Entries Filed in 'News from Washington'
In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree urged the government to block a proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner. U.S. Rep.Pingree warned the proposed merger would lead to less competition and could result in higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.
“In the end, a merger between Comcast and Time Warner will lead to higher rates, less competition and a loss of innovation and choice in programming. In short, it will be bad for the American consumer and this merger should not be allowed to go through,” Pingree wrote in her letter.
Together, the two companies would serve more than a third of the US cable market and half of all “bundled” customers, who get internet, TV and telephone service all from one cable company. Pingree raised concerns about prices, service and the effects on a free and open Internet.
“Access to broadband should not be jeopardized by further market concentration in an entity that not only has a last-mile monopoly in large swaths of the country, but also control over must-have broadcast content,” she wrote in the letter.
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Tags: Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine·Corporation mergers·Economy·TIme-Comcast merger
Today, Congressman Mike Michaud announced that he will help lead an effort to urge President Obama to take action to prohibit workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Michaud and several of his colleagues have begun circulating a letter for signature by members of Congress urging the President to issue an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“In the absence of Congressional action, the President should follow the example of strong anti-discrimination laws in Maine and other states to ensure that no one in the federal workplace is discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.” said Michaud. “Executive action by the President would be a significant first step, but the House still needs to act to ensure workplace protections are available to all Americans. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to push for a vote on the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”
Maine already has strong protections for LGBT citizens. In 2005, Maine voters upheld a law passed by the legislature prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression with regard to employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations.
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Tags: Economy·Government transparency
Shenna Bellows, Maine’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, called on Republican Susan Collins and members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to release a 6,000-page torture report by the Senate Committee on Intelligence. The long-awaited report, which took nearly 4 years to complete, shines a light on the CIA’s controversial torture practices.
“Americans deserve to know the full extent of our country’s use of torture under the Bush administration,” said Bellows. “We need to properly address these mistakes of the past, so that history may never repeat itself. It’s time to end the secrecy and restore the rule of law.”
As the former Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, Bellows strongly advocated against the use of torture by both American intelligence agencies and the military. She has written many pieces on the subject of torture, and she led a successful campaign against solitary confinement, a form of torture, in Maine prisons. Bellows has also been a long-time advocate of the freedom of information, serving on Maine’s Freedom of Information Coalition and the Maine Right to Know Advisory Committee for several years.
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Tags: Civil Rights·Elections·Government transparency·Shenna Bellows
President Barack Obama said, “Our budget is about choices… It’s about our values. As a country, we’ve got to make a decision if we’re going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, or if we’re going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity for every American.”
It’s a roadmap for creating jobs with good wages and expanding opportunity for all Americans. And at a time when our deficits have been cut in half, it allows us to meet our obligations to future generations without leaving them a mountain of debt.
This budget adheres to the spending levels that both parties in both houses of Congress already agreed to. But it also builds on that progress with what we’re calling an Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative that invests in our economic priorities in a smart way that is fully paid for by making smart spending cuts and closing tax loopholes that right now only benefit the well-off and the well-connected…
The American people have made clear time and again which approach they prefer. That’s the approach that my budget offers. That’s why I’m going to fight for it this year and in the years to come as President.
Tags: President Barack Obama
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will allocate $32.8 million in disaster assistance to aid those impacted by difficult fishing conditions in the Northeast. In September 2012, the U.S. Commerce Department declared the Northeast Multispecies Groundfish Fishery a “commercial fishery disaster,” making it eligible for federal disaster assistance.
“This assistance is long overdue. Maine’s fishing industry continues to feel the pain of difficult stock conditions and strict annual catch limits. I’ve been proud to stand with the New England delegation to push for relief for those affected by a very difficult few years at sea,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “It is my hope that this assistance will quickly be distributed in a way that provides measurable relief to Maine fishermen, our fishing industry, and the communities that rely on them.”
