Tuesday May 07, 2013 | 09:48 AM

Medicaid melee: With the thumbs-up from their progressive allies, Democratic legislative leaders reiterated Monday their pitch to tie paying back Maine's hospitals with the expansion of low-income health insurance. 

Democratic leaders issued a press statement calling on LePage "to stop making excuses for denying health care to thousands of Maine people."  

"Governor LePage continues to play politics with health care for 70,000 Maine people," said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. 

Said Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland: "We’ve heard one excuse after another from this governor. If he is serious about lowering our medical costs and addressing our hospital debt in our state, he should accept federal health care dollars now. It is the morally and fiscally right thing to do."

The statement follows LePage's weekly radio address during which the governor hammered Democrats for not voting on his plan to repay $484 million in backlogged Medicaid reimbursement payments to Maine's 39 hospitals. 

The apparent entrenchment over Medicaid expansion aligns with battles in other states.

That includes Florida where Republican Gov. Rick Scott agreed to expand Medicaid, yet Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature are still duking it out. According to a story in Governing, Democratic legislators have taken to filibustering Republican attempts to defeat the expansion bill before it reaches Scott's desk. 

And it looks like Florida Democrats have no problem dying on the hill for Medicaid. According to the story, Democratic Rep. Jim Waldman was asked if stalling the Republican vote could mean that other Democratic bills will falter before the end of the session. 

Waldman said the risk was worth it. 

“We could extend medical coverage to 1.2 million people. We could save 5,700 lives per year,” he said. “So the loss of legislation or perks for some of our friends, we compare that with the saving of lives. It’s a no-brainer. It’s a non-decision.” 

GMO limbo: Lawmakers on the Agriculture Committee last week delayed a work session on the bill that would require food retailers to label products containing genetically modified organisms.

It's not yet clear why the bill wasn't worked last week, but lawmakers are still awaiting an opinion from Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills about whether the proposal would violate the constitutional provision governing interstate commerce.

Opponents of the bill, including agribusiness giant Monsanto, have said the bill is unconstitutional and have threatened to sue the state if the bill is enacted. Similar threats have been made in other states considering GMO-labeling legislation, including Vermont and Hawaii.

In March the Hawaiian Senate helped spike a GMO labeling bill. According to news reports, an opinion by Democratic AG David Louie that a similar bill was unconstitutional factored in the decision. 

Feeling the heat: Now that U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has declared that she isn't running for governor in 2014, all eyes are on U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine.

Exhibit A: The domain watch, displayed here by the blog The State of Maine: 

Fire reax: Gov. Paul LePage visited Lewiston Tuesday, a response to a spate of arsons in abandoned buildings. 

LePage has deep roots in Lewiston, the city where he was raised and where he spent some time on the streets after fleeing his abusive father. 

Michaud won't be in Lewiston, but his press office issued a statement Monday about the fires, saying the congressman stood ready to assist recovery efforts. 

DGA every day: Spotted on Portland Press Herald website, an ad from the Democratic Governors Association:

Institutional memory: There's been a lot of chatter among Republicans about Democratic leaders' decision to suspend the newspaper hearing notice requirement for the remainder of the committee work this session.

Actually, chatter may be understating it. 

The Maine Heritage Policy Center and the Maine Republican Party last week issued statements blasting the Democrats secrecy. MHPC, a conservative advocacy group, also ripped the news media for not reporting it. 

A quick review of legislative records shows that suspending the newspaper hearing notice happens. A lot. The 125th Legislature, the 124th, 123rd, 122nd, 121st, 120th .... you get the point.

Each one suspended the hearing notice requirement at one point or another.

Precedent doesn't make the practice ideal from a transparency perspective, especially when considering that the legislative website didn't track the hearings as closely as it does now. 

E-fairness: Todd Gabe, an economics professor at the University of Maine, has produced some estimates showing how much money the state is losing in online sales taxes. Gabe's study was commissioned by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, which is supporting so-called e-fairness legislation.

According to Gabe's report:

* Maine had an estimated $561.1 million in online sales in 2011.

* E-commerce sales had the potential to generate between $17.8 million and $28.1 million in state taxes.

* Collecting sales taxes from online purchases would have increased retail sales in Maine by an estimated $62.2 million and $98.2 million in 2011.  

Non-political item: Jim Romenesko got his hands on a hilarious internal memo from the Wall Street Journal about reporters appearing on video. Hilarious, I suppose, if you're not one of the greasy, mustard-stained reporters targeted by the memo.


"People are watching – and they are watching you. All of us appearing on-air should take care to present ourselves in the best light possible, and that includes physical appearance. As many of our regular guests already know, neat and professional dress, combed hair and a quick visit to our resident makeup artist on the 6th floor is encouraged before each appearance for both men and women – even for just a quick dash of powder. You want the spotlight focused on your stellar journalism – not shining off your forehead." 

Shorter: Clean-up, slobs!

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
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