Posting will be light or nonexistent for the next couple days as I move back to Orono from Halifax.
Feel free to use this thread to do your own posting about state events.
Visit the new Maine Politics.
From the Piscataqua to the St. John
Posting will be light or nonexistent for the next couple days as I move back to Orono from Halifax.
The BDN reports that Baldacci is reaching out to Republicans who have threatened a "politicians veto" referendum campaign of the borrowing in the state budget. It seems that despite the noise they've made, the GOP still has no real idea how they'll make up for the budgeted loan. They might have some tentative ideas, however.
Sen. Davis says his party already has several ideas it would like to consider as part of a deficit-reduction package. These include raising the deductible on the state employee health plan, cutting a portion of the funds in the Dirigo health program and stopping the plans to use racino revenues for scholarships and health programs and direct the money into current expenditures.
An editorial from the Sun Journal hits the nail on the head.
As supporters of a "people's veto" of the legislation work to gather signatures to put a question on the ballot to reject the law, the rhetoric will be charged and nasty. They need 59,519 certified signatures by June 28 to get the referendum on the November ballot, and they'll say whatever they need to to make it happen. They will use fear, exaggeration and intolerance, if necessary. [...]
As hard as it is to believe, until this law was passed, it was perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay or to kick a woman out of an apartment for being a lesbian. Maine is the last state in New England to address this deficiency.
The anti-discrimination law is not some effort to "subvert society," and it's not part of an "ideology of evil," as its detractors say. It is not part of some mythical, radical agenda with a goal of "the destruction of the traditional family and the overthrow of the existing social order," as Heath has written.
It's about equality and justice.
The Christian Civic League will stage an anti-gay-rights rally tomorrow on the steps of the statehouse. Mike Heath predicts a turnout of 1,000. The real story here is that leaders of the Christian right are coming from all over the country to promote their anti-gay agenda in our state capital.
[The rally] will include appearances by Rev. H.B. London from Focus on the Family; Phil Burress, from Citizens for Community Values; Rev. Lou Sheldon, from the Traditional Values Coalition; and Bob Knight, from Concerned Women for America.
It seems that the junior Senator often waits until just before a vote to make her decision on an issue. A recent example was the Gonzales nomination. Some current ones are the Nuclear Option, voting for a budget that will allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge and Bush's Social Security privatization plan.
The BDN today suggests a compromise on the nuclear option.
If there is a way out of this, it may be with reconsidering the rule on the two-thirds vote. Following the rule would ensure Republicans lose the vote but be able to respond to the interest groups pressuring them to hold the vote. To secure that agreement, Democrats would have to give up something too - such as letting some appellate-level nominees through without a fight.
That's Governor Baldacci's response to the unfunded mandates of No Child Left Behind. From the AP:
The Democratic governor is also encouraging Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe to add the state as a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the federal law, Baldacci spokesman Lynn Kippax said.
The National Education Association is challenging the law in federal court in Michigan. School districts in Michigan, Vermont and Texas are also joining the lawsuit, along with teachers´ union chapters in those states and more than a half dozen others, including New Hampshire.
I love technology.
One of the bills the Legislature will be taking up as it comes off spring break this week is a proposal to open more of the sights and sounds of its sausage-making to the public at large. It calls for installing cameras in both legislative chambers to tape floor debates both for archival purposes and to provide live telecasts of proceedings over the Internet.
PPH editorial today:
Maine's moderate GOP senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, are focal points as Frist searches for the votes needed to change the rules. Both senators have expressed concern that eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominees would destroy relations with Democrats. Indeed, minority Democrats have dubbed the rule change the "nuclear option," and have threatened to shut down the Senate if it is used.
PPH Editorial Page Editor John W. Porter makes some good points today in defense of the Senate filibuster, but he gets sucked down the Republican spin hole when describing the rules change the GOP is considering that would destroy this parliamentary procedure.
[E]ventually a simple majority of Republican senators could prevail over a filibuster. Doing so has been dubbed the "nuclear option" by Democrats, while those who support it call it the "constitutional option" because they say it upholds the intent of the Constitution.
