this referendum, are making the hilariously false case to you that this is an attempt to get money out of politics.

Just like the first clean election law, Question 1 would actually make the problem of money in politics worse. In truth, all the clean election law does is drive money into deep, dark holes.

Monied interests who want to influence elections will set up political action committees, c(4) groups, and c(6) groups to try to impact races. Politics will get nastier, with a lot more (dark) money in it, and the system will suffer.

The more you know about Question 1, the more obviously poisonous to democracy, offensive to taxpayers, and antithetical to common sense it is. But, at the end of the day, its backers have the easy soundbite argument, so get to work, you might be on the hook for some more bumper stickers soon.

Poliquin could support ‘more effective and accountable’ Export-Import Bank

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin hedged toward supporting reauthorization of the stalled Export-Import Bank — an obscure agency that has become a major issue for the Republican from Maine’s 2nd District — on Wednesday.

The bank, which provides taxpayer-backed loans to foreign buyers of American goods, saw its authority lapse in June and in September, General Electric Co. said if it isn’t reauthorized, it would move 500 future jobs — including 80 in Bangor — overseas.

Democrats pounced on Poliquin after that: He has been the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation not to throw full support behind the bank and has been a leading critic of it, saying its leaders need to be held accountable for cases of fraud at the bank.

In March, Poliquin told the New England Council that he was a “lean no” on reauthorizing. But Poliquin spokesman Michael Byerly has since said that doesn’t indicate his position, though he hasn’t said say how he would vote.

It has become an issue in Poliquin’s re-election campaign. Democratic candidates Emily Cain and Joe Baldacci are running for their party’s nomination, and both support bank reauthorization. The 2016 race is a top priority for both parties.

But Poliquin’s stance may be softening. In a Wednesday letter to Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who have proposed legislation to revive the bank, Poliquin outlined a list of proposed amendments, saying with an “ongoing commitment to work together for change, I will be in a position to support the reauthorization of a more effective and accountable Export-Import Bank.”

There are four proposed amendments: The most radical could be Poliquin’s call to fire bank Chairman Fred Hochberg, who he criticized in a June hearing, but he also proposes adding nonpartisan business professionals to the bank’s board, changing the bank’s accounting method and requiring build-up of bank reserves to protect taxpayers from risk.

It’s unclear whether these amendments will gain steam in Congress, but Poliquin’s looking less like a “lean no” on the bank.  A House vote on the bank could be weeks away, but he’s looking more and more like a “lean yes.”

Lawmakers defend GOP senator against LePage’s call for him to step down

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re on the heels of another day of political events that would be surprising if they weren’t just more of what’s become normal at the Maine State House: Gov. Paul LePage attacking fellow Republicans.

As you may have read here at State & Capitol, LePage is on full defense of himself in the investigation the Government Oversight Committee is conducting of his role in convincing Good Will-Hinckley to rescind a labor contract with Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves. In recent days, LePage has taken to calling it a “witch hunt.”

He amped up his rhetoric Tuesday afternoon when he issued a press release calling for Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta to recuse himself as co-chairman of the Government Oversight Committee “because of statements made by the senator clearly showed his bias against the governor prior to an investigation led by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.”

(OPEGA is the committee’s nonpartisan investigative agency.)

“I request Sen. Katz step down from the GOC because he has a clear conflict of interest,” said LePage in the press release. “He has already drawn factual conclusions and announced them publicly and from the beginning this has been nothing but a political witch hunt.”

It seems relevant to point out here that the bipartisan committee voted unanimously to pursue the investigation and that a number of other committee members, including some Democrats, have also made comments critical of LePage and have not been asked by the governor to recuse themselves.

Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, voiced support for Katz.

“Having served on the Government Oversight Committee with Sen. Katz, I can attest to the fact he is precisely who we need at the helm of such a panel,” said Mason in a written statement. “There is no doubt in my mind that he conducts the business of the committee, and will continue to do so, in a manner that Mainers can be proud of.”

Thibodeau said LePage’s request of Katz was “unwarranted.”

