Gov. Paul LePage defended his education proposals, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and blasted Republican lawmakers who oppose his energy bill during a recent interview with WGAN 560.
LePage also referred to Democratic Sen. Justin Alfond as a “spoiled little brat from Portland” during a long interview with Republican host Phil Harriman.
The full interview is available here.
The interview has received quite a bit of attention from Democrats, who not only objected to the governor’s characterization of Alfond, but his comments supporting how religious schools discipline students.
and progressive activist Mike Tipping. Tipping wrote about the DHHS portion of the segment in his weekly column for the Kennebec Journal, saying the governor’s statements may further the call for an independent investigation into a DHHS computer problem that allowed 19,000 ineligible Mainers to access Medicaid benefits.
Tipping points out on his Down East blog that the audio of the interview was taken down from the WGAN website at some point. A link was reposted this morning.
Gov. Paul LePage is back from vacationing in Jamaica and word in the State House is that he isn’t thrilled with current status of his education bills. The Education Committee gave strong bipartisan endorsements to two of the governor’s bills, including a teacher evaluation proposal that had been fiercely opposed by the Maine Education Association.
Nonetheless, LePage’s communications staff has indicated that the governor is disappointed that the committee recommended a resolve to expand school choice options rather than pass the proposal outright. The bill hasn’t come to the floor yet, so there could be some amendments if the governor leans on Republican leadership for a stronger bill.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted this morning 84-59 to spike the governor’s proposal to divert public funding to religious schools.
Another administration-backed bill that would change high school diploma standards is also running into trouble. Educators from RSU 2 have piloted the program and described it as a failure. A letter writer in the Bangor Daily News said the administration should be “promoting excellence, not the mediocrity that standards-based education propagates.”
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The administration is also experiencing some strong push-back from Republicans and Democrats on a controversial provision included in his proposal to dismantle the State Planning Office.
While the GOP backs the SPO dissolution, it’s concerned about the governor’s plan to create a new agency with investigative and subpoena powers.
Rep. Bradley Moulton, R-York, is among several Republicans that say the agency could become too powerful. Moulton called the proposed Office of Policy Management “a super agency” that could wreak havoc in state government with no bipartisan oversight.
Moulton and members of the Judiciary Committee voted 9-1 this week to have the administration scale back its plan.
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Still no word on the fate of LD 849, another contentious bill that would gradually draw down the state’s income tax rate by using surpluses in the General Fund.
The bill received approval in the Senate, but it has twice stalled in the House when GOP members sided with the Democratic minority.
The first rejection had been dismissed by Republican leadership as a misunderstanding during caucus meetings about the bill. But there appears to be other factors at play here.
Sen. Jonathan Courtney, R-Springvale, was invited to the House GOP caucus earlier this week to explain the bill. Courtney is the sponsor of the amendment that effectively rewrote LD 849 from its original drafting (That bill was sponsored by former state Sen. David Trahan).
The think was that Courtney would be able to persuade members that the bill was a good idea.
It didn’t work. On Monday, with several Democrats absent, nearly a dozen Republicans again broke off the majority to vote down the LD 849. Several of the dissenting votes were easily explained: Rep. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, is co-chair of the Appropriations Committee has expressed concerns about putting tax breaks in statue when the budget-writing process often requires flexibility.
Here’s what he said:
Flood’s thoughts on budgetary matters are certainly held in high regard in his caucus (and the Democratic one, for that matter), but some other Republicans suggested there were other factors hovering over the bill: Self-preservation.
Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, told the Sun Journal that some members were afraid that supporting the bill would come back to haunt them during the 2012 election.
“You’d be amazed at some of the sacrifices people will make to keep their seats here,” Harvell said.
Democrats, meanwhile, were assigning some of the credit to a floor speech by Rep. Robert Duschesne, D-Hudson (Hat tip: Dirigo Blue for audio embed).
AP file photo
The Maine Democratic Party has withdrawn it complaint challenging whether Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, had collected enough signatures to make a run against U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, in the 2nd Congressional District.
A spokeswoman with the Secretary of State confirmed that the party had pulled back its complaint via its legal counsel.
The complaint had challenged whether a handful of nominating petitions had met the legal requirement to qualify Raye for the ballot.
The Raye campaign dismissed the complaint last Friday. It did so again today.
