(UPDATED W/VIDEO) Governor LePage Holds Town Hall in Lisbon

Posted on June 2, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Audio links here in two parts.

DSC_0009Some quick reactions while the town hall was ongoing:

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Cathy Breen of Falmouth (Finally) Wins Long-Contested Senate District 25 Race

Posted on December 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Was the dispute less about the Senate and more about back room shenanigans?

Chair Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) asks Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn a question during Tuesday's hearing. Also pictured (L-R) Senators Stan Gerzofsky, Garrett Mason, Bill Diamond, Dawn Hill, Andre Cushing and Tom Saviello.

Chair Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) asks Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn a question during Tuesday’s hearing. Also pictured (L-R) Senators Stan Gerzofsky, Garrett Mason, Bill Diamond, Dawn Hill, Andre Cushing and Tom Saviello.

Maine got a preview of what to expect in 2015 thanks to the now-resolved “Who won Senate District 25?” question last week. For a month, Mainers had speculated as to what occurred. It seemed impossible that 12% more ballots than actual participating voters materialized out of thin air; something funky had to have happened. But what? No one knew for sure, but everyone had an opinion.

A petition calling for officials to “investigate potential voter fraud” garnered 3200 signatures. Representative Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) took a sterner approach:

    “One of two things has to happen to put this matter to rest: the state attorney general or the U.S. Attorney should immediately conduct a thorough, independent criminal investigation of the circumstances of this discrepancy, one that involves questioning all relevant witnesses under oath and forensic experts.”

Senate President Mike Thibodeau went against Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s recommendations by provisionally seating Manchester:

    “The fact of the matter is that we have had a recount and the results of that recount left Cathy Manchester as the apparent winner. Because some folks are not happy with that outcome, they’re throwing around some pretty wild accusations.”

Why the rush? Simply put, Republicans needed her vote later that same day on the Constitutional officers, as they were within one vote of replacing Attorney General Janet T. Mills. Seating Manchester gave one more vote to their surprise candidate, Bill Logan, the GOP recount attorney.

Got that? Manchester was quickly shoved into office so she could vote for her own lawyer. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Thibodeau eventually named a seven member Investigative Committee. Spoiler alert: Democrat Cathy Breen’s originally reported 32 vote lead held.

Tuesday’s public hearing was held in the packed Legislative Council chamber with only live audio feed available for those not in the room.

Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn was the first witness. Sworn in before a room full of media, lawyers, candidates and election officials, armed with a 4″ binder full of documentation and 25 years of recount experience, she confidently gave detailed testimony for hours. Frankly, it was pretty dry stuff and with 30 people scheduled to speak after her, a quick resolution seemed unlikely.

To break it down, imagine the 171 ballots as a deck of cards, but divided into 3 piles of 50 with a leftover stack of 21. Take each stack individually and divide into 3 smaller groups: Breen, Manchester and Other (No Votes). Write down the results from that first group, rinse and repeat for the rest of the stacks, then add them up. Long Island officials tallied 95 Breen, 65 Manchester and 11 Other equaling 171 votes cast, but the Augusta recount team came up with 21 more for Manchester, totaling 192. The ballots had been bundled with tally sheets designated as “A1, A2, A3 and A4″.

One 50 ballot lot had a total of 21 votes for Manchester, catching the eye of former Secretary of State Senator Bill Diamond (D-Windham). He remarked to Flynn, “On A3… it just jumped out at me, because Manchester had 21 votes … is there any way… that number could be, could have been… is there anything unusual about that number?”

Flynn had no answer and appeared momentarily flustered. She did not answer and continued to discuss the next lot.

The committee decided next to examine the ballots and it was quickly surmised that Diamond’s instincts had been spot-on, as the first lot had only 29 ballots instead of 50. A second recount immediately confirmed the 21 A3 ballots had been added in twice.

Manchester addressed the senators to announce her intention to offer a formal letter of resignation to President Thibodeau and congratulated Senator-elect Breen on her win.

The governor issued a statement, “I thank Senate President Thibodeau for his integrity throughout this process, in which liberals falsely accused Republicans of trying to manipulate the election with so-called ‘phantom ballots’. President Thibodeau followed the proper procedure to ensure the electoral process was upheld while awaiting the final decision from the Senate committee. It is unfortunate that Cathy Manchester had to endure a situation that was created entirely by the Secretary of State’s office during the recount.”

As for Thibodeau, his only response was, “You can’t read my word balloon, man.”

