Wednesday, March 12, 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.
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.
There will be at least two Democratic candidates vying for the Senate District 25 seat this year, but Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, says he's not endorsing either of them.
Alfond, in a press statement issued by the Maine Democratic Party, said he he's staying neutral in a Democratic primary that is expected to include Steve Woods, a Yarmouth business owner and former U.S. Senate candidate, and Cathy Breen, a former Falmouth town councilor.
"I welcome the announced candidacies of both Steve Woods and Cathy Breen for Senate District 25," Alfond said in the statement. "Both candidates are well-qualified and would serve the district and our state well. This seat is generating great interest from Democrats because they know how important it is to send a Democrat to Augusta."
He added, "I will remain neutral in the primary. The nomination is up to the Democratic voters of this district, and we look forward to waging a vigorous campaign on behalf of the nominee immediately following the primary election on June 10th
Vote delayed: All eyes were supposed to be on the Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday as lawmakers prepare to vote out another Medicaid expansion bill. But according to an email sent Wednesday morning by the spokeswoman for House Speaker Mark Eves the committee won't pull the trigger after all (UPDATE: The committee tabled the bill @ 9:30 a.m.).
The delay may be because Democrats are still working on an amended bill that will enhance the chances of a veto-proof majority.
Democrats are also hoping they'll be able to claim a "bipartisan" committee vote to support the bill, but it's unlikely that bipartisan will be mean more than one Republican vote on the panel. Last year Rep. Carol McElwee, R-Caribou, supported Medicaid expansion, voting last year to overturn Gov. Paul LePage's veto. McElwee is on the Health and Human Services Committee so it won't be a surprise if she supports a new version of the proposal.
The bigger question will be whether enough Republicans will join Democrats to vote for the final version when it counts. Gov. Paul LePage said recently that he expects Medicaid expansion will pass (he said lawmakers had "no compassion."). Still, there will be a lot of pressure on Republicans to reject expansion, just as there was last year. Democrats may be able to bring along enough Republicans for the early votes in the House and Senate, but holding them will be difficult.
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.
The Department of Health and Human Services fulfilled to multiple Freedom of Access Act requests for all drafts of its Medicaid expansion feasiblity study.
All four versions are post below, from final draft to first draft.
Read 'em, download 'em, scrutinize 'em. Do what you want.
They're your documents.