Daily Brief: Can libertarians, progressives join forces at State House?

Human trafficking will return to the fore today in Augusta, as Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, and Gov. Paul LePage hold a media event at that State House Hall of Flags to proclaim the week of Jan. 25 as Human Trafficking Awareness Week 

As a member in the House last year, Volk was thrust into the spotlight after Democratic leaders balked at her seemingly innocuous bill to help victims of the sex trade and other targets of trafficking, preventing it from seeing the light of day in the Legislature. 

The GOP deftly seized the moment, casting Democrats as hypocrites who cared more about keeping Republican ideas off the table than helping women. After a brief public outrage, Democrats relented on appeal, the bill ultimately became law, and Volk was elected to the Senate. 

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Hope for compromise at party fringes?

When politicians talk about “finding common ground,” that usually means leaning on the moderates and cooler heads in each party to work together and hammer out a deal, then find a way to drag the rest of the party — kicking and screaming, if necessary — to the other side.

But at least two state lawmakers think there’s another way. Democratic Rep. Diane Russell of Portland, a stalwart progressive, and Republican Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn, a dedicated libertarian, think there’s room for overlap at the parties’ fringes. On Tuesday, the duo will hold the first meeting of a new Civil Liberties Caucus.

The goal, said Russell, is to see how many other lawmakers think there’s more than one place on the political spectrum where work can get done. There’s a natural “nexus” between libertarians and progressives, she said, on issues of individual rights.

“This is about the die-hards finding common ground,” she said Thursday.

Not many people keep track of bills as they emerge from the Revisor of Statutes’ office, but those who do will have already seen several this session with Brakey and Russell both listed as sponsor or lead co-sponsor. So far, those have chiefly focused on issues related to marijuana legalization, but Russell said there would be more.

Brakey said Thursday that on issues such as prison reform and privacy rights, there could be enough lawmakers in he and Russell’s camps to move the needle, though he wouldn’t hazard a guess on how many would join the new caucus.

“There are already a lot of caucuses and a lot of expectations on people’s time,” he said.

Voters could decide on ranked-choice in 2016

A group trying to establish ranked-choice elections in Maine says they’re aiming to put the issue to Maine voters in 2016, AP reports.

The goal of ranked-choice, or instant runoff, voting is to ensure an eventual winner with as much support as possible. Waiting until 2016 — rather than putting the question to statewide referendum this year — gives the Committee on Ranked-Choice Voting more time to make their case to voters.

Under the system, voters rank as many of the candidates as they choose. After the polls close, all the first-choices votes are tallied. If one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, he or she wins. If there is no majority winner, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated.

Then, all that supporter’s second-choice votes are tallied, and added to the remaining candidates’ vote totals, and the lowest-ranked candidate is again eliminated.Additional tallies and eliminations are made until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the votes.

Maine would be the first state to institute instant-runoff for all state-level elections.

Reading list

We are Bangor

Just making sure you saw this amazing music video, spoofing the ’80s charity anthem “We Are the World” and teaching all who view it the correct way to say pronounce “Bangor.” (Hint: As the song helpfully points out, “It’s more like ‘store’ and less like ‘airplane hangar.'”).

The video made the rounds yesterday, and we’d be remiss not point out former state Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, singing the hook. She’s the lady in red on the stage at the Penobscot Theater Company. We should probably mention the several BDN staffers who appear in the video too, just for good measure.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

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