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How lawmakers who don’t belong to a party see their role in Maine’s new Legislature — Daily Brief — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

How lawmakers who don’t belong to a party see their role in Maine’s new Legislature — Daily Brief — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth, sits at his desk in the State Home in Augusta, Dec. 7, 2018.

By Alex Acquisto, BDN Employees •
December 13, 2018 eight:54 am

Up to date: December 13, 2018 9:16 am

Good morning from Augusta, the place the newly seated Maine Home of Representatives consists of 5 individuals who don’t determine as both Democrat or Republican.

It’s the most important variety of independents elected to the Home in greater than a century. However, collectively, they don’t seem to be anticipated to wield a lot clout after Democrats surged to a robust majority in final month’s elections. However, they enter the new session with hopes that they will play an essential role in bridging the partisan divide that tumbled the earlier Legislature into rancor and dysfunction.

“The last session it was about our votes. I believe this session it’s about our voice,” Rep. Norman Higgins, I-Dover-Foxcroft, stated this week. Higgins, who gained a third time period final month as after leaving the Republican Party in 2017, stated he and his unbiased colleagues want to assert their role as deal makers and confidants to each events in methods they may not have two years in the past once they have been, “to a small extent, the lever that kept the Democrats in the majority,” Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth stated.

Party defections in the earlier Legislature stripped the Democrats of a clear majority and gave independents and the lone Inexperienced Unbiased Party member extra leverage with flooring votes. However wrangling votes ought to be a lesser concern in the new Legislature.

With hopes excessive that tensions will dissipate as a results of combative Gov. Paul LePage’s departure and the collective drive for civility on the rise in each chambers, Higgins and newly elected Rep. William Pluecker, I-Warren, assume the extent of discourse to come will higher mirror what they’re all about, which is “forming relationships one wouldn’t expect you to form across the aisle,” Pluecker stated. And it’s being validated by party members like Home Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who requested Higgins to second her nomination final week to serve one other two years in the role.

By definition, independents are sole proprietors, eschewing party and caucus work to advance their personal agendas and people of their constituents. However to be efficient, they want to stability these particular person pursuits with making themselves helpful to party leaders in ways in which present the negotiating capital required to obtain their objectives. In that space, former Rep. Owen Casas, an unbiased from Rockport who served in the 128th Legislature however misplaced his re-election bid in November, suggested his former unbiased colleagues not to play it too protected.

“Keeping a low profile would not be helpful in advancing a statewide conversation about why independence matters,” he stated. Charting a extra seen role in this session won’t lead to higher legislative outcomes, however it might set a “competent” instance for others who could be contemplating operating as an unbiased.

Independents won’t achieve energy from listening to each side caucus, however they achieve understanding, Casas stated. “Being a part of a tribe that has power is powerful. When you’re the rag-tag island of misfit toys, you don’t have power, but you get all these other things.”

A key indicator of the role Gideon would really like the independents to play in the new Legislature ought to come subsequent week when she and different party leaders are due to announce committee assignments. The place they place independents — and whether or not she grants them their first or second decisions — will supply a trace at the place they might exert their affect. Traditionally, independents haven’t scored committee management positions and have typically been positioned on much less influential panels. Higgins has performed a pivotal role on the power and utilities committee in the course of the previous two legislatures and would possible be in place for a prime spot there based mostly on that tenure.

Striving to be independents who “blur the lines that we’re trying to draw in politics” is probably going the group’s greatest guess, Pluecker stated, for “lending the most creativity and potentially the most relevance.”

They converse for Mills

Two acquainted voices might be talking on behalf of Maine’s subsequent governor. Democratic Gov.-elect Janet Mills formally named her hires Wednesday for press secretary and communications director.

Scott Ogden, who labored as Mills’ marketing campaign spokesman, shall be Mills communications director. The previous Bowdoin graduate beforehand labored for U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine as his press secretary and deputy communications director. Ogden served Mills as her communications director all through her gubernatorial marketing campaign and in her transition workforce, so his appointment doesn’t come as a shock.

Lindsay Crete most just lately labored because the deputy director of marketing campaign communications for EMILY’s Record, a political motion committee that goals to put pro-choice feminine Democrats in elected workplaces throughout the nation. Crete previously served as communications director for the Maine Home Democrats and because the Maine communications director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential marketing campaign.

The pair be a part of Jeremy Kennedy, who Mills’ picked final month as her chief of employees. Mills’ transition staff started interviews for Cupboard-level positions final week, however she hasn’t made some other hiring bulletins but.