“Congressman Michaud’s partisan operatives abandoned their frivolous attempt to keep Kevin Raye’s name off the ballot in an effort to spare themselves the public humiliation of having no case to present at today’s hearing,” said Raye’s campaign manager Kathleen Summers-Grice. “The amateur-hour smear tactics of the Michaud/Democrat machine smacks of an irresponsible ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ approach that has left them with egg on their faces.”
“This challenge makes one point clear: The Maine Democratic is very uneasy about a Raye-Michaud match up in November.”
The challenge targeted several petitions, but not enough to keep Raye off the ballot.
As Augusta lawmakers begin the frantic final push of the 125th Legislature, the 2012 election season is beginning to heat up as well.
Maine Attorney General William Schneider appears to have parlayed his oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court case on the federal health care law into some much-needed publicity for his bid for the U.S. Senate.
Schneider held media interviews all day Monday before heading to Washington D.C. Seems like a good move considering a recent Gallup poll shows that 72 percent of Americans believe the law’s individual mandate is unconstitutional (Coincidentally, the same polls show Americans are more conflicted about repealing the Affordable Care Act even though the mandate is considered the lynchpin to the law).
One of the other GOP candidates attempted to jump in the health care law spotlight. Rick Bennett’s campaign fired out a new release on Monday saying the SCOTUS case isn’t about health care, “it is about forcing Maine people to buy a product they may, or may not, wish to buy.”
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Speaking of senate candidates, state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, is getting on the bandwagon that wants independent candidate Angus King to disclose who he’ll caucus with if he’s elected.
Dill is circulating an online petition asking King to make a decision.
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Secretary of State Charlie Summers is holding a press conference today announcing his senate bid.
That three of Maine’s constitutional officers are running for the senate raises an interesting question: Would any of them consider stepping down to focus on their campaigns?
That’s what happened in 2009 when New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte resigned to dedicate her time to win the seat being vacated by retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg. The move ultimately paid off for Ayotte, who bested a crowded Republican primary field and won the general election.
It’s worth noting that Ayotte’s politics were relatively unknown prior to her decision.
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Staying on the senate a race a bit longer, columnist Al Diamon has a scathing take on what he says is a weak field of Democratic candidates.
They’re not enticed by the prospect the GOP may nominate an unelectable right-winger or a severely damaged moderate.
They’re not fired up about helping their party hang onto control of the Senate.
They just don’t dare to run against King.
So, they’ll nominate one of the above-mentioned doofuses, make some sort of perfunctory effort at campaigning for their designated loser (suggested slogans: Vote for Hinck ‘cause he don’t stink; Dill will get us out of this pickle; Dunlap: mostly because he’s from the 2nd District; We disagree with Pollard on nearly everything of importance but you might at least consider voting for him anyway – or not) and let this one slide.
That’s a curious choice, since there’s nothing in King’s history that would lead a rational observer to conclude he’s unbeatable. He barely got by Brennan to win his first term as governor in ’94. He rolled to an easy re-election victory in 1998, but only because both parties nominated leftover lug nuts. He’s done nothing since that would make him more formidable and a good deal that might be construed as lessening his appeal.
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Interesting piece by the Center for Responsive Politics about the fundraising efforts of congressional Blue Dog Democrats. The center-left coalition got hammered in the 2010 election, leading some to wonder if moderate Republicans weren’t the only endangered species in D.C.
That remains to be seen, but fewer Blue Dogs means more dollars, according to the report. Almost all of the candidates’ fundraising in 2011 exceeded their efforts in 2009.
That includes U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, who raised 7 percent more in 2011 than he did through the same period in 2009.
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And finally, some bad news for the young progressive hipsters who worship at the temple of Urban Outfitters: The company’s president is big Rick Santorum fan, according to this piece in Philadelphia Weekly.
The story first notes the Urban Outfitters rapid expansion efforts. It continues:
But the difference between stage-crafted storefront image and corporate reality doesn’t end there. It extends all the way to the top, to the man who built the company from scratch—Richard Hayne, Urban Outfitters’ president and founder.
While the typical Urban Outfitters shopper is likely to be liberal-minded—as is the province and privilege of youth—the fiftysomething Hayne is mom-and-apple-pie conservative. He and his wife Margaret have contributed $13,150 to the campaign coffers of Paleolithic right-wing Republican Sen. Rick Santorum and his Political Action Committee over the years.
There appears to be a bit of an inside shakeup in the U.S. Senate race.
Tyler Harber, the Republican operative who had been steering the campaign of tea party candidate Scott D’Amboise has defected to help his old friend Bruce Poliquin.