Ted Stevens, a Republican Senate veteran from Alaska, was complaining in the cloakroom that the Democratic tactic should simply be declared out of order, and, soon enough, a group of Republican aides began to talk about changing the rules. It was understood at once that such a change would be explosive; Senator Trent Lott, the former Majority Leader, came up with “nuclear option,” and the term stuck.
The PPH today:
Maine Won't Discriminate, which is leading the effort to keep the law from being overturned, has hired the veteran political consultant Dennis Bailey to run its campaign.
Christianity teaches [...] that man has a proprietary interest in nature – that is, nature exists for man’s use, and everything in nature is subject to man’s dominion. [...]
Clearly, the problem behind Earth Day is the loss of the proper sense of man’s relation to the earth and to his fellow man, a relation that was never in doubt when society thought of itself in Christian terms.
A new report:
If President Bush's plan for Social Security were in place today, at least 33,000 Mainers would be in poverty and the state would be left to shoulder the burden, according to a new report from the Campaign for America's Future.
A poll released by the Washington, D.C-based Americans United to Protect Social Security indicated 73 percent of Mainers participating in a recent poll were opposed to the president's plans for privatizing aspects of Social Security. A follow-up question indicated 74 percent of the respondents would be less likely to vote for their Maine senator in the next election if she were to support the president's proposal.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington will be playing for free this Monday night at 7:15 at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.
James Stewart saves the people of Bedford Falls from the clutches of mean Mr. Potter every holiday season in "It's a Wonderful Life."
But can the late great actor rescue the filibuster from the nuclear option? [...]
In this 1939 classic, Stewart plays Sen. Jefferson Smith, an everyman figure who fights corruptive forces in the Senate chambers with his use of the filibuster, a tool of the minority party that blocks or delays Senate action through obstructive motions, usually in the form of endless speeches.
The Maine Women's Policy Center is the event organizer with sponsorship from People For the American Way and Maine Coalition for a Free and Independent Federal Court.
"Despite my belief that the filibuster has been overused and unfairly used, I would be very reluctant to give up my right to ever filibuster a judicial nominee under all circumstances."
I'll be a panelist at the League of Women Voters of Maine annual convention on May 7th (agenda here).
1:30 - 2:30 - Panel Discussion "Media Trends and Their Effect on the News" featuring
Judy Meyer, Lewiston Sun Journal managing editor and vice president of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition;
Liz Talbot, news director and evening news anchor, WVII (ABC-7) News in Bangor;
Mike Tipping, college student and blogger, author of the Web log, or blog, titled "Maine Politics."
Perhaps the current red herring isn't giving the pro-discrimination crowd the traction they had hoped. Today the BDN reports that Mike Heath is claiming the gay rights law is actually part of a secret push for slot machines in Bangor.
In a recent weekly newspaper column, Heath argued it's that potential economic impact that prompted the Baldacci administration to advance the gay rights law this session. The law, Heath contends, was designed to prevent the league from focusing its full attention on repealing the slots law.
"The governor put a gay skirt on his Bangor slot machine palace hoping to once again divert the attention of the good people of Maine," Heath wrote.
Heath's argument elicited a quizzical response from the governor's spokesman.
"Mr. Heath appears to be a man of God. He also appears to be a man of remarkable imagination," said Baldacci spokesman Lynn Kippax. "In this case, he's dead wrong."
We wanted then, and we still want now, a revote of the slot machine question. Maine people thought they were voting to help needy elderly Mainers. That is how the slot machine referendum question was marketed. Mainers turned down the Indian casino question by a strong margin, while the cowboys snuck past em using this deceptive ploy.
But don't pontificate on the floor of the Senate and tell me that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States of America by blocking a judge or filibustering a judge that I don't think deserves to be on the circuit court because I am going to continue to do it at every opportunity I believe a judge should not be on that court. That is my responsibility. That is my advise and consent role, and I intend to exercise it. I don't appreciate being told that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States. I swore to uphold that Constitution, and I am doing it now by standing up and saying what I am saying.
I think you have to be very careful, that's my advice, before you start tinkering with the rules. I mean the rules have been changed before. You want to think down the road. The Senate's going to change. It's not always going to be Republican. It changes back and forth. History shows that.