“Sen. Katz is precisely the right person to lead this committee,” said Thibodeau. “His integrity and fair-mindedness as an elected official are well-established and respected. That is exactly why I appointed him.”

Rep. Chuck Kruger, a Democrat from Thomaston who co-chairs the Government Oversight Committee with Katz, said LePage “continues to try to undermine this independent investigation.”

“We will not be deterred by the governor’s latest tactics,” said Kruger.

LePage has been saying lately that he will be vindicated in the probe because Good Will-Hinckley’s scuttling of the contract with Eves was due to a potential loss in millions of dollars in grant funding from the Harold Alfond Foundation.

“Good Will-Hinckley ultimately decided to terminate the speaker’s employment because of the concerns expressed by the Harold Alfond Foundation board chair, not because of the governor’s objections,” wrote Cynthia Montgomery, LePage’s chief lawyer, in an Oct. 5 letter to OPEGA Director Beth Ashcroft.

Montgomery does not mention that for the Harold Alfond Foundation, LePage’s threat to withhold more than $500,000 in state funding from Good Will-Hinckley was what prompted the foundation to reconsider its grant agreement with the school in the first place. The following appears in the second paragraph of a June 18 letter from the foundation to Hinckley board chairman John P. Moore:

“First, we want to express the serious concern of the Harold Alfond Foundation regarding the future financial viability of Good Will-Hinckley, given the likely state funding loss — and, by extension, its ability to achieve the goals underpinning the foundation’s Sept. 10, 2014 grant agreement with Good Will to renovate and expand the Moody school,” reads the letter.

The Government Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet next week to begin interviewing witnesses. — Christopher Cousins

Poliquin’s bill to crack down on deadbeat parents passed in the House

Republican U.S. House Rep. Bruce Poliquin is celebrating the passage of his first bill in the House: The Child Support Assistance Act.

The bill, which Poliquin introduced with Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to allow enforcement agencies to obtain credit reports, including addresses and places of employment for parents who aren’t keeping up with their child support obligations, without the credit agency notifying the parent of the query in advance. There is currently a provision in law that requires a 10-day notice, which some argue gives delinquent parents time to manipulate their finances to avoid higher payments to their children.

A similar version of the bill was introduced last month in the U.S. Senate. If it passes the Senate, it is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama. 

“As a single parent myself, I believe that the most important job in the world is taking care of our kids,” said Poliquin Tuesday on the House floor, who said that parents in Maine alone are some $500 million behind on child support payments. “Unfortunately not every parent believes that.”

Check out Poliquin’s full speech by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list ‘Anna Banana’ LePage

Gov. LePage and First Lady Ann LePage gathered with veterans from across Maine on Tuesday to urge us all to support the troops by wearing a red shirt on Fridays. It’s part of a national effort called “Remember Everyone Deployed.”

I’ve already told you about this push by the LePages but there was another interesting tidbit out of Tuesday’s press conference. Ann LePage has traveled from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery in recent years with the Wreaths Across America organization, which adorn each gravestone with a Maine-made wreath. The first lady said she passes the time and miles by chatting on the CB radio. (Here’s your soundtrack, which is my favorite song for driving south.)

What’s her tag? She said it’s “Anna Banana,” but I think I’ll stick to calling her “First Lady” or “Mrs. LePage.” — Christopher Cousins


Will the Republicans who would be speaker choose to govern?

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, laughs with retiring House Speaker John Boehner, right. Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Gary Cameron | Reuters

John Boehner may have cried publicly more often than most speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he had no tears the day he revealed he would be stepping down from his lofty position and resigning from Congress. Republican dislike for governing got so bad it drove out the sitting speaker, who actually sang “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” when entering the press conference where he made his announcement.

Boehner, who gained his speakership due to tea party wins in 2010, found himself riding a tiger and decided to get off.

His tea party colleagues had wanted it all. So unserious about the Constitution they claim to revere, these legislators ignored the reality that compromise gave rise to our governing document and pragmatism and deal-making are required to get anything done.

