LePage calls Legislature irrelevant on day he is to deliver State of the State

Good morning from snowy Augusta, where thoughts are centered on this evening when Gov. Paul LePage will deliver his State of the State address. Though he will deliver the speech to a joint session of the House and Senate at the State House, the governor says he will not be speaking to lawmakers, but rather to the Maine people.

The speech will be streamed through the Legislature’s website and broadcast by some media organizations, including the BDN via Maine Public, but LePage says his staff also will broadcast on Facebook Live, which is interesting given a recent debate, spurred by Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, about whether social media broadcasts from the House floor should be allowed.

That strategy aligns with the governor’s populist narrative that he needs to take his message directly to Maine residents, without it being filtered by media fact-checkers or partisan opponents.

LePage is known for sticking to his core priorities during his State of the State speeches, which dating back to his address in 2012 have included energy costs, welfare reform and education reform. Five years later, LePage is still working on the same issues and he is still trying to divert attention from what the Legislature does or what the media reports.

In 2016, LePage delivered his the State of the State address in writing only, using the document to say the Legislature is full of “socialists” more than a dozen times. All of LePage’s State of the State speeches are posted on his website, which you can see by clicking here.

Lawmakers are used to hearing criticisms from the governor and he delivered more today during a radio appearance on WVOM. He said the Legislature has made itself irrelevant and that the two entities making policy in Maine are the executive branch and Maine people through citizen-initiated referendums.

LePage has made it clear that he will frame many of his thoughts on current state policy issues around doing no harm to senior citizens or the state’s economy, which is a message he has been emphasizing for months.

LePage said he preferred to deliver this year’s speech in writing but his staff convinced him to do it in person. The BDN will stream the speech on our website and have full coverage late today and tomorrow. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Lead Republican offers bill to curtail Maine’s clean elections system: House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport will introduce a bill today that would decrease the amount of Maine Clean Election Act funding a candidate for House or Senate would receive by one-third. For a Senate candidate, that would reduce the total possible distribution from $60,000 to $40,000. For a House candidate, the maximum would go from $15,000 to $10,000.
  • Maine’s Janet Mills joined 15 other attorneys general to sign onto a brief urging a federal appeals court to uphold a stay against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. The brief says that the Republican president’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries — held up after a ruling last week in the state of Washington — harms state economies and educational institutions.
  • The Legislature’s Children’s Caucus will hold its second meeting today. The group of more than 60 lawmakers who pledge to work on issues facing children will host retired U.S. Army Maj. Bill Libby, the former adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton and Ed Cervone, the executive director of Educate Maine. Today’s meeting will focus around a new report called Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve, which details barriers for people who want to join the military. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Houston on the brain

As our pal Mike Shepherd has pointed out, I had the incredible, all-expense-paid opportunity to go to Houston for the past several days, culminating with tickets to the Super Bowl on Sunday. Let’s just put aside how amazing the outcome of that game was, just for a minute.

About half the people I see want to hear all about the trip; the other half harbor thinly veiled annoyance. Believe me, I know how lucky I am.

I didn’t think much about politics or government during the trip but I will say that I was impressed with the people of Houston and how they hosted the big game. There were hundreds and hundreds of workers everywhere who handed out water and gifts, who answered any and all questions with a smile and who thanked the revelers for coming to their city. That message was so universal that it was probably scripted, though it didn’t come across that way. I’ve always heard Texans are a friendly breed but i’ve recently learned that it goes far deeper than I expected.

At a free concert downtown on Saturday night, with Gary Clark Jr. and ZZ Top, many in the crowd were locals. It was wonderful to see them enjoying their own city so much, and for free. When Mayor Sylvester Turner took to the stage to introduce ZZ Top, the applause for him was intense. I don’t know Turner’s politics but he clearly has the love of the people on his side.

For today’s soundtrack I’ll leave you with some Gary Clark Jr., who put on one of the greatest blues shows I’ve ever seen. “You’re going to know my name by the end of the night,” goes the chorus.

For sure, Gary. I will never forget you nor the wonderful people from your home state. — 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.