Senator back at State House after wife’s health improves

Sen. Seth Goodall, a Democrat from Richmond, returned to the Senate on Wednesday afternoon. It was his first time at the State House since June 2.

Goodall’s wife, LeAnn Greenleaf, has been hospitalized since giving birth to a girl Friday, and at times she has been in critical condition. The baby, the couple’s first, is healthy.

Goodall said Wednesday that his wife’s health has stabilized, allowing him to go to Augusta for a few hours to take care of matters in his law office and take part in Senate debates. 

For the rest of this session, his time in the State House will be limited, he said. He said he will remain in contact with the Democratic staff and leadership by telephone and email.

The Senate Republican caucus agreed to hold bills that are important to Goodall for as long as possible to give him a chance to participate in the debate.

With Goodall’s return Wednesday, the Senate took up two of those bills: L.D. 159, regarding regulation of vernal pools, and L.D. 1376, which would eliminate same-day voter registration and ban absentee voting in the two business days before elections. 

House votes to allow concealed weapons at work

The House voted 75-68 Wednesday night to approve a bill to allow workers with concealed-weapons permits to bring guns to work as long as their guns remain locked in their vehicles and out of sight. 

L.D. 35 is sponsored by Rep. Rich Cebra, R-Naples, and opposed by business groups, which say it would increase their insurance costs, threaten their ability to ensure workplace safety and open them up to lawsuits.

A pair of votes, to approve or defeat the measure, failed on Tuesday night. Majority Republicans voted as a bloc on Wednesday. The measure will now be scheduled for votes in the Senate. 

Senate upholds LePage veto of limit on foreign loggers

The Senate has upheld Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill to prohibit foreign loggers from working on state-owned land managed by the Department of Conservation.

The bill passed in the Legislature last month, but LePage vetoed it Tuesday on constitutional grounds. The Senate voted Wednesday to sustain the veto, killing the bill.

LePage cited a letter from the attorney general saying that the bill raised equal-protection questions under the Constitution, and that contractors already are prohibited from using Canadian loggers unless they can’t find American workers.

Democratic Sen. Troy Jackson, a logger from Allagash, said LePage is “more interested in giving jobs to Canadians rather than Maine workers.” 

Panel approves Wathen to serve on turnpike board

Daniel Wathen was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Legislature’s Transportation Committee to serve as a board member of the Maine Turnpike Authority. 

“I thank Governor LePage for offering me this important opportunity,” Wathen told committee members during his appointment review. “Working together with trust and cooperation, I am sure that we will forge a new era of openness and accountability while protecting the sources of financing that are so important to the future of our state.”

In March, after Paul Violette resigned after 23 years as executive director, LePage named Peter Mills of Cornville as interim executive director of the authority. LePage appointed Wathen to the board earlier this month.

In a statement issued by his office, LePage said Wathen “brings impeccable credentials to an authority whose reputation is recovering from revelations of fiscal improprieties.”

Wathen, of Augusta, served 20 years on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, 10 of them as chief justice.

His appointment will now go before the Senate.

If confirmed, Wathen is likely to be appointed as chairman of the board.