"I just don't see how it's going to benefit us, even in the majority, to change it to a simple majority [vote] because ultimately it could create more wedges and political wounds."
An article in the PPH today explains why the pro-discrimination side is wrong about a Massachusetts gay rights law leading to gay marriage.
There are more than a dozen references in the ruling to the fact that it is based on the requirements of the Massachusetts Constitution. The justices wrote that the Constitution "affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals" and prohibits treating any residents as second-class citizens. The opponents of same-sex marriage "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage" to gays and lesbians, the ruling says.
By contrast, there is only one reference in the ruling to the gay-rights law. The court majority wrote that Massachusetts "has a strong affirmative policy of preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," both in its laws and in other court rulings. The next paragraph in the decision reiterates that the ruling is based on constitutional grounds. [...]
The Massachusetts ruling "is clearly based on the constitution of Massachusetts and has nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of an anti-discrimination law," said Pat Peard of Maine Won't Discriminate, which supports Maine's gay-rights law. To claim otherwise "is a red herring," she said.
"The case would have come out the exact same way" even if Massachusetts had no gay-rights law, said Mary Bonauto, a lawyer who successfully argued the court case. The fact that Massachusetts had an anti-discrimination law on the books when the court intervened on marriage was "completely legally inconsequential," she said.
Stephen Whiting, an attorney for the Christian Civic League of Maine, said the court probably would have ruled the same way even without a gay-rights law, but he said that law made the ruling easier to justify. The gay-rights law "essentially gave the court in Massachusetts a green light" by illustrating "the changing opinion of the public" in Massachusetts on such issues, Whiting said of marriage.
Maine Attorney General and possible U.S. Senate candidate Stephen Rowe is submitting legislation to head off the rising use of crystal meth. The bill would limit the availiabilty of pseudoephedrine, the common cold medicine that is a key ingredient of the addictive drug.
“We already have the problem, but we don’t have the problem they have in other states — yet,” Rowe said last week. “But the wave is on the way, and we need to get ahead of the curve.” [...]
[UCLA professor Richard Rawson] said the Web has helped people find the recipe for the drug and start their own meth labs.
“While you have had only a few cases in Maine of these labs, I think what has been happening across the country is now getting into your state,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to stop at the New Hampshire border.”
Rawson said he was in a town in eastern Oregon that has four police officers. “The police chief told me last year his officers made more arrests for methamphetamine than tickets they handed out for speeding. I hope Maine listens to your attorney general and gets ahead of the curve.”
It's not about running ads online, it's not about an email list, and it's not about fundraising.
Most of the time when posts slide off the front page of a blog they're lost into oblivion. Sometimes, however, by some strange set of circumstances, they stay alive a little longer. I'm going to take this opportunity to point out a couple of these from this blog, both of which have been hit with interesting comments weeks or months after they were first posted.
The BDN today has a great editorial discussing Maine's health care environment. It speaks directly to the claims made by some legislators that fewer regulations would improve the availability of care.
If mandates restrict coverage, the numbers don't show it. According to U.S. Census data, Maine ranks 16th best for the percentage of people covered by health insurance. That's nothing to cheer about, but it is worth noting, along with the fact the other states with broad mandates - including New York, Vermont, Massachusetts - also rank in the top half for coverage. Maine's insurance rates are about average when making an even comparison of what is offered to consumers.
Paul Madore and Mike Heath of the Christian Civic League have begun a tour of northern Maine. There's a good chance they'll soon be bringing their special brand of calm discourse and rational level-headedness to town near you. From their press release:
Both men are reaching out to good Mainers who want to protect their families and Maine from the ideology of evil that is strengthening its death grip on all things decent.
M.D. Harmon's google-fu is weak. My google-fu is strong.
But, so far as a search of the Internet reveals, no .50 caliber weapon has ever been used for a crime in the United States. But, hey, someday one could, so that's a good reason to ban them, right?
In February of 2004, Donin Wright of Kansas City, Missouri, lured police officers, paramedics, and firefighters to his home where he shot at them with several guns including a Barrett 50 caliber sniper rifle. [...]