The Senate will meet in January and will have to vote to seat Breen.

—–

(Published in the 12/18/14 edition of DigPortland)

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Incoming 127th Maine Legislature Picks Leaders (UPDATED w/ Statements)

Posted on November 13, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Majority Leader Garrett Mason and Asst Majority Leader Andre Cushing

Senate President Mike Thibodeau (Waldo), Majority Leader Garrett Mason (Androscoggin) and Asst Majority Leader Andre Cushing (Penobscot)

Last week, the Republicans in both legislative chambers of the Maine State House selected their leadership.

With Friday’s recount of Senate District 11 between Sen. Mike Thibodeau of Waldo and challenger Jonathan Fulford of Monroe concluding that the district re-elected the incumbent by a 135 vote margin, the make-up of the Senate Majority leadership team selected last week will be: Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Majority Leader Garrett Mason and Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing. Each issued statements:

Senate President Mike Thibodeau:“I cannot begin to express what this means to me. It is a true honor to be chosen by such an outstanding group of people to lead not only them, but the entire Maine Senate.

“At the same time, I recognize it is an awesome responsibility. The people of Maine spoke very clearly in this week’s election. They are demanding action on critical issues such as job creation, energy costs, and welfare reform. We cannot let them down. Delivering real results will take the efforts of both Republicans and Democrats to put their partisan differences aside and work in a collaborative manner on behalf of the people of Maine. It is what we were elected to do and we must rise to the challenge.”

Majority Leader Garrett Mason: “I am very honored to have earned the trust of my Republican colleagues who chose me to be the majority leader. I look forward to working with my fellow senators, members of the House of Representatives, and Governor LePage to find real solutions for the people of Maine.”

Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing: “I am looking forward to the opportunity to go to work on the agenda items that are most important to the citizens of Maine.”

As has been noted in the past, both Thibodeau and Cushing have long-standing ties to ALEC, as do a number of other returning Maine GOP senators and incoming Kim Rosen, wife of former State Senator Richard Rosen of Bucksport.

Over in the House, Republicans chose to retain 126th Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport to serve again in the 127th in that office and replace outgoing Alex Willette, who resigned to take a position with the LePage re-election campaign, with Rep. Eleanor Espling of New Gloucester.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves, , Majority Leader Jeff McCabe and Asst Majority Leader Sara Gideon

Speaker of the House Mark Eves (N. Berwick), Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (Skowhegan) and Asst Majority Leader Sara Gideon (Freeport)

On Wednesday, Democrats held separate caucuses to select their leaders. The House Democrats had lost a few seats in the recently concluded elections, but managed to retain their majority.

While Speaker of the House Mark Eves was not challenged for his seat, the other two leadership positions went up to votes by the caucus, with Rep. Barry Hobbins going up against Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe for the Majority Leader spot last held by termed-out Rep. Seth Berry (Bowdoinham), and 126th freshmen Rep. Lori Lister Fowle (Vassalboro) taking on Rep. Sara Gideon (Freeport) for McCabe’s chair. Ultimately the body selected McCabe and Gideon to join Eves as their 127th Legislative leaders.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves: “It is an honor and privilege to lead our strong and historic 83 seat majority. With Election Day behind us, now is the time govern. We must come together with Governor LePage and our Republican colleagues to address the challenges we face as a state. We cannot allow the partisan battles of the past dictate our future.

“Too much is at stake for leaders to put their party ideology ahead of common sense solutions. Democrats and Republicans can see eye to eye on smart and strategic investments in our state, on property tax relief, on lowering energy costs and helping seniors and veterans. We must focus on areas of common ground, not conflict.”

Majority Leader Jeff McCabe: “We need to move Maine forward and do everything we can to improve the lives of Mainers. We must establish an economic message and policy that works statewide. The voters sent us a message on Election Day. They don’t care about party labels or partisan ideology. They care about government that works.”

Asst Majority Leader Sara Gideon: “Now that these long and divisive campaigns are over, it’s time to show the people of Maine that we are about action, that Democrats will deliver while holding steadfast to our values, that Democrats own the idea of prosperity for everyone. We will work with all our strength to protect the values of Maine people: women’s economic security and basic rights, workers’ ability to organize, a clean and sustainable environment and the integrity of excellent public school systems.”

The Senate-elect Democrats, who saw their 18 majority shrink to a 15 seat minority last week, held a caucus Wednesday evening in Hallowell.