Harber was the contact person on a press release Poliquin’s Senate campaign sent Thursday. His defection had been rumored in GOP circles for several weeks. He didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Poliquin, the state treasurer, recently entered the race along with five other Republicans. He has a history with Harber. The Tennessee native managed Poliquin’s 2010 gubernatorial run. Poliquin finished sixth out of seven candidates in the primary.
Critics questioned his efforts to make D’Amboise a viable candidate, which included what some viewed as a hasty, if not ill-advised, indictment of U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe when news surfaced over the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit over Education Management Corporation, a company run by Snowe’s husband Jock McKernan.
“Olympia Snowe owes us two things – an explanation and a letter of resignation,” D’Amboise’s statement last year read. “Instead, she is in holed up in her ornate Washington, D.C. office refusing to explain what she knew and when she knew it.”
Snowe said the comments were libelous. It also didn’t appear to endear D’Amboise to fellow Republicans, some of whom described the move as amateurish.
Harber, meanwhile, has been described as a no-holds-barred operative. While he was in Tennessee he was accused, but never convicted, of hacking into former GOP chairman Chad Tindell’s home computer in an attempt to obtain personal e-mail exchanges with journalists and others.
Maine Republicans are well aware of the accusations, which surfaced on this As Maine Goes thread when Harber joined Poliquin in 2010. While some on the forum questioned the hire, others, like Gov. Paul LePage current legal counsel Dan Billings, were hopeful.
“If the guy (Harber) runs an effective negative campaign against (Les) Otten, I’m all for it,” Billings wrote.
That’s exactly what happened. Although Poliquin finished next to last, a television ad buy that blasted Otten’s business failures was considered by some in the GOP the move that helped clear the path for dark horse Paul LePage.
LePage, of course, went on to win the nomination and the Blaine House. The governor has remained loyal to Poliquin ever since, first asking the Legislature to elect him treasurer and defending the Georgetown native over an assortment of controversies.
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Some big changes to the Land Use Regulation Commission reform bill, huh?
After months of wrangling and backroom arm-twisting, the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee eliminated a controversial county opt-out provision. The measure concerned environmentalists, land use planners and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The LePage administration and other power brokers supported it. Eventually the latter relented after a coalition of Republicans made it clear they wouldn’t support the bill with the opt-out.
George Smith, formerly the head of the Maine Sportsman’s Alliance, had this view of the outcome:
oday, let’s recognize the final heroes in this epic struggle: the seven Republican State Representatives who bucked their party by refusing to support the ACF’s Republican-backed amended version of the LURC bill.
Those seven are Dennis Keschle, Tom Windsor, Kim Olsen, Brad Moulton, Les Fossel, Ryan Harmon, and Meredith Strang Burgess – encouraged by ACF Committee member Russ Black and assisted by Senator Tom Saviello.
Others were involved in the negotiations, but these are the names I know today.
Because Republicans hold only a 3-vote majority in the House, these members were in a strong position – and they used that position wisely.
They insisted that the bill remove the provision that would have allowed counties to opt out of LURC’s jurisdiction and take over the agency’s duties.
The morning buzz at the State House centers on a story by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting about a mining bill sponsored by Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, that would allow the Canadian-based Irving family to mine for minerals on a Maine mountain. As the report notes, Martin is also negotiating a $250,000 bankruptcy settlement with another Irving subsidiary.
Martin, a Democrat, denies any wrongdoing. This morning he issued a statement decrying the “baseless insinuations” of a quid pro quo with Irving.
From the release:
“These two companies are completely separate entities with no relation other than a similar name. If my debt to Irving Oil were to vanish tomorrow then you’d have a story to write. No one but the bankruptcy court will decide what my company owes Irving Oil. Just because I’m a small business owner having a fight with a big oil company doesn’t mean I’m going to stop fighting for jobs in my community. I introduced this bill for no other reason than to create jobs and economic opportunities for the people of Aroostook County.”
The bill has several Democratic and Republican co-sponsors and is backed Gov. Paul LePage.
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There was a little dust-up on the Maine Republican Party Facebook page yesterday over a crowing post over the resignation of MaineHousing chief Dale McCormick.
The post linked to a news article and was preceded by the well-known sports jeer, “Nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye!”
Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte and a few others condemned the post. Labonte, a Republican, said the tone was unbecoming of the party (Labonte has had his share of tiffs with the GOP, which didn’t take kindly to his 2010 endorsement of Eliot Cutler in the governors race).
The post was eventually yanked by the page administrator (the screen grab is above).
