Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services through the final months of his governorship will field questions from lawmakers today during his confirmation hearing.

Ricker Hamilton, the nominee, is no stranger to tough questions from lawmakers. A veteran administrator who has moved to the top ranks at DHHS during LePage’s tenure, he has been the department’s front man in confrontations with lawmakers over ongoing problems with federal certification of Riverview Psychiatric Center and plans to build a forensic unit for people, typically referred by the courts, who “no longer meet medical necessity for acute psychiatric hospitalization.”

It won’t be a cakewalk. Lawmakers, especially Democrats, are likely to use the hearing as an opportunity to push back at the administration on the process it has used to advance plans for the forensic unit and other policy choices, notably its changes to crisis care for people with disabilities. How Maine manages public assistance programs amid LePage’s aggressive push to add work requirements for cash, food and health care aid programs also could engender feisty give-and-take. And, of course, no Health and Human Services Committee gathering would be complete without verbal sparring over Medicaid expansion, a Democratic initiative that Maine voters will decide as Question 2 in November after six failed attempts in the Legislature. Given that Republican Eric Brakey, the committee’s Senate chairman, is running for U.S. Senate and Hamilton’s predecessor, Mary Mayhew, is a GOP candidate for governor, today’s hearing will sprinkle a heavy dose of politics onto any mention of policy.

LePage’s Cabinet is being restocked. Hamilton’s hearing today is one of several nominations LePage has made since the Legislature adjourned in August. On Wednesday, the Legislature’s energy committee unanimously endorsed Randall Davis to become the third member of the Public Utilities Commission. The Senate will likely hold confirmation votes Monday on all of the nominees. Here’s a look at what else looms over the special session.

Fill the Blaine House with food

The governor and his wife, Ann LePage, will turn the Blaine House into a food collection center for donations to Good Shepherd Food Bank on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4. It’s the seventh straight year that they have hosted a food drive, which will feature guided tours of the governor’s mansion and light refreshments between 9 a.m. and noon.

“Our family has been blessed, and we appreciate this opportunity to give back in a meaningful way,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “It is heartwarming to see our neighbors, friends, co-workers, students and various groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts dropping off donations year after year.”

Reading List

  • Maine will not be voting on whether to roll back protections based on sexual orientation. Mike Heath, who for more than a decade has been one of Maine’s leading voices against equal rights based on sexual orientation, told the BDN on Thursday that he will not be submitting the signatures required to prompt a ballot question designed to remove sexual orientation as grounds for protection under the Maine Human Rights Act. Saturday would have been the deadline to turn in the signatures.
  • And we also might have to wait to buy marijuana legally. Gov. Paul LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, have collaborated on a bill to delay full implementation of Maine’s taxation and regulation system for recreational marijuana until January of 2019. That comes after a special legislative committee has spent months working on an omnibus bill that will come up for consideration when the Legislature convenes on Monday. Fredette claims that process wasn’t inclusive enough for lawmakers to know what they’re voting on Monday but proponents say the bill went through more public hearings and vetting than most other bills considered by the Legislature.
  • Gold Star families are pushing back on President Donald Trump’s claim that he has called all of them who have lost loved ones in military service since being in office. Among them is the family of U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Benjamin Cross of Bethel, who died in a military aircraft crash in Australia in August. Cross’s brother criticized the president for politicizing the deaths of service members.
  • Angus King will remain an independent. Despite some Democrats’ efforts to woo him into their party, King said he’ll remain unaffiliated with a political party, just as he was as governor, even though he usually votes with Democrats in the U.S. Senate.
  • Maine was given more time to comply with Real ID rules. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security told the state this week that it has until Oct. 10, 2018 to upgrade state-issued ID cards and the processes that produce them past the previous deadline of Jan. 22, 2018. That means Maine’s driver’s licenses and ID cards will continue to be accepted as valid identification for entrance into certain federal facilities, such as military bases, the U.S. mint and nuclear power plants.

California made it legal to liquefy corpses

Just in time for Halloween. Don’t worry. As reports, no corpses will be flushed down the toilet and the process is considered eco-friendly.

“In fact, it’s more of a bath,” reads the article.

Ummmmm, here’s your soundtrack. Have a great weekend.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Robert Long and edited by Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.