Now the two men most likely to succeed Boehner exemplify the lack of interest in governing that plagued Boehner.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made an unfortunate lapse by admitting the truth about the current Benghazi investigation.

When Sean Hannity of Fox News asked McCarthy about the House GOP’s accomplishments, McCarthy pointed not to policies that improved Americans’ lives and promoted opportunity, but to politics.

Proclaimed McCarthy, “Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

Now, of course, Benghazi was a tragedy, but it has already been investigated multiple times before the current special committee.

An extensive congressional probe by the House Intelligence Committee was released in 2014. Back then the Associated Press reported, “Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.”

As Democratic members of the current committee note, Republican members and staffers regularly issue misleading and inaccurate leaks and refuse to release transcripts of witness appearances so we can see what witnesses said. Between this unfair process and McCarthy’s bragging, it’s clear today’s select committee has a nakedly political purpose.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, McCarthy’s competitor for the speakership, has been in the news for rudely interrupting Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood and exhibiting a misleading graphic about the group’s services. Not only did it use different number ranges for different data but, as Politifact ruled, “The chart’s most prominent feature — the much larger crossed arrows — suggests a conclusion that’s flat wrong.”

Chaffetz both spread falsehoods about Planned Parenthood and seemed to have missed a very basic fact: that the group receives funds for specific services delivered, and those don’t include abortion.

Reimbursing the group is good policy, keeping women healthy, catching diseases before they become more serious and preventing unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, abortions.

Chaffetz and McCarthy, if they became speaker, would find it impossible to satisfy many GOP constituents when it comes to keeping the federal government open while funding Planned Parenthood.

According to a recent national Pew Research poll, two-thirds of Republicans want the federal budget to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, a huge contrast to the public as a whole. Sixty percent of Americans want Planned Parenthood to be funded, a view held by 83 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents.

And in a recent Hart poll, 70 percent of Mainers want the group, which provides pap smears, breast cancer screenings, birth control, and other services, to continue receiving funding.

As these potential speakers grapple with the reality that undermining Planned Parenthood is bad politics, they have to be a bit afraid of GOP voters. As Pew found, 78 percent of tea party Republicans (and 54 percent of all Republicans) are happy about Boehner’s departure, and “just 32% of Republicans approve of their party’s congressional leaders down from 41% in May and 50% in February.”

Unlike Gov. Paul LePage, who stopped working with the Maine Legislature months ago, and Kim Davis, who wouldn’t issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples, neither McCarthy nor Chaffetz can decide to just stop doing their jobs.

The House has to be involved to pass a budget and keep our credit strong. As the tea party tiger needs to be controlled, one of America’s major political parties faces a test of seriousness.

LePage: Good Will-Hinckley probe is merely a ‘witch hunt’ by GOP senator

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Gov. Paul LePage erected a Christmas tree outside his office in June to protest the biennial state budget. Taped to Christmas ornaments were pictures of lawmakers, including Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, and Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, both of whom are Jewish.

Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that the ongoing probe into his role in influencing Good Will-Hinckley to fire Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves as the institution’s president earlier this year amounts to nothing more than the latest salvo a prolonged attack by Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta.

“This is a witch hunt by Sen. Roger Katz,” said LePage to reporters at the State House Tuesday morning. “He’s been chasing me down since January of 2011. I have no reason why.”

LePage repeated what has become a familiar refrain when asked about the probe, which is being conducted by the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, which Katz chairs, and the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. The committee is due to hold hearings in the matter next week, at which two LePage staffers have refused to appear because of a pending federal lawsuit against LePage, which was brought by Eves.

LePage hinted that in the long term, he will somehow retaliate against Katz but would not say how.

“There’s a federal lawsuit going on and that will vindicated everything we’ve done. Then it will be my turn,” said LePage, who then ended the questioning and strode into his office.

Katz has had an often stormy relationship with the governor.

On one hand, he was one of the first Republicans to criticize the governor when he authored a newspaper column in April of 2011 that called for LePage to tone down what they characterized as inflammatory rhetoric. Katz also was the author of a bill this year that sought to force LePage to sell $11.5 million in conservation bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future program that the governor has been blocking for months. That bill died in the House of Representatives after LePage vetoed it.

