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  • Collins support of the Senate tax bill is a betrayal of veterans

    December 11, 2017

    Editorial by Alex Luck, who served in the U.S. Army’s infantry, both as a noncommissioned and commissioned officers, from 1967 to 1990. He now resides in Southwest Harbor.

    As a Mainer, I’ve always appreciated Sen. Susan Collins’ independent streak and willingness to listen to other viewpoints. I hope she’s listening now. As a veteran, it pains me to see just how badly the Republican tax bill that the Senate just passed will hurt my fellow veterans.

    What’s worse, I’m heartbroken to see Collins vote for this bill that punishes veterans and threatens millions of families’ health and well-being by dismantling a key part of the Affordable Care Act. I’d expect such cruelty from the far-right fringe.

    I’m shocked to see Collins go along with it.

    First, we need to examine just how badly this tax package hurts veterans. By 2027, the Senate bill raises taxes on the majority of families earning less than $75,000 per year. The median income for a veteran is just half that, meaning the bill will punish many veterans’ families with a higher tax burden.

    With more than 127,000 veterans in Maine, that’s a high cost. Billionaires, however, see a huge windfall, paid for by the higher taxes on veterans and other American families. And what do our children inherit? A deficit that is estimated to explode by another $1.4 trillion.

    Provisions in the House version of the bill that may make their way into the final bill include the elimination of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which encourages businesses to hire veterans. Hundreds of thousands of veterans have found work because of this tax credit, and repealing them will result in fewer veterans finding jobs.

    The House bill would also eliminate the Disabled Access Tax Credit, a credit that helps small businesses comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which ensures that the nearly 32,000 disabled veterans in Maine can live in a safe, inclusive and accessible environment.

    But perhaps nothing is more odious than the bill’s repeal of a key part of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate — a move that would explode the number of uninsured by 13 million people by 2025 and increase health insurance premiums by 10 percent, or about $2,300 per family in Maine. Hundreds of thousands of veterans gained insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. Gutting the Affordable Care Act would take an extremely heavy toll on veterans in the Pine Tree State.

    Collins is indicating that she would be OK with that if two other pieces of legislation, the Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson bills, are passed along with the tax bill. But inclusion of these plans would not mitigate the damage caused by gutting the Affordable Care Act in this budget bill.

    Collins-Nelson would add funds to stabilize markets for the next two years, to stem the damage caused by Trump’s previous sabotage of the program. In short, it would not do anything beyond 2019. And while it could help an estimated 1 million people gain insurance, that hardly makes a dent in the 13 million who will become uninsured by 2027 because of the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax bill.

    And while Collins points to the $10 billion that her plan spends to stabilize the Affordable Care Act market over the next two years, it’s next to nothing when you consider that repealing the individual mandate would reduce federal health care spending by $320 billion.

    So what are we left with?

    Collins already voted yes on a bill that pummels veterans to pay for billionaire tax cuts. On top of it, she’s willing to consign millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured, including thousands upon thousands of veterans, as part of that same bill.

    I have to believe Collins is under great pressure from President Donald Trump and doesn’t want to become a target of his ire. I understand that, and I know Trump can be a bully. But, I’m hopeful that if the bill comes back to the Senate, the Collins I know will stand up to that bullying and say, “No, Mr. President, I will not vote for this bill that hurts Maine’s veterans so badly.”

    Collins, please don’t let us down. Don’t vote for this anti-veteran, anti-Maine tax scam. She is better than that.

  • Maine's Susan Collins and the Duping of Centrists

    By David Leonhardt, December 10, 2017 in the New York Times

    Susan Collins is often called one of the last centrists. She is a classic New England Republican, a senator who mostly votes with her party but is willing to buck it.

    A couple of weeks ago, Collins made a classic Collins deal. It tried to split the difference between Democratic and Republican positions.

    But it sure looks like a bum deal now. It also looks like a cautionary tale for anyone who wants to occupy the political center during the age of Donald Trump and a radicalized Republican Party.

    Here’s the back story: Collins said that she would vote for the recent Senate tax bill so long as Republicans leaders promised to pass other legislation — in the near future — that would reduce the bill’s knock-on damage to health care programs.

