Monday, April 21, 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.
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.
Colleague Eric Russell has the spot coverage of Gov. Paul LePage's State of the State address. We'll have more analysis of the speech later, but here's some quick observations:
* Striking difference between this year's speech and last year's speech. Last year the governor seemed to alternate between conciliatory remarks toward Democratic lawmakers and challenging them. Not so much of that this year.
In 2013: "We must put ideologies aside and get to work to make Maine a competitive and prosperous state."
In 2014: “Liberal politicians are taking us down a dangerous path – a path that is unsustainable."
The back-and-forth accusations over Monday's Democrat-led budget committee vote over a plan to forestall $40 million in revenue sharing raged unabated Tuesday.
Both sides claimed the other is lying. Both sides say the whole affair has tainted the budget process and the sanctity of the negotiations. Both sides . . .
The difficulty getting to the bottom of this dispute is that all of the discussions about whether Democrats on the committee told Republicans that they were voting Monday occurred behind closed doors during what's known as a "chairs and leads" meeting. The chairs and leads meetings take place between the co-chairs of the committee and lead committee members of the minority party.
They talk about votes. They negotiate. They do all of this out of the public view.
(Updated Tuesday at 10:02 a.m. with response from Democratic leaders)
State House truism: The budget writing committee, officially known as the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, doesn't play politics. At least publicly.
Except, of course, when it does.
The idea that the panel responsible for writing and passing the state budgets doesn't engage in the typical partisan jousting is rooted in the fact that the panel, more often than not, has to negotiate budgets that appeal to both parties. That would be a difficult job if the committee members were ripping each other in the press all the time.
(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.