Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Janet Mills has been sworn in but where attention remains focused on last-minute pardons issued by her predecessor and today’s first actions from a new congressman from Maine.
The new governor’s first speech was light on policy, but the crowd loved it. We’re used to Mills, a Democrat who became Maine’s first woman governor and the oldest person to ever ascend to the office at age 71 on Wednesday, getting into the weeds on policy details.
However, she didn’t do that much in a 20-minute address that focused more on themes of unity than policy or new initiatives. She hailed the diversity of opinion, race, culture, sexual orientation and age as virtues “we should harness to advance good public debate and good public policy.”
“From the tree streets of Lewiston to the rolling fields of the County, from the Bold Coast to the Height of Land, from Cross Rock in Allagash to Portland’s promenades, our people will once again find unity of purpose,” Mills said.
On policy, she said Medicaid expansion would be paid for “sustainably,” though no funding plan has yet emerged. She said her administration would fight climate change by embracing clean energy and meeting a goal of supplying 50 percent of electricity with in-state renewables.
But Mills’ crowd ate it up, with a palpable sense of relief among the loyal Democratic crowd after eight years under former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican. One of them was 95-year-old Jo McAlary, who attended the ceremony with her granddaughter.
McAlary, a retired teacher who taught and lived for many years in Bangor with her late husband, grew up in New Orleans in a family of Republicans. Her mother was displeased, she said, when she voted for the first time in 1944 for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat.
After that, with the exception of voting for President Dwight Eisenhower, she and her husband before his death, were lifelong Democrats. When asked if she voted for Mills, McAlary gave a stern look and said, “Of course. Anything to get rid of the previous governor.”
LePage didn’t leave quietly, issuing several new pardons that aren’t public documents for now. The former governor made news late last month when he pardoned former state Rep. Jeff Pierce, R-Dresden, for a felony drug conviction from the 1980s. He acknowledged to Maine Public that he has hunted with guns since the conviction, which barred him from having guns.
But the governor issued three pardons at the same time late last month, according to Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said Wednesday that he issued up to 10 more on his final day as governor.
It brings LePage’s total to 236 pardons to 115 people, according to Muszynski. Rabinowitz said the new ones resulted from the last meeting of a pardon board in November and were “standard practice.” He looks to have used his clemency power less often than the four governors who preceded him.
While Pierce confirmed that he had been pardoned, these pardons aren’t public records after a 2017 law made them confidential. Maine State Archivist David Cheever said he’d only release them if a governor authorized it. That question would likely be in Mills’ hands now.
Maine’s new congressman will be sworn in today. He is expected to not back the incoming House speaker and support her rules package. U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Golden, a Democrat who beat Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the 2nd Congressional District, will be sworn in today in Washington with the rest of the 116th U.S. Congress after a protracted fight that ended with Poliquin pulling a federal court challenge to ranked-choice voting.
One of the first orders of business on Thursday will be for the House of Representatives to pick a new speaker and it will be Nancy Pelosi of California. She beat back opposition from fellow Democrats who never coalesced behind an opposing Democratic candidate, but Golden pledged during his campaign to not support her behind a call for new leadership.
A Golden spokesman said Thursday that the congressman-elect won’t vote for Pelosi, though he didn’t say how he’ll cast his vote. He could vote present, a neutral posture that counts toward the quorum needed to do business. However, the Golden spokesman said that his boss supports a rules package backed by Pelosi that she says would “modernize Congress.”
— There’s a new twist in the case of a Maine couple charged with beating a child to death last year. This afternoon, Sharon Carrillo, who faces a murder charge after being accused in the beating death of her daughter, Marissa Kennedy, will petition for an annulment of her marriage to the child’s stepfather, Julio Carrillo. He is also charged with grave indifference murder. The couple were married on July 18, 2015, in New York. They have three children together, including a son who was born after they were incarcerated. The annulment petition alleges that Julio was still married to at least one other woman when he married Sharon.
— Half of the 18 Maine homicides reported in 2018 involved domestic violence. Kennedy’s death and that of Cpl. Eugene Cole of the Somerset Sheriff’s Department were the two most high-profile homicides last year. The 18 homicides last year is the same total as in 2016 and two fewer than the state recorded in 2017. In recent years, the highest number of homicides occurred in 2008 when 31 Maine residents were killed. Five of them that year were children younger than 3.
— Construction jobs in Maine and across the nation continue to go unfilled. A Wednesday report by a national contractors group indicates that 79 percent of construction firms nationwide said they plan to add employees in 2019, but they remain concerned about finding qualified workers. The labor shortages are affecting construction costs and project schedules. Maine saw construction jobs decrease last year, from 28,300 in November 2017 to 28,100 in November 2018, according to the report.
Back in business
Tuesday’s emailed Daily Brief included a link to a story about how flood insurance was not available during the federal government shutdown. The federal government reversed that decision and flood insurance should now be available.
Here is the notice sent to a national Realtors group: “On Dec. 26, 2018, FEMA informed you that due to a lapse in annual appropriation the NFIP may not sell new insurance policies, renew existing policies, or make monetary endorsements on existing policies. Effective immediately, this guidance is rescinded and NFIP Insurers may resume the sale, renewal, and monetary endorsements for flood insurance policies.”
Here is their soundtrack. — Robert Long
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Alex Acquisto and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to receive Maine’s leading newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings. Click here to subscribe to the BDN.
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