Democratic Senators congratulate Dawn Hill as being selected as Assistant Minority Leader. To her right is Senator Justin Alfond, who will be moving from the podium as exiting Senate President to serve as Minority Leader for the upcoming 127th legislative session.

Democratic Senators congratulate Dawn Hill as being selected as Assistant Minority Leader. To her right is Senator Justin Alfond, who will be moving from the podium as exiting Senate President to serve as Minority Leader for the upcoming 127th legislative session.

They chose outgoing Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland to serve as their Minority Leader in the upcoming 127th legislative session. Alfond is in his final term and served in the 125th Legislature as Assistant Minority Leader to then-Senator Barry Hobbins’ Minority Leader.

Senator Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick, who chaired the 126th Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and was honored as Emerge Maine’s Woman of the Year along with fellow AFA Chair Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, was chosen to serve as Assistant Minority Leader for the next two years.

Minority Leader Senator Justin Alfond:“Even though, as Democrats, our political beliefs may be different from Paul LePage and Republicans in the Legislature, there are areas in which we agree–and we must build off of that common ground in order to serve the Maine people. I will extend my hand with to Governor LePage, Senate President-elect Thibodeau and others to find that common ground and forge the relationships needed to move ideas forward that work for Maine people.”

Asst Minority Leader Dawn Hill: (sent a message of listening to her fellow lawmakers to ensure that) “we all carry the distinct stories and values of our districts. Listening is how we define our plan and our purpose going forward.”

The 127th Legislature will be sworn into office on December 3 by Governor Paul LePage.

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Introducing New & Improved Maine State Senate Site!

Posted on October 3, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

mss

Long overdue and looks terrific- well done and kudos to the many talented people who took on this task. Direct link to site here; the page is also added to our “Gov’t/Politics” tab above.

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Silly Season Continues in Augusta, As Fredette Mansplains and Hamper Croons Hotel California

Posted on June 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATED: Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough)’s “American Pie” speech had some jaws dropping in the House.

Some days, one only needs a camera and popcorn when reporting on the Legislature…

MPA captured this moment from the floor of the House, in which Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) explained in an especially sexist and misogynistic, out-dated and irrelevant way his objections to LD 1066, the Medicaid expansion bill, that later went viral:

    “As I listen to the debate today and earlier debate on this bill, I can’t help but think of a title of a book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And it’s a book about the fact that men sort of think one way in their own brain, in their own world. And women think another way in their own brain and in their own world. And it really talks about the way that men and women can do a better job at communicating.

    Because if you listen to the debate today, in my mind — a man’s mind — I hear two fundamental issues. From the other side of the aisle, I hear the conversation being about: free. ‘This is free, we need to take it, and it’s free. And we need to do it now.’ And that’s the fundamental message that my brain receives. Now, my brain, being a man’s brain, sort of thinks differently, because I say, well, it’s not — if it’s free, is it really free? Because I say, in my brain, there’s a cost to this.”

MPA, who shared the above clip, had this response from organizer Jennie Pirkl:

    “This isn’t about women and men; it’s about life and death. Rep. Fredette would probably say that I only think this way because of my ‘woman’s brain’, but I find it incredibly distasteful for him to use offensive, gender-based stereotypes to advance his anti-health care agenda,” said Maine People’s Alliance Health Care Organizer Jennie Pirkl.

    “What’s more, he’s lying about the bill. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation admits that accepting federal health care funding will save the state $690 million over the next decade while providing health care coverage for 70,000 more Maine people.”

To say that Fredett’e choice in tone and language in delivering his floor speech got some national attention would be an understatement… Think Progress picked it up immediately and from there, well… Jezebel had a bunch of fun with it!

Democratic Underground was next… and then Rachel Maddow:

    For the record, Fredette, the leader of Maine Republicans in the state House, did not appear to be kidding.

    After having watched it a couple of times, I’m still not sure what this state lawmaker is trying to say. Does he believe women are confused by federal-state partnerships in providing health care benefits? Does he think men necessarily oppose Medicaid expansion because of their male brains? Fredette certainly seems to be under the impression that he — with his “man’s mind” — is better able to understand health care costs that women apparently can’t see.

    And if that is what Fredette believes, there may be something wrong with his brain.

    As for the politics of this, I’m beginning to wonder if some kind of secret memo went out to Republican policymakers, telling them to be as offensive as possible so that women vote Democratic in even larger numbers. Just consider the recent evidence.

    For what it’s worth, later in the day, Fredette apologized for his “inartful” remarks. His man’s brain apparently came to realize he’d made an embarrassing mistake.

