Work Gets Underway at Maine State House

Momentum is building in the Maine Capitol as legislators begin to move through their committee orientations and interested party introductions to committees over this week and next. As of Thursday, January 19, 172 of the 1,800 or so bills expected have been printed and are being referred to their respective committees of jurisdiction. All indications are that legislators are bracing for an active and challenging session ahead.

Meanwhile, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee , skipping over the usual committee orientation, jumped immediately into public hearing and work sessions on a bill to address implementation issues related to Maine's new recreational marijuana bill. The Committee's Unanimous Ought to Pass Report proposes to delay retails sales of marijuana until February 2018. This bill will likely be considered by the full legislature next week.

State of the State, and State of the Judiciary Scheduled

Governor LePage has scheduled his State of the State address for Tuesday, February 7 at 7pm. Last year Governor LePage did not give an address, choosing, instead, to send a letter to legislative leadership.Later in the month, on Thursday, February 16 at 11am, Chief Justice Saufley will deliver the State of the Judiciary before a Joint Session of the legislature.

House Wrestles with Technology-Driven Transparency Opportunities

The House Rules Committee was recently presented with a proposal to allow photo-taking and the use of social media, such as Facebook Live, during public sessions. Representative Matt Pouliot presented the proposal, noting that because so many constituents are getting news from social media, allowing social media in public sessions will "create broader access and insight to the governing process." Currently, online video streaming of all House sessions is conducted and archives of those videos will soon be made available. Concerns about the use of social media during sessions include the use of content out of context, and distraction from the formal proceedings and debate. The Committee ultimately tabled the proposal. In related news, the U.S. House of Representatives recently agreed to fine any members for recording videos during floor sessions.

Governor Posts Several Nominations

Governor LePage recently nominated Judges Beth Dobson and Daniel Driscoll for reappointment as District Court Judges. Michael Duddy was also nominated to become a District Court Judge. Eric Cioppa was nominated for reappointment as the Superintendent of Insurance. The Governor also recently released his nominations to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. If approved, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese would serve her first five-year term, and Kelly Martin and Karl Turner would each begin serving a second term. Creating some consternation among some conservationists, former Republican Representative Michael Timmons received the Governor's nomination to the Land for Maine's Future board. Other nominations of note include Christopher Pierce, Timothy Nightingale and David Daigler who were recommended by the Governor for appointment to the Finance Authority of Maine. All nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

Spotted…Under the Dome!

Tuesday morning, we spotted Sawin Millett under the dome. As a former Commissioner of Administration and Financial Services, Commissioner of Education, State Senator and Senate Chair of the legislature's Appropriations Committee, Millett is a familiar figure at the State Capitol. Today, the press announced that Millet has accepted a staff position with the Senate Republicans as a budget adviser. As he made his way from the elevator to the Senate Chambers on Tuesday, Millett received a warm welcome from legislators, staff and lobbyists who lined the hallway as the Senate prepared to go into session.