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Live: Susan Collins announces her decision on Kavanaugh vote

Maine Democrats Are Eager to Take On Susan Collins

The Story: Ever since Senator Susan Collins (R- ME) voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Justice to the US Supreme Court, it has been...

Maine’s latest attempt to ban conversion therapy gains momentum

A bill broadly banning the use of conversion therapy on minors won bipartisan support in a legislative committee Thursday. It earned unanimous support from Democrats on the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee and partial support from Republicans. Rep. Mark Blier, R-Buxton, and Rep. Gregg Swallow, R-Houlton, were the only members to vote against the bill. Conversion therapy is a largely discredited method of therapy used to try and change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Maine is the only state in New England that has yet to ban the practice for minors. At least 15 states have passed similar measures. Paul LePage vetoed a similar bill from Fecteau last year, and both chambers were unable to muster enough votes to override it, with House Republicans largely siding with the governor. Support from Republicans in Thursday’s committee vote likely signals a road to passage this year, as Democratic Gov. Both would prohibit the use of MaineCare to pay for the practice, but Fecteau’s bill defines conversion therapy as “any practice or course of treatment” claiming or seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender, while Austin’s bill defines it as any “aversive practice or treatment,” intending to change one’s gender or sexual orientation. Both bills allow for therapy pertaining to one’s sexual orientation and gender identity, as long as that counseling does not claim or seek to “change the individual’s sexual orientation or gender.” Fecteau’s bill will now be considered for passage by the full Legislature, while Austin’s remains stalled.

Bill to strip Maine vaccination exemptions moves ahead despite GOP opposition

Janet Mills’ administration on track to pass. Now, Maine allows guardians to opt children out of school immunization requirements based on personal, religious or medical beliefs. Tipping’s bill would remove all nonmedical exemptions as a response to rising opt-out rates. During the past school year, only six states had a higher vaccine opt-out rate than Maine, and the share of kindergartners vaccinated for measles dropped in this school year for the third straight year with the share of students citing nonmedical exemptions rising from 5 percent to 5.6 percent. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned those marks are risking the state’s “herd immunity,” a standard making it nearly impossible for contagious diseases to spread. “We have to make decisions in 2019 that are for the greater good, and this is one of those,” Carson said. Republicans on the education committee criticized Tipping’s bill as a violation of personal and parental rights. Democrats voted that down along party lines. Sen. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, said while he would support further education in places with high shares of unvaccinated children, parents have “a multitude of reasons” why they don’t vaccinate their kids. He said Tipping’s bill effectively boots a class of students out of public schools.

Maine regulators’ staff endorses $1 billion CMP corridor plan

It is the biggest milestone so far for the project that has been in the works for more than a year and drew support from Gov. Janet Mills in February after parties inked a 40-year benefits package worth $250 million. The three-member Maine Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal in April. John Carroll, a CMP spokesman, said in a statement that the report “squarely addresses the questions that have been raised in the course of this proceeding,” and “confirms that the project will provide environmental and economic benefits for Maine.” Next month’s vote will come amid fervid grassroots opposition in western Maine and during the further permitting processes that are required. Mills’ hometown of Farmington voted against it overwhelmingly last week, joining eight other towns in opposing it and almost all of the more than 1,300 public comments filed with the commission on the proposal were in opposition. “There’s nothing in this report that changes the facts that this transmission corridor is a bad deal for Maine and it’s deeply unpopular,” said Sandra Howard, the director of Say NO to NECEC, an opposition group that uses the acronym for the project’s formal name. Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage also backed it. Threats to the project loom in the Legislature, where Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, the co-chair of the Legislature’s energy committee, has submitted a bill backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that would require every town along the corridor’s path to accept it by referendum before the utilities commission moves it forward. They start on Monday morning at the University of Maine at Farmington.

LePage found a way to create a state police motorcycle unit ‘out of nowhere’

AUGUSTA, Maine — A small, new Maine State Police motorcycle unit that began with an “out of nowhere” request from former Gov. Paul LePage nearly a year ago will be rolled out formally in April. Without legislative approval and using $171,000 in existing funds, the Maine State Police bought six motorcycles toward the end of 2018, along with trailers for the new unit, which will largely be used part time for ceremonial purposes and to promote recruitment with limited operational use that could include work at parades and other congested scenes. The state police auctioned off its last motorcycles in 1954, according to an online state police history. In response to questions about it in January, department spokesman Stephen McCausland said the motorcycles would be unveiled publicly at an April 12 state police graduation ceremony. After that, McCausland provided more information, including policies that will govern it. However, Cote said in a written response to questions that the agency had previously wanted motorcycles. Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for LePage’s political group, deferred to the state police when asked why he wanted the motorcycle unit, but the former governor’s Facebook post cited the agency’s history and that he wanted it by the end of his tenure. Trooper Aaron Turcotte, the former president of the Maine State Troopers Association, said bringing back motorcycles is “long overdue. For a roundup of Maine political news, click here to receive Daily Brief, Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Jim Fossel: Demand transparency from all political organizations

One of the project’s main opponents, an umbrella group called Stop the Corridor, is made up of environmental groups and corporations that have come together to stop the project. What is unusual — at least in Maine — is that for the past year or more they’ve been waging a very public campaign against the project, rather than just lobbying behind the scenes. They’re essentially running a political campaign without a candidate or a ballot question, and because of that they fall between the cracks of our campaign finance laws. That was made especially clear when one examined the campaign’s financing, which revealed that the donations came from Scott and his buddies. The money for the campaign could be coming from competing energy companies or other corporate interests that would benefit financially from killing the project. If that were the case, it would be worthwhile to know, just as we know that CMP and its parent company, Avangrid/Iberdrola, will make money from the line being built. Stop the Corridor isn’t the only group in Maine politics ducking transparency. But there’s nothing to keep the political nonprofits or groups like Stop the Corridor from being honest about the source of their funding. When a political consultant works for a political candidate, a campaign, a political party or a political action committee, we are able to see who they’re working for and exactly how much they get paid. When they engage in that kind of work, we can’t connect the dots between their corporate clients and their political ones — which can be vital information.