Rep. Diane Rusell, wearing her  "FIGHT LIKE A GIRL" pin on her lapel.

Rep. Diane Rusell, wearing her “FIGHT LIKE A GIRL” pin on her lapel.

Then we have Slate. And Huffington Post. And Glamour.

Political Wire. National Memo.

This list goes on and on…

As Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) said, blasting Fredette’s remarks:

    “I thought it was 2013, not 1813. Apparently, I was wrong.”

Word to the wise: Do NOT click on the Jezebel link and read that while recording video live on the floor of the House, like I did- think I bit right through my lip, trying to keep quiet!

Onward to the Senate…

This has got to be one of the strangest moments I personally have witnessed, bar none, in the Senate. Not sure if Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) was denouncing Medicaid expansion or if he thought it was Karaoke Night!

Who would have thought that an Eagles song, released in 1976, was in actuality penned as a take-down argument against Medicaid expansion…

The quoted lyrics:

    “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
    Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
    Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
    My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
    I had to stop for the night”

    “There she stood in the doorway;
    I heard the mission bell
    And I was thinking to myself,
    “This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”

    “Mirrors on the ceiling,
    The pink champagne on ice
    And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”

    “And in the master’s chambers,
    They gathered for the feast
    They stab it with their steely knives,
    But they just can’t kill the beast”

    “Last thing I remember, I was
    Running for the door
    I had to find the passage back
    To the place I was before
    “Relax, ” said the night man,
    “We are programmed to receive.
    You can check-out any time you like,
    But you can never leave! ”

Oh, to have one of the Democratic Senators stand and deliver the line: “You can’t hide your lying eyes”… or even better, this.

A reminder: Session supposedly ends this week. Stay tuned!

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Maine Senate Republicans Floor Speeches Opposing LD 1546: “Washington Politics” and Mixed Messaging on Medicaid Expansion

Posted on May 26, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

(UPDATED: Links to more GOP floor speeches from the follow day’s second reading in the Senate are now found at the bottom of this original post. ~AP)

lepage veto 1546Originally, the intention was to simply share the various clips taken of the LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” floor debates in the Senate and House as stand-alone posts without comment. Then a funny thing happened: in reviewing them, a clear separation of messaging became apparent between the members of the GOP in the Senate and the Governor’s “Office Du Jour” (see: Washington Post, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo).

So, let’s take a look.

First Reading in the Senate, 5/20/13

Consistent GOP themes: LD 1546 is “Washington Politics”, “Welfare expansion”, myriad concerns over costs and having to hire either 83 new people (per Senator Mason) or 93 new people (per Senator Thibodeau) and general distrust of the federal government.

(Side note: If a business were to open in their district with 83-93 new jobs, Mason and Thibodeau would loudly cheer and claim “this was proof that Governor LePage’s policies work to help business.” Sigh…)

In short, everything Maine rejected from this party in the November election results.

So let’s go to the clips:

1. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin)

    (:36) “… back room, Pelosi-style, Washington politics on full display, in the State House.”
    (:50) “… LD 1066, (“An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”)is a massive welfare expansion that will cost Maine untold millions of dollars, not only over the next year, but over the life of the program.”
    (2:20) “… welfare expansion
    (2:47) “… So, what is this bill? Well, it’s a massive welfare expansion, to seventy thousand people…”

Perhaps some of the greater moments of irony came at the 1:20 mark, when Senator Mason claimed that the bill’s creation and process was “rude and disrespectful” of the VLA Committee and then further comments (2:00) that LD 1546 “was ram-rodded through”.

Um… anyone else remember LD 1333/ PL 90 from the 125th Legislative session? When Republicans openly admitted that they had not even read the bill? The bill that really WAS “ramrodded through”?

Republicans also claimed that it would pay for Maine’s 133,000 uninsured citizens and lower insurance costs. Um- not so much.

Onward.

2. Assistant Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec), Part 1

    “Linking these two bills together that have nothing to do with one another is just what people complain about when they see it happening in Washington. Unfortunately, that kind of strong-arm politics has migrated north.

    Governor LePage is in the middle of negotiations with the federal government to try to get us a better deal on Medicaid expansion. Maybe he will be successful and maybe he won’t. But if he is, that could save the state tens of millions of dollars. If we say yes to Medicaid expansion now, we lose our negotiating leverage.”