    She laid out three conditions. She wanted her colleagues to pass two separate bills that would shore up insurance markets for people who weren’t covered through their job. And she wanted congressional leaders to promise to undo the Medicare and Medicaid cuts automatically triggered by the deficit increase from the tax cut.

    Her colleagues assured her they would pass the bills she wanted — not immediately but soon after the tax bill had passed. Collins decided that was good enough, and on Dec. 2, she became one of 51 yes votes on the tax bill.

    When Collins describes her deal, she makes it sound both ironclad — her word — and substantial. She has spoken of a personal commitment from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. And she’s emphasized that the deal isn’t merely for show. It will, she insists, protect Medicaid and Medicare — two programs particularly important to Mainers, given the state’s large elderly population.

    “I also got an ironclad commitment that we’re not going to see cuts in the Medicaid/Medicare program as a result of this bill,” Collins said on “Meet the Press.”

    But some of Collins’s fellow Republicans evidently have a different definition of ironclad.

    Within days of the Senate vote on the tax bill, conservative House Republicans started saying that they didn’t care about her deal. She did not make it with them, and they do not feel bound by it as they negotiate the bill’s final language with the Senate. These House members, as Politico put it Friday, have decided to “thumb their nose” at Collins.

    Meanwhile, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has been undermining Collins in his own way. He has made clear that he will use the new deficits created by the tax bill to justify the very thing Collins opposes: Medicare and Medicaid cuts. Those programs, Ryan told a talk-radio host, are “really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.” Cutting them is a top priority for 2018.

    If anything, Ryan’s snub is more significant. House conservatives might still fold and approve the narrow deal that Collins thought she had. But Republicans will not permit the more meaningful promise she’s made — that the tax bill won’t lead to health care cuts. Tax cuts and health care cuts are inexorably bound.

    So in exchange for her vote, Collins received, at best, a cosmetic fix that she will have to pretend is something more.

    What was her mistake? It was both tactical and strategic.

    The tactical error was to fritter her moment of leverage, when the Senate bill’s fate was uncertain and she had the potential to influence other swing senators. Instead of demanding something real, she accepted vague promises.

    She can still vote against the version of the bill that emerges from House-Senate negotiations, but she doesn’t have the sway she did before. Senators usually don’t switch their vote at this stage, and the tax bill will pass without her if no other Republican flips (with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.)

    Her strategic error is the one that holds lessons for other would-be centrists. Namely, she defined the political center in relative terms rather than substantive terms. Republican leaders — not just Trump, but McConnell and Ryan too — have moved sharply to the right. They are rushing through a bill without the normal procedures. They are making verifiably false claims about it. And they have decided that taking health insurance away from Americans is a core Republican principle.

    Collins made the mistake of chasing after an impossible deal. She wanted to position herself between the two political parties, and she wanted to protect Medicare and Medicaid. When it proved impossible to do both, she claimed otherwise — and put a higher priority on politics than policy.

    In Trump’s Washington, other centrist Republicans are going to face a version of her dilemma, again and again. They are going to have decide which matters more to them: being a loyal Republican or being an actual centrist.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/10/opinion/susan-collins-healthcare-centrists.html

  • Attorney General Janet Mills joins lawsuit against Trump EPA for failing to meet Clean Air Act requirements

    12/07/2017

    By Ramona du Houx Attorney General Janet Mills has joined 14 attorneys general in suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to meet Clean Air Act deadlines.
    According to the American Lung Association there are nearly 25,000 children and 120,000 adults in Maine with asthma. If we don't meet Clean Air standards that number will surely rise, along with other deseases and health concerns.

    "The EPA's failure to act is putting the health of thousands of Maine children and seniors at risk," said Attorney General Mills. "I will continue to hold the EPA's feet to the fire to protect Maine people from the effects of pollution."

    In October 2015, the EPA revised and strengthened the national air quality standards for smog. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to designate areas of the country that are in "attainment" or "non-attainment" with these public health and welfare standards. In this case the EPA was required to issue these designations by October 1, 2017. 

