Good morning,

It’s been a busy week at the State House. It will slow down a bit Friday. The Transportation Committee will hold a number of public hearings and potentially vote on two cellphone bills that were reviewed last week.

The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will continue to hold public hearings on the governor’s two-year budget proposal. The committee has focused primarily on the Department of Health and Human Services budget and will continue to do so on Friday.

The budget committee will shift to the education portion of the budget beginning next week.

Hawaii ≠ America

Message from a Republican source: “You might want to check out the Waldo County Republicans Facebook page.”

So we did.

Wow.

Robert Hanish, the chairman of the Waldo County Republicans, has posted a variety of items to the page. On Thursday, this one was pinned to the top of the news feed:

waldo2

Hanish repeats the oft-debunked “birther” theory, which is that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. He goes on to assert that growing up in Hawaii isn’t a “normal upbringing in the Homeland.”

It’s unclear what that means. Is it because Hawaii wasn’t granted statehood until 1959? Is Hawaii less American than Alaska, which was granted statehood the exact same year? Which is more American, mountains or prairies? Hot dogs or hamburgers?

Who knows.

Also it’s one thing for partisans to openly despise each other, but it’s quite another to suggest that someone will be a “perfect fairy in cellblock two,” as Hanish did in this post:

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Friend of my enemy

It’s good to see that U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have patched up their relationship.

On Thursday, Bruce Josten, the executive vice president of the chamber’s government affairs division, wrote a letter to King and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, in support of the two senators’ Regulatory Improvement Act. The proposal  creates a commission to review regulation and will recommend changes or repeal.

“The Chamber supports regulatory reform that restores federal accountability, ensures greater transparency and stakeholder participation, and ensures safe and swift permitting, while minimizing undue burdens and costs on businesses. The Chamber thanks you for your leadership in addressing this very important issue,” Josten wrote.

That’s a nicer message than the one the chamber had for King in 2012 when it labeled the former governor the “King of Spending” and accused him of “mismanagement.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent nearly $1 million attempting to defeat King in the U.S. Senate race.

Bellows fires up advocacy group

Shenna Bellows, the former executive director for American Civil Liberties Union of Maine who ran against U.S. Susan Collins last year, is starting her own political consulting and advocacy firm.

The venture seems like a natural transition for Bellows, who was an effective lobbyist for the ACLU at the State House. It’s unclear what type of client she’s courting this go around. She doesn’t appear to have registered as a lobbyist with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, according to the agency’s website.

The next ‘Dean of  the Senate Women’?

Maine Sen. Susan Collins is already the senior Republican woman in the U.S. Senate. But could she become the next “Dean of the Senate Women”?

That unofficial title currently belongs to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the Maryland Democrat who announced this week that she is retiring in 2016. Mikulski has served longer in Congress (from 1977 to present) than any other woman, surpassing Maine’s late Sen. Margaret Chase Smith just a few years ago.

Mikulski has played a critical role in elevating women’s issues on Capitol Hill and in helping maintain some cohesion among women senators as their ranks grew from just two in 1987 when she joined to the current 20. She is often referred to as the “Dean of the Senate women.”

Writing in Politico Magazine about who could take over that unofficial title — if anyone does — contributing editor Liza Mundy had this to say about Collins:

“In the end perhaps the strongest contender of all is Collins of Maine, among the last of a breed of bipartisan-minded Republicans, who has the seniority and the credibility and the long-standing friendships. Collins has a vivid memory of institutional culture back when men like Strom Thurmond and Bob Packwood stalked the halls of what was truly a men’s club. She, too, has survived and thrived. During the 2013 government shutdown, it was Collins who called upon her colleagues to come out of their partisan corners to end the fiscal crisis and get the government funded and running. She’s measured but frank: It is her view that women who enter the Senate still have to work harder to prove themselves before they are accepted. If she wanted the post, she probably could get it, and it would be good for the cause of bipartisanship to have the next dean be a Republican.

Collins already has a relatively high profile given her seats on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee and her reputation as a bipartisan deal-maker. One could expect her stature to rise as the senior Republican woman in a chamber controlled by a party that often struggles to attract and maintain women voters.