Entries Filed in 'Community Maine'
“When we don’t have people here from DHHS, we don’t know what DHHS is working on, we can’t have confidence and we can’t craft a solution. This makes it very hard for us to work together to serve people in our communities, many of whom are not being served through this contract that the taxpayers are paying for,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo.
The state’s budget writing committee early this week convened to address the ongoing management failures at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), including the state’s bungled MaineCare rides system, the ongoing concerns about losing $20 million in federal funds for Riverview, and the $1 million no-bid contract to the Alexander Group.
No one from the LePage administration attended the meeting despite the committee’s request; however, when the meeting began, the committee received packets of information DHHS had provided to the Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday.Governor LePage has barred commissioners from appearing before more than 30 committees in recent months.
“Not being able to have conversations in real-time with the department is grinding our work to a halt. The work we do for the people of Maine is being compromised,” said Democratic Senator Dawn Hill, the Senate chair of the Appropriations Committee. “We want and need to be focused on solutions but when we are on a time-delay, solutions are nothing more than hypothetical.”
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Tags: Economy·Government transparency·Health and Human Services
The Legislature’s Health and Human Services committee met this week to discuss a number of management failures at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), including the state’s bungled MaineCare rides system and the ongoing concerns and loss of federal funds for Riverview.
No one from DHHS attended the meeting despite the committee’s request; however, when they began their meeting, the committee received packets of information partially answering some of the committee’s questions from nearly three weeks ago.
“For months we’ve wanted to know: what is the plan?” said Senator Colleen Lachowicz. “Patients are missing their medical appointments, the transportation providers are losing money and losing their ability to provide these much-needed services, and the Department has no plan.”
Senator Lachowicz is one of two lawmakers who have introduced bills to fix the MaineCare rides system. Her bill would create a more reliable and efficient system based on the Vermont model.
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Tags: mismanagement at Maine DHHS
Monhegan Island to receive $420,000 in federal funding to upgrade power system
Funds will help pay for solar array, generator, and other equipment to lower local energy costs
Monhegan Island will receive $420,000 in funding from a USDA Rural Development grant program intended to help communities with exceptionally high electricity costs. The funds will be used to purchase equipment the year-round community needs to lower electrical costs while making services more efficient and reliable.
Currently Monhegan residents pay 70 cents per kilowatt-hour, more than 4 times the typical rate on the mainland. Improvements could save the community over $21,000 in energy costs a year.
“High electricity costs are a huge problem for Maine’s offshore islands and a major threat to their future as year-round communities,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “This critical investment will help Monhegan make its power grid more reliable, more efficient to operate, and less dependent on fossil fuels—and all that will translate into lower bills for island residents. I hope Monhegan becomes a good example of what other islands can do to deal with similar issues. A substantial part of Maine’s coastal economy and identity depends on the sustainability of those islands.”
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Tags: Monhegan's electricity
Support for wind power in Maine is consistently high across every region of the state and is highest in regions where successful wind energy projects are already operating, according to a newly released poll taken of Maine voters last summer.
“This poll confirms what we’ve long known: The people of Maine are optimistic and enthusiastic about wind power,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association. “People of all political parties and ages, in towns across the state, agree that wind energy is good for Maine.”
The Wind for ME coalition released the results of the poll today.
“Maine people believe in a wind-powered future; we see that this is a safe, clean way to increase our energy independence and protect our environment,” said Paul Williamson, director of the Maine Ocean & Wind Industry Initiative. “Wind energy is a growing sector of Maine’s economy, creating good jobs and it can help lower and stabilize energy costs, no wonder the people of Maine are so enthusiastic about it.”
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Tags: Windmills in Maine
Children can expect more fun this year when Christmas tree shopping with the family at Gooley’s Conifers Unlimited Christmas Tree Farm in Farmington.
Small plastic pickles are hidden within the branches of some of the trees waiting to be discovered by determined children who receive chocolate in exchange for the unique ornaments.
“It’s my daughter’s thing,” Walter Gooley told the Sun Journal. “An old German tradition going back a couple hundred years.”
The tradition of hiding a plastic pickle in the tree goes back to the Civil War era when Woolworth’s department stores imported vegetable glass ornaments from Germany.
The ornament was hidden on Christmas Eve and whoever discovered it first would receive a prize – children were surprised with an extra gift from Santa, adults got some good luck in the coming year.
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Tags: Christmas in Maine
Money from outside groups seeking to sway legislative elections in Maine has increased 563 percent from 2008 to 2012 according to a new report released today by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE). The Shell Game: How Independent Expenditures Have Invaded Maine Since Citizens United is the 11th in a series of reports published by MCCE’s Money and Politics Project.
“Recent court rulings that have weakened our Clean Elections and campaign finance laws are allowing unaccountable outside groups to unleash a flood of money to sway our elections and government,” said BJ McCollister, Program Director for MCCE. “Voters are being left in the dark. A lack of strong disclosure laws make it possible for wealthy special interests to hide their identity when they spend to influence our elections.”
