Entries Filed in 'Issues'

LePage’s veto spree hurts people, the environment, education, jobs and Maine’s quality of life

April 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Economy, Issue 40

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The most widely known veto of Governor Paul LePage’s was when he decided not to accept any Affordable Care Act funding from the federal government for Medicare. The state would have had free funding for three years and 70,000 people would be covered with healthcare insurance. Instead those people are at risk and Maine’s hospital debt is rising once again.

Another problem with LePage’s veto of healthcare for over 70,000 people in Maine is that by doing so he will incur greater costs to the state. The reimbursement from the federal government of 3 to 1 in Medicare dollars has been going to Maine’s hospitals to repay the debt the state owes them. Without that funding that debt, which LePage was so critical of last year, will again begin to rise.

“Medicare reimbursement matching funds went to the hospitals with the system known as “Pay as You Go,” to pay our debt that had accrued over decades. Without federal funding the state’s debt to the hospitals will begin to go up again,” said former Gov. John Bladacci. “The more tragic reality about not accepting the ACA funding is that people will not have sufficient access to healthcare which could save their lives. Healthcare is a right not a privilege.”

Maine hospitals, which have backed the Affordable Care Act federal funding, are expected to lose $730 million in Medicare reimbursements by 2022.

LePage also vetoed a measure that would have reinstated solar rebates and started a thermal heat pump incentive. These are two measures that would have spurred Maine’s innovation economy and helped combat oil bills with renewable energy.

This apparent anti-business governor’s veto spree didn’t end there.

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Maine’s local food hub bill vetoed in Gov. LePage’s veto spree

April 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Community Maine, Creative Economy, Issue 40

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

As part of his nine-bill veto spree today, Governor LePage killed another bill that received strong bipartisan support from the Legislature. The measure, LD 1431, encouraged the use of Maine-produced food in Maine schools.

“It is unfortunate that the governor does not value this bill for what it is – a collaboration between his own administration’s departments of Agriculture and Education to help grow institutional markets for Maine farmers and fishermen,” said Senator Chris Johnson, who is the sponsor of the measure. “And it helps the food service in more Maine schools succeed in providing healthier food for our children just as innovative school systems in Maine are already doing.

The bill supports the creation of “food hubs” where locally produced food can be aggregated, minimally processed (such as washing and chopping), stored, and distributed. It also creates a competitive, grant-funded school food service training program, and seeks federal grants to operate the program.

The bill received strong bipartisan approval from the Legislature with a vote of 33-0 in the Senate and 120-19 in the House.

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Rep. Seth Berry: Maine needs small business and innovation bond package

April 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Issue 40

The VolturnUS 1:8 first offshore floating wind turbine in the Americas started producing electricity on June 13, 2013. Maine's Innovation Bond program jump started the UMaine project.

The VolturnUS 1:8 first offshore floating wind turbine in the Americas started producing electricity on June 13, 2013. Maine’s Innovation Bond program jump started the UMaine project.

By House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham

We have to face some hard truths about Maine’s economy. We are struggling to shake off the effects of the recession. Others are passing us by when it comes to recovery, but Maine does have a great thing going for it when it comes to possibilities for job creation.

I have the honor of co-chairing the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. This bipartisan panel has done some really amazing work to spur job creation and move our economy forward. Just this week, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed a set of bond investments created by our committee, which are targeted to help small businesses grow, and to boost high tech innovation.

Many of these are long overdue investments that support the little guy: small but promising businesses from around the state, as well as our farmers, foresters, and fishermen.

Maine needs these investments now to address our lagging job creation.

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Nouveau Cirque Theater comes to Maine with Bowdoin College’s Harrison Bergeron

April 19th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Arts & Entertainment, Community Maine, Creative Economy, Issue 40

Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo was Maine's first Nouveau Cirque play. photo by Ramona du Houx

Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo was Maine’s first Nouveau Cirque play. photo by Ramona du Houx

Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo was a theater in the round production with aerial dance and multimedia messaging— using iPads. No matter where you looked something was happening from the ceiling to the floor and in the balconies above the stage. This nouveau cirque production incorporated aerial silks, dance, original music, seamless choreography, theatre, clowning, visual art, and media design all into a high impactful story of forty-two minutes.

