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Gov. Janet Mills is now more than two months into her tenure and has made many breaks from former Gov. Paul LePage, however she and her administration have barely begun to fill hundreds of vacant seats on state boards and commissions.
These spots typically fly underneath the radar when it comes to observing state authorities, however there are more than 300 of these groups that assist advise policymakers and regulate most sides of life, from the Maine Public Utilities Fee to the State Board of Funeral Service.
About 400 of these seats have been crammed with nominations made in 2018, but 1,100 other seats have been crammed at the moment by individuals sitting in seats after their phrases expired — some courting again to the 1990s — or left vacant through the LePage administration.
Wanting at the record exhibits just how a lot rote work awaits the governor. Mills, a Democrat, made quick progress in assembling her 14 commissioners. The last one, Amanda Beal of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation, was put in by the Legislature in mid-February. Mills has only made a handful of other appointments, together with choosing former Rep. Bob Duchesne, D-Hudson, for the Board of Environmental Safety.
She has a long way to go. Mills has control of nominating 637 of the 1,141 seats occupied by individuals with expired phrases — a common follow if the governor doesn’t exchange them — or vacant. The remaining of them are appointed by other state officials or legislative leaders.
Most of these 1,141 seats are crammed — for now. As of last yr’s finish, 797 individuals have been still sitting in their seats after phrases had expired. One of the individuals in that group as of 2018’s finish was Shawn Moody, a trustee of the University of Maine System and Mills’ Republican opponent in the 2018 governor’s race. Whereas LePage is essentially liable for not filling these seats, more than 50 date again to previous administrations.
The opposite 344 seats in that group are vacant, together with nine spots on the boards of guests to 4 Maine correctional amenities and 14 spots on the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council and a related council on developmental disabilities.
Mills’ administration says it’ll concentrate on confirmable appointments, which comprise a comparatively small group of the excellent board and commission seats. Only 90 of these seats which might be held by expired term-holders or vacant are topic to legislative affirmation, including Moody’s seat and one other one on the Maine Ethics Commission.
Mills spokeswoman Lindsay Crete stated on Wednesday that the governor will first give attention to those positions and that the administration is “working to appoint individuals in as expeditious a manner as possible” by working with stakeholder teams.
The brand new governor will get some greater appointments soon: The time period of Mark Vannoy, the LePage-appointed chairman of the Public Utilities Fee, is up by month’s end, giving Mills management over the first of two appointees to that crucial body throughout her first time period in office.
Mills submits bill to broaden abortion choices
The governor on Thursday submitted a bill that may change Maine regulation on who can perform abortions. The proposed legislation, which is sponsored by House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, would permit a physician assistant, a complicated apply registered nurse, licensed nurse-midwives or different medical professional to perform the procedure.
Current regulation limits the legal capacity to perform abortions to physicians and this regulation would overturn a state regulation that the ACLU and Deliberate Parenthood challenged in a 2017 lawsuit. A nearly similar bill backed by Mills as lawyer common through the 2018 legislative session went nowhere.
The transfer gained early praise from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and different abortion rights groups, however it is probably to be opposed by anti-abortion teams as an enlargement of abortion entry.
At the moment in A-town
Larger schooling would be the focus of a joint session of the Home and Senate in the present day. In the House chamber round 11 a.m., outgoing University of Maine System Chancellor James Page, who will retire at the end of this faculty yr, will ship his ultimate State of the College System tackle, joined by Maine Maritime Academy President William Brennan and Maine Group School System President David Daigler. Watch it reside here.
Most legislative committees are scheduled to meet, but many have brief agendas. The Appropriations and Monetary Affairs Committee will take up the portion of Mills’ $eight billion, two-year finances that features funding for veteran and army packages and Maine elections.
Different bills slated for public hearings embrace adjusting the requirements for which deaths are reported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. an act to restore the Penobscot River by way of assessing fish passage obstacles and water quality, permitting ratepayer assessments on electricity prices, and establishing a regulation enforcement coaching program for certain Bureau of Parks and Lands staff. Find the complete legislative schedule here.
