LePage panned a special session, but that has not stopped him from submitting new bills

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is proposing new bills two days into a three-day session that he has opposed for weeks.

One bill, on this morning’s Senate calendar, would slow scheduled increases in Maine’s minimum wage. The other, which appears on this morning’s House calendar, would prohibit campaign fundraising at voting locations. That latter bill, which would create a 250-foot buffer zone around polling places for campaign collections, would make it more difficult primarily for users of the Maine Clean Election Act, who must collect hundreds or thousands of $5 qualifying contributions to qualify for public campaign financing, which LePage opposes on principle.

Just last week, LePage chastised House Republicans for “giving in” to holding a special session because “it’s an election year.” That’s despite some of LePage’s own priorities being in limbo, such as a tax conformity package that advanced toward his desk Tuesday and a transportation bond bill that we’ll surely hear more about in legislative action today. LePage or any governor is allowed to introduce new legislation whenever the Legislature is in session and last-minute proposals have been a hallmark of his tenure. However, those bills have fared poorly in general and Democrats in the House have enough members to block both of these if they choose.

By the time you’re reading this, lawmakers should be already be working. The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee worked into the night Tuesday and was scheduled to return at 8 a.m. to complete its work for the year.

Left on its agenda are decisions on more unfunded bills and general obligation bonds. The committee’s scramble is necessary so the full Legislature can finish its business and adjourn for the year. The committee made recommendations on 48 bills Tuesday, each of which now heads to the House and Senate. You can see the full list and the votes by clicking here.

Many of the bills did not garner unanimous committee support, which usually means they will encounter problems in the full Legislature. Many of them are bills you might have heard of when they were debated earlier this year or last year, such as a bid to arm forest rangers and funding to keep Downeast Correctional Facility open past June 30.

The result is that today could be a very lengthy day for the House and Senate. Each of those bills will require ping-ponging votes between the chambers. And still left over is final action on some bills from yesterday, which were left at various stages of completion.

We might (really) have ranked-choice voting results today

We said this yesterday, but it’s really looking like it this time. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s ranked-choice vote-counting operation — which will likely only apply to the Democratic gubernatorial race and their 2nd Congressional District primary — has been preparing ballots for re-tabulation in an office on Augusta’s east side since Friday.

We told you in yesterday’s Daily Brief that we could have results on Tuesday. But the process ran into technical issues when scanned ballots from Gray, Ellsworth, Lewiston, Orland and Westbrook were deemed to be too low-quality and state police had to be sent out to get better copies.

By day’s end, Dunlap’s office said all ballots were uploaded, but that employees were still working to certify results. That’s a good sign that we’ll have final tallies today an there will be a two-hour warning from Dunlap before ranked-choice results are released.

Attorney General Janet Mills is favored in the Democratic gubernatorial race — though attorney Adam Cote is still in it — and Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden is virtually assured to take the 2nd District nomination.

Republicans don’t have to wait, so they held a unity rally for their nominee. That’s businessman Shawn Moody, who was flanked at a mid-day rally at the State House on Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, former Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Senate President Mike Thibodeau — all of whom ran in the Republican gubernatorial primary. (Thibodeau dropped out in March.)

It was Moody who won in a landslide on Election Day and the former hopefuls formally endorsed their party’s nominee in short speeches. Moody said in a speech that Republicans need “a clean sweep” of the governor’s office and Legislature in 2018.

LePage was on hand and he didn’t speak, but Moody told reporters that he attended a Blaine House gathering over the weekend and that the term-limited LePage is “fired up” about the race to replace him.

Reading list

  • Amid growing global outrage, Republicans continue to seek ways to reduce voter anger over separating children from parents suspected of entering the country illegally. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was one of 13 Republican senators who sent a letter urging President Donald Trump to end the practice of taking children away from parents and placing them in detainment camps. Trump met with GOP congressional leaders on Tuesday, but as of Wednesday morning, there seemed to be no consensus in Congress on how to proceed.
  • Bath Iron Works’ parent company has come under fire for working with the federal program that operates detention camps for children taken from parents accused of crossing the border illegally. Social justice advocates in Maine and nationally have criticized General Dynamics for its affiliation with the Refugee Resettlement Program. “General Dynamics Information Technology has no role in the family separation policy, nor a role in the construction or operation of detention facilities,” according to a statement released Tuesday by the company. But the defense contractor’s work to provide support services for the controversial program has led critics to blast its ethics and urge the company to “divest now and donate any profits to date to refugee relief efforts.”
  • Maine saw a sharp drop in the prescription of opiates for pain relief in 2017. The decrease — nearly 25 percent from 2016 — was the steepest decline in the nation, according to a report released Tuesday by Avalere Health. In 2016, Maine distributed nearly 40,000 grams of prescription opioids per 100,000 people, researchers found. In 2017, the number sank to slightly over 30,000 grams. The decrease in pain medication consumption comes after state lawmakers passed tougher restrictions on prescribing opiates that some patients have criticized as too extreme.
  • Lumber prices are spiking, which bodes well for Maine’s sawmills and loggers. A sharp increase in the demand for building materials for new homes and renovations fueled the lumber price increases. To meet demand, mills in the state are boosting production, adding jobs and raising wages. Some lumber yards are giving materials quotes to builders that are valid for only one week because prices are fluctuating so dramatically. And builders are seeing strong demand from home buyers, who will have to pay an extra $7,000 to $15,000 for a new house.

Reading (or writing) this? You might be a psychopath

A professor at Southern Methodist University recently released a paper ranking states by order of psychopathy, a personality disorder that can be characterized by antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and egotism. While rural states generally fared well on this list, Maine didn’t.

Maine had the nation’s seventh-highest share of psychopaths, according to the paper. What’s worse? Previous research has indicated that journalists, lawyers, CEOs and civil servants are disproportionately psychopathic. Luckily, there was no correlation with homicide rates.

So, these psychopaths could include us and many of the people we cover. We wouldn’t want to leave the psychopaths to the non-psychopaths. Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

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.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at ccousins@bangordailynews.com, mshepherd@bangordailynews.com or rlong@bangordailynews.com.

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.