Sunday, March 9, 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.
(I should have noted this before that audio clips are courtesy of MPBN, which recorded the entire floor debate; also I've expanded Lance Harvell's comments to better reflect what he meant to say during his floor speech. -- S.M.)
State Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, on Thursday accused the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives of equating granting women the right to vote with extending the same privilege to murderers and convicted felons.
The exchange took place during the floor debate over a bill that would extend early voting in Maine. During the debate, Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, said that the founding fathers set a single day for voting and that people managed to make it to the polls, whether by horseback or other means. Russell then rose to say that times had changed and that the founding fathers also didn't think women should vote.
Dropping the "morning" from the Briefing today for obvious reasons:
Backroom: After holding a heavily attended public hearing last week over a bill designed to prevent a $40 million cut in municipal aid, the Legislature's budget-writing committee is retreating to the back room to begin negotiations over how such a proposal would work.
On Tuesday the committee was expected to move into their party respective caucuses, a position that allows the panel to avoid messy public deliberations and negotiate in private. While the state's open meeting law prohibits a quorum of elected officials from conducting public business in private, the Legislature has often used an assumed caucus exemption to hammer out deals on such things as the state's $6.3 billion budget.
The practice has gone on for decades thanks to an old opinion by the Attorney General that said, "Party caucuses are not committees or subcommittees of the Legislature, so their meetings do not appear to be public proceedings. Similarly, informal meetings of the members of a committee who are affiliated with the same party are not public proceedings as these members are not designated by the committee as a whole to conduct business of the committee.”
The evolving case of disappearing documents and an unorthodox health grant award process at the Maine Center for Disease Control took another intriguing turn on Monday.
The Maine Democratic Party announced that it had filed a Freedom of Access Act request seeking communications between the LePage administration and officials at the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services. Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said in a press statement that LePage has failed to take action despite mounting evidence that documents used to justify $4 million in public health grants were shredded or destroyed.
“This is now the second federal probe into serious allegations against Governor LePage’s administration, and it’s time for answers to some very basic questions: what did they know and when did they know it?” Grant said. “It’s been nine months since these allegations were first made and we know that documents have been destroyed, the FBI is now involved and favoritism may have been played, yet Governor LePage has held no one accountable."
Grant's reference to the FBI stems from new revelations last week that the federal agency had interviewed Sharon Leahy-Lind, a former director of local public health for the CDC, who has sued the agency and its director under the federal Whistleblower Protection Act after claiming that her supervisors ordered her to destroy public documents associated with the health grants after the Lewiston Sun Journal requested them.
The Republican Governors Association on Monday released its first ad bolstering the reelection campaign of Gov. Paul LePage.
The 3-minute spot, part of the RGA's "American Comeback" series spotlighting reforms of GOP governors, retraces LePage's now familiar personal story of his abusive father and his rise from poverty to governor. That story is parlayed into the governor's self-reliance mantra and his ongoing commitment to welfare reform.
In the spot, LePage mentions that the safety net can produce a generational reliance and he holds up his family as an example. First Lady Ann LePage appears near the end of the ad, saying the governor is an underdog now fighting for Maine, also an underdog.
As Maine Goes, the conservative web forum that shuttered last year after a 15-year run, has relaunched.
Lance Dutson, a Maine-based political consultant and web developer, purchased the site from Scott Fish, who launched AMG in 1998 as an email newletter. Over time the site grew into the go-to place for conservative political chatter with many of its users posting anonymously.
Dutson, who helped Fish build the site backend using the open source Drupal platform, said the old AMG will be integrated into a new one. For commenters of the old AMG, that means their old logins will still work and there wil be archive of all the old posts. There will be some small cosmetic changes, Dutson said, with more aggregating of headlines on the home page.
Dutson said the biggest change will be in registering to comment. Before AMG commenters were screened. Now the site will allow people to comment through a registration form. Duston said he hoped the change would encourage more participation and a broader debate.