For Maine, Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo was the first true nouveau cirque play.

Adapted by the cast from Kurt Vonnegut’s eight-page story, Harrison Bergeron is a social satire, set in the future where citizens have been rendered equal by having their talents handicapped. The thought provoking show, put on by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance, Kathyrn Syssoyeva, and her class at Bowdoin College, enticed and delighted as the audience witnessed the resilience of the human spirit and an iron fist that controls— by restricting creativity.

Harrison Bergeron, the play, photos by Ramona du Houx

Harrison Bergeron, the play, photos by Ramona du Houx

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Mike Michaud tours Togas, VA Hospital to help veterans needs progress

April 11th, 2014 · No Comments · Health Care, Issue 40, News from Washington

Congressman Mike Michaud on a tour of Togus, VA hospital. courtesy photo

Congressman Mike Michaud on a tour of Togus, VA hospital. courtesy photo

Congressman Mike Michaud met with veterans today at Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta. Rep. Michaud was joined by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the House. Michaud serves as the Ranking Member on Veterans’ Affairs.

While visiting Togus, Michaud and Miller had breakfast with veterans, received a tour of the administrative and medical facilities, and got an overview of Togus’ operations. Michaud and Miller also participated in a roundtable discussion with veterans to hear about the challenges they face, and got their insight on how Congress can help.

“I had the opportunity to talk with a number of veterans at Togus VA Medical Center this morning about their personal experiences,” said Michaud. “It was a first-hand reminder of the obligation we have to ensure our veterans are receiving the highest-quality care possible. They have sacrificed so much for our nation, and we owe them the best in return. I’d like to thank Rep. Miller for joining me on today’s visit – our Committee shares the common goal of working in a bipartisan fashion to ensure our veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they so deserve.”

It’s not the first visit to Togas the Congressman has made. A few years back Congressman Michaud invited the Sec. of Veteran’s Affairs, Ed Shinseki to the facility twice. And while the Sec. was here Michaud got changes made that will help Veterans. In one endeavor Michaud was able to get land allocated to Togas put aside to build homeless “Cabins in the Woods.” Read more here.


Clear-cutting is coming back to Maine

January 8th, 2014 · No Comments · Economy, Environment, Issue 39

J.D. Irving Ltd., Maine’s largest landowner with 1.25 million acres of forestland, has been exempted from some clear-cutting regulations and harvesting standards of the Forest Practices Act after signing a five-year agreement with State forestry officials.

The agreement was made on May 2012, but only became public this month after Maine Forest Service submitted a report to state lawmakers on Outcome Based Forestry, an experimental tree harvesting program.

J.D. Irving’s deal allows the company to clear-cut 250 individual acres without state approval.

With major landowners agreements being mostly confidential and regulations been overseen by a panel appointed by Gov. Paul LePage, environmental groups say 10 million acres of certified forestland could be endangered.

State officials counter that the panel of experts will review the scientific rationale for each harvest and the aesthetic impact of each cut beforehand.

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Personal stories at health-care rally show peoples’ lives are at risk without federal ACA funds

January 8th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Community Maine, Health Care, Healthy Lifestyles, Issue 39

More than 200 Mainers, including many who have been personally affected by the state’s failure to accept federal funding to expand-health care coverage, gathered at the Statehouse for a rally and lobby day organized by the Maine People’s Alliance.

“As a nurse, many of the patients I see every day wait until they are so sick that we can’t help them the way that we should, and their health deteriorates even more,” said Jessie Mellott, from Bangor. “They lose limbs. They may never get back to their previous health due to lack of access to care. A lot of the time, these are easy things to fix, if they were addressed in time. I urge the Legislature to help me care for my patients and take the important step of expanding Medicaid services for 70,000 Maine people.”

1551523_692942216227_1157551165_nAttendees urged legislators returning to Augusta for the first day of the new legislative session to make accepting federal funds and expanding health care their top priority.