People Before Politics reboots to advance Gov. LePage policies

Paul LePage, geared up in recent months to protect fiscally conservative policies he favored. Paul LePage has geared up in recent months to protect fiscally conservative policies he favored. It is rallying opposition to a proposed carbon tax, criticizing Democratic Gov. LePage’s push to influence state politics even as he lives in Florida is an unusual move for a former governor. But his spokespeople say the governor, who has threatened to run against Mills in 2020 and wants to launch a “conservative mouthpiece” for Mainers, is concerned about state’s future. LePage was named the group’s honorary chairman. The newspaper’s review of tax filings show the group raised $1.1 million before fundraising halted after 2015. It paid out nearly $100,000 combined to the former governor’s daughter, Lauren LePage, and top political adviser, Brent Littlefield, in 2016 and 2017. The conservative-leaning group does not name its donors under IRS rules governing what are often called “social welfare nonprofits,” which can advocate for issues and raise unlimited amounts of money. Rabinowitz said Maine People Before Politics will file amended forms with the IRS to disclose more information about the group’s activities.
Democrats Paint Stark Contrast With Outgoing Republicans | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

Democrats Paint Stark Contrast With Outgoing Republicans | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

Rachel Maddow reports on some of the early actions taken by new Democratic governors in their first days in office and outlines the Democratic congressional priorities illustrated in H.R. 1. » Subscribe to MSNBC: http://on.msnbc.com/SubscribeTomsnbc About: MSNBC is the premier…

McConnell Faces Pressure From Republicans to Stop Avoiding Shutdown Fight

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, on Wednesday in Washington. Tom Brenner for The New York Times WASHINGTON — For weeks, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has remained conspicuously on the sidelines, insisting that it was up to President Trump and Democrats to negotiate an end to the partial shutdown of the federal government. But with the shutdown soon to enter its third week, and Mr. Trump dug in on his demand for $5 billion to build a border wall, Mr. McConnell for the first time is facing pressure from members of his own party to step in to resolve the stalemate that has left 800,000 federal workers either furloughed or working without pay. Much as Democrats did in 2018, Republicans will face a difficult map in 2020, with a handful of incumbent senators facing re-election in swing states or states won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. But on Thursday, as a new era of divided government opened in Washington, perhaps the most vulnerable Republican, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, broke ranks to become the first member of his party to call for an end to the shutdown — with or without Mr. Trump’s wall funding. “I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open,” Mr. Gardner, whose state has a heavy federal presence, told The Hill newspaper. “The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today.” A second vulnerable Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the chamber’s most moderate members, said Thursday that she would support separating homeland security funding from the other bipartisan appropriations bills already approved in committee to reopen much of the government — as Democrats have proposed. Let’s not get off on the wrong foot, with House Democrats using their new platform to produce political statements rather than serious solutions.” After two years of trying to advance Mr. Trump’s agenda, Mr. McConnell now sees his primary job as standing in the way of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who vowed in her inaugural speech on Thursday to “reach across the aisle in this chamber,” but who is also poised to pass legislation on a bevy of liberal priorities, including gun restrictions and protections for young undocumented immigrants. “For Trump and McConnell, there’s a lot of good politics for that — particularly for McConnell in Kentucky.” Democrats are trying to drive a wedge between Republican leaders and their vulnerable incumbents up for re-election in 2020, especially Mr. Gardner, Ms. Collins, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Senator Martha McSally of Arizona, who was appointed to fill the seat left vacant after Senator John McCain’s death. “He’s seen this situation many times before and knows where the leverage points are,” Mr. Holmes said.

Janet Mills joins Margaret Chase Smith as Maine’s female political trailblazers

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — "I am delighted that you have arrived,” the late Margaret Chase Smith wrote in a letter to an infant Janet Mills in 1948. Wednesday, nearly 71 years later, Mills arrived in Augusta to become Maine’s 75th governor, and the first female to hold this office in the state. The inauguration of Janet Mills is prompting a lot of people to compare her to another Maine politician, Margaret Chase Smith, who was in the midst of breaking the gender barrier in politics when she wrote that letter to Mills just after Mills was born. "Just about a week after Janet is born, Margaret is already making this prophecy that [Mills] has a lot to live up to,” said David Richards, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan. “70 years later, she’s gone on to live up to that." "I just think that letter is so remarkable,” said Richards. According to Richards, there's a long connection between the Smith and Mills families which began even before Mills began her career, through a friendship Smith shared with Mills' father, Peter. “This idea of firsts, that Janet Mills is the first female governor of the state of Maine and Margaret Chase Smith had a lot of firsts as a female, running and serving in office over the years,” said Richards. Both women have served as trailblazers for females in politics and for their own political parties. She was on to something with that letter at least, all those years ago.