So many bills, so little cash: Maine budget panel picks funding winners and losers today

It’s the busiest day of the week at the State House with two committees meeting and the fates of more than 130 bills hanging in the balance.

As we’ve reported before, just because bills pass in the Legislature doesn’t mean they’ll go into law. If they cost money, they go to a place called the Special Appropriations Table. From there, and after the state’s funding and revenue numbers are settled, lawmakers decide which bills, if any, to fund and send along to Gov. Paul LePage.

Hanging in the balance are some of this session’s more high-profile bills, such as a ban on using cellphones while driving, upping the legal age to buy tobacco to 21, and a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the bar in the citizen-initiated referendum process.

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. today to consider those bills. Here’s a summary of the process and a sampling of the outstanding bills published by the BDN last week, here’s a link to the bills on the appropriations table and here’s a link to listen in to the meeting yourself.

Or, you can just skip all that and rely on the BDN for coverage. That could be a short report. The Democratic and Republican chairmen of the committee have both told the BDN that they doubt there is any money at all to fund the bills.

On Tuesday, LePage alleged during a radio interview that legislative leaders have been moving bills to the Appropriations Table — including some with no fiscal impact — that they don’t want enacted but don’t want to vote against, either.

Robert Caverly, who is Senate President Mike Thibodeau’s chief of staff, pushed back on that assertion and said the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program review decides which bill go to the appropriations table.

Sometimes, a bill generates a fiscal note that doesn’t impact the state’s General Fund but might have an impact on another level of government. Here’s your soundtrack.

Also meeting today and tomorrow is the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee, which is still working on reporting out a bill this session, and the opioid task force, which convenes today at 1 p.m. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

The governor’s spokeswoman is shipping out. Adrienne Bennett, who has been LePage’s press secretary since he took office nearly seven years ago, announced on Tuesday that she’ll leave the administration in early August to lead communication efforts at Kennebec Savings Bank. It’s a non-controversial landing spot for someone who may have had the most difficult political spokesperson job in Maine, managing the combative governor’s public profile and running point on his many battles with newspapers, present company included. We thought the former “Poetris” might continue her rap career, but she’s choosing something more steady, so good for her. Here’s another soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

Yes, Maine’s U.S. senators are still popular. We say that every few months when the invaluable Morning Consult releases national approval polling on all senators in each state. In surveys between April through mid-June, Republican Susan Collins rated sixth among all senators, registering 65 percent approval. Independent Angus King was eighth at 62 percent. In keeping with a national trend, both saw slight dips from the last round of surveys earlier this year, when they registered at 67 percent. But the Maine poll had an error margin of 4 percent, so any differences for Maine senators could be virtually nonexistent. Morning Consult is expected to release gubernatorial approval ratings next week. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Don’t blink

Although we observe National Eat Your Jello Day today, a more interesting celebration pegged to July 12 is Different Colored Eye Day. At the very least, it’s an excuse to pepper you with soundtracks from David Bowie, who was famous for having one blue eye and one brown eye.

How did that happen?

According to multiple accounts, the condition — called anisocoria —  resulted from a “lusty scrap” with a boyhood pal in 1962.

“An impulsive punch had accidentally scratched the eyeball, resulting in paralysis of the muscles that contract the iris,” according to a 2016 account in The Conversation. “From that day, Bowie’s left pupil remained in a fixed open position.”

As is so often the case in life and song, the lusty spat between Bowie and George Underwood resulted from conflict over a girl both wanted to date. Bowie reportedly remained chums with Underwood after the eye-opening fisticuffs. The two played in bands together until Underwood switched from music to painting.

Bowie’s multi-colored irises contributed to making him an iconic global cultural figure. He told biographer Paul Trynka that it added “mystique” to his persona.

I hope you learned something. Now go eat your jello. –– Robert Long

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at If you’re reading The Daily Brief on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics and policy delivered via email every weekday morning.

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.