Daily Brief: Can the Legislature make the trains run on time?

Good morning from Augusta. 

Have you ever taken Amtrak’s Downeaster service from southern Maine to Boston? If you have, there’s a good chance that the train was late. A really good chance.

In the past 12 months, only 22 percent of Downeaster runs have ended on time. The train runs from Brunswick to Boston, with stops in between, including in Portland. Amtrak reports that in January of this year, the primary causes for delay were related to track and signal issues, with other delays caused by other train movements in the area, which can force the Downeaster to “pull over” and wait for other trains to pass by.

Maine spends $2 million per year on the train service, and the late arrivals and poor track maintenance have driven one Maine lawmaker — Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick — to request an audit of the train’s overseers, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, or NNEPRA. His request will be heard today at the Government Oversight Committee, as reported by my colleague, Christopher Cousins.

A proposal to require anger management courses for people convicted of domestic violence will receive a public hearing today at the Public Safety Committee. The bill, LD 150 by Rep. Frances Head, R-Bethel, would require offenders to either participate in the courses or face a specified amount of jail time.

Meanwhile, the Appropriations Committee will hammer out three emergency spending bills, which may sound exciting, but the work is largely routine.

If you like the Daily Brief, tell your friends to sign up to receive it in their email inbox every weekday. Have a great weekend. — Mario Moretto.

Maine holds 1st place in voter turnout

A survey of certified election results by state officials across the country confirmed what many in Maine already knew: Mainers, you sure do love to vote.

Just under six out of every 10 eligible voters in Maine turned up at the polls in 2014, putting Maine ahead of all the other states in voter turnout with 58.5 percent, according to Nonprofit Vote, a voter engagement group.

Maine was followed by Wisconsin (56.8 percent) and Colorado (54.5 percent). Nevada, Tennessee, New York, Texas and Indiana had the lowest turnout, all with fewer than 30 percent of eligible voters participating in 2014.

As might be expected, the report found that states with competitive statewide races, such as governor or U.S. Senate, had higher turnout than those states that didn’t. States that offer same-day voter registration, including Maine, also had higher turnout.

Maine always does well on these things — good job, guys! — but 2014’s turnout was higher than expected for a midterm year. The figures were likely buoyed by the hotly contested three-way race for governor, the open seat in the 2nd Congressional District and a bear-baiting referendum that pitted concerns about animal rights against Maine’s hunting traditions. — Mario Moretto.

Reading list

No more political signs?

Remember this?

too many campaign signsThat’s the scene in medians and along the side of the road in Maine towns and cities pretty much every year, but that could be about to change.

Maine Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, wants to do away with Maine’s free-wheeling approach to campaign signage in public ways. There are pretty strict rules about when candidates may and may not place political signs in public rights-of-way, but other than that, all bets are off. No prior permission or license is required.

Devin’s bill, LD 287, is pretty sparse. Citing “traffic safety” concerns, it says simply that it would repeal Maine’s law allowing political signs in public rights-of-way “without a license or permit.” It’s unclear whether that means he wants to do away with such signs completely, or just require candidates to get permission. — Mario Moretto

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.