Saturday, March 8, 2014
Weed and bears: Interesting story out of Florida about how supporters of Republican Gov. Rick Scott are fretting over a potential medical marijuana referendum. The fear among conservatives in Tallahassee is that weed supporters will be a boon for Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts and help topple Scott.
It's an interesting theory and one that raises questions about a possible bear-baiting referendum in Maine. As one political observer recently put it, the bear-baiting issue could draw out a lot of conservative-minded people who may not ordinarily vote. That's not to say that all bear-baiting supporters are Republican, or vice versa, but it's an interesting dynamic to watch this year.
Right-to-work rumor: The LePage administration and some Republican lawmakers have tried and failed to pass a right-to-work bill on several occasions over the past three years. Two proposals died when Republicans held the majority in the Legislature between 2011 and 2012. Two more died last year when Democrats controlled the Legislature.
Now there's some speculation that the governor may give it another go. The buzz centers on some proposal rumored to be dubbed "workplace freedom," or some such. It hasn't materialized yet, but if it does it will likely touch off more rowdy rhetoric between conservatives and organized labor.
It could also play into the 2014 legislative election since unions have become prolific spenders in legislative races in Maine and other states.
Katz gets VIP treatment (narrative written by PPH reporter Joe Lawlor): Democrats rolled out the red carpet for Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, last Thursday when the assistant minority leader presented his bill on Medicaid managed care to the Health and Human Services committee.
Smiles were plentiful, softball questions were delivered and the Democratic lawmakers seemed fascinated by managed care, an idea that could potentially save $40 million, according to estimates provided by Katz, for a program that’s often in the red and is expected to have a more than $100 million shortfall this year.
After the hearing, Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, high-fived Katz.
But it’s likely Democrats were excited more about Katz’s Medicaid expansion ideas than managed care, a system where contractors are brought in to eliminate duplication and unneeded medical services to help control costs.
Katz is devising compromises for Medicaid expansion in an effort to attract Republican votes. His goal is to make expansion possible by incorporating “core Republican principles.” Katz role here is important because Republican buy-in is required if Democrats are to pass Medicaid expansion and override a certain veto by Gov. Paul LePage.
On Thursday, the same day Katz appeared before the committee, news about Katz’s efforts to drum up support for Medicaid expansion compromises became public, perhaps leading to some anticipatory euphoria among Democrats.
The trade-off for Katz's help on expansion will likely require Democratic support for managed care reforms that have been elusive in the past.
The LePage administration is skeptical.
Stefanie Nadeau, director of MaineCare services, questioned whether Katz's bill and its $40 million in projected savings could be realized. Maine’s rural nature and sparse population may not be as conducive to saving money through managed care as in other states, Nadeau said.
A get for The Strim: Ethan Strimling scored an interview with Gov. Paul LePage Saturday. You have to listen to it, if for no other reason than to hear Strimling ("The Strim") call LePage "brutha" and tell him that he was going to kick his butt like Muhammed Ali did Sonny Liston.
Kidding aside, Strimling and the governor did have a substantive discussion about welfare fraud and EBT card misuse, during which LePage discussed some proposals that he will be rolling out in legislation this session.
Also, LePage confirmed that he wouldn't run for president in 2016.
Talking politics: I always forget to post the weekly WGAN interviews on Mondays, so maybe I'll remember to include them in the Briefing. This week we chatted mostly about Eliot Cutler and Americans Elect, which was in the State House Notebook on Monday and polished up a couple of blog posts from last week.
Today: Fairly light hearing schedule Tuesday.
The Energy Committee will review L.D. 1652, An Act to Support Solar Energy Development at 1 p.m. The enviro lobby is pushing this proposal.
The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will take up Senate President Justin Alfond's bill that's designed to smooth out negotiations between trustees of the Cumberland County Civic Center and Portland Pirates. The sharing of liquor sales is the key point of contention there.
Non-political items: That's right, a two-fer! That's what happens with a little help.
And finally there's this from Kennebec Journal reporter/Twitter snark specialist Mike Shepherd: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.