AUGUSTA — It’s looking like a busy week here at the State House, with the Appropriations Committee meeting today, the streamlining task force meeting Friday and a few things in between.

State budget-writers will gather at 9:30 a.m. today for a regular monthly meeting where they will get a revenue update, and information on the work of the streamlining task force, which needs to find at least $25 million of recommended cuts in the state budget.

Appropriations will also hear from Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew on several topics, and get an update from the Department of Education on the Child Development Services program.

Then in the afternoon, the committee will take public testimony starting at 2 p.m. on five bond bills. The committee meets in room 228 of the State House.

Also Monday afternoon, at 1 p.m., the Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission will meet to begin talking about setting new revenue expectations. The group will meet in room 127 of the State House.

On Wednesday, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing will have its first meeting at 9 a.m. in room 208 of the Cross State Office Building. Peter Merrill and Adam Krea of MaineHousing will be on hand to give the commission an overview of the current state of affordable housing in the state.

The commission was created by legislation passed earlier this year that requires the group to come up with recommendations to improve the economy by finding ways to increase the construction of affordable housing, address the housing needs of the elderly and address the housing shortage “that leaves thousands homeless each year.”

On Thursday, the Agricultural, Conservation and Forestry Committee meets to get an update from the working group that is studying the Land Use Regulation Commission. The working group has held public hearings across the state to determine whether and what kinds of changes are needed to improve the effectiveness of LURC. The committee will meet at 10 a.m. in room 206 of the Cross State Office Building.

Then on Friday, the Streamlining commission will meet at 9 a.m. in room 228 of the State House to hear recommendations for budget cuts from the Department of Corrections. The Bangor Daily News reported earlier this month that the department is considering the closure of the Down East Correctional Facility in Washington County, which would mean the elimination of 68 jobs. Lawmakers who represent the region immediately expressed opposition to the idea.

Also Friday, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices meets for its monthly meeting at 9 a.m. at 45 Memorial Circle in Augusta. One item of note is a recommendation from staff to strengthen prohibitions against giving Clean Election money to family members. As it is now, candidates can pay family members with public money if the service provided to the campaign is “in the normal course of the (family member’s) occupation or business.”

In a memo to the commission, Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said he wants to put 2012 Clean Election candidates on notice that it’s not OK to hire family members who only sporadically provide services such as field work or public relations.

Best Cabinet ever?

An audience member at the Waldo County town hall-style meeting asked Gov. Paul LePage last week about his biggest accomplishment to date.

His answer?

“I think the biggest accomplishment is something that nobody sees,” he said. “It’s changing the culture in Augusta and we’re making some significant progress. I think I accomplished that through having one of the best cabinets put in place in Augusta in at least the last 50 years. I have enormous confidence in the people we selected to run the agencies.”

The process of getting a cabinet in place got off to a rough start for LePage, who lost four of his original Cabinet picks within the first seven months of the administration.

Department of Labor nominee Cheryl Russell withdrew from the process even before she had a confirmation hearing. Then later, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Darryl Brown was found ineligible to serve because of conflicts of interest from his former company and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Philip Congdon stepped down after making inappropriate comments in Aroostook County.

In July, Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Norman Olsen resigned after expressing frustration with what he felt was a lack of support from the governor.

Things now seem to be gelling for Team LePage. His Cabinet has only one remaining opening and that is for commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources.

Walking on water

LePage was also asked about his biggest challenge.

He said it’s improving the quality of education in the state, from beginning to end.

“It’s very difficult to get a University of Maine professor to speak to a community college professor,” he said. “Even if I succeed there, I fail K-12. I need to get that University of Maine professor talking to the kindergarten teacher. If I can accomplish that, I can walk on water.”

That prompted clapping from the audience, and LePage’s Press Secretary Adrienne Bennett, who was serving as emcee of the event, to say “He comes up with that stuff all on his own.”

Gay marriage movie

“Question 1,” a documentary filmed in 2009 during the debate over whether to allow gay marriage in Maine, will begin showing at area theaters on Friday.

Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville will show the film between Friday and Thursday, Nov. 3. You’ll need to check the cinema’s website for movie times. The film will also be screened at CineMagic Cinema in South Portland; the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies (check its websites for times) and at 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7 at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall.

As most politics-watchers will recall, Maine voters repealed a law allowing gay marriage by a vote of 53-47 percent. Gay advocates are once again gathering signatures in hopes of getting the question back on the ballot in November 2012.

Another signature drive

Americans Elect, a nonpartisan group that wants to change the way we nominate presidential candidates, is on the ground in Maine gathering signatures in hopes of getting a nominee on the November 2012 ballot.

What is it they want?

To allow people to go online to choose a presidential ticket. They will hold an online political convention to give regular folks a chance to pick a nominee separate from the ones chosen by the Republicans and Democrats.

To find out more, you can check them out at:

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover wrote this column.

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