On the other hand, Katz supported the governor’s goal of banning the use of food stamps for buying junk food this year when he sponsored the LePage’s bill to do so. That bill died between the House and Senate.

LePage has also attacked Katz. In June, Katz was one of the Senate Republicans in LePage’s crosshairs for not supporting elements of LePage’s state budget proposal. Katz, who is Jewish, was one of the lawmakers whose picture LePage used to make a Christmas ornament.

Katz said in a written statement in response to questions from the BDN that he’s not the only lawmaker supporting the investigation of LePage and Good Will-Hinckley.

“All 12 of us on the Government Oversight Committee, Republicans and Democrats alike, voted to undertake this review,” said Katz. “My job as Senate chair [of the committee] is to make sure the hearing gets conducted in a fair and impartial way to get all the facts out. That’s what I intend to do.”

Former Maine wind energy official takes reigns of natural gas company

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

I’ve been lying to you.

Most days, I launch into the Daily Brief with something like “Good morning from Augusta, where…” even though most of the time I’m writing from home. The point of that opening was to put your focus (and mine) in the State Capitol and whatever’s going on.

Daily Brief co-author Mike Shepherd leveled with you yesterday when he wrote that he was sitting on his couch at the time. Well today, if you must know, I’m in my dining room. The coffee is hot and my cat seems to enjoy this old Pink Floyd song I’m listening to.

Anyway, OVER IN AUGUSTA there will probably be a bit of a crowd gathered this afternoon when the Department of Health and Human Services hosts a public hearing on a new rule it will implement in the coming weeks that will impose an asset test on applicants for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps. That means peoples’ assets — like bank account balances, boats and ATVs — will be counted before they can receive the benefit.

But Mike already told you about that yesterday (from his couch) so let’s move on. — Christopher Cousins

It’s been a long while since we’ve reminded you, but if you’re not already receiving the Daily Brief in your email inbox every morning (it’s free!) you can sign up for that service by clicking here. Tell your friends! 

Former PUC chairman Adams hired as CEO of Summit Natural Gas

A once-controversial figure in Maine politics got a new gig on Monday, when the parent company of Summit Natural Gas of Maine announced that Kurt Adams, the former chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, would be its new CEO.

According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, he’ll lead the company’s operations, which include pipeline networks in the Kennebec Valley region and the Portland suburbs. It hasn’t been easy for the company, which has faced two lawsuits from contractors, paid fines from regulators and slowed its project in southern Maine earlier this year.

Adams, who chaired the PUC from 2005 to 2008 after a stint as Democratic Gov. John Baldacci’s chief lawyer, was no stranger to flak as a top official at First Wind, which managed wind energy projects in Maine and other states until it merged with solar giant SunEdison Inc. last year.

At First Wind, Adams was a target of anti-wind activists, particularly in 2010, after the Maine Center for Public Reporting reported it appeared that he accepted an ownership interest at the company while he was still Maine’s chief energy regulator. First Wind argued that was wrong and Attorney General Janet Mills found that there was no conflict of interest. — Michael Shepherd

Trio of drug-fighting panels to be named on Thursday

In August, Gov. Paul LePage held a drug summit in Augusta to discuss strategies to fight the spread of illegal drugs in Maine. The upshot of the summit was that the problem would continued to be studied by three task forces: One to study treatment options, one to focus on prevention methods and one to examine law enforcement practices.

According to a recent newsletter from the Maine Medical Association, each task force will include about a dozen members who will be named on Thursday by U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty, Attorney General Janet Mills and Commissioner of Public Safety John Morris.

Each task force meeting will be open to the public, according to the newsletter, and there will be time for public comments regarding any new findings or proposed initiatives. — Christopher Cousins

Wear red, support the troops

Gov. Paul LePage and First Lady Ann LePage are scheduled to appear together later this morning at a news conference where they’ll announce their participation in “RED Shirt Friday,” a national push to demonstrate support for military personnel by wearing red. On Fridays.

