AUGUSTA — Despite the recent sweltering heat, Gov. Paul LePage is looking forward to winter — and the likelihood that the state will get far less in federal heating assistance this year than last.

At his town hall last week in Dover-Foxcroft, LePage told the crowd that his daily briefing book included a letter from the feds saying that the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program will face significant cuts. LePage said last year, Maine spent $58 million in heating assistance, but will likely get less than $30 million to cover the coming heating season.

“This year, heating oil is expected to be higher than last year,” he said. “This year, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure people aren’t found frozen in their homes.”

The topic came up as LePage was making a larger point about the need to focus welfare spending on only the neediest Mainers. He has pledged to once again attempt to limit enrollment in Medicaid to reduce the number of people getting that health-insurance coverage. While Medicaid is a federal program, it requires state matching money.

“To say that we are cutting, we are not cutting, we are trying to distribute the best we can,” he said. “I am particularly concerned about the elderly. The elderly are the ones that don’t ask for help and they are the ones that need it the most.”

Pregnant nuns?

While in Washington last week, LePage repeated a variation of an oft-told joke on the campaign trail about nuns and maternity benefits.

LePage has said Maine’s health-insurance regulations are so strict that they require nuns to purchase maternity coverage. By allowing Mainers to buy coverage from other states, that type of mandate can be avoided, he said during remarks to the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“We should have exempted them, and if they get in trouble, they can call the pope,” he said, according to Kaiser Health News.


Stamps for sale

Attention residents of Eliot: a former Republican House candidate has $352 worth of 44-cent stamps to sell and they must be gone by early August, according to the ethics commission.

In a memo to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, executive director Jonathan Wayne updated the panel on an issue involving Ellen Lemire of Eliot, who ran for House District 148.

Lemire, who lost the election, apparently sent her daughter-in-law to the post office last fall to buy 30 rolls of stamps valued at $1,320.

State Clean Election funds were used for the purchase.

Apparently, the campaign was told by a postal official that they would buy back the stamps if they weren’t all used.

The campaign didn’t use any of the stamps — preferring to use a mail house instead — and when it came time for a refund, the post office refused to buy them back, Wayne wrote.

To date, Lemire has been able to find buyers for all but $352 worth of stamps.

In his memo, Wayne warns that if she doesn’t sell the stamps and return the money by early August, he will view it “as a potential enforcement matter.”

“The staff has provided the candidate with an extended period of time because we understand the challenges of selling such a large number of rolls of stamps,” he wrote. “Organizations preparing large mailings presumably have more convenient ways of buying a large amount of postage than purchasing rolls of stamps.”

The issue appears on the commission’s Thursday agenda.

Voter fraud data

As promised, Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster is scheduled to hold a press conference today to release “preliminary research into same-day voter registration improprieties” that were one of the reasons cited by Republicans who passed a bill to eliminate same-day voter registration.

The press conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. in the State House Welcome Center.

Meanwhile, Democrats and Democratic-friendly groups are continuing to gather signatures to try to force a people’s veto vote in hopes of overturning the legislation. If they want to make the November ballot, they have until Aug. 8 to get 57,277 valid signatures.

Caylee’s law in Maine?

Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, is sponsoring a version of Caylee’s Law, a reference to Caylee Anthony, the 2-year-old Florida girl who was not reported missing by her mother for 31 days and who was later found dead.

Thibodeau modeled his proposed legislation after a bill recently submitted to the Florida legislature. It will require parents and primary caregivers to report a child under age 12 missing or deceased. Under current Maine law, it is not a crime to fail to report a child missing or dead, according to the House Republican Office.

“My bill seeks to protect children by ensuring the timely reporting of these tragic events,” he said in a prepared statement.

Thibodeau’s bill will need approval from legislative leaders to be submitted in January because the second session is reserved for emergency legislation.

State House Bureau writer Susan Cover contributed to this column.