Friday, March 7, 2014
Litmus test: There's been some speculation that Gov. Paul LePage is walking back his ultimatum to veto any bill that crosses his desk until the Legislature passes his plan to repay backlogged Medicaid reimbursement to Maine's hospitals. That's not coming from the Governor's Office, but Republican leaders, who met with the governor on Friday after his decree spurred a day of blame-heavy rhetoric about "veto sprees," "misplaced priorities" and "Washington-style politics."
In a joint statement released Friday, Republicans Rep. Ken Fredette and Sen. Mike Thibodeau said the governor elaborated his position during a meeting to say he'd only sign bills with broad bipartisan support and a job creation component.
It's not clear if a bill by Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, to allow earlier liquor sales on Sunday for St. Patrick's Day satisfies those criteria, but the proposal could be on its way to LePage's desk soon following a final vote in the Senate (it's already received first approval in the House).
The bill would affect the upcoming St. Patrick's Day, which falls on a Sunday.
There are eight other bills in the House that could land on the governor's desk this week.
Dirigo-boarding: Expect some political theater in the Insurance Committee Tuesday afternoon, as the panel reviews the governor's appointments to the Dirigo Health Board.
Jonathan McKane, the former Republican representative from Newcastle, is expected to receive some tough questions from Democrats on the committee. McKane is a longtime opponent of the Dirigo Health program, which is a shell of itself following moves to draw down the program by the last Republican-led Legislature.
McKane will likely receive a lot of questions about his desire to get involved in a program that he repeatedly urged to dismantle. McKane could also face some other tough questions about his opposition to the federal health care law.
The Dirigo board may become important during the implementation of the federal health care law even though the program is phasing out. The agency must carry out its contractual obligation to insurance providers and assist people in transitioning to a new insurance program later. The program could also play a role in the development of health insurance exchanges mandated in the Affordable Care Act.
Enemy within: The Judiciary Committee will be quite busy Tuesday. One of the last pieces of business could be the most interesting.
The panel will hear LD 220, a bill that would prohibit the state or any of its agencies from adopting the policies included in Agenda 21.
Agenda 21, a non-binding resolution passed by the United Nations in 1992, appears to be a fairly innocuous attempt to promote sustainable development practices. However, it's become the enemy of the tea party, and some Democrats, who believe the resolve is part of a global conspiracy carried out by state and local planning agencies to seize private property and corral people into "human habitation zones."
That belief bubbled up during the "Gateway 1" planning meetings designed to prevent sprawl along the Route 1 corridor between Brunswick and Stockton Springs.
The legislation that will be heard today is mostly sponsored by Republicans, including House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Alex Willette, of Mapleton. Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, the Democratic assistant majority leader, is also a co-sponsor.
Expansive argument: Gordon Smith, the lead lobbyist for the Maine Medical Association, will appear before the budget-writing committee Tuesday afternoon to discuss Medicaid expansion.
Smith's appearance comes as Democrats begin ramping up their public efforts to advocate for expansion and convince LePage to join the ranks of Republican governors who have agreed to participate in the program.
Physician groups generally support increasing Medicaid eligibility. In terms of politics, pressure from doctor groups could also lead their employers, hospitals, to get on board.
Support from hospitals has been a tipping point to green-light expansion in other states, particularly those with Republican governors.
Non-political item: Gotta love ambitious criminals.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that two men and a woman carrying pizza and pale ale allegedly stole an 82-foot luxury sailboat in Sausalito, Calif. The trio was arrested after the boat ran aground near Pacifica.
"The three then spent hours being tossed about in the waves in the 82-foot Darling as authorities, alerted to the theft by a man who recognized his boat on the TV news, waited with guns drawn on Linda Mar Beach. ... One of the men limped as authorities led him away, apparently because he uses a prosthetic leg."
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.