Gov. Janet Mills’ two days of inaugural festivities at the Augusta Civic Center aren’t yet paid for and her inaugural committee is likely going to go past a deadline set out in Maine law to raise more money to cover higher-than-expected costs.
Maine’s ethics watchdog is allowing it, citing workability issues with deadlines in a 2015 referendum making the Democratic governor the first one to disclose contributions to her inaugural and transition funds. Fundraising was supposed to end on Jan. 31 and the accounts were supposed to be closed up by Feb. 15.
The city of Augusta is charging nearly $200,000 for Mills’ inaugural events, and the transition said that was higher than expected. Mills could raise unlimited funds from businesses and individuals to pay inaugural and transition costs, but she separated the two and keep lobbyists and companies who hire lobbyists from donating to the smaller transition fund.
In all, Mills raised nearly $408,000 for both funds. The inaugural committee was largely funded by corporate donors, including marijuana, financial, casino, lobbying, paper and energy interests. Five-figure contributors between late December and mid-February included Sappi, the company that runs paper mills in Maine, insurer Harvard Pilgrim and AT&T.
Mills hosted her inaugural address and inaugural ball at the Augusta Civic Center, which has become the typical host for those events. It charged her nearly $195,000 for both events, which Mills spokesman Scott Ogden said was “higher than originally quoted” and because of that “it is likely that additional fundraising will be required to cover the expenses.”
Earl Kingsbury, the director of the city-run civic center, said it’s typical for final invoices to change from original quotes because of attendee counts and food and drink selections. He said the latter changed “up until the day before the event” at the committee’s direction.
While the transition funds were supposed to be emptied by Feb. 15, Jonathan Wayne, the executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, which regulates the transition, said in a letter to Mills’ transition that he wouldn’t recommend penalties from the commission if further fundraising is required. The transition would have to file another report in May.
The ethics watchdog said this highlighted issues with the workability of deadlines in the voter-approved 2015 law regulating transitions. In an email to the Bangor Daily News, Wayne said some commission staff determined after administering the transition for the first time “some of the timelines in the statute are not workable,” including the Feb. 15 deadline for final disclosures. All of it could lead to proposed legislative tweaks down the road.
Today in A-town
It’s another relatively quiet day under the dome, but a long-awaited report on the child welfare system will be released. The only committee scheduled to meet in Augusta today is Government Oversight. The key item on that panel’s agenda is release of a government watchdog report on the state’s child protective services system.
Lawmakers in the previous Legislature requested a deep study of the Department of Health and Human Services’ system for handling reports of child abuse and endangerment — as well as a specific report about the handling of cases involving two young girls who died in December 2017 and February 2018 — amid grave public concerns that the department was ill-equipped to respond to emergencies involving at-risk children.
The committee is scheduled to convene at 9 a.m. Click here to listen.
— A Republican lawmaker wants to eliminate the chance that a suspended lawyer could be elected district attorney. Sponsored by Rep. Joshua Morris, R-Turner, LD 540, would bar candidates who have been suspended from the practice of law in the previous 10 years. While Morris did not name him, the bill targets Seth Carey, who won a June 2018 Republican primary to run for district attorney in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties despite being suspended from practicing law by the Maine Board of Overseers after a woman accused him of sexual assault. He has denied the accusations, and his appeal is pending before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. In addition to the suspension, Carey has been charged in Androscoggin County with practicing law without a license.
— A conservative Maine legislator’s latest effort to keep “leftist indoctrination” out of Maine schools met strong resistance from educators. LD 589, sponsored by Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Bradley, aims to bar teachers from participating in political, ideological or religious “advocacy” discussions in the classroom. Lockman testified Thursday at a committee hearing that his bill is a “nonpartisan” solution to the “abundant evidence that leftist indoctrination is taking place in Maine classrooms.” A long line of educators testified against it, including Portland English teacher Caroline Robinson, who labeled it a “dangerous proposal based on erroneous logic.” The bill is unlikely to survive in a Legislature controlled by Democrats.
— A shuttered paper mill wants a $300,000 tax break from Bucksport and the town says neither side wants a “war.” American Iron and Metal, the scrap metal recycler that owns the site of the former Verso Paper mill, wants the town to reduce the assessed value of the gas-powered electric generator there from $60 million to $42 million. It is still the town’s top taxpayer, but it now only represents 17 percent of Bucksport’s tax base compared to 45 percent before the mill closed in 2014. An appraiser has been hired to look at the property again, since it hasn’t assessed the generator since 2015 and Town Manager Susan Lessard said neither the company nor the town are “seeking a war here.”
The wider world of sports
While the rest of Maine has been focused on the high school basketball tournament this week, other developments in the world of sports caught my eye.
There is a distinct possibility that breakdancing will be an Olympic sport in 2024. The organizers of the Paris Olympic Games have formally proposed that athletes be able to win gold, silver and bronze medals for breakdancing when the global sports pageant comes to the city of lights in five years. Given the location, I would have thought that the French would have insisted that mimes be declared Olympic athletes, but I guess breakdancing is the next best thing.
It joins squash, chess and “billiard sports” as suggested additions in 2024.
As a reminder, surfing, climbing and skateboarding will debut as Olympic sports at the 2020 Tokyo games.
As a more important reminder: Baseball got kicked out of the Olympics for a two cycles but is returning in 2020.
In other French sporting news, lightsaber dueling is now an official sport in France. And you all thought curling and rhythmic gymnastics were weird. Here is your 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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