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Also on Facebook, the anti-wind group Friends of Maine’s Mountains called for a boycott of Baxter Beer because the Lewiston-based company offsets its electricity usage with wind energy (The Facebook page is called Maine Wind Concerns, which links to the FoMM website on the information section).
From the post:
“Boycott this beer. We hate to do it to you Baxter Brewing, because we do like to drink local. And when it comes to the outdoors in Maine there are few more noble names then Baxter. But you have to get rid of the “Wind made beer”pablum.”
Baxter Brewing has been receiving some very positive press lately, so it stands to reason that folks would come to their defense. And they did.
Benjamin Collings wrote:
“The first line you wrote was boycott their beer. You are taking things too personal. Your aim will do nothing to help your cause and you will encourage more people to buy his beer than boycott, it is actually good marketing for him.”
Here’s a grab of the thread:
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Things have been fairly quiet in the U.S. Senate race. Most of the news has centered on independent Angus King, who he’ll caucus with and his plans to divest in his wind energy company. One can expect to hear more about the federal grant the company received. The grant has come under scrutiny; most of the criticism has been directed at the Obama Administration, but that will probably change as Republicans ramp up their opposition campaign.
Speaking of Republicans, expect to hear more from their candidates as the legislative session winds down.
Polling shows the GOP field has some work to do to boost their name recognition with voters. A few of the candidates have a distinct advantage on that front: State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, Attorney General William Schneider and Secretary of State Charlie Summers.
All three constitutional officers have a bully pulpit because they can announce news — and sometimes views — from their respective offices. Poliquin has been doing this since he took office (The results are mixed: Polling shows that he’s among the best known candidates, but he has a high unfavorable rating).
Summers has been similarly active. On the March 15 filing deadline for congressional and legislative candidates, Summers issued a release encouraging voters to participate in the June primary. Summers doesn’t mention that he’s a candidate in the primary, but reminds voters that they can vote via absentee ballot.
Attorney General William Schneider, meanwhile, has been relatively quiet. That will change next week when the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing arguments in the case against the federal health care law. Maine is party in the multi-state lawsuit and Schneider is expected to travel to Washington D.C. to present his arguments.
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Finally, there’s been some rumors that Poliquin will resign his post as treasurer. Poliquin told the Sun Journal this week that those rumblings were “completely false.”
Maine Housing director Dale McCormick announced her resignation Tuesday. She didn’t go quietly. The following clip shows a contentious debate over the agency’s carbon credit initiative. The discussion followed the board’s acceptance of McCormick’s resignation in executive session put preceded the official announcement.
The State Integrity Investigation has given Maine a failing grade for safeguards against corruption.
There were early indications that this grade was coming (SJ story on early results here), but today’s announcement makes it official. The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, which conducted the analysis,
will add some context to the score in a story due out Tuesday has a story adding some context to the scores.
In the meantime it’s important to consider a few things while reviewing the results.
First, the bar was set very high. No state received an ‘A.’ Only five states received a ‘B,’ while 19 states got a ‘C’ and 18 got a D. Maine was one of eight with an ‘F.’
Additionally, there’s a theory that corruption safeguards are often installed after a scandal or a problem is brought to light. For example the legislature just this year adopted a new disclosure law after it was reported by MCPIR that a loophole made it so the state was paid millions of dollars to private organizations run by legislative leaders or the spouses of high-level state officials.
Similarly, many of the low marks Maine received were due to non-existent safeguards, but faulty or weak ones. In some cases, one could question if such safeguards are even practical here.
Readers can read the full report on the State Integrity website (link above). Here’s a quick rundown of the results:
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A new battle is brewing the Legislature over a tax reform bill.
LD 849 was a carry-over bill from last year sponsored by former state Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro. Lawmakers worked during the off session to develop the bill which was originally designed to ease the state’s tax burden.
The bill that’s now in the Senate is much different than that proposal. The language is completely new, swapped out with an amendment.
Critics say the bill is “the son of TABOR,” spending cap proposals that voters have rejected in three referendums.
Here’s what the bill does, according to the left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy:
- Decrease state revenues by gradually lowering Maine’s income tax rates to a flat 4%.
- 75% of the benefit of this proposal goes to the top 20% of taxpayers.
- Takes 40% of all General Fund revenues that exceed budgeted amounts each year, as well as any revenues over the spending limit established by LD 1 in 2005.
The Senate has given first approval to this bill, but stopped short of enactment. Expect the debate to continue today.