Thursday, March 6, 2014
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
The campaign for Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday attempted to link Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud to new pollution rules by the Environmental Protection Agency that critics say will make it more expensive for homeowners to purchase newer, cleaner burning wood stoves. Opponents of the regulations also argue that wood stove manufacturers would have to spend more money to re-engineer clean-burning stoves that are already available.
Supporters of the regulations say new emission rules are long overdue, particularly as it relates to outdoor wood boilers. Seven states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, but not Maine, have filed a notice to sue the EPA for failing to revise its outdated air pollution standards for residential wood heat (Colleague Tux Turkel has a nice overview of the rules and the impacts here.).
Some have speculated that that the rules could become political wedge issue, particularly in Maine which is particularly reliant on wood for heat. According to the U.S. Census, 14 percent of Maine homes use wood as a primary source of heat, while another 50 percent of Maine homes it as a backup heat source.
Here's the full audio of Gov. Paul LePage's unexpected press conference. Click here to read the story about his remarks and the reaction from Democrats in the Legislature.
At the end of the press conference, Adrienne Bennett, the governor's spokeswoman, tells reporters that he'll take one more question. After LePage answers it, he says he'll take another. But Bennett cuts him off, prompting people in the room to laugh.
Said LePage, "I hate it when a woman tells me 'no' just like my wife."
Here to oppose cell F:5: The Legislature's budget writing committee will begin a series of public hearings on two proposals designed to fill gaps in the state budget for the current and next fiscal years.
Anyone who has been following the build-up to this process knows by now that the whole thing is completely unorthodox, if not unprecedented. That's because Gov. Paul LePage has decided that he's not participating and won't submit a budget proposal.
The public hearings that begin Tuesday are a case in point. Typically public hearings are held on specific proposals accompanied by actual legislation drafted in the form of a bill. That won't be the case Tuesday. There are no bills, no language detailing cuts or the funding mechanisms. There are, however, colorful spreadsheets with all of the potential proposals that could end up in two separate budget bills.
The Republican state lawmaker who has come under fire for a series of past statements about gays, rape and abortion said Wednesday that he regrets having made such comments.
Rep. Lawrence Lockman, R-Amherst, is widely regarded as a polarizing lawmaker who frequently uses divisive rhetoric during floor speeches and press events. On Tuesday the Maine Democratic Party called for Lockman's resignation following a blog post by a liberal activist that detailed several decades worth of public statements about gays, abortion and rape.
The post by Maine People's Alliance activist Mike Tipping utilized press clippings to unearth several offensive comments. In one, Lockman implied that HIV and AIDS could be spread by bed sheets and mosquitoes. In another he said that the progressive movement assisted the AIDS epidemic by assuring "the public that the practice of sodomy is a legitimate alternative lifestyle, rather than a perverted and depraved crime against humanity." In a 1995 letter in the Sun Journal in Lewiston, a reader quoted a press statement issued by Lockman, then part of the Pro Life Education Association, saying, “If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”
Pivot: By now most have probably learned that the Portland Press Herald inadvertently received emails of high level officials at the Department of Health and Human Services discussing its pivot from the a heavily criticized taxpayer funded Medicaid expansion study. However, the actual correspondence is now embedded in the story for those who are interested in reading it.
A couple things:
1. I've been asked several times how the newspaper could have received the chain of emails. Some have wondered if the emails were leaked on purpose. Highly doubtful. The emails were sent to a PPH reporter that infrequently interacts with the agency. The guess is that the emails were mistakenly forwarded because of the auto-fill feature in Microsoft Outlook, which is the email client that the state uses.
2. The emails show that the department is trying to figure out a way to message its Medicaid expansion opposition while downplaying the embattled Alexander Group study. But one didn't need those emails to notice this shift in strategy. There have been several occasions where the administration has cited numbers from the study without mentioning the Alexander report as a source. This happened last week while DHHS chief Mary Mayhew was stumping for Gov. Paul LePage at the York County Republican Committee.