Lawmaker says LePage’s ‘white girl’ comments strengthen impeachment case

Good morning from Augusta folks, where the sun dawns on a new week of anything’s possible in Maine politics.

First thing’s first. Let’s honor the late, great David Bowie, who succumbed to cancer Sunday at age 69. Here’s your soundtrack. It’s one of my favorite Bowie songs and this live version sounds fantastic.

It’s going to be another interesting week in the Legislature, to say the least. An impeachment order against Republican Gov. Paul LePage is scheduled to be introduced Thursday but there’s a lot to happen between now and then. For starters, it should be a contentious day in the Legislature’s Education Committee with Republican attempts to remove the controversial Common Core State Standards from Maine’s education system by the end of this year and delay for one year efforts to move away from the “Smarter Balance” standardized test Maine uses in its public schools.

There has been interest, particularly among Republicans, to repeal the Common Core in Maine, though two legislative attempts to do so failed in 2015.

The House and Senate return to session Tuesday and there is a long schedule of committee activity this week but that’s just what’s on the schedule. The unexpected is what we’ve come to watch for. — Christopher Cousins

More fodder for impeachment?

Gov. LePage largely dismissed the national uproar he caused last week with his now infamous “white girls” comments, which have riled up his opponents and attracted praise from the Ku Klux Klan but may be having less of an impact on Maine voters.

The question is whether this latest comment by LePage has legs or whether it will become a footnote in history on a page (or two) of a lot of other footnotes about LePage’s inflammatory rhetoric. For members of the House who plan to introduce an impeachment order against the governor this week, the remarks add more fuel to the fire.

“The governor’s remarks unmask what many of us already knew about his racist and xenophobic tendencies, his class war against poor people of all colors and his vindictiveness toward immigrants based on color and religion,” wrote Rep. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, one of the co-sponsors of the impeachment order, in a message to reporters. “Clearly, more than ever, the need to hold this governor accountable to the rule of law is upon us.”

The likelihood of impeachment has been seen as decidedly slim, especially since Democratic House leaders have indicated that they prefer a less serious censure order against LePage. Will the events of the past few days sway anyone? We’ll know by the end of the week. — Christopher Cousins

Tax code conformity could cost Maine $42 million

The LePage administration, joined by lawmakers from both parties, has proposed legislation to align Maine’s tax system with tax code changes the federal government made in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. If the bill is successful, it means among other things a continuation of tax deductions for teachers and businesses, as well as for mortgage insurance and higher education expenses.

The issue is highly relevant to Maine residents and businesses when they file their tax paperwork this year and could sway how big of a check they have to write by April 15. But the bill also has an impact on state revenues. According to Department of Administrative and Financial Services spokesman David Heidrich, the cost to Maine as reflected in decreased state government revenue in the current biennium would be approximately $42 million. — Christopher Cousins 

Republicans lining up to oppose Chellie Pingree’s re-election

As the 2016 election inches ever closer, Republicans are beginning to declare their candidacy for Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree’s 1st Congressional District seat.

Ande Smith of North Yarmouth, a U.S. Navy veteran and owner of a cyber security consulting firm, announced this morning that he will declare his candidacy today with the Federal Election Commission.

Smith joins another Republican, Mark Holbrook of Brunswick, on the 2016 primary ballot. Holbrook, who filed to run for the seat in November 2015, is a clinical counselor. Holbrook ran for the Maine House in 2014 but lost to Democrat Ralph Tucker.

Taking over Pingree’s seat is likely to be a tough slog for Republicans. In addition to the 1st District leaning Democrat, Pingree is a four-term incumbent who is well established when it comes to the fund raising apparatus supporting her. — Christopher Cousins 

Reading list

More honoring David Bowie

Since I started writing this blog, I’ve received a few emails from folks who are upset about David Bowie’s passing. He was, after all, one of the most famous living international pop superstars. Three requests this morning: The Laughing Gnome, Panic in Detroit (this one kind of rocks) and Phish’s tribute to him.

We’re all about customer service here at the Daily Brief. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.