Maine lawmakers are quietly voting on whether to return to work next week

Good morning from Augusta, where lawmakers are deciding if and when to return for a special session.

Legislative leaders are polling members right now about the possibility of the full Legislature returning on Tuesday to address a heap of unfinished business left over from this year’s regular session.

That includes a number of funding bills that received unanimous support from the budget committee on Monday. Many major issues are still mired in negotiations, such as a transportation bond that contractors and state transportation officials say is desperately needed, tax conformity legislation or a technical errors fix-it bill that would free up Maine Clean Election Act funding for the general election.

Coming back for a special session requires majority votes from four groups — House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans — and the lone Green Independent in the Legislature, Rep. Ralph Chapman of Brooksville. House Republicans blocked the extension of the regular legislative session in April because they refused to allow a $3.8 million bill for Medicaid expansion start-up costs to be included in a package with the other spending bills. They have won that fight and the bill could be considered on its own — though a spokeswoman for House Speaker Sara Gideon said Democrats are confident the courts will force the issue.

The session could last for three days. Gideon spokeswoman Mary-Erin Casale, said House Democrats are being asked if they are available through Thursday of next week. Based on past experience, we’re guessing it will take every minute of that long and maybe longer, and we’re planning on watching the sunset over the State House, possibly thrice.

More details could be shared later today. Gideon and Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, are scheduled for a joint appearance at 1 p.m. today on Maine Public’s Maine Calling. We’ll keep you posted on developments.

Many questioned a ballot question’s wording. Now they can question another

The secretary of state caught a lot of flak for the wording of Tuesday’s question on ranked-choice voting. He says he did his best. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap was the target of criticism — including from Gov. Paul LePage — over the wording of Tuesday’s successful people’s veto effort to preserve ranked-choice voting in certain Maine elections.

But it wasn’t quite that simple, Dunlap said in a long Facebook explanation Wednesday. He said the task was complicated because the people’s veto supporters didn’t propose nixing an entire law passed by the Legislature last year and only part that could have delayed ranked-choice voting through 2021.

“Against this backdrop, we really could not have written the question in any other way and have been able to convey the sense of the action to the voters,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap’s office is finalizing the wording of another citizen-initiated referendum question. That’s the one seeking to create a universal home health care system funded by new 3.8 percent taxes on individual income above $128,400. The deadline for public comments on the issue is Friday. The draft language of the question is as follows:

“Do you want to create the Universal Home Care Program, which will provide services to people with disabilities and senior citizens who need daily assistance in their homes, funded by a new tax of 3.8% on individual income over $128,400?”

To see the full text of the proposed legislation as it was written by the Maine People’s Alliance, click here. To submit comments, email or drop them off at the secretary of state’s office at 103 Sewall St. in Augusta.

Democratic front-runners must thread fundraising needle in ranked-choice count

They can continue to raise money, but they can’t touch money raised for the general election. That’s after a new rule approved by the Maine Ethics Commission last month. It allows candidates who are in elections to be decided by ranked-choice voting to continue to raise money for their primary campaigns during that period of time to continue to campaign or pay for legal bills. They can’t use money set aside for the general election until a winner is declared.

After Tuesday’s vote, it’s looking likely that either Attorney General Janet Mills or attorney Adam Cote will win the nomination over five other challengers after taking first place and second place, respectively, in the first round of voting. It adds a level of complication that Republican nominee Shawn Moody doesn’t have to deal with after his outright win.

Reading list

  • See just how much Moody trounced the competition in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Bangor Daily News data guru Darren Fishell has created maps that show how many towns each of the candidates won on Tuesday, according to results in at that time. Spoiler: Moody, a businessman, won 318 towns; the other three combined for 36. Darren has also created maps showing where each of the seven Democratic candidates won. Spoiler: Mills triumphed in 248 towns while four of the other candidates combined for 97.
  • The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is questioning the judicial system’s ability to serve troubled young people. The high court grappled with the issue Wednesday during a hearing about a Skowhegan teen who is suing to overturn his commitment to Maine’s youth prison. It was part of an ongoing state discussion that has intensified since troubles arose at Long Creek Youth Development Center over the past two years.
  • Election results are still trickling in from Maine polling places. Some clerks told us that they were still counting ballots early Wednesday afternoon. For a rolling tally or to see how your community voted, click here.
  • In other parts of Maine, the counting is done and ballots will be on their way to Augusta today. Dunlap and his crew plan to begin preparing Friday for re-tabulations required by Maine’s new ranked-choice voting system. New counts will be required in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and possibly in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District. State Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston will likely beat conservationist Lucas St. Clair of Hampden in that race, with the second choices of those who voted for Islesboro bookseller Craig Olson likely to be reallocated.
  • Familiar names triumphed in legislative primaries throughout Maine. State Rep. Heather Sanborn beat Portland City Councilor Jill Duson for the Democratic nomination to run for a safe Maine Senate seat for Democrats in parts of Portland and Westbrook. House Majority Leader Erin Herbig of Belfast opened a wide lead in her primary for the Democratic nomination to run for the Senate seat now held by Thibodeau. State Rep. Rachel Talbot-Ross of Portland again topped former lawmaker Herb Adams in a Democratic primary, and Rep. Louis Luchini of Ellsworth held a commanding lead in a Democratic primary for the right to run against Republican Rep. Richard Malaby of Hancock in a contest for what will be a key open Senate seat in Hancock County. Click here for a rundown of legislative primary results.

When the party goes wrong. Way wrong

A woman at a music festival in Minnesota got her head stuck in a diesel truck’s tailpipe and had to have it cut out with a power saw. There’s video.

Yeah. Whoa.

Police said “alcohol may have been a factor” and the woman, who was not injured, was cited for underage drinking. There was no mention of the events leading up to the situation, which as far as we’re concerned was a crucial omission from the story.

I might need to up my game. The worst trouble I ever encountered at a party was when I was barely legal drinking age and the cops showed up at a party I was attending. My friend and I thought it would be a good idea to crouch on the lawn and pretend to be rocks. One of the cops nudged me with his toe and said, “Move along, kid.”

Anyway, here’s a soundtrack which we hope will reverberate all the way to Minnesota. — 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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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.