The “RED” in Red Shirt Friday stands for “Remember Everyone Deployed.”

“This is just one simple way we all can physically show our appreciation at the end of each and every week,” said Ann LePage in a written statement. — Christopher Cousins

Portland firefighters’ union supports Ethan Strimling for mayor

The Portland Firefighters IAFF, Local 740 and the Maine State Federation of Firefighters endorsed mayoral challenger Ethan Strimling to be the city’s next mayor. Monday’s announcement to that effect comes about a month before the Nov. 3 election.

Local 740 President John Brooks said in a written statement that the endorsement means members of the union will be actively campaigning for Strimling, including in door-to-door canvassing of neighborhoods in Portland.

Strimling, a former state lawmaker, is one of two challengers for incumbent Mayor Michael Brennan, a former state senator who was first elected to Portland’s highest office in 2011. The other challenger is Tom MacMillan, who is chairman of Portland’s Green-Independent Party Committee.

Brennan said in a press release that he plans to announce some endorsements later this morning at Fort Sumner Park in Portland.

All three candidates will face off in a debate at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list The cold heart of the State House

It’s cold in them thar halls.

No, we’re not talking about the 1951 comedy play about some hills where it’s cold. We’re talking about the State House.

If you’re like me, you reached a milestone in the past week or so when you turned up the heat at home for the first time this fall. That’s not an option at the State House, where an ongoing repair to the heating system means the heat won’t be on until probably the end of the week.

“In the meantime, please turn off your heating and cooling units as they will just be blowing cold air,” reads a Monday memo to employees from Grant Pennoyer, executive director of the Legislative Council.

I’ve heard some stories about rosy-cheeked employees with chattering teeth sitting at their desks wrapped in blankets. I’ve also heard that a frost-encrusted Luke Skywalker and his Tauntaun were seen patrolling, cold and desperate, between the House and Senate chambers on the third floor. In addition to heat, they were probably looking like funding, like everyone else on the third floor.

Thanks to Senate staffer Jamie Logan for having the presence of mind to snap a photo. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins



How much do Maine people want to fund Planned Parenthood?

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

National data show strong support for funding Planned Parenthood, but what do Maine people think?

A new poll from Hart Research demonstrates that Mainers want the group to receive federal funds. [You can see details about the poll’s sample and methodology below.]

Maine poll by Hart Research Associates

Not only do 70% oppose defunding Planned Parenthood, but 55% strongly oppose defunding. A whopping 76% of women oppose defunding, as do 65% of men.

The possibility of a government shutdown to try to defund Planned Parenthood is extraordinarily unpopular. As this graph shows, 77% of Mainers oppose it, 61% strongly. Only 19% favor such a shutdown.

GOP hearings on Planned Parenthood came in response to misleading edited videos by a group called the Center for Medical Progress. But these are not trusted by Mainers.

As Hart reports:

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Maine voters express skepticism about the motivations of the Republican leadership in this matter, saying Republicans are conducting these hearings mainly because they are trying to push a political agenda. By contrast, only 27% of voters believe that Republicans are seeking these hearings because “they have legitimate concerns about Planned Parenthood and want to learn the truth.”

Maine people see Planned Parenthood positively and want the group to keep receiving federal funds, which are given as reimbursements for particular medical services like pap smears, breast exams and birth control.

From September 18 to 21, 2015, Hart Research Associates conducted surveys among a randomly selected statewide cross section of 501 voters in Maine. The interviews were conducted by telephone, including landlines, cell phones, and VOIP connections. The statistical margin of error associated with random samples of 500 respondents is ±4.5 percentage points.

You can follow Pollways on Facebook.

LePage’s food stamp asset test gets public hearing Tuesday

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from … my couch in Gardiner. (I don’t actually go to work until after the Daily Brief is done.) There’s not much on tap in Augusta today, but as you all know, that can always change.

