It’s another snowy morning in Maine, although as of 7:30 a.m. the Legislature has yet to cancel it’s work for the day.

Stay tuned.

MMA responds (diplomatically) to LePage miff

As anyone who watched Gov. Paul LePage’s Tuesday night speech or saw highlights knows, the governor struck a fairly bipartisan and non-confrontational tone with one notable exception: the Maine Municipal Association.

A former mayor himself, LePage renamed the MMA the “Middle Man Association” as he suggested that the organization — which represents communities on policy issues in Augusta — has a mission “to protect local officials, not local taxpayers.” He also accused the MMA of repeatedly fighting tax reduction plans.

MMA’s executive director, Chris Lockwood, was very diplomatic Wednesday when asked about the governor’s comments.

“We want to be part of the discussion and we think we bring important perspective to the table,” Lockwood said.

Officially, the MMA’s policy committee, which is comprised of local elected officials, has not taken a stance on the governor’s $6.3 billion budget proposal. Committee members “appreciate” the governor’s ambitious attempt to overhaul Maine’s tax code, Lockwood said, and are looking forward to offering their “viewpoints” as lawmakers dive into the complex package.

“We believe there are some flaws in the proposal and we believe we can . . . during the process, help to address these concerns,” Lockwood said.

Tops among those concerns is the governor’s proposal to eliminate revenue sharing, the 40-year-old system in which state government sends a share of the state’s coffers back to towns and cities. That money — just over $60 million this year — is supposed to reduce local property taxes by helping to cover the costs of basic services (emergency response, snow plowing, filling potholes, etc…)

LePage says in this weekend’s weekly radio address (which is distributed mid-week) that while state government is controlling spending, municipalities are not doing enough and need to explore more collaboration and creative approaches. Asked if was disappointed by the governor’s tone toward the MMA, Lockwood probably wisely seemed disinclined to poke the bear and only repeated that they are just looking to play a constructive role in the debate.

“We are focused on a goal here and that goal is to modernize Maine’s tax structure so that it works for citizens and municipalities,” Lockwood said.

Expect more fireworks between LePage and MMA in the coming months.

It’s task force report time

All of those task forces created by past Legislatures are busily finalizing their reports. Two are slated to be unveiled Thursday.

The 17-member Task Force to End Student Hunger will present their final report to the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee at 3 p.m. Earlier in the day, a group will detail their report on how ocean acidification — rising acidity linked to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels — is affecting Maine’s valuable shellfish populations and unveil their legislative recommendations.

You can see the preliminary findings of the acidification group’s work here.

What’s in a name?

Without minimizing the important work of the acidification task force, I just can’t resist pointing out the ridiculously long official name of said group. It is:

The Commission To Study the Effects of Coastal and Ocean Acidification and Its Existing and Potential Effects on Species That Are Commercially Harvested and Grown along the Maine Coast

Perhaps a “Commission to Study the Process of Naming Commissions” is in order this year.

Maine on the menu in DC

U.S. senators from both sides of the aisle were treated to Maine dishes on Wednesday during that chamber’s first bipartisan lunch of the year.

Every Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats huddle separately in rooms near the Senate chamber for closed-door caucus lunches where they talk policy, politics and whatever else while hungry staffers and reporters linger outside in hallways filled with the aroma of fancy catered lunches. (As a former DC correspondent, the author speaks from personal experience on the latter).

Last fall, several dozen senators suggested that Ds and Rs eat together once a month in an attempt to improve relationships between the parties because, apparently, there is concern about political polarization in the U.S. Capitol. Who knew?

Anyway, Maine was on the menu Wednesday during the first of those bipartisan lunches thanks to Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King. According to a release sent out by Collins’ office before the event, the dishes chosen by Maine’s senior senator included:

“Maine lobster salad featuring a special recipe from the University of Maine; chips made from Maine potatoes; Maine wild blueberry pie served with vanilla or Maine wild blueberry ice cream produced by Gifford’s Ice Cream.”

No word on whether eating Maine fare inspired the senators to be more collaborative. The Senate did, however, unanimously pass a resolution Wednesday congratulating the New England Patriots on their Super Bowl victory. Perhaps that’s a start.