Politics

March 4, 2013

Dirigo critic faces confirmation hearing Tuesday

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

and Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

The longtime critic of Maine's Dirigo Health program who Gov. Paul LePage has nominated to the program's board is set for a confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Legislature's Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

The nomination of Jonathan McKane, a Republican former state representative from Newcastle, is subject to review by the committee before it goes to the Senate for final confirmation.

He's been vocal about his opposition to much of the program, and that could mean a fight over the nomination from Democrats.

In the last Legislature, Republicans voted to phase out the program's funding sources. Many Democrats around Augusta would see McKane's ascension to the program's board as a case of a fox guarding the henhouse.

In a 2007 Maine Voices op-ed column in the Portland Press Herald, McKane wrote: "Unlike most other states that allow health insurers in the free market to compete and thus lower premiums, Maine continues to gamble state resources on a program that has failed to deliver on its promises."

Ericka Dodge, a spokeswoman for Senate Democrats, said the committee will do "proper vetting" on McKane and his qualifications for the position and Democrats are concerned about his past public statements.

"Jon McKane as well as Gov. LePage have made no qualms that the Dirigo Health program is not a priority," Dodge said. "We have concerns that they would like to expedite the program's demise."

'FLIES' AUTHOR IDENTIFIED

A Portland man says he's helming a new blog promising opposition research on likely 2014 independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler.

Bob Higgins, whose Bangor Daily News blog says he's "a freelance writer and occasional loafer," said in a post on "The Cutler Flies" late last month that he's a "disgruntled voter" with a plan to "completely marginalize a certain potential candidate for Governor of Maine in 2014."

"And there is nothing he can do to stop it from happening," Higgins wrote. "Not a damned thing. All legal, and that is the most delicious part of all."

The blog gets its name from "The Cutler Files," a blog put forward in 2010 that dogged Cutler's campaign. It was later revealed that Dennis Bailey, a Portland-based media relations consultant, was behind the site. He was eventually fined by the Maine Ethics Commission for not identifying those involved.

In a Friday post, Higgins said some are already offering tips on Cutler's past. His goal?

To "paint a picture of a proposed candidate and the thoroughly baffling brotherhood of bull**** artists that lurk behind the scenes in support," he wrote.

GRAND THEFT AUTO

Disappointed that Maine state law currently prohibits you from having a cocked firearm or crossbow in your vehicle or motorboat unless you have a concealed-weapons permit?

Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro, has just the bill for you.

Libby has proposed L.D. 660, a bill that lifts that ban so any gun owner can carry a loaded gun or crossbow in their vehicle or motorboat.

There's more: Libby's bill would also allow a firearms holder to shoot from their vehicle, or motorboat, "in defense of life or property."

IT'S WHY THEY CALL IT 'VACATIONLAND'

Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Gov. Paul LePage have had a tense relationship the last two years.

Jackson claims that he and the governor haven't spoken since the two tussled over Jackson's bill to ban Canadian loggers from working on state-managed land.

(Continued on page 2)

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