Confronted at town hall, LePage says: ‘I am not a racist’

Good morning from blustery Augusta, where it’d be a good day for sailing or flying a kite if it weren’t so chilly. Those options being impossible, I guess I’ll start working.

This morning at the State House, a coalition of businesses and organizations will announce the submission of a petition to the Maine Public Utilities Commission in advance of the commission’s upcoming review of net metering. Net metering allows individuals or businesses with electricity-generating devices like solar panels or windmills to sell their excess power to the wider electrical grid.

A group of about two dozen businesses, along with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, will petition the PUC with three requests, which according to a news release will “prevent Maine from moving further backward on solar power.”

Earlier this year, after months of negotiations between lawmakers and solar industry officials, a bill meant to reform the way solar energy producers are paid died in the House of Representatives, which came within two votes of overriding Gov. Paul LePage’s veto. The governor declined to support the bill after negotiations failed to yield a price cap he favored.

Few bills have received as much attention and lobbying as did LD 1649, the solar bill. Even as the bill was failing earlier this year, proponents of net metering reform were vowing to continue the fight, possibly including a redux of the proposal next year when the new Legislature is seated. Looks like that effort is well underway. — Christopher Cousins

Poliquin takes middle road on Trump’s judge comments

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, along with plenty of other Republicans, has been under pressure from political opponents recently to denounce comments about a Mexican-American judge made by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Here is Poliquin’s entire statement, which was released on Wednesday:

“Mr. Trump’s civil case should not be part of a political campaign. It is unfortunate if either side uses this, or allows it to enter, into their campaign. Until the court rules, we don’t know all of the facts. I am a proud Franco-American whose family chose the freedoms and opportunity offered by the United States. It is one thing to have a legal disagreement and to fight for your side of the case in the courts, it is quite another thing to question a court officer’s possible decisions based on his or her family’s ethnic heritage.”

That did not silence Poliquin’s critics. Emily Cain, who is challenging Poliquin this year for the congressional seat, said that as long as Poliquin doesn’t fully reject Trump’s statements, “Trump’s position is his as well.”

Cain’s spokesman said later in the day that Poliquin’s statement was “yet another disingenuous political dodge.” Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said Poliquin “tried to have it both ways by dodging the important issue at hand.”

Trying to link Poliquin to Trump has been a major focus for Democrats, especially since Trump became the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. On Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a report titled “Donald Trump & Bruce Poliquin Built from Same Reckless Policies.”

Other than Wednesday’s statement, Poliquin has been mostly mum on Trump, though he was caught being critical of the nominee in an audiotape leak in May.

On a separate topic, Poliquin was crystal clear about his thoughts about transgender bathroom rights in a Facebook post on Monday:

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Quick hits

  • Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew is scheduled to speak today at a congressional hearing about how to avoid fraud and abuse in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Read Mayhew’s prepared testimony for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Committee by clicking here.
  • Gov. Paul LePage was confronted by two people at his Wednesday town hall meeting in Augusta. Frequent attendee James Roux pressed the Republican governor on past claims that asylum seekers are spreading disease, which LePage said was “documented” by the Department of Health and Human Services. Another man asked LePage about “racially charged remarks” and how they’re “moving Maine forward,” to which the governor replied, “next question. I’m not a racist, sir.” — Michael Shepherd
  • Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick launched what he is calling a “senior listening tour” Wednesday with more than 90 people at the Dorothy E. Stevens Community Center in Kennebunk, according to a news release. The tour is meant to highlight the implementation of Eves’ Keep Me Home initiative, to solicit more ideas about how to help senior citizens and to pressure Gov. Paul LePage to release $15 million in bonds for senior housing, which were approved by voters last November. Eves is planning additional events in Lewiston, Harpswell, Bangor and Dover-Foxcroft. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Brainwashing my son in his sleep

My son is on a class trip to Boston today. Despite his mostly rural upbringing, he’s veering toward being a city lover and says he’ll live in a metropolis someday.All I’ve heard for the past few weeks is his internal debate about whether he wants to live in Boston, New York, San Francisco or Chicago.

At age 11, he’s also increasingly sensitive to unsanitary conditions (thankfully). Maybe if I play this song on a loop while he sleeps, his subconscious will keep him in his home state.

Suggestions of other strategies are welcome. I’m desperate over here. — 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.