AUGUSTA – The compromise brokered by Republicans and Democrats last week over the elimination of the Labor Committee means there will be a session day Dec. 17.

That’s unusual — typically lawmakers don’t come back until early January — and some who work the State House hallways have questioned whether it will be worth the cost.

Lawmakers won’t get extra salary for the extra day, but they are entitled to reimbursements for meals, lodging, mileage and tolls, which typically runs $13,000 to $15,000 a day, said David Boulter, executive director of the Legislative Council.

That’s the amount the hallway grumblers were concerned about.

Initially, Republicans had talked about eliminating the Labor Committee as part of the joint rules that are normally adopted on the first day of session. But Democrats, labor unions and the Maine Women’s Lobby, among others, pushed back and asked for the issue to be debated by the Rules Committee.

That committee will meet later in the month to consider the Labor proposal and any other possible rules changes that govern both bodies. The process will delay all other committee assignments, as the presiding officers wait to see how many committees there will be.

It also means there will be some juggling of committee rooms.

Senate Republicans are taking over the Insurance and Financial Services Committee room to give staffers more work space. So if the Labor Committee is kept in place, it means IFS will have to share a room with another committee.

It’s a time of major change at the State House. Stay tuned.

LePAGE BACKS SNOWE IN 2012

National Review Online had a quick blurb last week in which Gov.-elect Paul LePage pledged his support for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.

The magazine warns tea partiers that if they were hoping LePage would help them find a challenger to defeat Snowe in 2012, they’ll have to look elsewhere.

He told the magazine that his loyalty — which is fueled by Snowe’s late husband, Peter, and the help he provided LePage as a young man — will “never turn.”

The item prompted LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt to issue his own statement.

“Governor-Elect LePage did not go to Washington to talk about politics,” he said. “He was asked a direct question about the 2012 elections and he made it clear that Senator Olympia Snowe will have his support when the time comes.”

BALDACCI PORTRAIT UNVEILING

A portrait of Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, whose eight years of service ends in January, will be unveiled in a small ceremony Dec. 18.

The portrait — by Jean Pilk, of Cape Elizabeth — will be hung in the State House Rotunda, where portraits of the four most recent governors adorn the walls, said the state museum’s director, J.R. Phillips.

state law, the portrait is paid for using state funds. The state sets aside $20,000 for the portrait, Maine Arts Commission Director Donna McNeil said.

Baldacci’s portrait will go where Gov. Angus King’s portrait now hangs, and the others will rotate accordingly, she said.

Phillips said the museum has already made arrangements to relocate the painting of Gov. Louis Brann, a Lewiston Democrat who served in the 1930s, to the fourth-floor Senate hallway. He’ll be next to Gov. Ralph Owen Brewster, a Portland Republican who served in the late 1920s.

It’s all in the spirit of keeping our former political leaders on display for the public, he said.

“People don’t disappear unless their portraits are physically damaged,” Phillips said.

NO MORE MUTE BUTTON

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office sent out an advisory Friday that’s sure to make many Maine people happy.

Congress has passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, which will “prevent television advertisements from playing at a volume noticeably above the programs during which they air.”

“Consumers should not have their hearing assaulted in an attempt to grab their attention,” Pingree said in the statement. “Under the CALM Act, consumers will no longer have to hit the mute button because of excessively loud television ads.”

According to Pingree’s office, loud commercials have been at the top of consumer complaints to the FCC for decades. Officially, the FCC now advises those who complain to hit the mute button.

Advertisers have one year to adopt “industry technology” to prevent ear-splitting commercials.

NO BALL

While plans are coming together for the inaugural on Jan. 5, 2011, LePage does not want to have a formal ball, Demeritt said.

Instead, there are plans for a reception immediately after the inaugural. “It’s a better fit for his style and the times,” Demeritt said.

Most recently, Gov. John Baldacci had invitation-only galas the evening following both of his inaugurals, in 2003 and 2007.

The 2007 inaugural ceremony and the gala that followed cost $250,000, all of which was donated by private sponsors such as Hannaford Bros., L.L. Bean, Poland Spring, Wal-Mart and TD BankNorth.

FIRST BILL ARRIVES

The first bill of the 125th Legislature — LD 1 — is titled “An Act to Ensure Regulatory Fairness and Reform.”

Sponsored by Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, and House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, the bill seeks to improve the state’s business climate. It’s basically a vehicle for recommendations from LePage and the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform.

“We really wanted regulatory reform to be LD 1 so it takes the prominence it deserves,” said Mary Small, Raye’s chief of staff.

PAY SCALES SET

By statute, the salaries of the three constitutional officers must be formally approved by legislative leaders.

However, the leaders are powerless to change the pay scales because they are set in law.

“If we wanted to set an amount at less, we couldn’t?” asked Nutting.

Replied Legislative Council Executive Director David Boulter: “That would be inconsistent with the statute.”

So the council voted last week to set the pay for incoming Secretary of State Charles Summers at $69,264; State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin at $69,264; and Attorney General William Schneider at $92,248.

Also, the group set the pay for new House Clerk Heather Priest at $83,532. The same amount will go to new Senate Secretary Joseph Carleton.

SPEAKING OF NUTTING

Nutting, who became Maine’s 100th House Speaker last week, has a historical connection to Maine’s first House Speaker, Benjamin Ames, who served in 1820.

During his acceptance speech, Nutting said that Ames’ great-grandfather, Capt. Benjamin Ames, served alongside Nutting’s fifth generation great-uncle, Capt. John Nutting, at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

“As bookends to the history of this chamber, Speaker Ames and I share also a deep love of this great state, and the determination to see it prosper,” Nutting said.

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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