Political news

Two days after the House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to override President Barack Obama’s veto, GOP leaders are expressing reservations about legislation that would allow lawsuits related to 9/11 to go forward against Saudi Arabia.

According to The Hill, a leading political website, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan both say they were open to discussions about changing the bill, which Congress approved unanimously.

Maine Independent Sen. Angus King was among those who voted to override Obama’s veto.

A group working to enforce a new ban on the purchase of tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets and other items with cash welfare benefits met for the first time Friday.

The Legislature created the prohibition earlier this year, but it also sought to determine whether retailers can block the sale of the outlawed items at the point of sale.

Some retailers and large grocers have worried about the cost of implementing a point-of-sale block. But Democratic state Rep. Drew Gattine argued it would take the enforcement burden off clerks and store owners.

By Marina Villeneuve, The Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Maine - The state's efforts to rewrite Maine's welfare-to-work rules are drawing critique from a legal aid group.

Maine Equal Justice Partners said some of the rules proposed by the state Department of Health and Human Services conflict with state and federal law. The group is urging the state to continue allowing recipients to reject jobs that would mean less cash for their families.

By Marina Villeneuve, The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine — Two new political groups are ready to spend tens of thousands of dollars on door-to-door canvassing and contributions ahead of this fall’s statewide election.

Maine legislative candidates will vie for seats and control of the chambers this November. New political action committees include a California progressive group that supported independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid and a pro-tax reform group linked to GOP Gov. Paul LePage.

Members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee are raising questions about the LePage administration’s plan, announced earlier this year, to build a 21-bed forensic facility near the existing Riverview Psychiatric Center. Lawmakers want answers the administration is not providing.

Ever since the Department of Health and Human Services announced it was seeking bids to build and operate a facility to house forensic patients who don’t require hospitalization, the proposal has been met with skepticism.

Immigrant and refugee groups from around Maine are banding together to form a coalition that aims to get out the community’s vote, and to lobby at the local and state level.

Somali, Iraqi, Congolese and several other community organizations are part of the New Mainers Alliance, which was announced at Portland’s City Hall Thursday.

Alliance Chairman Abdifatah Ahmed, a pharmacist who emigrated from Somalia 25 years ago, spoke about how the alliance will achieve its goals.

It’s Thursday and time for Across the Aisle, our weekly roundtable on politics.

This week: Dick Woodbury, an economist who served in the Legislature as an independent; Meredith Strang Burgess of Burgess Advertising and Marketing, who was a Republican lawmaker; and attorney Cynthia Dill, who served in Augusta as a Democrat.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin was among members of the House Financial Services Committee who harshly criticized Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. 

Stumpf has come under fire for bilking customers after the bank opened accounts without customers' permission.

“I’m looking at this pattern of you folks ripping off your customers, getting caught, paying a fine and doing the damn thing all over again,” Poliquin said.

Advocates for Maine’s public campaign finance program are touting what they say is a significant decrease in private donations to candidates vying for seats in the state Legislature.

Andrew Bossie with Maine Citizens for Clean Elections says the 22 percent dip in private donations correlates with increased participation in the state’s clean election program.

Maine Public/File

For this campaign season, MPBN is reuniting Sam Surprise and Brenda Garrand for their takes on campaign advertising. Surprise heads Surprise Advertising, Garrand is president of Garrand & Company.

We return to the race between Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin and Democratic challenger Emily Cain. As Garrand tells Maine Public Radio’s Irwin Gratz, that’s because some campaigns have yet to engage.

A panel created by an executive order fro Gov. Paul LePage has rejected his assertion that the Maine Human Rights Commission has been biased in the way it treats complaints, with a particular bias against businesses.

Amy Sneirson, executive director of the independent agency, says the report is helpful in recommending more staff and new equipment.

“I think it is very helpful to see what an objective group of folks found when they looked at us, and I think our commissioners will find it very interesting,” she says.

Steve Mistler / Maine Public

Ranked-choice voting sounds simple: Grab a ballot, rank the candidates in order of preference and, when someone gets a majority, they win.

AUGUSTA, Maine - State revenues are above projections by nearly $16 million after the first two months of the budget year. State tax receipts reflect the summer tourist season.
State Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen says Maine’s economy continues slow but steady growth, with income tax revenues reflecting lower unemployment rates. “We can all feel it," he says. "You see the 'Help Wanted' signs nearly everywhere you go, and there is upward pressure on wages.”

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The Maine Heritage Policy Center released a report Wednesday that says a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage in Maine would eliminate jobs and drive up the cost of goods and services.

The Policy Center is joined in its opposition by some Maine businesses that don’t support a statewide mandate, despite the fact that they already pay above the minimum wage.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices is asking lawmakers next session to ban political action committees set up by candidates from paying those candidates or their family members.