Good morning from Augusta, where the Legislature is in session on Thursday and committees will work on bills that would change oil spill reporting standards and promote fundraising for the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf.
But the biggest news involving Maine politics yesterday came when U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced that controversial drug industry figure Martin Shkreli would invoke the Fifth Amendment and not provide documents to the Senate Committee on Aging, which is investigating drug price hikes.
The committee subpoenaed Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, in December, after he became reviled earlier last year for obtaining the rights to an anti-parasitic drug and raising its price from $13.50 per pill to $750.
He became a main villain for those expressing outrage over rising drug prices, and he was arrested by the FBI in December on charges involving a hedge fund and pharmaceutical company he ran previously.
Collins, a Republican who chairs the aging committee, and the ranking Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, said Shkreli was asked to provide documents relating to the Turing price hikes, which are unrelated to the charges against him.
“Absent a valid justification for the grounds for invoking the Fifth Amendment, Mr. Shkreli’s assertion could hinder our investigation,” Collins said in a floor speech.
Maine ranked 13th among states in tax burden
Mainers paid more than 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes in 2012, putting it in 13th place on the Tax Foundation’s list of burdened states.
It’s among the nation’s highest, but it’s not so bad when you compare it to New England states. Maine is second-lowest in the region, ahead of New Hampshire, which ranks 44th in tax burden.
Maine’s 10.2 percent burden was actually its lowest since 1977, the earliest data point for the Tax Foundation. It hasn’t changed much since then, only rising as high as 11.3 percent in 1995.
There was one interesting wrinkle: The study found that while Maine and Vermont had the highest shares of vacation homes in the country, those taxes didn’t go far toward reducing tax burdens, with the states still in the top 13. — Michael Shepherd
- The Legislature’s Health and Human Services will have an informational meeting at 1 p.m. today on a controversial move by the LePage administration to use a test to determine what level of services people with intellectual or development disabilities would get from the state.
- A bill from Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, to allow school districts to ask voters what they want to do with future increases in state funding, was unanimously backed in a Wednesday committee vote. School budgets are often passed before state budgets, making for an uncertain process.
- How an 1880 Maine insurrection could sink ranked-choice voting — Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News
- LePage: Special interests control Augusta, ‘unless you fight back’ — Susan Sharon, MPBN
- Report: More Mainers ask for help to see public records — Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
- Legislature reviewing unintended tax increase on veterans — A.J. Higgins, MPBN
- Alleged Don McLean victim says she feared for her life — Stephen Betts, BDN
- See Maine’s worsening drug overdose problem — Darren Fishell, BDN
- Cain outraises Baldacci in 2nd District race by nearly five times in 2015 — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Putin implicated in fatal poisoning of former KGB spy at posh London hotel — Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post
This is Maine’s best public access show
I just had to flag a show I was alerted to on Monday. It’s called “Smart and Savvy – Unedited.” It’s on Biddeford’s public access network and it’s an amazing and awkward mix of discussion around politics and domestic life.
It’s hosted by three women: Demi Kouzounas, a dentist and vice chair of the Maine Republican Party, Debi Davis, a former Republican legislative candidate, and Carrie Baker, a retired insurance executive.
Here are just a few highlights from a January show:
- The intro music plays a bit long over the hosts’ talking.
- In a rousing discussion about the hosts’ respective holidays, Davis said she “shopped like there was no tomorrow” and “was crazy. Crazy! Online, in stores, I just wanted to buy everything this year and I almost did.”
- Baker doesn’t have a “formal” New Year’s resolution, but she’ll be “tougher,” calling herself “an innate giver” who does “wonderful things” for people. No more. “I’ve decided that I’m going to put a kibosh if I don’t get anything back because at some point you have to say, ‘OK, I get it, I’m an idiot.’ “
- Kouzounas recently reduced three drawers full of nail polish to one mere container of nail polish. Now, she doesn’t know what to do with the drawers. “You’ll fill it up,” Davis counsels. “We all fill it up.”
- Then, conservative radio host Ray Richardson comes on to talk race and politics.
If you have an hour to kill, this is definitely worth your time. — Michael Shepherd