In November, Michaud and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree joined members of Congress from states affected by five commercial fishery failures declared in 2012 and 2013 in urging appropriators to provide robust disaster assistance in a final FY2014 appropriations package. $75 million was included in the FY2014 omnibus spending bill that passed the House in January.
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Tags: Agriculture·Fish farming in Maine·Fishing in Maine
Congressman Mike Michaud signed a discharge petition to force the House to bring up and vote on legislation to raise the federal minimum wage. Michaud is a cosponsor of the bill, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 within two years. A discharge petition allows a majority of members to bypass the Speaker of the House and bring a bill to the floor for consideration.
“No one who works every day to pay the bills, take care of their family, and put food on the table should have to live in poverty. It’s time to raise the minimum wage so that hard-working Mainers can receive a living wage,” said Michaud. “It has been nearly seven years since a Republican President signed a minimum wage increase into law. It’s time for Congress to act to ensure that all American workers receive a fair and honest wage.”
The Fair Minimum Wage Act would raise the minimum wage to $8.20 an hour within three months of enactment. The wage would increase to $9.15 an hour within a year, and to $10.10 an hour within two years. A recent study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would generate $22 billion in increased economic activity.
Tags: Minimum wage increase
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree recently introduced legislation to assist families who are dealing with the loss or sudden disability of a loved one. The Student Loan Forgiveness Tax Repayment Act would make it less burdensome for these families to pay income taxes incurred when federal student loans are forgiven after death or disability.
Under the Higher Education Act, individuals and families can apply to have federal students loans forgiven if the recipient dies or becomes disabled to a high degree. However, the forgiven debt is taxed as income—for many families, this can add tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. Not only are the taxes due the year the debt is forgiven, but the additional income can often bump families into a higher tax bracket, meaning that it’s taxed at a higher rate.
“I’ve heard from several families who have found themselves in this situation, and it’s absolutely tragic. You’re dealing with the loss of a child or your spouse becomes disabled, then all of a sudden a tax bill for $30,000 pours salt on the wound. And if you can’t come up with that sum almost immediately, you incur interest and penalties,” said Pingree. “It’s just not right. Having these student loans forgiven should offer some relief to these families, not put them in a financial hole for years to come. This bill would help them spread out that tax bill over several years to make it easier for them to pay and allow them to cope with what’s already a challenging situation.”
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Tags: Chellie Pingree·Student loan tax forgiveness
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, of Maine’s 1st district, is asking for people to sign a petition to Attorney General Eric Holder to stop the Comcast-TIME Warner merger. To sign the petition go here.
TO: ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER
The proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner is not in the best interests of American consumers and threatens the free and open nature of the Internet. We urge you as Attorney General not to let this merger proceed.
Why is this important?
A merger of the two largest cable companies in the United States would be a bad deal for consumers, leading to less competition and likely higher prices for subscribers. And a combined Comcast-Time Warner would be in a position to slow or even block Internet traffic from content providers like Netflix or Hulu if the cable company decided they didn’t want the competition.
Subscribers are frustrated with the service and price of cable service, and almost no one thinks letting the two companies with the worst consumer satisfaction ratings in the industry would somehow magically make those problems go away.
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Tags: Chillie Pingree·Internet access being obstructed
In 2011 President Barack Obama announced new fuel-efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. These standards, which apply to vehicles in model years 2014 through 2018, are projected to save vehicle owners and operators $50 billion in fuel costs over the lifetimes of the vehicles covered.
On February 18, 2014 President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation to develop the next phase of fuel-efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks, steering us toward even greater efficiency.
Heavy-duty trucks only make up 4 percent of all vehicles on America’s highways, but they’re responsible for about 20 percent of our pollution and fuel consumption on the road. And because they carry about 70 percent of all domestic freight — everything from flat-screen TVs to diapers to produce — every mile gained in fuel efficiency is worth thousands of dollars of savings per truck each year.
Electric trains are more economical, don’t add to the carbon footprint and are safer. The President has a transportation proposal to increase this transport as well.