Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 7.13.12

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Augusta, ME

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. If you would like more specific information regarding an item in this newsletter or related to government relations, please contact a member of our Government Relations Practice Group: John Delahanty, Andrea C. Maker, or Avery Day.

Maine Approach to Affordable Care Act Still Up in the Air

With the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, some assumed that the status of that law would be settled.  Controversy and questions, however, continue to abound in the healthcare arena.  Maine is not immune to this continued uncertainty.

This past legislative session, the Insurance and Financial Services Committee extensively debated two carryover bills that proposed two approaches in creating a health insurance exchange as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act.  Ultimately, legislators adopted a “wait and see” approach to the exchange and did not adopt legislation creating one.

Speculation that the Affordable Care Act would be declared unconstitutional, either in whole or in part, may have made this “wait and see” approach to an exchange seem prudent.  With the law being upheld, however, Maine now finds itself behind some states in the creation of an exchange.  Some decision makers still, however, may not be in a hurry regarding the creation of a Maine exchange.  Governor LePage, for example, appears to want to wait until after the November election before deciding on an approach to the exchange.  While there is resistance to the creation of an exchange by those opposed to the Affordable Care Act, the default for states without exchanges is a federal model, which may be even more unpalatable to Affordable Care Act opponents. 

Political Dispute Between Governor LePage and Congresswoman Pingree on State Budget Matter

During this legislative session, a Department of Health and Human Services supplemental budget, which assumes reductions in Medicaid eligibility, was adopted by the Legislature.  These reductions require approvals from the federal Department of Health and Human Services in the form of waivers before they can be implemented.  This week, Congresswoman Pingree weighed in on the issue of waivers with Secretary Sebelius, with the Congresswoman stating her opposition to the reductions in Medicaid eligibility.  This prompted a reply by Governor LePage, who has a different view of this matter.  It is uncertain what, if any, effect Congresswoman Pingree’s actions will have on the federal Department’s consideration of the State’s request for waiver.  This action has prompted front-page media coverage as generally Maine’s federal delegation does not get involved in state-level matters, particularly as they relate to the balancing of the State’s budget.

Deadline for Legislative Candidates to Withdraw has Passed

July 9th was the deadline for legislative candidates to withdraw their names from November’s ballot.  Withdrawing by this deadline allows local party committees to nominate replacement candidates, who will appear on the general election ballot.  Five Senate candidates and 43 House candidates notified the Secretary of State that they were withdrawing by the Monday deadline.

The practice of candidates withdrawing is not uncommon, as parties often use this procedure to create more time to recruit serious candidates for the Legislature.  This year’s number of withdrawals is about average for the last few election cycles.  Interestingly, withdrawals have left four House districts without any candidates, though replacements will be nominated (some already have been).  These four districts include part of Augusta, part of Brunswick, part of South Portland and the Kittery area. 

Governor LePage Nominates Appointee for Adjutant General Position

This week, Governor LePage announced the nomination of Colonel James Campbell as Maine’s Adjutant General.  This position involves serving both as the top ranking military leader of the State and the Commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.  This nomination is subject to the approval of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and the State Senate.  Colonel Campbell would replace Major General John Libby, who is retiring.

Colonel Campbell is a Colby graduate and holds degrees from the University of Maine.  Colonel Campbell has a long history serving in the military, including serving as Executive Officer of the University of Maine Army Reserve Officer Training Corps.  Currently, Colonel Campbell is serving as Deputy Division Chief of the Operations Plans Division at United States Central Command in Tampa, Florida.