Studying record

A pilot venture designed to have Maine college students do faculty work remotely has grow to be tangled in purple tape. For months, officers in the mixed Faculty Administrative District 28 and 5 City Group Faculty District have been planning a distant faculty day pilot challenge that might permit college students and academics to do business from home when inclement climate retains them out of faculty buildings. However final week the Maine Division of Schooling denied the district’s request for an exemption from the 175-day minimal faculty day requirement, in accordance to MSAD 28 and 5 City CSD Superintendent Maria Libby. Native officers plan to attraction that call in January, after a new administration takes workplace.

Nursing houses in rural Maine are in deep hassle. Half a dozen have closed this yr, uprooting roughly 200 aged residents. In all, Maine has seen 12 nursing houses shut since 2014, leaving 94 nursing houses in operation all through the state. Since 1995, the state has misplaced almost 40 of them. By 2030, almost a third of Maine’s inhabitants is projected to be over age 65. But the state has fewer nursing residence beds than different states, averaging 24 per 1,000 residents in the over-65 age group, stated Richard Erb, president and CEO of the Maine Well being Care Affiliation, a commerce group for long-term care suppliers. The nationwide common is 36 beds. In each occasion, the house owners of the amenities that shuttered this yr tried to promote earlier than closing, Erb stated.

Penobscot County commissioners need to construct a greater jail, however it can possible value greater than $65 million. The choice for a new jail behind the present facility on Hammond Road marks a change from the county’s unique plans to increase the overcrowded, 157-bed Penobscot County Jail by renovating the previous YMCA constructing simply up the hill to home feminine inmates and the jail’s consumption operations. Commissioners agreed final month to go ahead with a plan to construct a new facility fairly than proceed spending a mean of $700,000 per yr to board inmates at different amenities or construct an addition to the present facility. That they had hoped to search voter approval for the challenge in June 2019 however determined Tuesday “to slow the process down” once they discovered the price for constructing plans can be “substantial” and the county would have to bear the price of holding the election, Chairman Peter Baldacci stated.

Meals sovereignty proponents in Maine are claiming victory in this yr’s farm invoice. A revised model of the invoice handed the Senate on Tuesday and the Home on Wednesday. It didn’t embrace an modification generally known as the Shield Interstate Commerce Act of 2018, which might have pressured states to authorize the sale of any agricultural product not prohibited beneath federal regulation. Meals sovereignty advocates in Maine feared that federal language would supersede the state’s meals sovereignty regulation which permits cities to undertake ordinances giving them the authority to regulate the direct, producer-to-consumer exchanges, meals processing and distribution free from state or federal regulatory management.

Gourmand dismay

In the event that they weren’t so busy writing about politics and authorities, my colleagues, Alex Acquisto and Mike Shepherd, would in all probability be meals writers.

Each time our office dialog turns away from politics, it typically turns to meals. When it does, I’m shortly out of my league. My first try to saute mushrooms ended with singed eyebrows, a flaming skillet and a hearth extinguisher sauce on the porch of a Lewiston triple-decker. That method has advanced to putting all the components into a frying pan, including soy sauce and leaving it on the burner till the hearth alarm sounds.

Mike and Alex, however, are expert kitchen tacticians. In case you pay attention rigorously, you may even hear certainly one of them name spaghetti sauce “bolognese.” Just lately, they have been discussing the most effective oil to use when roasting Brussels sprouts. My first thought was “10W30,” so I stored quiet.

When Mike chided my era for ruining Brussels sprouts and most different meals by boiling it,  I might supply no protection. Cooking was extra a matter of sterilization than style when my palate was creating. However — proving that I can study and evolve — I did supply this recipe from BDN colleague Sarah Walker Caron, who actually is a meals author. We’ve tried a variation at residence and located it to be scrumptious, though my solely role in the preparation course of was yanking the sprouts off the stalks.

In my ongoing efforts to be a lifelong learner when it comes to meals, I invite Daily Brief readers to submit their favourite recipes for Brussels sprouts — they’re a vacation staple in many elements of the world — to the e-mail addresses under. When you’re at it, please ship alongside concepts for what I can do with the eight winter squash that arrived in this month’s winter farm share.

Bon appetit. Right here’s your soundtrack. — Robert Lengthy

At present’s Daily Brief was written by Alex Acquisto and Robert Lengthy. When you’re studying this on the BDN’s web site or have been forwarded it, click on right here to obtain Maine’s main publication on state politics by way of e mail on weekday mornings. Click on right here to subscribe to the BDN.

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