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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.

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.

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…

Watch Janet Mills be sworn in as Maine’s 75th governor

Democrat Janet Mills will be sworn in today as Maine’s 75th governor. The 71-year-old from a prominent Farmington family becomes Maine’s first female governor. Watch the swearing-in and her inaugural speech here. Of the more than a dozen attendees I spoke with before the ceremony started, Gov.-elect Mills’ inauguration is the first inauguration most have attended. Tribes have long had a difficult relationship with the state and the Penobscot Nation joined progressive groups in a letter critical of Mills during her primary campaign. @JanetMillsforME comes into her inaugural ceremony to cheers alongside Chief Justice Leigh Saufley of the state's high court and Adjutant General Douglas Farnham. #mepolitics Mills spokesman Scott Ogden said more than 3,000 people are at tonight’s inaugural ceremony, which is about the same size of the crowd that Gov. We just received this message via email about the widow of a former BDN employee: Jo McAlary is thrilled to be able to attend the inauguration of the first female governor Janet Mills. Troy Jackson of Allagash, a Democrat, will have the honor of leading the ceremony as Senate president. Janet Mills will give her inaugural address.

Maine governor writes ‘stolen election’ while certifying Democrat’s victory

Outgoing Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage took a swipe on Friday at a Democratic candidate’s victory in a controversial House race, writing “stolen election” next to his signature on the certificate confirming the election result. LePage certified the victory of Democratic Rep.-elect Jared Golden after Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a two-term Republican congressman, conceded to his opponent on Christmas Eve following a contentious legal challenge. “I’ve signed off on the [Maine’s 2nd congressional district] election result as it’s no longer in federal court,” LePage wrote in a tweet, attaching of the certificate with the phrase “stolen election” next to his signature. “Ranked Choice Voting didn’t result in a true majority as promised-simply a plurality measured differently. The controversy over the race stems from Maine’s “ranked-choice” electoral system, where, if no candidate receives an outright majority of the votes, a second tally is triggered. Maine’s top state court last year warned that ranked-choice voting conflicts with the state’s constitution, which says the winners of state-level races are whoever gets the most votes, or a plurality. The Golden’s upset victory is a setback for Republicans in Congress, who lost the control of the House following the midterm elections. Maine’s 2nd congressional district historically leaned Democratic, thought the voters voted overwhelmingly for President Trump during the 2016 presidential election. He previously told reporters that he’s retiring from politics and will be moving to Florida due to low taxation.

Family fun awaits at these top picks for a fun ski weekend

The irascible Republican said he plans to leave a very different message for Democrat Janet Mills when he leaves Blaine House, the governor’s mansion in Augusta, next month. “I’m going to leave her a note on the pillow that says, ‘If you mess this up, I’m coming back in 2022,’ ” LePage said recently. As for the threat to run against her in 2022 that LePage promised to leave on her pillow, Mills just shrugged. After a stint in the Maine House representing her hometown of Farmington, she was elected by the Legislature to serve as attorney general in 2008. LePage’s incendiary rhetoric helped drive the GOP out of power, said Roger Katz, a former Republican state senator who also was just term-limited out of office. “To the extent that a voter thinks of a Republican and the first thing that comes to mind is the style we see from President Trump and Governor LePage, that hurt us,” Katz said. James Tierney, a former Democratic attorney general of Maine who has known Mills for 40 years, said her victory marked “a return to sanity.” “People are tired of the drama,” he said. “There’s no question that the economy has dramatically improved under Governor LePage, and having a businessman as governor has allowed the state to post a surplus and promote an economic growth agenda that has dramatically improved Maine’s standing,” said Brent Littlefield, LePage’s senior political adviser. “It’s going to be a love-fest with the new governor. And they only sell newspapers when there’s controversy, so they’re going to be in trouble.” Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com.

1st Circuit ends Poliquin’s efforts to keep House seat

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals denied U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s attempt to keep Democrat Jared Golden from succeeding him Jan. 3 in the U.S. House of Representatives. A three-judge panel issued a one-page order at about 2:30 p.m. Friday denying the congressman’s appeal of a lower-court judge’s ruling against him because he didn’t “have a strong likelihood of success on the merits.” The underlying appeal challenging the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting will go forward but would not impact the results of the Nov. 6 election that Golden won. Poliquin’s legal team late Monday asked the court to prevent Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap from certifying the election results and sending a certificate of election to the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. In Maine, however, the Secretary of State can sign it. Gov. Paul LePage’s spokesman said Tuesday he would not sign the certificate due to the pending litigation. Poliquin and three Republican voters sued Dunlap on Nov. 13 in federal court in Bangor. LePage was added as a defendant two weeks later after Golden and independent candidate Tiffany Bond, along with two of her supporters, were granted intervenor status. The lawsuit sought to invalidate the ranked-choice voting process approved by Maine voters in 2016 and again earlier this year. Poliquin’s latest effort to keep his House seat came days after U.S. District Judge Lance Walker issued a 30-page decision against the congressman in which Poliquin asked Walker to order a new election.

LePage’s legal bills top $200,000 in Medicaid expansion court fight

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has spent more than $200,000 in legal expenses in the court fight with advocates over Medicaid expansion that may last until the end of the governor’s tenure in early January, according to records reviewed by CBS 13. Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat who won the race to replace LePage earlier this month, has said she will take steps to implement Medicaid expansion as soon as she takes office Jan. 2, though it is still not clear when coverage would take effect. [What’s next for Medicaid expansion as Maine’s transition of power looms] Jack Comart, a lawyer for Maine Equal Justice Partners, the progressive group leading the lawsuit against the LePage administration, said given Mills’ election, it is “a waste of taxpayer money to continue this litigation,” and it is “sad” that LePage is “spending his remaining time actively denying health care to people with serious medical conditions.” Records reviewed by CBS 13 show that since July 2018, the state has spent $228,316 on legal services with Consovoy McCarthy Park, the Boston law firm handling the Medicaid expansion litigation that has been active in Maine’s court system since late April. Last week, Maine Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that DHHS must take immediate steps to expand Medicaid. On Tuesday, the administration asked for a delay of that ruling, citing a planned appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. He plans to keep fighting it.] “We cannot control future administrations, but this administration believes strongly as a matter of principle in the constitutional arguments we are making. We will pursue this case to the end,” Rabinowitz said on Tuesday following the most recent court filing. 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.