Legislators have submitted proposed bills for the upcoming session in January. The list came out Friday, and we’ll take a closer look at that today. Also, the Sun Journal is hosting a Lewiston mayoral debate tonight. — Michael Shepherd

Asset test for food stamps to get public hearing, but it’s a formality

Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to block Mainers with more than $5,000 in assets— with some exceptions — from getting food stamps will get a public hearing on Tuesday. That test is defined in federal law, but Maine has waived it in recent years, and so have most other states.

The value of a home or a household’s primary vehicle won’t count in the test, but bank account balances, boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles, jet skis, all-terrain vehicles, campers and other things will. DHHS estimates that it will affect 8,600 people in the program now.

In defending the change, which was announced last month, LePage, a Republican, called welfare “a last resort, not a way of life” and said Mainers “should not come home to see snowmobiles, four-wheelers or jet skis in the yards of those who are getting welfare.”

But Democrats and other advocates have said it’ll make it harder for people to get out of poverty. It can also be difficult to implement, according to Governing magazine. In Pennsylvania, A Democratic governor got rid of the test in 2008 and his Republican successor brought it back.

Now, Democrat Tom Wolf has gotten rid of it again, with his administration estimating that it cost $3.5 million to administer each year and caseworkers made errors that resulted in $1.5 million that didn’t go to people who should have qualified.

There may be some compelling testimony at the Maine hearing, but the rule doesn’t require legislative approval, so the Department of Health and Human Services can implement the change by itself after the hearing, which is at 1 p.m. at the department’s building on Union Street in Augusta. — Michael Shepherd

Susan Collins calls for increased mental health access after Oregon mass shooting

At an event in Augusta on Saturday — two days after Christopher Harper-Mercer killed nine people and wounded more than two dozen others at an Oregon community college — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, called for passage of a bill she’s co-sponsoring, according to the Kennebec Journal.

The Mental Health Reform Act, would integrate mental and physical health services, focus on early intervention for children and increase federal oversight of mental health providers.

After the Oregon shooting, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, renewed a longtime call for “common-sense gun legislation,” including expansions of federal background checks before gun purchases.

That’s opposed by most Republicans, although Collins has a mixed record on gun control. She was one of four Republicans to vote for a background check compromise that failed in 2013, but she has opposed a national gun registry and a ban on assault rifles. Maine’s senior senator is worth watching as the gun debate continues. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list Picking (and then catching) ‘em all

I hope everybody enjoyed a beautiful fall weekend in Maine. This is the best time to live here. I did some apple picking yesterday, and now, I have a shopping bag full of apples that I don’t know what to do with.

While going to grab lunch in Whitefield, I saw this posting on the bulletin board. It’s apparently from a kid named Jacobey, who runs a Pokemon club. To get in, you have to beat him.

I like this kid’s boldness. I hope he’s gotten some takers.

Watch Rep. Poliquin go on the attack for Wall Street

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

In my column in the Press Herald over the weekend, I discussed the very public way in which Maine Second-District Representative Bruce Poliquin has championed the interests of Wall Street, both in his votes and in a series of videos his staff have posted of the proceedings of the House Financial Services Committee.

It’s weird to write a print column that relies so heavily on a bunch of YouTube videos. Even though I tried to capture important parts in quotes and descriptions, words are no substitute for the clip itself. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide some additional context and some embedded video.

Before you watch Poliquin question Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray in a manner I can only describe as aggressively smarmy, it might be useful to have a reminder of what the CFPB is and how important it is to have an advocate for regular people in a political and policy environment rigged in favor of the big banks.

I’ll let Senator Elizabeth Warren explain:

For some additional context, here’s a previous column I wrote on Poliquin’s record-breaking campaign contributions from Wall Street.

With all that in mind, here’s Poliquin’s performance with Cordray:

For the record, the claims about inflated office space renovation costs Poliquin raised in the clip were found to be completely baseless by an independent investigation. They’re part of an ongoing strategy by Wall Street lobbyists to weaken and discredit the Bureau in any way possible, for the benefit of the big banks. Judging by this clip and the legislation he has supported, it’s a strategy that Poliquin seems to wholeheartedly embrace.

