LePage again pressures dormant Legislature to get back to work

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is emerging in a flurry to urge the passage of child welfare bills he recently wanted to wait before submitting and doubling down on a campaign against Democrats he accuses of dilly-dallying with the people’s business.

After sending letters to Attorney General Janet Mills and state Treasurer Terry Hayes this week urging them to resign or take leave while they run for governor, LePage ripped legislative Democrats for undone legislation, saying in a Wednesday radio address “if the Legislature can’t do that this summer, you will know what to do when you go to the polls in the fall.”

The governor reversed himself and said he wants a paralyzed Legislature to consider child welfare changes soon. It’s been exactly a month since the stalled Legislature last met and there is little or no sign of movement on the impasse around tax conformity and a typo fix-it bill that would restore funding for taxpayer-financed campaigns. House Republicans have blocked the Clean Election fix; Democrats have blocked a conformity vote.

LePage has said for months that he is preparing several bills to improve the state’s child protective services system. Last month, he hoped they would be considered during their own legislative session so they wouldn’t be used as bargaining chips in unrelated fights.

But on Wednesday, he said “we cannot continue to wait while the Democrats dilly-dally by holding tax conformity hostage so they can get taxpayer-funded Clean Elections money to run their campaigns.”

A spokesman for LePage said the draft bills are in the revisor’s office and are expected to be out by the time the Legislature returns. They haven’t been released, but they likely include fixing an outdated computer system and criminalizing failure to comply with mandatory reporting statutes.

On the child protective services bills, today could be a milestone. The Legislature’s watchdog Government Oversight Committee convenes this morning to continue deliberations on a recent report it ordered examining the issue.

That’s not all that the Legislature may have to add to its pile. In his address, LePage also renewed a push for the Legislature to pass his bill aiming to protect Maine’s elderly from tax lien foreclosures, which he proposed earlier this year and teased in his State of the State address. It has gotten initial votes, but it is still sitting unapproved by the Legislature.

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Paula Sutton, R-Warren, asked House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, to have the House Ethics Committee schedule a hearing on allegations that Rep. Dillon Bates, D-Westbrook, had inappropriate relationships with students at schools where he was employed. Gideon, who called on Bates to resign after the allegations were published in The Bollard on Friday, said the matter would go to a House vote.

Will there be any movement by week’s end on all of this outstanding work? It seems possible but given past events, we’re going to call that possibility unlikely.

Reading list

  • The race to become Maine’s next governor is about as close as it can get. A Suffolk University poll released Wednesday shows Mills, a Democrat, and Republican Shawn Moody locked in a statistical dead heat. Two independents in the Blaine House race have yet to gain traction and 15 percent of those surveyed remain undecided, poll results show. In his re-election campaign, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King is far ahead of Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey and Democrat Zak Ringelstein. President Donald Trump’s disapproval rating continues to top his approval rating, and support for a referendum that would raise taxes on some Mainers to provide home care to others narrowly crests 50 percent.
  • Three Brunswick men who became peace activists after serving in the U.S. military during World War II see alarming similarities between the buildup to that war and current political rhetoric. The three veterans of military service and social justice activism — Bob Dale, Stanley Lofchie and Herschel Sternlieb — said the words and actions of Trump and his followers often mirror what they heard as young men from fascist leaders in Europe before World War II.
  • The school board in Maine’s largest city endorsed a proposal to let non-citizens vote. Maine Public reports that the Portland Board of Education endorsed a resolution sponsored by City Councilor Pious Ali and Mayor Ethan Strimling to hold a citywide referendum on allowing non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. The city council is scheduled to vote on the plan next week.

He needs a six-PAC

We might have found this campaign season’s biggest glutton for punishment.

H. Brooke Paige, who totally rocks the Calvin-Coolidge straw-hat look of 1922 when he’s not in a top hat, is simultaneously running six different campaigns in Vermont. He is listed on the Republican primary ballots to run for:

  • U.S. Senate against incumbent Bernie Sanders
  • U.S. House against incumbent Peter Welch
  • State Treasurer against incumbent Beth Pearce
  • Secretary of State against incumbent Jim Condos
  • Auditor against incumbent Doug Hoffer
  • Attorney General against incumbent TJ Donovan

He’s taken on the role of a political split personality to prevent Democrats from writing in bad candidates on Republican primary ballots, effectively preventing the GOP from replacing them with better competitors, he told Vermont Public Radio.

“I believe that having my name printed on the ballot — just by the grace of God that more people will check off my name then will take the time to write in [someone else],” Paige said. “And since there’s well over 10,000, possibly 20,000 Republicans that will vote in the primary, I’m fairly sure that I’ll win all these slots.”

We were hoping for something far more maniacal — like bringing back the Vermont Republic. Here’s his soundtrack. — Robert Long

Programming note

The Daily Brief will continue to take periodic breaks this summer. We’ll be off Friday, Aug. 10, and will return on Monday, Aug. 13. Here’s your soundtrack.

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 leading 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.