Petrosky then walked out into the shopping center parking lot, where he exchanged fire with a federal IRS agent and killed Sgt. Timothy Mossbrucker of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Petrosky, who was known to his friends as "50-cal Al," fired all four weapons, including the 50 caliber rifle, during his murderous rampage. [...]
Branch Davidian cult members at a compound in Waco, Texas, fired 50 caliber sniper rifles at federal ATF agents during their initial gun battle on February 28, 1993. The weapons' ability to penetrate tactical vehicles prompted the agency to request military armored vehicles to give agents adequate protection from the 50 caliber rifles and other more powerful weapons the Branch Davidians might have had. Four ATF agents were killed.
Here is the house map. I've updated both maps a bit thanks to the suggestions in the last thread. If I've messed up anywhere, let me know.
I'm sorry to say that today Mike Michaud, a man I admire and have volunteered for, voted for the bankruptcy bill in the House along with 72 other Democrats. On a related note, John Edwards today published a mea culpa for having also supported this legislation in the past.
From the PPH:
The Portland Police Department is taking the right steps by helping the public to become more aware of a crime that's going to become more prevalent years to come: Identity theft. [...]
It's a growing crime and will only continue to grow with technology. Data collection companies aren't immune, either, and already have lost massive amounts of personal information to thieves.
"You're starting to see this spread into Maine," Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood said Tuesday. "All of a sudden we're starting to get phone calls.
Olympia Snowe ignored the direct plea of local VA workers yesterday and voted lock-step with conservative Republicans to deny funding that would have prevented layoffs at the Togus VA Medical Center and kept health care services for area residents.
Some Republicans (and some Democrats) have legitimate concerns about both the process by which the budget was passed and its content, but the "people's veto" referendum that may be put forward by a small group of Republican legislators seems vidictive and could be harmful to the state. The group is targetting an unpopular part of the budget, the $450 in borrowing, and if they gather 50,000 signatures in the next 3 months, that measure will face a statewide vote.
While 50,000 signatures is a high hurdle, for some special interest groups - teacher's unions come to mind - gathering that many signatures would be relatively easy. If the precedent is set to tinker at the ballot box with the Legislature's budget-making decisions, it could lead to fiscal chaos for the state.
Towns and cities unhappy with local aid formulas could veto parts of the budget they don't like. Teachers could try to undo decisions on pensions. And, of course, minority political parties can make trouble at the expense of fiscal stability.
"In terms of the rating agencies," [state Treasurer David] Lemoine said uncertainty over a major piece of the two-year budget would make it "very hard to sustain the ratings that we've got."
"It's very irresponsible, and they're playing politics now with people's lives," he said. "They're holding Maine's economy hostage by a referendum process. It's not in the citizens' interest, and it does not reflect well on the state, potentially ... It will have a tremendous negative impact at a time when we can least afford it." [...]
"Businesses will be wondering whether the tax cuts are there or not there, and the uncertainty is going to impact on Maine's economy," Baldacci said. "My understanding is that this is supposed to be a people's veto - not a politicians' veto. It's expressly for people to utilize and to create a political process within the referendum process is very irresponsible."
And Republicans are again preparing to veto any bonding.
"The $450 million gives Republicans cover to say no," said one GOP strategist. "And a lot of them will. They’re really angry about the way the budget was handled."
This is a map of the 2004 state senate elections, darker districts were won with 60% of the vote or more. Click to enlarge. Info via MBCEC and MGIS.
The BDN says our Senators have a dilemma before them in deciding whether or not to vote for rabid isolationist John Bolton if his nomination goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
Mr. Bolton is famous for having declared that if the U.N. Secretariat building in New York "lost 10 stories it wouldn't make a bit of difference." He also once told National Public Radio that the U.N. Security Council would need only one permanent member, the United States, "because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."
Other factors may influence the moderates' votes on the Bolton question. They face other issues including Mr. Bush's controversial effort to change Social Security, his determination to put a group of conservative judges on the appellate court bench, a likely move to kill or curtail the filibuster rule and the possibility of vacancies on the Supreme Court.