— The talk over whether or not unvaccinated youngsters ought to be allowed to attend public faculties took middle stage at the State House on Wednesday. Hundreds of individuals showed up for a legislative committee listening to on two payments that handle vaccinations. One, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, and Sen. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, would significantly scale back non-medical exemptions. The other, sponsored by Sen. Russell Black, R-Wilton, would open the parameters for medical exemptions. During early testimony, Democrats — including the Mills administration however with the exception of Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden — advocated for Tipping’s bill whereas Republican lawmakers usually backed Black’s invoice, with some saying it might be required as a examine on Tipping’s invoice if it have been to cross. Public testimony ran the gamut. Help centered on public security risks and concern that unvaccinated youngsters might unintentionally trigger epidemics of illnesses that had been largely eliminated by immunization packages. Opposition combined libertarian advocacy for personal and parental rights with skepticism based mostly on questionable science and tragic private anecdotes.
— A Fox News host abandoned his plans for a studio in Oxford County, blaming a newspaper’s reporting although a town was set to vote on it. You possibly can’t see it on TV, however the library in Woodstock’s village of Bryant Pond has been the setting for several episodes of Tucker Carlson’s present on Fox News, because the conservative host has a house in Woodstock. On Wednesday, the Solar Journal reported on his plans to purchase an unused town-owned garage and turn it into a devoted studio. After the story posted, Carlson advised the newspaper that Fox wouldn’t spend money on gear for a place that the general public knew about, saying he was “crushed” and calling the story “a total violation of my privacy.” Nevertheless, the merchandise was set to go up for approval on the Woodstock city meeting on Monday. The host is coping with fallout over just lately unearthed, years-old offensive feedback on radio exhibits.
— Docs in Maine have made the sharpest reductions in the country in the amount of fentanyl they prescribe. Maine Public studies that a research from the College of New England, Husson University and Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Commonwealth Faculty of Drugs. fentanyl prescriptions from Maine physicians fell by virtually 31 % between 2016 and 2017. The lower corresponds with implementation of a Maine regulation that tightened restrictions on the sorts and amounts of painkillers that docs can prescribe in Maine.
— State transportation officers will take one other stab at ferry charges after modifications last yr enraged residents of one island. The Maine Division of Transportation will put forth a proposal for a new Maine State Ferry Service ticket fee construction by the top of March. Following the implementation of a flat-rate structure final Might, residents of Islesboro sued the DOT, alleging that the division failed to comply with applicable rulemaking procedures when it put the new price structure in place. A new rulemaking course of is underway, although Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Observe cautioned that it won’t yield the modifications Islesboro residents seek. State transportation officials have stated that a new fee construction for the ferry service is required to keep away from a projected finances shortfall, which Van Observe in his letter attributed to decreased ticket sales and finances increases.
Positive and begorrah
At present marks the anniversary of perhaps probably the most vital action the Maine Legislature has taken within the 21st century.
On this date in 2013, the House and Senate gave last passage to a bill that makes it authorized for bars and eating places to open at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day when the blessed occasion falls on a Sunday. Three days from now, you’ll be washing down your spinach omelettes — or regionally sourced duck-egg huevos estrellados in Portland — with Guinness as dawn cracks within the closest state to the Emerald Isle.
Nevertheless it wasn’t straightforward. The State House was fraught with rigidity the week leading up to the fateful vote, with LePage calling the proposal “garbage” and threatening to veto it simply a day earlier than the House and Senate passed it. Whether or not it was a “magically delicious” overnight visit from the Lucky Charms leprechaun or the probability of a veto override, LePage changed his mind and signed the bill on the Ides of March.
Please click on right here to relive that superb second in all its photogenic spendor. And set your alarms for 6 a.m. Sunday, so we will all increase a glass to salute LePage and the lawmakers who made doing so legal. Right here is your soundtrack.
Reader engagement part: What’s your favorite Irish music for consuming, eating soda bread, getting ready colcannon, sinning or in any other case getting on your Irish? Please ship options to us at the emails under. You gained’t win anything, although I’d buy you a beer the subsequent time we are in a bar together at 6 a.m. on a Sunday. Right here’s hoping you are able to do higher than this. — Robert Long
At present’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Alex Acquisto and Robert Long. For those who’re reading this on the BDN’s web site or have been forwarded it, click on right here to obtain Maine’s leading publication on state politics by way of e-mail on weekday mornings. Click here to subscribe to the BDN.