State Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, had to perform some verbal Jiu jitsu Friday. Or Aikido. Or whatever martial arts discipline that leaves its practitioner vulnerable to self-inflicted wounds.

Brakey presented his bill to repeal Maine’s seat belt law to the Transportation Committee just two days after a 75-car pileup left a stretch of I-95 west of Bangor looking like a snowy version of the twisted metal carnage more typical of those on the 405 in Los Angeles.

Brakey started off acknowledging that seat belts likely saved lives in the Bangor wreck, adding “I would hope that this accident serve as a reminder for wearing a seat belt.” He then went on to explain his ideological opposition to the law, the libertarian view that the government shouldn’t be involved in people’s personal decisions.

“This bill is not about whether people should wear seat belts,” he said. “People should wear seat belts. Seat belts do save lives. This is about the proper role of government in our personal decisions in our lives as free people.”

Brakey then quoted John Stossel, a libertarian and commentator for Fox News, who once argued that seat belts may be “killing more people than they save.” Stossel’s reasoning is grounded in something called moral hazard, a theory that posits that a feeling of security can make people do dangerous things.

Brakey, in jest, took Stossel’s view to its logical conclusion. “Perhaps there should be a spike mounted on the steering wheel pointed right at the driver’s chest,” he said.

Brakey may have been joking, but testifying that seat belts save lives and then quoting a man who believes the opposite likely didn’t do much to convince lawmakers that Maine should get rid of its seat belt law.

Punch, counter punch

Policy differences may indeed be at the heart of Gov. Paul LePage’s announcement last week that he won’t support Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves’ bipartisan effort to build 1,000 units of much-needed affordable senior housing across Maine.

But it’s likely there’s some political hardball, too.

Not only did LePage publicly criticize Eves’ signature legislative initiative, he got the head of the Maine State Housing Authority to do the same. The timing of these statements is interesting. Eves has been running all over the state touting this initiative and there have been multiple occasions on which the governor could have voiced his opinion. So why now?

That’s not clear, but it’s worth noting that Eves didn’t mince words last week when he criticized the governor for asking the Public Utilities Commission to reopen two wind project contacts. LePage’s penchant for punishing political adversaries and dissenters is pretty well established at this point. Time will tell if his opposition was the heat-of-the-moment decision or a lasting one that will ultimately result in a veto.

Perspective on Portland shelter controversy

The LePage administration continued piling on Portland over the billing controversy at two city-run shelters. It took a few days, but Mayor Michael Brennan and advocates finally got around to providing a united and coherent defense.

Amid the back and forth, the Press Herald’s Randy Billings provided some much needed context of the 30-year-old agreement at the heart of the dispute. It’s a must-read piece for anyone interested in understanding an issue that so far has been more about politics and less about solutions.

The agreement between the city and state was borne out of the state’s decision to start downsizing institutions for the mentally ill. As a consequence people with mental illness ended up on the streets, and eventually, in homeless shelters.

DOJ coordination crackdown ensnares familiar face

The Department of Justice is trying to disrupt the coordination game between candidate campaigns and political action committees. It’s first-ever prosecution came against a man that Mainers might recognize.

On February 12, Tyler Harber, a 34-year-old Virginia man, admitted that he set up a PAC to spend money on behalf of a candidate campaign that was also paying Harber as a consultant. That’s a no-no and Harber could get up to five years in jail and pay up to $250,000 for it (His sentencing is in June).

Harber worked for two candidates here in Maine. He first worked for Scott D’Amboise, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Harber then jumped ship to work for Bruce Poliquin when U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe opened up the field of candidates after announcing she was retiring. Poliquin also paid Harber to run his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Harber’s firm was called The Prosper Group.

The consultant had a sketchy past before his conviction. He was connected with some 2005 shenanigans in Tennessee involving the illegal accessing of a Republican county chairman’s personal emails.