    In June, the EPA announced it would delay making the required designations. In August, Attorney General Mills and other attorneys general sued the EPA for illegally delaying the designations that show what areas of the country are meeting the Clean Air Act standards and which are not. The day after the lawsuit was filed the EPA announced they would not delay making the designations 

    The EPA's own studies demonstrate that pollution from states upwind of Maine contributes substantially to the state's unhealthy ozone levels. The designation of areas with unhealthy levels of pollution plays a key role under the Clean Air Act in triggering requirements for state-specific plans and deadlines to reduce pollution in the designated areas. Maine has been meeting these standards for over a decade. If the states upwind of Maine are not required to meet pollution standards, air quality in Maine could decline. 

    Implementing the 2015 updated smog standards will improve public health for children, older adults, and people of all ages who have lung diseases like asthma, and people who are active outdoors, especially outdoor workers. 

    In fact, the EPA conservatively estimated that meeting the smog standards would result in net annual public health savings of up to $4.5 billion starting in 2025 (not including California), while also preventing approximately:

    · 316 to 660 premature deaths;

    · 230,000 asthma attacks in children;

    · 160,000 missed school days;

    · 28,000 missed work days;

    · 630 asthma-related emergency room visits; and

    · 340 cases of acute bronchitis in children. Smog forms when nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide emitted from power plants, motor vehicles, factories, refineries, and other sources react under suitable conditions. Because these reactions occur in the atmosphere, smog can form far from where its precursor gases are emitted and, once formed, smog can travel far distances. Despite enacting stringent in-state controls on sources of these pollutants, many states are not able to meet federal health-based air quality standards for smog. 
  • Defying Collins’ So-Called Deal, Speaker Paul Ryan Declares Congressional Republicans Will Cut Medicare

    By Ramona du Houx

    Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan and other Congressional members appear to be looking to throw into doubt another one of the agreements Senator Susan Collins struck in exchange for her vote on tax reform.

    In a radio appearance yesterday, Speaker Ryan said that Congressional Republicans next year will be looking to cut Medicare and Medicaid in order to reign in the deficit - a move that immediately follows Republicans ramming through a massive tax cut for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations that is projected to increase the deficit by more than $1 trillion. 

    “We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show"... Frankly, it's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that's really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.” 

    Speaker Ryan’s statement flies directly in the face of the spirit of an agreement that Senator Susan Collins reached with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in which he stated that the tax bill would not lead to triggered cuts in Medicare.

    “I have a personal commitment that that will not occur and that has been discussed with Paul Ryan on the House side,” Collins told reporters, according to a report in The Hill. “If it were to occur, I wouldn’t even be considering voting for this bill.”

    While Collins’ agreement focused on Medicare cuts triggered under a Congressional “pay-as-you-go” rule, it’s clear that Republicans are intent upon using the ballooning deficit they are creating through their tax scam as an excuse to slash Medicare – a move Senator Collins should be deeply concerned about.

    “You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn't the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” said US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida  last week.

    “We're spending ourselves into bankruptcy,” said US Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. “Now, let's just be honest about it: We're in trouble. This country is in deep debt. You don't help the poor by not solving the problems of debt, and you don't help the poor by continually pushing more and more liberal programs through.”

    “Senator Collins never should have voted for this damaging, corporation-enriching tax scam in the first place. Now Republicans are making it crystal clear they intend to use the deficit they are creating as justification to cut programs that seniors, disabled, and low-income Mainers rely on  making their bad bill even worse for hardworking Maine families," said Maine Democratic Party Head, Phil Bartlett.

    "It's time for Senator Collins to stand up for the people she represents and say enough is enough. The stakes are simply too high for Senator Collins to continue defending a tax bill that’s going to mostly benefit the wealthy while hurting so many people across our state. We urge her to withdraw her support for this bill."

    Speaker Ryan’s statement comes as he and other House Republicans have thrown cold water on the other deals Senator Collins has reached with Senator McConnell, including one to pass stabilization and reinsurance bills that she has questionably claimed would mitigate the impact of the repeal of the individual mandate.

    • According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 23 percent of the state's population rely on Medicare and Medicaid for their health insurance.
    • Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and for certain younger people with disabilities.
    • Medicaid provides health and long-term care coverage to low-income pregnant women, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities in the United States.
    • Medicaid is also a major source of funding for hospitals, community health centers, physicians, and nursing homes.

