Phil: With it being Independence Day weekend, what better opportunity to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than announcing a few awards in honor of the end of the first session of the 127th Legislature?

Ethan: Indeed. On this special occasion, let us once again bestow a few Political Excellence Awards, otherwise known as Phil and Ethan Awards (“the PEA,” for short) for the legislative session.

Phil: Ladies and gentleman, as nominated by a red-white-and-blue-ribbon panel consisting exclusively of the two of us and independently tabulated by the unregistered accounting firm of Dewey, Cheatum & Howe …

Ethan: … and by the power vested in us by absolutely no one, we present to you the top awards for legislative excellence in 2015.*

Phil: And the PEA goes to…



Best: Eliminating the welfare cliff. It has long been debated whether finding a way to ease people off welfare would make more sense than simply taking away all benefits when someone earns a certain dollar amount (pushing them off a cliff). This Legislature and governor finally got it done.

Runner-up: Charter school funding. Instead of taking funds from a single public school when parents decide to place their kid in a neighboring charter, the Legislature passed a law to include charters within the statewide school-funding formula. Like charters or not, this is a much smarter system.

Worst: Repealing concealed carry. By any measure, a strong majority of Maine people do not support eliminating the permit process for carrying a loaded concealed gun in public (including the two of us). Notwithstanding this opposition, the Legislature went against public opinion. People’s veto?


Winner: Sen. Eric Brakey. This newcomer from Auburn, a Republican, has definitely made news. Although he may win the former state Sen. Peter Mills award for introducing the most bills that don’t pass, he did get several substantive bills to the governor’s desk. And surprisingly, he avoided all vetoes.



Winner: Sen. David Burns. A day after persuading the Senate’s Republican leadership to co-sponsor his “religious freedom” bill, modeled after the controversial Indiana bill that allowed companies to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, Burns, of Whiting, declared that he was withdrawing the bill. Nothing like leading your troops up the hill and then turning tail.

Runner-up: Good Will-Hinckley. When threatened by the governor with the withholding of funds over its decision to hire House Speaker Mark Eves as president, the board turned tail and unanimously rescinded the offer. Perhaps they had no choice, but they sure didn’t seem to put up much fight.


Best: Rep. Peggy Rotundo. For better or worse, depending on which one of us you talk to, this budget reflected Democratic values much more than Republican. The longtime and powerful Democratic House chair of the Appropriations Committee deserves the credit (or blame).

Runner-up: House Minority Leader Ken Fredette. Despite Rotundo’s power, Fredette wrestled the budget from the grips of the Appropriations Committee and inserted an amendment that overhauled a quarter billion dollars of our tax code. If you like the income tax shift, Fredette is the one to thank.

Honorable mention: Senate President Mike Thibodeau and Speaker of the House Mark Eves. While both of these leaders almost lost their caucuses in the midst of heated budget negotiations – Thibodeau over the constitutional amendment to limit tax increases and Eves for agreeing to too much of a tax cut for the wealthy – both stayed in the ring and balanced their caucuses values with keeping our government open.



Best: Stephen King: “Governor LePage is full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green.” After the governor said in a weekly address that King did not pay income taxes in Maine, King released the fact that he paid $1.4 million in Maine state income taxes in 2013.

Worst: Gov. Paul LePage: “George Danby should be shot.” The governor made this remark at Boys State to the son of George Danby (unknowingly). Besides Boys State being a gathering where we are teaching future leaders how to be civic leaders, this remark was in extreme poor taste in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina, shootings.


Winner: Gov. Paul LePage. From a record number of vetoes to Christmas trees to squealing pig toys, how could this award go to anyone else? Not even a close runner-up.



Winner: Sen. Mike Willette. When Willette was lambasted for posting ethnically offensive comments on Facebook, he rightly apologized. When it turned out that he left the offensive comments on his page after his apology (while trying to unfriend people who might take offense), he earned this award hands down.

Runner-up: Portland Mayor Mike Brennan. When the Maine Department of Health and Human Services cited Portland for billing the state for people who were staying in the shelter but had personal resources above the state income guidelines, the acting city manager quickly drafted changes to correct the situation. Whether or not you agree with DHHS, Brennan should have listened to his city manager instead of wasting precious resources to fight a losing battle that made the situation worse.


Winner: Sen. Tom Saviello. Whether Democrat or Republican, it is always hard to stand up to the top elected official in your party. It is even harder to call for an investigation of that leader. Saviello did just that when he submitted a request this week to investigate Gov. Paul LePage for the possible abuse of power against House Speaker Mark Eves.

Runner-up: Sen. Anne Haskell. Whether you agree or disagree with her position on providing state funding for asylum seekers – Ethan agrees, Phil does not – it took a lot of courage for her to be the only vote in the Senate to oppose the budget.

Honorable Mention: Gov. Paul LePage. After four years of avoiding appearances on “The WGAN Morning News with Ken and Mike,” the governor finally agreed to enter the studio and withstand their brass-knuckled interview.



Winner: “And.” When the Public Utilities Commission voted to eliminate $38 million in funding for Efficiency Maine because the last Legislature had left the word “and” out of a new law, it became the most debated term since President Clinton declared, “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”

Runner-up: “Asylee.” If you don’t get the reason it’s runner-up, email Ethan. He’ll explain.

*While we both agree with every award above, that does not mean we necessarily agree with the views of the awardees.

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