One of the personal stories highlighted was that of Richard Holt, a lobsterman and carpenter living in South Portland, who describes himself as a “Downeast Yankee Republican.” Currently building a new boat by hand, he has refused to take a tax exemption on his materials because of his belief that “you have to carry your own weight.” Recurring injuries and disability, however, have made it difficult for Holt to work and to afford to keep his home. He has relied on MaineCare to keep him going, but on December 31st he lost his coverage.

“Without MaineCare, my injuries will just keep getting worse and worse. I’ll just keep going until I can’t go anymore, and then they’ll throw you to the wolves, I guess,” said Holt. “I need it to make sure I can stay healthy enough to keep working for at least another four years before I qualify for Medicare.”

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LePage attempts to brand recipients of EBT food stamps as negligent citizens

January 7th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Issue 39

The vast majority of those who accept assistance from state and/or federal programs are people who had a bad turn in life and just need society believing in and supporting them temporarily. They don’t want to have to live off the State, they are forced to because they need the essentials. The impact that an uncaring society has on the economy is hard to calculate, but it certainly damages our image not to mention the soul of our state to stand by and do nothing to help.

Without programs like Social Security, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and low-income tax credits, the poverty rate would rise to nearly 30 percent. According to the Census data, SNAP, (or food stamps, which are the EBT cards) cuts the poverty rate by 1.6 points.

image001Today Governor Paul LePage sent out a press release that attempted to brand recipients of EBT benefits as negligent citizens.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports that there are 50,000 EBT transactions per month or 1.2 million transactions in the two year period reviewed by the Governor’s office. The 3,701 questionable transactions identified by the LePage administration account for 0.31 percent of the total transactions during that period. The .31 percent LePage is trying to make headlines over is minuscule compared to the honest sector of EBT recipients. Breaking the law can be remedied by legal action.

“No one wants to see funds meant for struggling families abused. If this list is verified, it’s time to take action,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “The question for the governor is will he prosecute or politicize it? Democrats will continue to support good-faith efforts to crack down on fraud and abuse.”

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Portland’s prescription drug imports may show the way

January 6th, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Health Care, Healthy Lifestyles, Issue 39

Maine is the first state to allow prescription drug imports from other countries, which has saved people needed funds but has angered the prescription drug companies. Litigation is underway. While some people are worried about the safety of the drugs, others point out that the Portland program (run by CanaRx) has only had two complaints since it started back in 2004.

As Maine shippers don’t ship temperature-sensitive drugs, like insulin, the process appears safe. For years the elderly and those in need of generic drug brands have crossed Maine’s boarder to Canada. Dirigo Health helped people with prescriptions as the Affordable Care Act is doing now that the “donut whole” has been fixed. However, the costs are still high depending on the prescription.

One economist in a Wall Street Journal article said, “Americans have crossed the Canadian border for cheaper meds since the 1950s, if not before — if safety was a primary issue, it likely would have collapsed as a process by now.”

The Portland City’s program has saved the city and it’s workers needed funds. If this program is expanded to other states, it could seriously affect big drug corporations and allow U.S. citizens to get prescription drugs cheaper. This story was highlighted by a PBS documentary.


Kennebec Valley Community College to hold solar photovoltaic code workshop

January 6th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Education, Energy Issues, Issue 39, Maine's green energy potential

ReVision Energy workers installing solar panels on the Alfond arena, at Thomas College.

In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the International Association of Electrical Inspectors, Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) will offer a unique one-day workshop for Maine code officials and photovoltaic (PV) design and installation professionals on Jan. 21 at its Fairfield campus.

The one-day Solar PV Workshop for Maine Code Officials will focus on electrical, building, and fire safety codes and how they apply to PV systems. This workshop will benefit not only the code officials who permit and inspect PV systems, but also the professionals who design and install PV systems who would like a deeper understanding of PV code requirements.

Solar PV installations have increased exponentially in the last five years as prices for the technology have fallen precipitously. Because this technology is advancing so rapidly, there is a great need for training on inspecting solar systems to ensure they meet life safety code requirements.

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