The report shows that some nonprofit organizations, namely those classified under the 501(c) laws, are able to shield the identity of corporate or individual donors behind independent expenditures in Maine legislative and gubernatorial races. Entities are making as many as four to five transfers before making the actual expenditure in Maine races. The campaign finance shell game makes tracking the money a never ending, and at times, impossible process. With increased cover for contributors and the ability to make unlimited independent expenditures, groups are spending up to eleven times the amount of the average campaign budget in highly contested races.
“Voters are hearing more from outside groups than from the candidates themselves,” said McCollister. “It is nearly impossible for voters to find out who is ultimately paying for the political ads in our elections. These large, untraceable expenditures pose a serious risk to our democracy.”
Tags: Fraud in Clean elections
“The governor’s obstructionism is outrageous,” said Rep. Bruce MacDonald, the House Chair of the Education Committee. “This is a gag order that forbid state employees who work for the people from doing their jobs. It hurts Maine citizens who need government to work for them.”
The LePage administration’s obstructionism and interference with public accountability continued on Tuesday when administration appointees failed to appear before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee and the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee as the panels took up issues of critical importance to Maine people and businesses.
When lawmakers can’t ask questions to heads of departments or their commissioners directly it slows the progress of solving problems. One question often leads to another and a discussion wherein solutions are found and issues solved thus helping move Maine’s economy forward. However with the LePage doctrine of having to put all questions in writing and then wait for written responses critical issues are being bogged down.
Prime examples of this disorder have occurred with the Health and Human Services Committee agenda which included an evaluation of the failed MaineCare rides contract, the loss of federal funding at the Riverview Psychiatric Center and concerns over patient treatment at the facility, as well as the LePage administration’s no-bid contract with the Alexander group to study the state’s anti-poverty programs and health care expansion.
“The administration must be held accountable to the public for its mismanagement,” said Rep. Dick Farnsworth, the House Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “Could you imagine if Secretary Sebelius did not report to Congress because she didn’t want to answer hard questions? The people of Maine deserve answers not political obstruction.”
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Tags: LePage's Gag order
Maine Audubon, a wildlife advocacy group based in Falmouth Maine, issued a report stating that there is enough room to develop wind energy in the state without major damage to the wildlife population.
Maine has 1.1 million windy acres that could be used for wind energy development, 933,000 of which does not contain sensitive habitats, according to the report released Dec. 4 by wildlife biologist Susan Gallo.
The areas designated for wind projects that have both enough wind and low impact on the wildlife comes to 418,000 acres, which is 45 percent of the total acreage being looked at for potential development.
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Tags: Wind energy environmentally friendly
The special committee that serves as the key link between Maine people, state government and the health insurance marketplace will finalize its recommendation at its last meeting of the year today, Monday, Dec. 9.
The Health Exchange Advisory Committee will consider a number of proposals that aim to make the health insurance marketplace perform well for Maine people. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in Room 228 (Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee). Live audio is available at: http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/audio/.
“The committee brought together diverse stakeholders who have worked on a consensus basis to do everything we can to make sure the marketplace works for Maine consumers,” said Rep. Sharon Anglin Treat, House chair of the committee. “We know it’s been challenging for many Mainers anxious to sign up for affordable health insurance to use the clunky federal website. Although without a state-based exchange our ability to make changes is limited, nonetheless we will be voting on a number of recommendations that, if followed through, will help Maine families and businesses get the insurance they want and need.”
The proposals before the committee address consumer outreach, transparency on rating factors, the effectiveness of the federal marketplace for the state, the coverage gap, state information on health coverage options and data collection and reporting. The panel will present its report to the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee by Dec. 15.
The recommendations that the committee will review include:
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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of nearly $10.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities designed to give them a competitive business edge.
“This important program supports ingenuity among Maine’s rural agricultural producers, assisting them to create and market value-added products. This innovation by Maine businesses creates economic growth and helps sustain this vital Maine sector,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel.
The funding is being made available through the Value-Added Producer Grant program. Grants are available to help agricultural producers create new products, expand marketing opportunities, support further processing of existing products or goods, or to develop specialty and niche products. They may be used for working capital and planning activities (business plan, marketing plan, feasibility study). The maximum working capital grant is $200,000; the maximum planning grant is $75,000.
Examples of recent recipients include Peter Bragdon, located in Vassalboro, which is utilizing a Value-Added Producer Grant in the amount of $300,000 to add value to the hay he produces by turning it into hay fire logs. In addition, Tide Mill Organics, in Edmunds Township received a Grant in the amount of $49,770 to increase production and expand sales of their packaged organic poultry from roughly 11,500 to 20,000 birds per year.
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Tags: Agriculture·Value added goods in Maine