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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @stevemistler

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Tuesday March 04, 2014 | 09:57 AM

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.

Here's the one for fiscal 2014.

Wednesday February 26, 2014 | 04:18 PM


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.”

Tuesday February 18, 2014 | 11:10 AM

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. 

Tuesday February 11, 2014 | 12:12 PM


(Update 2.13.14 -- Looks like the lifecycle of Frary's primary challenge was about 48 hours. He told Morning Sentinel Wednesday that he's not running.) 

Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, has been an outspoken supporter of Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, a position that puts him at odds with a number of his Republican colleagues. On Monday, the resurrected political forum As Maine Goes broke the news that that Saviello could face a primary challenge from John Frary, a conservative columnist and 2008 2nd District congressional candidate. 

AMG noted speculation that Frary's potential bid is backed by conservative activist Mary Adams, a longtime ally of Gov. Paul LePage.

Wednesday February 05, 2014 | 07:50 PM

H/T to colleague Mike Shepherd for spotting a little problem with the latest Republican Governors Association attack against Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and another H/T to PPH D.C. bureau chief Kevin Miller for the context -- S.M.

The RGA press release: "Already Unaffordable Home Heating Oil To Get A Tax Hike Thanks To Mike Michaud"

“The recent string of polar plunges and extremely cold weather has placed an added burden on many family budgets, especially when it comes to heating their homes. It is shocking that want-to-be governor and liberal Washington, D.C. Congressman Mike Michaud would vote to increase the fees on home heating oil at this time. The working families of Maine can least afford to pay for this onerous tax.” – RGA Communications Director Gail Gitcho

The problem: The bill Gitcho is referring to is the 956-page Farm Bill that has all sorts of provisions, including a fee increase on home heating fuel. However, the RGA release doesn't mention a key detail: The provision prohibits oil companies from passing on the two-tenths of 1 cent fee to customers, or in this case, Maine families. It's on page 938 of the Farm Bill. The prohibition is also in the Washington Times story referenced as a source for the RGA ad.