    Looks like Collins' deal is nothing but false promises from Congressional leaders. Urge her to vote against the bill and call her office.

  • Workers and Seniors Arrested In Senator Collins office Demanding She Oppose Massive Tax Giveaway to the Wealthy

    By Ramona du Houx

    Five Maine workers and seniors sat in Senator Susan Collins’ Bangor office on Monday December 4, 2017 demanding Senator Collins oppose the massive tax giveaway to the wealthy. Praticing thier right to protest these peaceful citizens stood up for the rights of millions across the country today, and many in Maine thank them. The cause was something they thought worthy enough for to go to jail.

    “As a nurse, this bill takes healthcare away from thousands of my patients, threatens Medicare and will raise premiums for most Mainers,” said Erin Oberson, a nurse from Old Town. “This is a raw deal for working people.  Senator Collins should do right by Maine and oppose this bill.”

    Jim Betts, a retired State worker and veteran, said, “My wife and I worked our entire lives. We rely on Medicare for health coverage. This bill puts Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block and threatens the healthcare of Maine seniors.”

    “This bill gives massive tax cuts to the rich on the backs of working people.  It was written by the rich and powerful for the rich and powerful,” said Nick Paquet, an electrician from Benton.  “Senator Collins knows right from wrong and this bill is dead wrong for Maine.”

    Tina Davidson, a disability rights advocate and veteran, added, “Senator Collins needs to listen to ordinary Mainers. As someone with a disability this bill makes me extremely vulnerable and threatens all people with disabilities.  It will hurt millions of Americans.  We can do better and we all deserve better.” 

    The Republican tax plan gives massive tax cuts to the wealthiest and big corporations; takes healthcare away from thousands of Mainers and raises premium on thousands more, and would deepen student debt. The bill makes deep cuts to Medicare; lays the groundwork for future cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, and facilitates the outsourcing of Maine jobs overseas.

  • Lawmakers will consider bill to boost job training, treatment programs for Maine inmates

    By Ramona du Houx

    A measure to expand treatment, education and work programs offered to inmates by the Maine Department of Corrections earned support from legislative leaders on November 30, 2017.

    “This is not only a public safety bill, but also one that will bring significant cost savings to the system. Investing in reducing the likelihood of re-offense once former inmates return to our communities is the best use of available resources and good stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, former head of Maine's NAACP and the bill’s sponsor. “This is an evidence-based approach that holds offenders accountable and advances a more rehabilitative, restorative correctional system.”

    State and federal incarceration rates in the U.S. rose dramatically between 1973 and 2009, a trend that has failed to control crime and caused serious consequences for those imprisoned as well as their families and communities, according to the National Research Council.

    The measure now faces consideration by the full Legislature when it reconvenes January 3, 2017.

    During even-numbered years, the Legislature generally limits bill submissions to those that address emergencies and other pressing situations. The Legislative Council, which is made up of each party’s leaders in the Maine House and Senate, decides which bills fit the criteria. 

    Talbot Ross is serving her first term in the Maine House. A member of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, she represents part of Portland, including the neighborhoods of Parkside, Bayside, East Bayside, Oakdale and the University of Southern Maine campus.

  • Dunlap: I’m on Trump’s voter fraud commission and I have to sue to find out what it’s doing

    Why is a presidential advisory panel on elections operating in such secrecy? Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap filed a lawsuit against the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to stop the practice.

    On Nov. 9, I filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington, seeking to obtain the working documents, correspondence and schedule of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. What’s remarkable about my lawsuit is that I’m a member of the commission, and apparently this is the only way I can find out what we’re doing.

    The commission was formed in May to answer monster-under-the-bed questions about “voter fraud,” but the implicit rationale for its creation appears to be to substantiate President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that up to 5 million people voted illegally in 2016.

    Chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, the commission has the chance to answer questions about potential fraud and to highlight best practices to enhance voter confidence in our election systems. Yet it isn’t doing that. Instead, the commission is cloaking itself in secrecy, completely contrary to federal law. Recommendations for changes in public policy – whether you agree with them or not – ought to come through an open, public discussion where any American can weigh in.

