Political news

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on health care next week, though it’s unclear whether they’ll take up a revised version of their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or a bill that would just repeal the health care law.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says she doesn’t support either. Speaking to reporters on Friday, she referenced the findings of Congressional Budget Office report on the repeal-only bill.

“That would lead to 32 million people losing health insurance coverage. So I simply cannot support that approach,” she says.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Maine Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is defending Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Earlier this week, President Donald Trump criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year's election. 

"I've served for 20 years with Jeff Sessions, and he's a person of integrity," Collins said Friday at an event at the Maine Medical Research Institute in Scarborough. "So he absolutely did the right thing."

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

Two months after ruling out a bid for the U.S. Senate, Gov. Paul LePage suggested Thursday that there's a possibility he may challenge independent U.S. Sen. Angus King next year.

The Republican governor also acknowledged that he's being pressured to run by the Trump administration.

LePage told Portland radio station WGAN that he may reconsider if Auburn state Sen. Eric Brakey's Senate bid doesn't gain traction.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

Maine lawmakers Thursday night enacted a $105 million transportation bond that voters will consider in November. 

But a research and development bond, and one to fund student loan debt forgiveness, failed to get enough support. Both are tabled in the House.

“We could have let it go today or we could let it stay there to give it another chance when we come back on August second, to anticipating some vetoes that will be on our desk,” said House Speaker Sara Gideon.

Legislation that would move the state a step closer to recreational use of marijuana was enacted Thursday night, but it may face a veto.

The legislation would set up testing facilities in the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the quality of pot sold in the state for personal use meets minimum standards. Supporters argued the measure is needed so the facility is operational next year, when the citizen-passed law allowing recreational use of pot takes effect.

Rep. Teresa Pierce, a Falmouth Democrat, supported the bill.

Child care advocates are voicing opposition to proposed changes in regulations governing in-home child care facilities.

The state Department of Health and Human Services says it wants to streamline an assortment of policies in order to increase access to affordable child care, particularly for parents in rural areas of Maine. The proposals are scheduled for a public hearing before a legislative committee Thursday evening.

It’s Thursday, and time for Across the Aisle, our weekly roundtable on Maine politics. This week, Cynthia Dill, an attorney and former Democratic legislator who writes a column for the Portland Press Herald, and Meredith Strang Burgess of Burgess Advertising and Marketing, who served in the Legislature as a Republican.

Democratic state Rep. Scott Hamann of South Portland has formally apologized to the Maine House of Representatives for a profane, obscenity-laden Facebook post last week that made national headlines.

In the post, Hamann implied that if he ever got within in 10 feet of President Donald Trump, he would harm him. Hamann later described the post as satire that he posted to a friend. But on the House floor Thursday he changed his tune.

Democrats now have a third candidate running for the party's nomination in Maine's 2nd Congressional District.  Two-time state Senate candidate Jonathan Fulford, of Monroe, says he intends to get in the race.

A farmer and a carpenter, Fulford says incumbent Congressman Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, does not represent the district on key issues such as health care.

“The whole reason I decided to get into politics originally - which continues to be the same motivation - which is, I have grandchildren and they remind me of my commitment to the future,” he says. 

AUGUSTA, Maine = Lawmakers are set to return to Augusta with vetoes on the agenda.
The Legislature plans to use Thursday as one of their two last days of the session.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage has recently vetoed bills he claims creates hidden subsidies for the rich in electricity bills.
Such legislation includes a bill to modernize the state's renewable portfolio standard and another to change solar policy.
LePage also vetoed a bill that he claimed would give welfare recipients a $400 bonus for maintaining a job for four months.

Darron Cummings / Associated Press

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says President Donald Trump’s controversial voter fraud commission should make sure ballot security doesn’t discourage voter participation.

Dunlap is one of four Democrats on a 12-member panel that critics say is engineered toward nationalizing Republican voter suppression efforts. The commission met for the first time at the White House Wednesday, and Dunlap used his opening remarks to offer some advice: to address claims of voter fraud.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District has reintroduced his food stamp integrity bill. It’s based on restrictions Maine has placed on food stamp benefits.

“My bill will help save precious welfare dollars for the disabled, elderly, sick and the poor. It will also help stop deadly drug trafficking and treat taxpayers better,” he said in a floor speech. “Similar reforms in Maine have helped lift thousands out of poverty and into independence in their lives through jobs and employment, and we have plenty of jobs.”

Concerned Groups Force Maine Legislature to Scrutinize DHHS Child Care Rules

Jul 19, 2017
Stock photo / via Bangor Daily News

A LePage administration proposal to relax licensing requirements for in-home child care providers will receive the scrutiny of a legislative committee, after the administration indicated it would implement the new requirements without securing the Legislature’s approval.

Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins says she will oppose efforts by Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell to repeal Obamacare before a replacement for the health care law is developed.

“I will vote 'no' on the motion to proceed to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement," she says. "I voted against this same proposal in 2015 and I do not think that it’s going to be constructive.”

And - as she did before - Collins says repealing without replacing will cause turmoil in the insurance industry and put many at risk of no coverage. 

AUGUSTA, Maine - A panel of legislative leaders is set to consider the fate of studies and new bills proposed by lawmakers.

The Legislative Council is set to meet Wednesday to mull requests for thousands of dollars' worth of legislative studies.

Lawmakers have proposed studies of military service members transitioning to civil workforce, the poor's access to legal services and the rising cost of special education.

Independent Rep. Kent Ackley is proposing a bill to allow the voter-approved system of ranked-choice voting for primary and federal elections in 2018.