If they go along with their party on the Bolton confirmation, they may be conserving their ammunition for future disputes they consider more important.
Snowe has made her opposition to the "nuclear option" to eliminate the filibuster well known, and so have other moderates like John McCain. Susan Collins, however, is still on the fence. Wampum has a bit about each of the contested judicial nominees with links to more information. Here are a couple examples:
Thomas B. Griffith -- has no courtroom experience and practiced law (1998-1999 Impeachment Trial of President Clinton) without a license and practiced law (in-house counsel for Brigham Young University) without a license,
Janice Rogers Brown -- does not believe in the incorporation doctrine (goodbye US Bill of Rights in State courts), and favors a return the Lochner era jurisprudence of substantive due process (goodbye worker protection laws that "violated the right of free contract"),
William H. Pryor, Jr. -- does not believe in (or obey) campaign financial disclosure laws and does not believe the Americans with Disabilities Act is Constutional
Call Susan Collins' staffers:
Augusta Office (207) 622-8414
Bangor Office (207) 945-0417
Biddeford Office (207) 283-1101
Caribou Office (207) 493-7873
Lewiston Office (207) 784-6969
Portland Office (207) 780-3575
If you blinked this weekend, you might have missed the rapid formation and dissolution of a political action committee dedicated to ousting popular Democratic Governor John Baldacci.
State Rep. Kenneth Lindell, R-Frankfort, said he made the decision Friday after consulting with colleagues and the governor's office. "I just thought it would be better for me to focus on serving my constituents," he said. [...]
Lindell said he had already raised $1,100[...] He said the money raised will be refunded to donors.
The Sun Journal takes an in-depth look at one of Maine's favorite right-wing caricatures.
His actions and statements have also drawn attention. On the floor of the Maine House, during debate over an anti-discrimination law, he argued that its passage might lead to pedophiles dressing as women and stalking children in school bathrooms.
He tried to submit a bill that would have allowed motorists to purchase one of two different state license plates featuring either "Choose Life" or "Protect Choice," but he wasn't able to meet the requirements for that legislative proposal.
"...I heard a lot of horrific stories from homosexuals that they were ostracized and kicked out of their family, teenagers just kicked out on the street when their parents found out they were gay. And if parents are that disgusted by homosexuality - which, of course, I would never be..."
That's the word from the BDN today:
Maine could be hit hard economically if the current Social Security program were changed, experts say. Maine's seniors rely more heavily on their monthly Social Security benefits than all but three other states in the nation, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute and the Economic Analysis and Research Network. The study also shows that the median elderly household in the state relies on that monthly check for 74 percent of its income.
The statistics illustrate how much Mainers in particular would be affected if Congress approves President Bush's plans to create individual investment accounts for Social Security beneficiaries.
Equal rights groups are attempting to stop the "people's veto" referendum campaign before it gets going.
Pat Peard of Maine Won't Discriminate, which supports the anti-discrimination law, said volunteers will start fanning out in the next 10 to 14 days. They will use house parties, meetings and other unspecified forms of "outreach" to try to convince voters that the law is a good one and should stay on the books.
Good on York Hospital.
The Caring for All program is a multifaceted attempt to remedy the health-care crisis that affects many local residents. The program provides free or discounted health care for qualifying families, the elderly and uninsured individuals who earn less than $23,900 a year.
Former Maine Senate president Richard Bennett has an op-ed in the PPH today that repeats the same tired Republican talking points about Social Security that have failed to win any support for the President's plan anywhere in the country. He tries to create a sense of urgency by warning that benefits might start being decreased by the time his 9-year-old daughter is ready to retire, and then goes right into touting President Bush's "bold step" of suggesting private accounts. Nowhere does he even attempt to explain how partial privatization would address Social Security solvency (it wouldn't).
These personal savings accounts would belong to each worker, not the system. So if someone died before he or she could draw their Social Security benefits, that person could bequeath that portion of the benefits in a personal savings account to a child or loved one. Currently, this is not an option with Social Security.
