Groups with little in common will unite to lobby Maine Legislature to return

Good morning from Augusta. A day after a judge ordered Gov. Paul LePage’s administration to start implementing a voter-approved Medicaid expansion law, disparate groups will convene at the State House to urge lawmakers to come back to Augusta.

This “politics makes strange bedfellows” moment exemplifies just how much work Maine legislators left undone when they adjourned for 2018 in May without reaching a deal on a spending package, though the budget panel re-convened last week to endorse two bipartisan priorities — raises for direct care workers and jail funding.

More than 100 groups are expected to ask the Legislature on Tuesday to come back, from the university system to community service providers and construction interests. A Monday news release said the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, University of Maine System, Maine Association for Community Service Providers and the Associated General Contractors of Maine will be among them at a 10 a.m. news conference at the State House.

These are groups that don’t get together much, but they have good reason now. The construction industry wants a $100 million transportation bond that the state says would support 2,850 jobs and represents one-third of road and bridge work slated for 2019. The university system wants a $75 million bond for upgrades. Community service providers want those raises.

Those items are supported by Republicans and Democrats. But there have been thornier issues that have complicated their bid for a compromise spending package — the Democratic priority of Medicaid expansion and the Republican efforts to slow a voter-approved minimum wage increase and pass LePage’s tax conformity bill. All are looking like uphill battles now.

Funding may now be the crucial fight in advocates’ bid to force LePage to expand Medicaid. Advocates for expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act to an estimated 70,000 Mainers cheered Monday’s decision from a state court judge to force the LePage administration to file a plan for expansion with the federal government that was due in early April, according to the law passed by voters in the 2017 election.

But the decision only rejected LePage’s legal argument that he couldn’t implement a law that has lingered unfunded by the Legislature in the context of filing that simple plan with the federal government. The reality remains that lawmakers haven’t dedicated money to the law, though Maine has a $140 million surplus that could be tapped.

The Medicaid expansion law says that Maine will cover people by July 2 and Democrats have floated a $10.4 million bill to fund 100 expansion-related state jobs. This could be LePage’s path to blocking expansion — which he has vetoed five times — before he leaves office in January.

Dems running in Maine’s 2nd District: Pelosi should go

All three Democrats agree that the minority leader shouldn’t be the U.S. House speaker if their party wins a majority. Conservationist Lucas St. Clair, Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden and bookseller Craig Olson said at a South Paris forum on Monday they don’t back House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in her bid to regain the speakership if Democrats win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, according to the Sun Journal.

Pelosi told The Boston Globe in May that Democrats will win the majority and she will run for speaker. But she has long been a bogeyman of Republicans, who often rush to tie the California congresswoman to every Democrat running for Congress. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, did that to Democrat Emily Cain in 2014 and 2016.

Pelosi is still a prodigious fundraiser and force in Democratic politics, but she has lost steam on the left. CNN reported last month that six of 41 priority candidates for House Democrats have said they’ll oppose Pelosi, while at least 10 have “punted” on the question.

On Monday, St. Clair said he doesn’t care about Pelosi, who is “not going to make people’s lives better” in Maine, Golden said he has “no intention of voting for Nancy Pelosi” and Olson said it’s time for “new leadership.” St. Clair and Golden are likely running a close race for the nomination to take on Poliquin.

Maine’s senators give thumbs down to Trump self-pardon claim

They were among a group of senators to push back on the president’s assertion that he could pardon himself. President Donald Trump claimed Monday on Twitter that he has the “absolute” power to pardon himself if he is implicated in a special counsel investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election. A number of sitting U.S. senators, including Maine’s, pushed back at that assertion.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said doing so would be a “tremendous abuse” of Trump’s authority, as well as “remarkably unwise,” according to the Washington Post. In an interview with Maine Public, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King called the claim “troubling because the implication is that a president can never be held to account.”

Former LePage adviser floats write-in campaign

Mainers might have another choice for governor in November. Republican Aaron Chadbourne, a former senior policy adviser for Gov. Paul LePage who resigned in April, has been all over Maine ever since, posting Facebook videos on a number of topics, many of them having to do with trying to solve problems such as education access. Up until Monday, when he hosted a “Protect Our Constitutional Rights” fundraiser in Hallowell, he has said he is not interested in running for office.

However, Chadbourne praised, then criticized Republican candidates Shawn Moody, Garrett Mason and Mary Mayhew on Monday and announced that he will wage a write-in campaign for governor if 2,000 people ask him to on his website, and if he is able to raise at least $100,000. The deadline become official write-in candidates for the general election isn’t until Sept. 7.

Reading list

  • Children across Maine are awaiting mental health services that the state pledged to provide. The law says the state must provide in-home behavioral health services for children within six months, but a Bangor Daily News analysis found that there are more than 800 children awaiting the services. Disability Rights Maine is in negotiations with the Department of Health and Services to correct the problem If those negotiations fail, a lawsuit is possible.
  • A political gadfly’s quixotic quest to be a candidate in the Republicans’ U.S. Senate primary is on its way to federal court. Supporters of Max Linn of Bar Harbor have asked the U.S. District Court for Maine to force Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to let him back into the primary election he is disqualified from because of problems found with his ballot access paperwork. The Republican, who is campaigning despite being told votes for him won’t count, seeks to bar Dunlap from notifying voters at the polls that he is out of the race and to force the state to count votes for him.
  • A 21-year-old man has been charged with murder in Bar Harbor. Jalique Keene of Bar Harbor was charged Monday night in connection with the death of Mikaela Conley, also of Bar Harbor, whose body was found Monday. Keene, who is being held in Hancock County Jail, is due to appear in court today or tomorrow.

The measure of a young man

We asked our 13-year-old to measure the width of his bed last night so we can move it. After a minute he came back and said “three meters and 11 inches.”

The battle over metric versus standard measure continues. Here’s his soundtrack.Christopher Cousins

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins, Michael Shepherd and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.