Politics

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AUGUSTA, Maine - A group opposing the fall referendum question that would legalize marijuana use in Maine says it will face an uphill battle.

Scott Gagnon says supporters are raising a lot of out-of-state money to fuel their campaign. "Fund raising will definitely be one thing we will be working on in the coming months because obviously that is something we will need. I mean, at the end of the day, we will never be able to match them dollar for dollar."

Gov. Paul LePage’s has made no secret of his dislike for the current legislature. In an effort to ensure that his pick for state education chief wasn’t blocked by lawmakers, he’s implemented a series of maneuvers to circumvent the Legislature.

The recent shuffling of job titles in the department is a response to repeated warnings from the Maine Attorney General’s Office that deputy commissioner Bill Beardsley couldn’t legally perform some of the most important duties of the job.

Gov. Paul LePage is continuing to maneuver around state lawmakers to ensure that he keeps his pick for state education chief while avoiding the normal confirmation process. The governor has appointed Debra Plowman, a former Republican state lawmaker, as temporary deputy education chief. The move essentially allows William Beardsley to perform most of the duties as commissioner even though Plowman is now, technically speaking, his boss.

Time now for Across the Aisle, our weekly roundtable on Maine politics. This week, Cynthia Dill, an attorney with the Portland firm of Troubh Heisler and former Democratic state senator; Meredith Strang Burgess of Burgess Advertising and Marketing, a former Republican lawmaker; and Dick Woodbury, an economist who served in the Maine Senate as an independent.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has overpaid nearly $2 million in food stamp benefits, and now the department is attempting to collect that money back from over 3,000 elderly and poor Mainers.

Such payment errors are not uncommon in other states, but the magnitude of this one is rare, and it comes amid the department’s effort to radically overhaul the state’s welfare system.

Congressman Bruce Poliquin is being criticized by political rivals for his vote this week on a measure to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Democrats accuse Poliquin of flip-flopping on the issue, after voting against a similar measure last week. Poliquin says he was just trying to protect the rights of religious organizations.

Gov. Paul LePage reiterated his opposition Wednesday evening to a fall ballot question that, if approved by the voters, would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

LePage told an audience of about 50 at a town hall meeting in Bangor that he couldn’t understand how Maine could make any money off the drug and said Colorado’s legalization effort has failed to meet revenue expectations. But the conservative Tax Foundation says Colorado’s revenue from marijuana sales may exceed projections by 100 percent this year.

Maine Governor Paul LePage (R)
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Governor Paul LePage has signed onto a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s guidance around bathroom rights for trangender students.

Nick Saltmarsh / Flickr/Creative Commons

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine was the lead witness at a lengthy hearing held by the House Agriculture Committee on the problem of wasted food in the U.S.

Mal Leary / MPBN

The office of Gov. Paul LePage has issued what it calls some “clarifications” of statements LePage made about the state’s Medicaid program while taking part as a guest on Monday’s radio call-in program Maine Calling.

U.S. Sen. Angus King has signed on to legislation that would impose a penny-per-milligram tax on medications that include opioids.

He says the money would be dedicated to treatment programs.

King says the recently passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act has no funding, and it’s needed.

“That’s like sending the fire department to a fire and not give them any water. We’ll give you your water in October. That’s doesn’t do any good for the people that are dying today,” he says.

Maine Governor Paul LePage.
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Gov. Paul LePage has doubled down on his claim that a Deering High School student was revived from a heroin overdose three times in a week.

PORTLAND, Maine — Portland legislators are asking Gov. Paul LePage to apologize for falsely claiming that a high school student repeatedly overdosed and went to class after being revived with the drug naloxone a third time.

MPBN

Gov. Paul LePage has held more than 30 town hall meetings since winning reelection in 2014. The governor touts the forums as his chance to take his message to the Maine people.

In the next few weeks Donald Trump is expected to hire a campaign manager for Maine and start to set up a statewide campaign organization.

Maine is one of 15 states that traditionally lean Democrat that the Trump campaign plans to target this year.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett says that’s no surprise to him. He says polling and election results show the state is changing. He points out Republicans hold three of the top five elected positions in the state, which he says is a clear indication voter attitudes are changing.

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