As I noted in the column, Poliquin takes a very different tone when questioning his Wall-Street-friendly ideological allies.

Republican trio proposes defunding Planned Parenthood in Maine

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where it feels as if it could snow. Am I the first person you’ve heard that from this year? You’re welcome.

By all accounts, it’s been a rough week in Maine and the nation. Another Maine paper mill is on the ropes, a ridiculous amount of rain caused havoc and destruction across the state and then there was another mass shooting yesterday in Oregon.

But then again, this week brought us the onset of autumn color and last night, one of the best sunsets I have seen in a long time. And it’s Friday.

I dedicate today’s soundtrack — one of my wife’s favorite songs — to everyone who’s looking forward to relaxing this weekend and celebrating the simple things, like the sunrise, the love in a woman’s eyes and the touch of a precious child, which make life worth living.

It’s funny how it’s the little things in life that mean the most. — Christopher Cousins

Planned Parenthood funding fight coming to Maine

Three Republican state lawmakers say they’ll sponsor a bill to defund Planned Parenthood facilities in Maine, according to a report by Patty Wight at Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

Reps. Richard Pickett of Dixfield, Mary Anne Kinney of Knox and Beth O’Connor of Berwick wrote in an op-ed to the Sun Journal that they will introduce legislation to stop “the unlawful use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion that might result in the harvesting and selling of baby body parts.”

The proposal, which could be debated when the Legislature reconvenes in January if political leaders on the Legislative Council vote to move the bill forward, comes after months of controversy around Planned Parenthood that spurred a failed congressional attempt to strip the organization of its taxpayer funding.

Democratic Sen. Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick said this bill is the product of political extremism.

“Bills targeting Planned Parenthood are nothing more than catnip for the most radical elements of the GOP,” said Hill in a written statement.

The Republican trio asked for any state dollars flowing to Planned Parenthood to be rerouted to other organizations that provide the same services.

“Whether this group is harvesting from baby bodies here in Maine or elsewhere matters not,” they wrote. “This country does not need to progress down this path. Maine should lead the way and not just follow.”

Is the cost of energy in Maine stifling our economy?

Republican Gov. Paul LePage certainly thinks so and a new report funded by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and compiled by a Portland firm called Innovative Natural Resource Solutions LLC supports the claim.

The report says what we’ve been hearing for years and over and over again from LePage: Maine has high electricity and natural gas prices, a hefty tax burden and high wood costs. The report, which consists of a series of data graphics and very little text, is a quick and interesting read. Check it out.

There aren’t a lot of surprises in the report, but expect LePage to use it extensively in his arguments for increasing timber harvesting on public lands and pursuing lower energy costs with an effort to bring more natural gas to Maine’s industrial sector.

“In order to achieve greater economic prosperity, we must work together and accept the hard facts,” said LePage in a written statement. “This report is a reality check for the Legislature.”

ICYMI: The Legislature is working on solutions as well. Legislative and industrial leaders just this week announced the launch of a new program to pull more students into the community college system to take advantage of a new Mechanized Logging Operations Training Program. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list What’s so bad about puns?

The BDN’s Seth Koenig gave us another interesting read on Thursday, this time with a map, generated by Atlas Obscura, that shows businesses across Maine that have what Seth calls “punny” names like the Hair Force One hair salon and the Brewed Awakenings coffee shop.

A shout out to my hometown here: There’s a bed and breakfast in South Paris that I always thought had a clever name, but which didn’t make Atlas Obscura’s cut.

It’s called the Dew Drop Inn.

If you’re rolling your eyes, I suggest you consider giving puns a chance. As a writer, I think I can speak with authority on this issue. I’d tell you a chemistry joke but I know I wouldn’t get a reaction. — Christopher Cousins

George Mitchell, Angus King step into Question 1 debate with endorsement

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where here, there and everywhere across the U.S., the federal government remains open on the first day of its new fiscal year, thanks to a continuing budget resolution that sustains funding for the government until Dec. 11.