    As the secretary of state in Maine, I was asked to serve on this 12-member commission by Pence’s office. Although I’m a Democrat, I accepted because I believed that membership would allow me to defend the election process from a position of authority, as a fully informed and engaged participant in the president’s review.

    The commission has met just twice, but it’s made some waves anyway. Even before we first convened, a June 28 memo signed by commission Vice Chairman Kris Kobach to the chief elections officers of all 50 states, requesting detailed voter information, was met with fury; the Mississippi secretary of state, Republican Delbert Hosemann, invited the commission to “jump in the Gulf of Mexico,” one of many colorful responses. Perhaps more striking is that the memo wasn’t written by staff – it was written by individuals who were later named to the commission but who were working outside of government at the time.

    The letter went out immediately after our first conference call, indicating that Kobach’s data-gathering effort was underway before the commission formed. But no one told members of the commission that; I learned about it from the press.

    At our first meeting, at the White House complex in July, Trump made clear his motivation for convening the commission: “This issue is very important to me because, throughout the campaign and even after it, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities, which they saw. In some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.”

    The second meeting, held in New Hampshire in September, was electrified by unsubstantiated charges of rampant voter fraud in that state leveled by Kobach, a longtime proponent of the theory that voter fraud is a pressing danger, who also serves as Kansas secretary of state. Strangely, his charges had less to do with how voters in New Hampshire had conducted themselves than with the structure of the state’s election laws, which Kobach apparently dislikes. But neither the agenda for that meeting nor the list of witnesses invited to speak was vetted by the commission as a whole before the public session – it just appeared.

    I’ve served on many boards and commissions in my nearly 20 years in politics. I’ve never seen a session where members only learned about what would happen in a meeting when the agenda became public.

    Since that meeting, there has been total silence from the leaders and staff of the commission about work happening behind the scenes. After repeated instances of learning about the commission’s activities only because reporters asked me about them, I sent a letter to Executive Director Andrew Kossack on Oct. 17 asking for information – including communications between the commissioners and federal agencies – about what the body I’m supposed to be a part of is doing.

    My request was simple: “I am seeking information because I lack it; I am asking questions because I do not know the answers. I am a keen observer of the public discourse, and it has been made manifestly clear that there is information about this commission being created and shared among a number of parties, though apparently not universally. Thus, I am in a position where I feel compelled to inquire after the work of the Commission upon which I am sworn to serve, and am yet completely uninformed as to its activities.”

    More than a week later, on Oct. 25, I received the following reply: “I am consulting with counsel regarding a response to your request to ensure any response accords with all applicable law.”

    That same day, I was forwarded a fundraising email from the conservative Minnesota Voters Alliance touting its invitation to present at our December meeting – the first I had heard that such a meeting was even being contemplated, much less scheduled. When I asked Kossack about our future meetings, he replied that no meeting was scheduled for December. I have yet to hear anything further

    Our itinerary isn’t the only thing I can’t get clear information about. More than a month ago, The Washington Post reported on the arrest in Maryland of a researcher for the commission on charges of possession of child pornography. I can’t get answers about the disposition of the case: Is this researcher still employed by the commission? Has he been placed on leave? Has he resigned? I have no idea, as I have not received a response to my query to the commission.

    The commission was established by executive order under the auspices of the Federal Advisory Commission Act (FACA), which requires notice of our public meetings, disclosure of our work product and the opportunity for public participation. FACA was written precisely so Americans would know what the government is doing and what it is considering, so we could participate in that process.

    One of the agencies that some commissioners have been reportedly working with is the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the implementation of the Real ID Act and has designated state election systems as “critical infrastructure.” DHS may decide to enter the field of elections management, under the ubiquitous mantle of “national security.”

    Without transparency about the commission’s actions, how can you find out if a policy is being developed that may require you to have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license to vote? Or whether you’ll have to prove American citizenship at the polls? How will you know about changes under consideration to voter registration deadlines or new restrictions on absentee balloting?

    Of course, this is politics. But remember, we as American citizens are supposed to own the process. The desire to prevail in an election campaign has led to some sad episodes of voter intimidation and suppression in our country’s history. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity should endeavor to challenge those fears and answer them, not add to them.

