AUGUSTA – It’s looking like a busy week at the State House, with the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee meeting today, the state’s streamlining task force meeting Friday, and plenty in between.

The Appropriations Committee will gather at 9:30 a.m. today for its regular monthly meeting. The group will get an update on state revenue and information on the work of the streamlining task force, which is expected to recommend at least $25 million in cuts to the state budget.

The committee will take public testimony starting at 2 p.m. on five bond bills. The committee meets in Room 228 of the State House.

Also today, at 1 p.m., the Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission will meet in Room 127 of the State House to begin talking about setting new revenue expectations.

On Wednesday, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing will have its first meeting, at 9 a.m. in Room 208 of the Cross State Office Building. Peter Merrill and Adam Krea of MaineHousing will give the commission an overview of the state of affordable housing in Maine.

The commission, created by legislation passed this year, must make recommendations to improve the economy by increasing construction of affordable housing, address the housing needs of the elderly, and address a housing shortage that leaves thousands homeless.

On Thursday, the Agricultural, Conservation and Forestry Committee will get an update from the working group that is studying Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission. The group has held public hearings across the state to determine whether, and what kinds of, changes are needed to improve the effectiveness of LURC. The committee will meet at 10 a.m. in Room 206 of the Cross State Office Building.

On Friday, the streamlining commission will meet at 9 a.m. in Room 228 of the State House to hear recommendations for budget cuts in the Department of Corrections. The Bangor Daily News reported this month that the department is considering closing the Down East Correctional Facility in Washington County, which would eliminate 68 jobs. Lawmakers who represent the region immediately expressed opposition to the idea.

Also Friday, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices will meet at 9 a.m. at 45 Memorial Circle in Augusta. One item of note is a recommendation from its staff to strengthen prohibitions against giving Clean Election campaign finance money to family members. Candidates now can pay family members with public money if the service provided to the campaign is “in the normal course of the (family member’s) occupation or business.”

In a memo to the commission, Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said he wants to put 2012 Clean Election candidates on notice that it’s not OK to hire family members who only sporadically provide services such as field work or public relations.

BEST CABINET EVER?

An audience member at Gov. Paul LePage’s town hall meeting Thursday in Waldo County asked the governor about his biggest accomplishment to date.

His answer?

“I think the biggest accomplishment is something that nobody sees. It’s changing the culture in Augusta, and we’re making some significant progress. I think I accomplished that through having one of the best Cabinets put in place in Augusta in at least the last 50 years. I have enormous confidence in the people we selected to run the agencies.”

The process of getting a Cabinet together got off to a rough start. LePage lost four of his original Cabinet picks within the first seven months of his administration.

Department of Labor nominee Cheryl Russell withdrew even before she had a confirmation hearing. Then, Environmental Protection Commissioner Darryl Brown was found ineligible to serve because of conflicts of interest from his former company. And Economic and Community Development Commissioner Philip Congdon stepped down after making inappropriate comments in Aroostook County.

In July, Marine Resources Commissioner Norman Olsen resigned after expressing frustration with what he felt was a lack of support from the governor.

Things now seem to be gelling for Team LePage. His Cabinet has only one opening, for commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources.

‘WALKING ON WATER’

LePage was also asked about his biggest challenge.

He said it’s improving the quality of education in the state, from beginning to end.

“It’s very difficult to get a University of Maine professor to speak to a community college professor,” he said. “Even if I succeed there, I fail K-12. I need to get that University of Maine professor talking to the kindergarten teacher. If I can accomplish that, I can walk on water.”

That prompted applause from the audience, and prompted LePage’s Press Secretary Adrienne Bennett, who was emcee of the event, to say, “He comes up with that stuff all on his own.”

GAY MARRIAGE MOVIE

“Question 1,” a documentary filmed in 2009 during the debate over whether to allow gay marriage in Maine, will begin showing in theaters Friday.

The film will be screened Friday at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville, Nov. 3 at CineMagic Cinema in South Portland and Nov. 7 at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall. All screenings are at 7 p.m.

As most politics watchers will recall, Maine voters repealed a law allowing gay marriage by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent. Advocates are now gathering signatures in hopes of getting the question back on the ballot in November 2012.

ANOTHER SIGNATURE DRIVE

Americans Elect, a nonpartisan group that wants to change the way we nominate presidential candidates, is on the ground in Maine, gathering signatures in hopes of getting a nominee on the November 2012 ballot.

What is it they want?

To allow people to go online to choose a presidential ticket. They will hold an online political convention to give regular folks a chance to pick a nominee separate from the ones chosen by the Republicans and Democrats.

Check them out at www.americanselect.org

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

[email protected]