Gov. Paul LePage, state lawmakers and Christmas. Haven’t we seen this movie before?

Yes.

lepageplasticpigs

And now, the sequel.

 

So what message is the governor attempting to send here? At the risk of engaging in the immensely popular exercise of the “smart hot smart take,” — the contemporary euphemism for “analysis” (otherwise known as “best guess”) — here’s a possibility:

According to Amazon, the book is “a humorous allegory about education, well-intentioned people with unrealistic ideas, and a dead horse” (there’s a YouTube video of the story). Well, Sens. Roger Katz and Tom Saviello, the two Republican senators embarking on another push to expand Medicaid, are presumably well-intentioned people. The governor has publicly disagreed with that assessment — Saviello and Katz reportedly didn’t receive copies of the book — but his feelings about the two senators wouldn’t necessarily detract from his message to Republican legislators who may be wavering about the prospect of expansion.

LePage is vehemently opposed to Medicaid expansion, arguing that growing the program is unsustainable, or perhaps, unrealistic.

He has vetoed nearly a half-dozen  expansion bills. Voila! Your dead horse.

Despite the seemingly long odds of passage in the current Legislature, the governor appears to be taking this effort seriously. This week LePage devoted his weekly radio address to attacking the proposal. He didn’t mention Katz and Saviello by name, settling instead for the double-fisted pejorative “liberal politicians.” It’s possible that the governor’s hearty response to the proposal is because Katz and Saviello are asserting that Medicaid expansion will help the state grapple with the drug crisis. The epidemic is all over the news. Reports of people overdosing in a car with a 5-year-old in the backseat are the kind of stories that get people’s attention. LePage has taken a law enforcement tack on the drug crisis for two years, but he’s recently indicated that treatment and recovery are also important. If a barrier to treatment is insurance, the Medicaid expansion argument could be a real threat to his “Obamacare welfare” narrative. And as evidenced by last year’s budget battle, the governor sometimes responds to threats by deploying his unique methods of persuasion — Christmas trees, plastic pigs, etc. Or, in this case, allegorical books as gifts.

The obvious hole in the theory is that Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau also didn’t receive a copy of the book. Thibodeau has voted against the various iterations of Medicaid expansion. Then again, his relationship with LePage isn’t what it once was.

Impeachment rally scheduled

Continuing with the theme of slim possibilities, a group of activists hoping that the Legislature will impeach LePage will gather Wednesday for a rally at the State House.

The rally begins at 11:30 a.m.

It’s unlikely that the Legislature will convict LePage on impeachment charges, but that’s not going to deter several state lawmakers from bringing charges in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

There have been 17 impeachment proceedings of U.S. governors and just eight convictions, according to the Council of State Governments. No Maine governor has been impeached. The effort to impeach LePage has long been considered a longshot. Additionally the case against him was arguably weakened last week when Attorney General Janet Mills determined that, to this point, there’s insufficient evidence to support a criminal charge against the governor despite his interference in the hiring of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves by a private school in Fairfield.

Historically, most governors who have been impeached faced a criminal charge.

That’s not to say that LePage won’t face some sort of sanction. Eves said Wednesday that he expected a resolution condemning the governor’s actions will be presented early in the session. He said that it wasn’t in lawmakers’ best interest to prolong the affair and create a “political circus” that will distract from the policy work.

Lawmakers propose tapping S&P settlement for drug bill

Draft language for the bipartisan drug bill was posted Wednesday. Most of the details of the $4.8 million proposal have been reported. The draft bill, however, finally identifies a funding source.

While $2.4 million for 10 additional Maine Drug Enforcement Agency agents will come from the General Fund, another $2.5 million will come from the state’s $21.5 million share of a settlement from the multi-state lawsuit against Standard & Poor’s.

LePage has previously objected to the Office of the Attorney General’s control over spending the S&P settlement money.

The public hearing for the Legislature’s drug bill will be held Tuesday.