May 19, 2013

State House Notebook: Republicans try to debunk Medicaid savings claim

Also: Gun-show bill remains in the Senate.

By Michael Shepherd
State House Bureau

and Steve Mistler
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

In 1998, Florida voters approved amending the state's constitution to require background checks on private sales at gun shows. Despite voters' 72 percent approval of the measure, a report in April by the Tampa Bay Times said county ordinances were largely ignored.

Maine's assistant Senate majority leader, Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said L.D. 267 could come up for a preliminary vote on Tuesday.


Both Democrats and Republicans (but mostly Democratic leaders) have been trumpeting a "first-of-its-kind" work force bill in recent weeks. It's well on its way to passage in the Legislature after gaining initial approval in the Senate last week.

Among the sweeping bill's highlights are a "seamless" credit-transfer system between the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System. The lack of that has been a longstanding lament of many in state government and education.

But there's one thing they haven't been talking about much: its cost, which could become an issue in a tumultuous budget season.

Any bill with a fiscal note needs approval from the Legislature's budget-writing committee, which finds a way to pay for it. If the committee can't find the money, the bill fails.

The work force bill's fiscal note says it would cost nearly $9.4 million over four years, just over $5 million of which would come in the next two budget years. About half of the four-year total, just over $4.7 million, would go to the community college system.

That kind of a fiscal note could kill many bills. But this bill has bipartisan support and allies in wide-ranging interest groups, from the university and community college systems to the pro-business Maine State Chamber of Commerce to the Maine AFL-CIO, a coalition of labor unions.

Still, it would have to be funded. Since there's no budget proposal that's palatable to most legislators and Gov. Paul LePage, it might be worth holding your breath -- for now, at least -- on the work force bill.


The week in Augusta will be kicked off with a public hearing before the Education Committee on the Democrats' vague, conceptual alternative to LePage's A-to-F grading system for Maine schools.

The bill, L.D. 1540, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, the committee's Senate chairwoman, was announced earlier this month, just after LePage's system.

Democrats said it would encompass certain points, from attendance and graduation rates to interviews with parents.

LePage's system is based largely on standardized testing.

Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, the Education Committee's House chairman, said it is intended to "shame and blame" schools, while Republicans said the Democrats are the only ones attaching shame.

Look out for the response to the Democrats' system on Monday. The issue is probably the most partisan one in Augusta this session. That's not likely to change.


Steve Mistler can be reached at 620-7016 or at

Twitter: @stevemistler


Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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