Continuing the cartography theme, here's a map showing the vote margin by town in the 2000 presidential election that was originally published in the BDN. Unlike most other maps now, on this one red represents Democratic votes and blue Republican. The darker the shade, the wider the margin.
There's a new Maine political blog being published with a laser-like focus. The author of Western York County Politics states his mission as "highlighting the buffoonery of conservative legislators in western and central York County Maine." The first post is a brief introduction to District 3 Senator Jonathan Courtney and I hope that some in-depth opposition research will follow.
When John Bolton was announced as Bush's nominee to be the US ambassador to the United Nations, it was generally seen as an insult to our allies and a sign that this administration has rejected any pretense of multilateralism in our foreign policy. Here are a few choice Bolton quotes:
"If I were doing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member [the United States] because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."
"There is no such thing as the United Nations."
"If [the United Nations building in New York] lost ten storeys, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference."
"It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law."
Sean Hansen, the head of the telemarketing company that jammed Democratic phone lines in New Hampshire in 2002 has now been charged with comlicity in the operation allegedly masterminded by Republican stooge James Tobin. Republican operatives Chuck McGee and Allen Raymond have already been convicted and sentenced to federal prison for their complicity in these crimes.
As part of the conspiracy, Tobin and Charles McGee, then-Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, allegedly discussed the hiring of a telephone services vendor to annoy and harass Democratic telephone volunteers on Election Day. Tobin allegedly provided McGee with contact information for Allen Raymond, a former colleague of Tobin's who operated a Virginia-based telephone services vendor called GOP Marketplace. The indictment alleges that McGee sent a check for $15,600 on the account of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee to GOP Marketplace. The indictment further alleges that GOP Marketplace then paid $2,500 to an Idaho-based telemarketing services vendor to place the calls. The vendor allegedly placed several hundred calls to the numbers in New Hampshire, causing them to ring repeatedly and continuously.
This PPH editorial is right on the money.
Supporters of securing the civil rights of gay and lesbian Mainers won a victory last week in the Legislature.
A bill protecting people from discrimination in credit, housing, accommodations and other areas on the basis of sexual orientation won legislative approval, and Gov. Baldacci, as promised, signed it.
Those who have worked hard to bring these needed protections into law, and those lawmakers who supported them, should be proud.
What they shouldn't be, however, is complacent. [...]
No Mainer should have to fear reporting being assaulted for being gay because he fears the disclosure would cost him his job. No lesbian couple raising a child should have to worry that the perfect apartment close to the school won't be offered.
To secure protections against these injustices in the law, the supporters of these rights have to do the hard work of raising money and making their case to Maine people. They cannot assume that just because their cause is just that they will prevail at the ballot box.
There is no short cut, only the hard work of making the case to Maine people that their gay and lesbian neighbors deserve to live without fear.
I've been working on some Maine election maps recently and I'll be putting them online soon. In the meantime I figured I'd give a very basic visual overview of Maine's political landscape. The information for these maps comes from election studio mapping software. Click on the images for larger versions.
The Maine college Republicans have been crowing about this bill for a while and lately they've finally been getting some press:
Several University of Maine System students told lawmakers Wednesday they have been treated unfairly on their campuses because they are politically conservative. All members of the College Republicans, the students testified before the Legislature's Education Committee in favor of LD 1194, which would require state colleges and universities to publish an "academic bill of rights" to keep students and instructors from being penalized for expressing unpopular viewpoints both in and out of the classroom.
“This complaint applies to the discriminating nature of grading of my English teacher…On the last one, I wrote about how family values in the books weve read aren’t good. I know the paper was pretty much great because I spell checked it and proofred it twice. I got an D- just because the professor hates families and thinks its okay to be gay.” [sic] - Ohio State, English
“We were then required to watch an immoral Seinfeld episode dealing with masturbation, an exercise with little sociological value. She then gave a lecture on ‘moral relativity,’ which she defined very closely with ‘cultural relativism.’” - St. Louis University, Sociology
“Talked about flags as symbols of states and argued that new Iraqi flag was not a result of a transparent and fair process…Claimed AS FACT that other Arab societies had red, green and black in their flags…” - St. Michael’s College, Human Geography