The Political Grind: Snowe, Collins ready for oil spill hearings

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U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins will each have a chance to drill for answers from government and company officials regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this week in separate committee hearings.

Collins, top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will face off Monday afternoon with Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and other business officials who have yet to be announced.

The committee will examine both the governmental and business community’s response to the on-going oil spill, according to a release.

Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, is scheduled to participate in a similar hearing on Tuesday. Federal officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and business executives from BP and Transocean, are expected to testify.

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This hearing will assess government oversight of drilling operations, possible long- and short-term effects of the spill and the effectiveness of cleanup efforts, according to a release.

“As the committee with jurisdiction over two of the agencies charged with responding – NOAA and the Coast Guard – we have an obligation to determine precisely what went wrong, what we can do immediately to literally turn the tide of this epic spill and how we can overhaul past practices to prevent similar occurrences in the future,” Snowe said in the release. “And there should be no mistake – it is starkly evident that wholesale changes are required.”

Rowe, Scarcelli file new campaign reports

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Steve Rowe and Rosa Scarcelli filed ‘accelerated’ campaign finance reports on Friday with the state ethics commission.

The reports filed by Rowe and Scarcelli are simple and not very detailed, but they do show that Scarcelli has loaned her campaign about $72,000 since the last reporting date, April 27. She has loaned her campaign a total of about $98,000.

Scarcelli’s campaign has raised about $400,000, including her loans, so far and has about $26,000 cash on hand, according to the latest report.

Rowe has raised about $12,000 since his April 27 report, according to his latest filing and has not loaned any money toward his campaign. He has raised a total of about $435,000 so far and also has about $26,000 cash on hand, according to the most recent report.

The reports are required of privately-financed candidates who are running against Maine Clean Elections candidates and have raised more than $400,000.

Pat McGowan and Libby Mitchell, the two candidates in the Democratic primary using public funding, received preliminary funds totaling $400,000 and are eligible for matching funds up to $600,000 during the primary.

As a result of the latest filings, it would appear McGowan and Mitchell will each receive an additional $12,000 for their campaigns.

Maine’s primary election is scheduled for June 8.

Smoke-free food

Maine’s law banning smoking on outdoor restaurant patios went into effect last September, but supporters are reminding Mainers about it, now that the measure is heading into its first full summer season.

Chris Davis, the Oxford County district tobacco coordinator for Healthy Maine Partnerships, said she wants to let people know they have a right to clean space and that there are signs available for restaurants who want to remind customers of the law.

Violators could be fined between $100 and $1,500, according to a press release.

The smoking ban includes self-serve takeout establishments, as well as restaurants with table service, Davis said.

“This is the beginning of the season when people are beginning to go outside and it’s just a reminder that signage is available for places,” she said.

-Rebekah Metzler

Visit www.sunjournal.com/politicalgrind to keep up on the latest in Maine politics.

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