Maine’s latest attempt to ban conversion therapy gains momentum

Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A bill broadly banning the use of conversion therapy on minors won bipartisan support in a legislative committee Thursday.

The amended bill from Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, would bar most certified licensed professionals from using the controversial method of therapy on anyone in Maine younger than 18 and prohibit the use of MaineCare to pay for it.

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.

Former Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a similar bill from Fecteau last year, and both chambers were…

Maine regulators’ staff endorses $1 billion CMP corridor plan

In this June 22, 2010 file photo, the Jean-Lesage hydro electric dam generates power along the Manicouagan River north of Baie-Comeau, Quebec. A proposed transmission line across western Maine to serve as a conduit for Canadian hydropower is “in the best interest” of state electricity customers thanks to incentives negotiated with Central Maine Power, the state’s public advocate said on Thursday, March 7, 2019.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The staff of Maine’s utilities regulatory commission recommended on Friday that Central Maine Power’s controversial $1 billion proposal to deliver Quebec hydropower to Massachusetts through a western Maine corridor be approved.

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. However, the Legislature is considering bills to slow or neuter it.

The three-member Maine Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal in April. In a report released Friday evening, the commission’s staff said the project is in the public interest and should go forward, saying the benefits package augments the corridor while only being worth between $72 million and $85 million in today’s dollars because of inflation.

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…

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

Former Gov. Paul LePage poses with members of the new Maine State Police motorcycle unit in late December. The push for the unit came after an “out of nowhere” push from LePage, according to an email from the agency’s colonel.

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.

Motorcycles were the first mode of transportation for the state police. The first three officers who died in the line of duty for the agency were killed in motorcycle crashes and the first 46 cars purchased by the agency in 1936 were traded for 47 Harley-Davidsons and 25 sidecars. The state police auctioned off its last motorcycles in 1954, according to an online state police history.

At least two Maine departments — South Portland and Scarborough — have motorcycle units, as do all other New England state police departments except Vermont. It’s a small amount of money for the Maine State Police, whose annual budget stands at $60 million. But the unit was established quietly under LePage by reallocating funds, and the co-chair of the legislative panel overseeing police said she didn’t know about it this week.

At the end of his tenure in December 2018, LePage issued a tweet referencing the new unit. In response to questions about it in January, department spokesman Stephen McCausland said the motorcycles would be unveiled publicly at an April 12 state…

People Before Politics reboots to advance Gov. LePage policies

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BANGOR, Maine (AP) — A nonprofit advocacy group linked to Republican former Gov. Paul LePage has geared up in recent months to protect fiscally conservative policies he favored.

Maine People Before Politics, born of LePage’s 2010 inaugural committee, has hired two former officials from his administration. It is rallying opposition to a proposed carbon tax, criticizing Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed budget and has reactivated its online presence, the Bangor Daily News reported.

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…

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

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.

Thank you for being with us this evening. Click here to read a draft of Janet Mills’ inaugural address. We will have more analysis of the speech on Thursday. Welcome home and good night.

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. One woman caught a ride by herself from Cushing to witness history, she said. Others invited friends and family to come with them. As Carol Locke of Portland said, “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

Maulian Dana, the tribal ambassador for the Penobscot Nation, is one of those introducing Mills tonight. 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. However, Mills recently backed the tribe in its campaign to retire Skowhegan’s “Indian” mascot.

Offering a prayer before Mills’ inauguration is the Rev. Kenneth T. Lewis, the pastor of Green Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Portland, which traces its roots to the Abyssinian Society, a congregation that began in 1828 after 22 black residents successfully petitioned the Legislature to let them start their own church because of discrimination at other…

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. It didn’t keep big money out of politics & didn’t result in a more civil election,” he added.

The controversy over the race stems from Maine’s “ranked-choice” electoral system, where, if no candidate receives an outright majority…

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

Maine Governor-elect Janet Mills greeted supporters recently. Mills has vowed to expand Medicaid coverage for poor Mainers.
Maine Governor-elect Janet Mills greeted supporters recently. Mills has vowed to expand Medicaid coverage for poor Mainers.

PORTLAND, Maine — Departing governors and presidents often leave gracious notes welcoming their successors and offering words of encouragement.

Not Governor Paul LePage of Maine.

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.

The parting shot was vintage LePage.

The blunt, often bombastic governor once called himself “Trump before there was Trump” and frequently landed in national headlines for his inflammatory remarks.

At the same time, he cut welfare, signed the largest tax cut in Maine history, and presided over robust economic growth, endearing him to many Mainers who helped him win two terms in a purple state.

Now, the state is gearing up for a dramatic shift.

Mills, who frequently sparred with LePage as attorney general and will become the state’s first female governor, has promised to usher in a more civil tone in Augusta and to push many of the policies that LePage opposed.

Most prominently, she has vowed to expand Medicaid coverage for thousands of poor Mainers, a policy that LePage refused to execute despite court orders and the passage of a ballot question last year.

He raised fiscal concerns, saying he would go to jail “before I put the state in red ink.”

Mills said the theme of her inaugural on Jan. 2 will be a “new and better direction,” stressing that Maine is “undivided” and “everybody feels a part of the family.”

“My job going forward is to put a positive face on the state of Maine, to make sure we tell the world what a great place we are,” she said Thursday in Portland, where she was announcing expanded high-speed Internet service.

As for the threat to run against her in 2022 that LePage promised to leave on her pillow, Mills just shrugged. “Who says I’m sleeping in the same bed?” she said.

Portland, ME, United States -- Maine Governor Elect Janet Mills speaks during a press conference at Sea Bags, where the governor spoke about the economic impact of Charter's new gigabit connections in Maine, in Portland, ME on Thursday, December 20, 2018. Sea Bags is a customer for Charter, a cable company that serves Maine. (Yoon S. Byun for the Boston Globe) Slug: 21maine Reporter: Michael Levenson LOID: 8.4.4175526464
Mills said the theme of her inaugural…

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

This combination of file photos show U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2017, left, and state Rep. Jared Golden in 2018, right, in Maine. Federal Judge Lance Walker has dismissed a lawsuit by Poliquin aimed to nullify outcome of first ranked choice congressional election won by Golden.

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.

On Tuesday, Dunlap appeared to have undermined a key argument of the appeal by sending a letter to Karen L. Hass, the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, in which he declared Golden the winner…

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

In this May 5, 2018, file photo Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Republican Convention in Augusta, Maine.

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.

Compliance with the expansion law would provide health care coverage to as many as 80,000 low-income Mainers, but lawyers for the Republican governor have argued that moving forward without approval from the federal government could prompt a “fiscal crisis” for the state.

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…