AUGUSTA — Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, has been selected to serve as chairman of a new Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing.

The 17-member panel will study Maine’s housing situation and “develop a plan to maximize investments to meet a number of severe problems in the state,” according to the House Republican Office.

Cushing, a Realtor and home builder by profession, cited a 2009 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that found that 86,000 Maine households face “severe housing affordability problems.” The panel has until January to deliver a report to lawmakers proposing solutions.

“The responsibilities of the commission run wide and deep,” Cushing said in a statement. “Our goal is to make a real difference.”

The resolve indicates that no General Fund money is to be used to support the work of the commission, but that money from “outside sources” will be accepted.

The 17 members will include representatives of state agencies, four lawmakers, an advocate for the poor, and people in the industry, including a developer, someone from a modular housing company and someone from a statewide real estate organization.

REAPPORTIONMENT MEETING DELAYED

The Maine Reapportionment Commission meeting originally scheduled for today has been delayed because of the anticipated bad weather from Hurricane Irene.

The commission will instead meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Legislative Council Chambers in the State House.

The bipartisan group is supposed to vote on a plan to even out the population in Maine’s two congressional districts. Last week, they presented two very different plans at a public hearing, but talk of a compromise was in the air late last week.

HORSE SH#! CLARIFICATION

Adrienne Bennett, spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage, said Friday that she wanted to clarify comments the governor made during Thursday’s town hall meeting in Presque Isle with regard to his use of the words “horse (expletive).”

Bennett said he was responding to a woman who called out to him that his previous answer about the health care system in Maine was “horse (expletive),” which was why he then picked up the microphone and responded to her by saying “It’s not a bunch of horse (expletive), ma’am, I’m sorry.”

The woman’s comments to the governor could not be heard in the back of the room, which is why they were not previously reported by MaineToday Media.

THE ‘BULLY PULPIT’

Jim Cyr of Caribou thanked LePage for visiting Aroostook County during last week’s town hall meeting, saying that average citizens don’t have time to travel to the Capitol to have their voices heard.

“You guys are up against it,” he said, and then asked LePage how he was going to change the culture in Augusta to have better oversight.

LePage responded: “The only thing a governor can do is use the bully pulpit and the veto. In the first session, I vetoed 12 or 13 bills and we sustained them. They wanted some bond money. I said we can’t afford it. We’re not going to get any bond money until we get our debt under control.”

CHELSEA REP GETS TASERED

State Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, recently volunteered to be Tasered while spending the day at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

From her Facebook page:

“Spent the day at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy learning a bit about Situational Use of Force . . . even volunteered to be tasered!!! Wow. . . that was an experience I don’t care to repeat!!”

MARTIN TO TAKE OVER AT MECEP

Garrett Martin, associate director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy, was recently promoted to take over as executive director, the group announced last week.

Martin, who will officially begin the job in October, will replace Christopher St. John, who is retiring from the position.

Martin’s resume includes work for the Maine Community Foundation, Genesis Community Loan Fund, and economic development in the Mississippi Delta, India and Ecuador. He has a master’s degree from Princeton University and an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

NEW JOB FOR LABOR’S FORMER NO. 2

Ned McCann, former deputy commissioner at the Maine Department of Labor who has also worked for the Maine AFL-CIO, recently landed a job with the Maine Children’s Alliance.

McCann will take over as vice president and work with President Dean Crocker on issues affecting children, youth and families.

Among other things, the alliance releases an annual report on the status of children in Maine, and McCann and Crocker will likely spend considerable time in the State House lobbying on those issues.

O’KEEFE COMING TO MAINE

After a volunteer for his nonprofit group Project Veritas ventured to Maine and filmed two secret videos of intake workers at two separate Department of Health and Human Services offices, James O’Keefe is now coming to the state.

According to a release from Americans for Prosperity of Maine, O’Keefe will be the group’s guest lecturer on Sept. 16. The event starts at 7 p.m. at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. Seating will be limited, according to the release, and the suggested donation for tickets is $15.

O’Keefe, 27, describes himself as a citizen journalist who gained famed for sting videos to highlight the groups ACORN, Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio. While critics say he misleadingly edits the videos to support his conservative viewpoints, he says he always makes sure the full tape is available.

Carol Weston, executive director of AFP of Maine, was contacted by O’Keefe to help generate media interest in his first Maine video. Those interested in attending can contact her at [email protected] 

MaineToday Media State House Writers Susan Cover and Rebekah Metzler contributed to this report.