  • Maine State Rep. Blume bill to make all new toll booths electronic approved on appeal

     A bill proposed by Rep. Lydia Blume, D-York, to require the Maine Turnpike Authority, or MTA, to use all electronic toll collection technology, or AET, at new and rebuilt toll facilities, was approved for consideration during the next legislative session by the Legislative Council Thursday.

    “I am thrilled that the public and the Legislature will have a chance to weigh-in on this very important issue,” Blume said. “AET is the best current toll technology and other states are adopting it. We must adopt it to let all who drive on the turnpike travel as safely and efficiently as possible.”

    The bill, An Act to Increase Safety, Ensure Efficiency and Improve Traffic Flow on the Maine Turnpike by Requiring All Electronic Toll Collection, would eventually make high-speed, drive-through toll collection the norm at all toll facilities in Maine. A growing number of states are moving to eliminate traditional, manned toll plazas in favor of all-electronic systems, including Massachusetts, which eliminated cash-taking altogether on the Massachusetts Turnpike last year. New Hampshire has a similar bill pending in their Legislature.  

    “The experience of other states using AET has shown that it is safer, has less impact on the environment and it is less expensive to build and operate than traditional toll facilities,” Blume said.

    During even-numbered years, the Legislature limits bill submissions to those that address emergencies and other pressing situations. The Legislative Council, which is made up of each party’s leaders in the Maine House and Senate, decides which bills fit the criteria. 

    The bill was deemed an emergency because the MTA is planning to build a new facility in York without fully incorporating AET. The bill will be considered by the full Legislature when they reconvene in January.

    Blume is serving her second term in the House and represents the coastal part of York.  She serves on the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee and the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee.

  • Maine State Opioid Task Force Completes Work

    Pending recommendations to be presented to full Legislature in early December 

    by Ramona du Houx

    Maine’s Task Force to Address the Opioid Crisis in the State concluded its work Tuesday, preparing to deliver its recommendations for combating the drug crisis by December 6, 2017 to the full Legislature for action.

    “Every day we hesitate literally means the death of another Mainer,” said House chair of the Task Force Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell. “From infants born drug-affected to jail cells filled with our neighbors in need of treatment, the statewide epidemic requires that we take action.  Every aspect of Maine’s economy, community safety and family stability will continue to suffer if we do not make progress on increasing prevention efforts, expanding access to effective, affordable treatment, and addressing the underlying poverty and inequality that have delivered this crisis.”

    The objective of the 19-member Task Force is for lawmakers and community experts to report back to the Legislature any recommendations, including legislation, that would assist with statewide efforts to combat the opioid crisis. 

    The Task Force will be compiling its recommendations, which have not yet been released, for legislation in the areas of law enforcement, prevention and harm reduction, and treatment and recovery. As a Legislative Task Force, any recommendations in the form of legislation are required to be referred to committees for additional action prior to appearing before the House and Senate. 

    “The legislature has the opportunity to act decisively to combat this emergency.  We cannot ignore its impact or disregard the underlying causes or the lack of access to needed treatment.  Expecting people to pull themselves up by their boot straps just isn’t working.  This is a complex problem requiring broad-based solutions,” added Rep. McCreight. “It’s time to recognize the extreme cost of this crisis, which can be measured in lives lost, families torn apart, a workforce gutted and an economy held back. It’s time to take action to help our neighbors get the help they need.”

    In a revised interim report delivered May 15, 2017, the Task Force identified the current state of the drug crisis in Maine and analyzed treatment options, law enforcement challenges and other topics directly related to the opiate epidemic.

    According to the Maine Attorney General’s office, 185 Mainers died of a drug overdose in the first six months of this year. In 2016, the total number of deaths was 376.

    McCreight, a member of the Legislature’s Judiciary and Health and Human Services Committees, is serving her second term in the Maine House. She represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick.

     

  • Mayors' Coalition Urges Maine's Congressional Delegation to Retain the State and Local Tax (SALT) and Historic Tax Credit Deductions

    The developers, Tom Niemann and Paul Burgosian, of the Hathaway Center in Waterville took a discarded shirt factory and transformed it, using the Historic Tax Credits and state tax incentives. Hundreds of people now work at the center the tax credit is transforming downtowns across Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    The Mayors’ Coalition on Jobs and Economic Development has asked Maine's Congressional Delegation to oppose any tax reform package that eliminates or reduces the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction or the Historic Tax Credit. 

