WASHINGTON — Maine’s two U.S. senators teamed up to file their first joint bill last week, co-sponsoring a measure that aims to draw more private companies to former military bases such as Brunswick Naval Air Station.
Right now, companies located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones — government-ese for areas that need more economic development — can qualify for preferential treatment when it comes to landing federal contracts. These “HUBzones” include former military bases closed because of downsizing.
One of the problems with HUBzones, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said, is that 35 percent of a company’s workforce would have to live within the footprint of the Brunswick Naval Air Station, now known as Brunswick Landing. Additionally, the eligibility window to participate is too narrow.
“This issue exacerbates the difficulties for us and similar communities to overcome the devastating economic effects of base closures,” wrote Steven Levesque, executive director of the organization responsible for redeveloping Brunswick Landing, wrote to Collins.
The bill sponsored by King, an independent, and Collins, a Republican, would allow companies to draw more workers from the surrounding town or county and still qualify for the HUBzone program, which opens the door to sole-source contracting as well as a slight edge in competitive contracts.
Levesque said his group, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, is negotiating with a company interested in bringing as many as 200 jobs to Brunswick Landing if the HUBzone program rules can be expanded.
Christie hires Mainer
A Mainer has landed a top spot in the re-election campaign of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican.
Tom Dickens, a Maine native and graduate of the University of Maine, has been hired as Christie’s political director in what is likely to be one of the most closely watched gubernatorial races in the country, The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., reported Friday.
Dickens has worked on a variety of Republican campaigns in recent years, including in races in Florida and Wisconsin during the 2012 campaigns. He also spent several months as a field director for the Maine Republican Party in 2008, according to The Star-Ledger and biographical information posted on social media sites.
States not following Maine’s lead
Political leaders in several states have decided that Maine and Nebraska’s way of counting Electoral College votes isn’t worth copying — at least for now.
Ever since the November elections, Republicans in some states won by President Barack Obama have been advocating potentially switching from a winner-take-all Electoral College system to one in which electors are awarded by majority vote in each congressional district.
Maine and Nebraska are the only two states where Electoral College votes may be awarded to more than one presidential candidate, although it’s never happened in 40 years in Maine.
However, the implications of such a vote-splitting system could be much more profound in battleground states — such as Ohio, Michigan and Virginia — that have a large number of electors and a pronounced urban-rural divide. Had Virginia used Maine’s method in 2012, for instance, Mitt Romney would have won nine electors and Obama just four. Instead, Obama claimed all 13.
This past week, however, a Virginia Senate committee voted to kill a vote-splitting bill; while Republican elected leaders in Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan have indicated that they don’t intend to pursue the change, according to news reports. Similar legislative proposals are still pending in several states.
Snow = no vote
Finally, freshman Sen. Angus King got a lesson last week that politics and weather don’t always mix well.
After getting stuck at the Portland airport for several hours because of poor weather, King missed two votes on the Senate floor Monday. The votes were on a $50.7 billion disaster relief bill for states affected by superstorm Sandy.
The omission means that King, no matter how long he serves in the Senate, will never surpass his Maine colleague in one respect. Sen. Susan Collins has never missed a roll call vote since joining the Senate in 1997, racking up more than 5,000 consecutive votes to date.
King staff said the delay did allow him to get in some extra “constituent hours” as he waited at the airport, however.
Kevin Miller — 317-6256