All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the stopgap budget bill, which passed 277-151 in the House and 78-20 in the Senate.

While Wednesday’s votes were a victory for millions of federal employees and those who depend on federal services, it was of course little more than a Band-Aid, meant to kick the can down the road for another few weeks while Democrats and Republicans in Congress play the latest round in a game of political chicken around the federal budget that has dragged on for years.

I wish I could say this was the new normal in Washington, but it’s all too familiar. — Christopher Cousins

Mitchell, King endorse Question 1

Supporters of Question 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot, which proposes a range of campaign finance reforms in state-level elections, will head into the final stretch of the campaign with the support of some influential endorsements.

Former Democratic U.S. Sen. George Mitchell and independent Sen. Angus King announced this morning that they support the measure, which was brought to the ballot by a citizen-led initiative.

It requires special interest groups that spend money on Maine elections to disclose their top three donors in all political advertisements; stiffens penalties and fines for breaking campaign finance laws; provides more funding for the Maine Clean Election Fund by cutting some $6 million in corporate tax breaks and implements new disclosure requirements for gubernatorial candidates after they win elections.

Mitchell and King said in a joint statement that the passage of Question 1 would be a step toward moving the election process away from the influence of wealthy donors and corporations and toward everyday voters. Both used the word “drowning” to describe the role money plays in elections.

“The political process is drowning in money,” said Mitchell. “Today there is more money in politics than ever before and at the same time, declining transparency. It is the worst of both worlds.”

Public opposition to Question 1 has been scant in the run-up to next month’s election, but is beginning to materialize, especially among Republicans. As reported here in the Daily Brief, Rep. Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, is among the increasingly vocal opposition. Gov. Paul LePage has said he opposes Question 1. Expect business groups with members who would be financially hurt by losing the tax breaks to weigh in as the vote approaches. — Christopher Cousins

Collins co-sponsors bill to help pregnant addicts kick the habit

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced Wednesday that she has co-sponsored legislation to bolster treatment options for pregnant mothers with the goal of decreasing the number of newborns who enter this world as opioid addicts.

The bipartisan Protecting our Infants Act passed unanimously Wednesday through the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is en route to a vote by the full Senate. The bill comes as opioid abuse in Maine and the U.S. is increasing, which means that sadly, so is the number of addicted babies. A recent Vanderbilt study cited by Collins found that the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome nearly doubled between 2009 and 2012 to 5.8 births per 1,000.

The legislation also follows a February 2015 Government Accountability Office report that discussed ways that federal programs could better fight prenatal opioid abuse.

The Protecting our Infants Act requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assess drug treatment and prevention programs to fill gaps and reduce redundancies; calls on the federal government to increase involvement by non-governmental organizations; and authorizes the federal Centers for Disease Control to improve data collection and response methods. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list ‘Every good boy deserves…’ wait, what?

There’s no question that the times are changing and those who don’t adapt risk being left behind.

I’m usually receptive to change. As I explained earlier this week, I stopped putting two spaces after periods years ago. I try to be careful about saying “Merry Christmas” in case it might offend someone. I have even embraced the new ways my sons are being taught math after I realized that the new ways are helping them solve problems more in their heads and less on paper.

Last night, however, I found my breaking point. My 10-year-old is just starting trumpet lessons and as anyone who has studied sheet music knows, one of the first things you learn is a little trick to help you know which notes go with which lines and spaces.

In the spaces, in ascending order, is the word “FACE.” On the lines, from bottom to top, is Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. Like this:

In my son’s trumpet workbook, it suggests “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”

Really? What a limp noodle of a phrase.

Look, I know there’s an obesity epidemic and tooth decay and sugar highs to deal with, but can’t we leave tradition alone? Is fudge really so evil?

I have crossed out “does fine” in his trumpet book and replaced it with “deserves fudge.” Furthermore, I have suggested that he bring this up tomorrow with his music teacher. Yes, I am suddenly one of “those parents.”

Now here’s today’s goosebump-inducing soundtrack, with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, to help me, and maybe you, calm down. — Christopher Cousins


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