    Since 2008 the Historic Tax Credit has yielded 5,180 jobs in Maine and generated $42,2 Million in revenue. The credit has also been a catalyst to revitalizing many of Maine’s historic downtowns, like the Hathaway Center in Waterville.

    "The Historic Tax Credit must not get lost in the tax reform discussions," urged Alan Casavant, Mayor of Biddeford. "Saco and Biddeford are growing today thanks in large part to the redevelopment of our old mill buildings. That would not have been possible without the Historic Tax Credit." Eliminating the Historic Tax Credit is especially short-sighted because it returns more revenue to the Treasury than it costs. The return is $1.20-$1.25 for every $1 of credit according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation (savingplaces.org).

    The legislation that recently emerged from the House of Representatives would cap SALT deductions at $10,000 for property taxes only and eliminate the Historic Tax Credit. On November 28, 2017 the Senate Budget Committee approved a package that would eliminate the SALT deduction entirely.

    "The SALT deduction is an essential part of good tax policy," said David Rollins, Mayor of Augusta. "No Maine resident should pay federal tax on income that has already been paid to state or municipal government. SALT has been part of federal tax policy since 1913." Nearly 180,000 Maine households currently take advantage of SALT, with total income deductions of over $2 billion (source: National Association of Counties, www.naco.org).

    "Eliminating SALT will be an immediate tax increase on thousands of hard working Mainers," notes Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling. "Residents of service center communities will be especially hard hit because they are subject to higher municipal tax rates."

    "I am concerned that eliminating SALT will put local government services at risk while increasing the real cost of home ownership," new Belfast Mayor Sarah Paradis. "Belfast residents are clear that high property tax rates are their primary concern. Eliminating SALT will increase their taxes, further stretching limited household budgets."

    The Mayors’ Coalition on Jobs and Economic Development was formed in 2012. The Coalition includes the Mayors of ten Maine communities. The purpose of the Coalition is to advocate for state policies that will grow Maine’s economy statewide by providing the infrastructure, skilled workforce, and reasonable tax rates necessary to support such growth.

    The Coalition brings together the Mayors of Augusta, Bangor, Belfast, Biddeford, Lewiston, Portland, Saco, Sanford, and Westbrook. This is a bi-partisan group that represents municipalities with a combined population of more than 240,000.

     

     

  • Attorney General Mills joins multistate court brief opposing roll back of contraception coverage mandate

    Attorney General Janet Mills (photo left) joined a coalition of attorneys general in an amicus brief opposing the Trump Administration's roll back of the ACA contraception requirement.

    The amicus brief, filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, supports the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's lawsuit to stop the federal government from enforcing a new rule that would authorize virtually any employer with an objection to contraception to prevent employees and employees' dependents from having health insurance coverage for contraceptive services. 

    "This Trump administration's proposal is an attack on the health of women throughout our country," said Attorney General Mills. "It is an attack on the right to privacy to allow employers to interfere in the most personal decisions of their employees' lives." Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, most employers who provide health insurance coverage to their employees have been required to include coverage for contraception, at no cost to the employee. As a result of the ACA, more than 55 million women in the United States, including 253,000 women in Maine, have access to contraception without a co-pay, saving an average of $255 per year for oral pill contraceptives.

    For millions of women the ACA contraception coverage rule has reduced healthcare costs, helped address medical conditions and allowed them to make their own decisions about whether to have children. Before the contraception coverage rule, birth control accounted for 30-44% of a woman's out-of-pocket healthcare costs. 

    In the brief, the attorneys general argue that the new rule is unconstitutional because it allows the federal government to endorse certain religious or moral beliefs over a woman's right to make choices about her own health care.

    The attorneys general also argue that the proposed rule denies equal protection under the law by denying critical benefits to women, while leaving coverage for men unchanged. Additionally, they argue that the Trump administration is taking away the right to contraceptive coverage - a right that millions of women rely on - in violation of the ACA itself, and without an opportunity for public comment and without following legal procedures.

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