An ongoing “negotiation” since last July that has gotten Maine nowhere… nor this past March, when the Governor demanded a ten year waiver rather than three- something no other state has been granted by the federal government. In fact, Maine is no closer that it was in February 2012. Not exactly working to close the deal but rather putting off as long as he can.

Again- onward.

3. Senator James Hamper (Oxford)

Summary: Senator Hamper is concerned with the costs, especially in light of the reported DHHS shortfalls, inabilities to pay their bills past June 12th and budget projections for FY 14-15. Yet he urges that Maine not “rush through” with Medicaid expansion. Shame that the Governor thinks that “The Administration has not been entertained”and is now putting an unilateral gag order onto any within his administration that would go before the Appropriations committee to speak regarding the proposed budget and that he and he alone will be the one to speak to the committee.

    (5:48) “Slow down.
    (6:00)“We’re saying, ‘Don’t play Washington politics‘…”

As Hamper concluded: “Fool me twice… shame on me.

Indeed.

4. Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)

“Charlie Brown’s football being hauled away by Lucy”. Um, okay. Not even gonna touch this one.

5. Senator Brian Langley (Hancock)

Now here is where it gets interesting- until this point, all of the GOP lawmakers have been on the same page of “Washington politics” and together poo-pooed the idea of expanding Medicaid at all. But at the 0:45 mark, we hear this from Senator Langley, who urges the bill be separated, rather than simply voted down- a far different position than all of the other Republicans that have spoken before him:

    “… because I am not opposed to it. What I am opposed to is the way it is being done here today.”

Interesting… and contrary to what Governor LePage said when he vetoed LD 1546.

    “Democrat leadership has spent the past week forcing this bill through the legislative process, over the objections of Republicans and Democrats alike. This unadulterated partisanship tied two different issues together in a quest to force welfare expansion upon the Maine people. I have said all along this bill would receive a veto when it reached my desk, so this letter should be no surprise.

    That is why I have filed a Governor’s bill today reflecting the parts of LD 1546 we all agree on—paying the hospitals and ensuring the liquor business provides the best return for the state—without the forced expansion of MaineCare. The Legislature will have the opportunity to vote up or down to pay the hospitals—I trust you will do the right thing.”

6. Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo)

Assistant Minority Leader Thibodeau, same as Rep. Ken Fredette would do later in the House, attempts to delay the vote with a series of procedural questions regarding the bill’s formation and combining of separate elements. Senate President, as Speaker of the House Eves would also do later in the session the next evening, explained his ruling. Thibodeau then speaks, first complaining on timelines elapsing in what he feels is a premature time frame, and then referring to items that the Democrats claimed were ramrodded through in the 125th Legislature.

He then quoted this PPH article penned by Maine Hospital Association president Steve Michaud:


    “Medicaid expansion is a centerpiece of the federal Affordable Care Act. While hospitals support the Medicaid expansion, we vehemently disagree that the expansion should be tied in any way to whether or not the outstanding bills get paid. Hospitals don’t control whether MaineCare gets expanded; they shouldn’t be punished if the expansion fails.”

What he failed to read was the following paragraph by Michaud:

    “This kind of leveraging of one issue versus another issue is bad policymaking. It is a common tactic in Washington, D.C., and one of the hallmarks of its dysfunction.”

And at the 5:10 mark, Thibodeau echos the phrase “Washington style politics”.

Wait, five “Washingtons”? BINGO!!

Oh wait… one of them was from the PPH article. Maybe we’ll get lucky with the next speaker.

7. Assistant Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec), Part 2

We already got Senator Katz down for a “Washington” mention. But we can add the good Senator from Kennebec as now a second supporter of Medicaid expansion! Note the 2:25 mark:

    “Personally speaking for myself, I have an open mind on the expansion.”

Moving along.

8. Senator Pat Flood (Kennebec)

Well, well! Add another senator who thinks (0:40) that expanding Medicaid is a good thing! His issues are similar to Senator Langley’s in that he would prefer the bills be examined and worked upon separately.

9. Senator David Burns (Washington)

(2:10)

    “Don’t be guilty of Washington politics.”

We even get a bonus, just to be sure (2:20)!

    “…don’t get caught up in the process of Washingtonian politics.”

Okay, there it is. BINGO!

Second Day Floor Speeches

1. Senator Pat Flood (Kennebec)

2. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin), Part 1

3. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin), Part 2

4. Asst Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec) Part 1

5. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin) Part 3

6. Senator Andre Cushing (Penobscot)

7. Asst Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec) Part 2

8. Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo)

9. Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)

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