Good morning,

It’s Franco-American Day at the State House and the speeches and presentations are likely to crowd out some of the legislative activity.

The committee schedule is relatively light. There’s a public hearing on L.D. 537 in the Education Committee. The proposal would prohibit standardized tests on students in grades kindergarten through grade 2. The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee could potentially vote on L.D. 197, a proposal that would require voters to show photo identification before voting. The proposal is destined to receive a partisan vote, however, and likely fail in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

Gov. Paul LePage is expected to have a public appearance during one of the Franco American activities Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Governor’s Conference on Tourism is taking place at the Augusta Civic Center. That seems like as good a place as any for LePage to talk about how the tax plan in his budget is designed to tax tourists.

Kasich coming?

Reports out of Ohio and the national media say Gov. John Kasich will visit Maine and several other states as the Republican touts a plan to amend the U.S. Constitution to include a balanced budget provision. And, of course, to determine whether or not he wants to run for president.

On the latter issue, Kasich seems to be doing more wavering than some of the other Republican hopefuls who have done everything but make their bids official. For example, the children of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, have already said that they’re delaying entering college so they can talk up Dad with voters in early primary states. Walker’s miles ahead of his presumed running mates. He’s even hired a social media consultant to apparently instruct the campaign on how to alienate voters in Iowa via social media.

At any rate, Kasich’s reported visit to Maine will be interesting. After all, the Ohio governor knows how to lower income taxes by raising sales taxes and broadening the sales tax base.

The ole switcheroo

The governor came under fire from two fronts Tuesday; first because one of his cabinet members acknowledged that LePage’s decision to withhold voter approved bonds for conservation projects is designed to leverage a controversial plan to harvest more timber on public lands. The second because two of his appointees on the Public Utilities Commission voted to slash funding for Efficiency Maine, which provides subsidies to Mainers for home weatherization and efficiency upgrades, including heat pumps, which the governor has been touting for years.

On their face, the two controversies seem unrelated, but the administration merged the two on Tuesday when it argued that its timber harvesting plan is designed to generate more money for heating assistance and home heating upgrades.

“The state already has 800,000 acres of public land, but Mainers need help upgrading to more energy-efficient systems that would make it much more affordable to heat their homes,” LePage’s spokesman Peter Steele said when asked to explain the bonds-for-timber bargain. “Especially after the brutally cold winter we just endured, supporting a proposal to help keep Mainers warm should be a no-brainer for these organizations.”

Ironically — or perhaps intentionally — home efficiency and heating upgrades are the purpose of Efficiency Maine, which the PUC voted Tuesday to cut from $60 million to $22 million.

Also, while it’s now clear that LePage is attempting to sideline conservation groups from the timber debate by leveraging bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future, the people that stand the most to lose from frozen conservation projects are the landowners who negotiated easements with the LMF board. Perhaps the governor believes that individual land owners are less of a political force than conservation groups, which can more easily activate its members to exert public pressure on the governor.

Francish?

Franco-American Day is an annual event at the State House, but sometimes its timing on the calendar creates a conflict.

Such was the case in 2010 when Franco-American Day fell on St. Patrick’s Day. Press Herald reporter Kevin Miller, formerly of the Bangor Daily News, wrote about it in 2010, noting that “there were a few smirks and grumbles from the sizable Irish-American contingent in Augusta.”

That won’t be the case this year since St. Patrick’s Day was Tuesday. If there’s grumbles from the Irish-American contingent this year, blame it on Tuesday’s Guinness. Or Redbreast. Or both.

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