Political news

It's Thursday and time again for Across the Aisle, our weekly politics roundtable. Our analysts this week include Cynthia Dill, an attorney who served in the Maine Legislature as a Democrat, former Republican lawmaker Meredith Strang Burgess, of Burgess Advertising and Marketing, and Dick Woodbury, an economist who served in Augusta as an independent. They spoke with Keith Shortall.

Maine DHHS Reviews Child Abuse Cases It Contracted Out

Mar 29, 2018
Contributed photo via Bangor Daily News

Maine’s child welfare program is revisiting six-and-a-half months of child abuse reports it received and referred to contractors who intervene in “lower-risk” abuse and neglect cases.

The Office of Child and Family Services earlier this month asked the four contractors who handle those lower-risk cases to comb through their records dating back to last Aug. 31 and re-report to the state many of the families whose cases they were assigned. The state would then review those cases.

Darron Cummings / Associated Press/file

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap told legislative leaders Thursday that a provision in election laws that the people's veto petition blocked means ranked-choice voting cannot be used in the June primaries.


Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to stay at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. last year may have helped advance a Maryland court case challenging the president’s ability to hold onto his financial stake in his business empire.

Maine election officials have submitted proposed rules for the first use of ranked-choice voting in statewide primary elections in June.

The emergency rules posted Wednesday cover everything from the ballot layout to security. Notably absent is any sort of timetable for declaring winners. Election officials have said it could take a week or more if there's no clear majority winner.

The secretary of state is accepting public comments through April 6.

Mal Leary / Maine Public

A group of state lawmakers under age 40 has formed a caucus to work on issues of concern to millennials.

The formation of the Maine State Future Caucus, aligned with the national millennial action project, was announced Wednesday at a State House news conference.

Rep. Erin Herbig, a Democrat from Belfast, co-chairs the group. “This works in the State House, yeah," Herbig said. "You know, when you have a group of bipartisan lawmakers who are willing to focus on a particular set of issues it produces results. We have seen it time and time again.”

AUGUSTA, Maine - Lawmakers are considering Maine Gov. Paul LePage's latest and last push to boost the salary for the next governor.
The Legislature's State and Local Government Committee is set to consider the proposal Wednesday. LePage, a Republican, has long said the $70,000 annual salary is too low, and he's proposing boosting it to $150,000.
Maine's governor lives at the official state residence and receives a $30,000 annual personal expense account and $21,000 last year in benefits.

The Maine Senate voted 21-14 today to add $700,000 to Maine's public campaign financing program.

The program, known as the Maine Clean Election Act, currently has over $6 million, but administrators say more may be needed because of its heavy use by gubernatorial and legislative candidates this year. 

During the floor debate, Democratic Sen. Mike Carpenter, of Houlton, said it's important to protect the program that Republicans and Democrats use to finance their campaigns.

The Maine House of Representatives has approved over $5 million to keep the Downeast Correctional Facility operating for another year.

The 95-53 vote was the strongest support for funding in the House so far, but still short of what will be needed to override the expected veto of Gov. Paul LePage, who opposes continued operation of the jail.

Supporters, including Democratic Rep. Anne Perry of Calais, say DCF should keep operating as it is now.

Change In Ethics Code Allows Bangor Councilors With Conflicts To Vote On Budget

Mar 27, 2018
Ashley L. Conti / Bangor Daily News/file

A change to the Bangor Code of Ethics will now allow city councilors to vote on the overall municipal budget, even if they have previously disclosed a conflict of interest.

There was little discussion among councilors about the new provision before it was approved 8-0 at the Monday, March 26 meeting. City Council Chairman Ben Sprague was absent.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Certain Mainers and their employers could more easily receive tax credits for paying off their student loans under a bill.
The Legislature's Taxation Committee will consider Tuesday the proposal backed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
LePage has called for student loan debt relief to attract young people to the nation's oldest state.
The bill would create uniform rules for qualifying for the existing Educational Opportunity Tax Credit that critics call too complicated and vastly underused by Maine employers.

Maine Public

Governor Paul LePage and Attorney General Janet Mills are at it again.

The two political rivals are at odds over LePage’s effort to restore eight attorney positions within the Department of Health and Human services. Mills, however, says her office should be involved.

The Department wants to restore funding for eight positions that would otherwise be eliminated July 1. Those staffers would be attorneys who do contract reviews and provide internal legal advice.

Maine's governor wants the state to direct nearly $1 million to keep attorneys in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Gov. Paul LePage's support of a bill came under scrutiny Monday from Democrats, including Attorney General Janet Mills, who questions the rationale for such positions.

Lawmakers cut attorneys in the department in the two-year, $7.1 billion passed last summer. Republican Rep. Paul Chace says his bill addresses eight legal services providers whose positions end soon.

Mal Leary / Maine Public/file

Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau is ending his bid for governor. Thibodeau announced that he's dropping out of the governor's race in a Facebook post published Monday.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Former military medics are getting help using their skills to enter Maine's workforce under a newly enacted law.
Such veterans will be able to receive help obtaining academic credit for military training and experience under a Department of Labor program that also will help eligible veterans seeking an apprenticeship or employment in a health care job in Maine.
The House Republican office estimates that Maine has approximately 120,000 military veterans. Of those, about 400 veterans have military training in health care.