Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Veto watch: Republican lawmakers will be on the hot seat once again this week when the Democratic-led Legislature attempts to override Gov. Paul LePage's sixth veto of the session.
The governor on Friday vetoed L.D. 319, an e-fairness bill that directs Maine Revenue Services to determine if the state conforms with an agreement among other states seeking to tax online commerce.
The governor supports e-fairness legislation. In May he issued a press statement backing the e-fairness bill currently making its way through the U.S. Senate. However, in his veto message of L.D. 319, a bill by Democratic House leader Rep. Seth Berry, of Bowdoinham, LePage wrote that state lawmakers should get behind the federal legislation.
L.D. 319 had just one roll call vote. It passed 137-0 in the House. Other votes went under the hammer, meaning that both chambers approved unanimously.
The override vote could come up as early as Tuesday in the House.
Flipped: Interesting rhetorical maneuver by the Maine Democratic Party on the dust-up over Democratic leaders' plan to link Medicaid expansion with Gov. Paul LePage's plan to repay $186 million that the state owes its hospitals.
Early in the session Democratic lawmakers were getting pounded by LePage and Republicans for stalling the governor's proposal. It appeared to be an effective attack, at least until Democrats unveiled a counterproposal.
Now it appears Democrats are attempting to turn the tables on LePage and Republicans, who are opposing the Medicaid-debt payback combo.
Last week Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant claimed it was LePage and Republicans who didn't want to pay Maine's hospitals.
"... Now that Democrats have put together a plan that not only pays the hospitals but saves them hundreds of millions of dollars in the long run, (LePage's) ready to say 'No,' " Grant said. "This is exactly the kind of cynical, petulant behavior we’ve come to expect from LePage. I can’t wait to hear how he explains to hospital CEOs how he only cares about their bottom line when he can score political points at the same time."
No carve-outs: Rep. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, the lead sponsor of the sweeping tax overhaul proposal backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, on Friday shed a little light about his decision to vote against L.D. 1088, the 2009 tax reform bill despite originally supporting the measure.
Knight, one of three Republican co-sponsors of L.D. 1088, told the Taxation Committee that the new proposal was designed to avoid the mistakes of 2009 when the bill was altered to preserve sales tax exemptions for some services, but not others. Knight said the "carve-outs" in 2009 were ultimately what prompted him to oppose the measure sponsored by former Democratic Rep. John Piotti of Winterport.
"(Piotti) told me that the bill was going to be changed, that it wasn't going to tax anyone who would be upset," Knight said. "That's when I bailed on the plan."
Of course, plenty of people were ticked off by the 2009 plan, which was overturned by voters in 2010. The new plan has many enemies. As South Portland resident Sarah Hinckley noted in a recent letter to the Portland Press Herald, "each legislator can probably find one of her pet oxen getting gored by the proposal."
At least one ox won't be gored in the proposal: heating fuels. Knight told the Taxation Committee Friday that the group never intended to apply sales taxes to heating oil.
GMO update: The Legislature's Agriculture Committee last week approved a bill that would require food producers and retailers to label products that contain genetically engineered ingredients, but attempts to change the legislation, L.D. 718, continue.
Last week the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, which is advocating for the bill, alerted supporters that the group representing the baby food industry was hoping to amend the proposal to exempt its products from the proposal.
According to MOFGA, the Infant Formula Council of America had drafted an amendment containing the exemption. The amendment is not yet included in the bill and it appears unlikely that the sponsor of L.D. 718, Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, will go along with such an exemption.
"I cannot understand why, of all things, baby formula should be exempt from GMO labeling,” Havell told MOFGA.
The bill is scheduled for final language review by the committee on Tuesday.
No 'C' in PBS: When the Department of Education announced its letter grades, King Middle School in Portland received a 'C.'
The school was recently featured on PBS News Hour for it's science-heavy curriculum. Watch the segment here.
Non-political item: OK, so Boston Bruins play-by-play man Jack Edwards is getting a lot of attention for his fabulous "kill the beast" call. But lest anyone think that was Edwards' best moment – or that Edwards is sane – I present readers with this:Tweet
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.