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  • Mainers testify against discriminatory hate bills targeting immigrants, refugees

    By Ramona du Houx

    Gathering for the hearings on May 26,2017, the hallways and waiting rooms became packed with concerned citizens who came to defend their neighbors and to stand up for their communities.

    House Judiciary Chair Matt Moonen of Portland forcefully denounced a series of prejudicial bills targeting immigrants and refugees that drew so many to Augusta.

    Two hours into the first bill’s public hearing, already over a dozen Mainers had testified in fierce opposition. The public hearings required two overflow rooms to accommodate those wishing to testify.

    The bills, sponsored by Republican Larry Lockman of Amherst, were also rejected by dozens of Mainers who attended public hearings to testify against the bills.

    “This is not the first time Representative Lockman has tried to enshrine in law his hatred of immigrants, or as he calls our neighbors, ‘aliens’,” said Rep. Moonen. “Beyond the fact that we’re debating the future of human beings, immigrants have always strengthened Maine. That’s as true today as it has been for the last 200 years. The Legislature should swiftly reject these bills.”

    • LD 366 “An Act To Ensure Compliance with Federal Immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities” seeks to prohibit restricting the enforcement of federal immigration law. Maine is already in full compliance with federal immigration law.
    • LD 1099 “Resolve, To Require the State To Bring Suit against the Federal Government for Failure To Comply with the Federal Refugee Act of 1980” directs the Attorney General to sue the Federal Government for failure to comply with the federal Refugee Act of 1980. The federal Refugee Act of 1980 contains provisions requiring consultation between the federal government and states regarding the placement of refugees.
    • LD 847 “An Act To Hold Refugee Resettlement Agencies Accountable to Maine People” targets the tax status of refugee resettlement agencies, such as Catholic Charities, and seeks to make them liable in the event of any terrorist acts committed by refugees in Maine.

    Throughout the state immigrants are helping to grow Maine’s economy — which means growing jobs — while enriching their communities.

     Many new businesses immigrant businesses are doing well in Lewiston/Auburn invigorating the local economy and bringing diversity to the area. In Lewiston Somali immigrants who attended the local high school brought the community together when they helped train and win the state championship.

    Portland has the largest concentration of immigrants — approximately 11,000 representing over 80 nationalities. Recent immigrants, especially in the Portland region, are young and well educated. In addition, they are likely to pursue higher education and possibly launch their own businesses.

    Immigrants only represent 3.5 percent of Maine’s population, according to a U.S. Census Bureau, while 13.1 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born.

    Instead of placing more restrictions on our immigrant populations community organizations want to encourage and help them integrate, as well as invite more to the state.

    A report released in September of 2016, commissioned by the Maine Development Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the fact that the state’s aging population has created a smaller workforce which has restricted economic growth because employers can’t fill their vacant jobs once they retire. This problem will grow as more and more workers reach retirement age, while younger Mainers continue to leave the state.

    It’s a huge problem — Maine is facing now. That’s way the MDF and MSCC called for setting a statewide goal to attract more immigrants to Maine, and to expand efforts to help them integrate into society and the workplace.

     Each bill will face work sessions in the Judiciary Committee before moving to the full House and Senate.

  • First Amendment Coalition opposes ME legislation that would delay release of public records

     
    APRIL 24 LETTER
    The New England First Amendment Coalition recently opposed Maine legislation that would cause unnecessary delays to the release of public records. 

    The legislation, L.D. 1432, allows an agency or official to "require payment of all costs before the public record is provided to the requester" under the state's Freedom of Access Act

    If L.D. 1432 were to become law, NEFAC explained, inexpensive and routine documents could be withheld for the sake of the relatively low fees collected in return, creating "a system ripe for obfuscation and needless delay." 

    The coalition submitted written testimony April 24 to the state's Committee on the Judiciary, which is currently considering the legislation. The testimony was provided on behalf of NEFAC by Maine attorney and coalition board member Sigmund Schutz and Justin Silverman, NEFAC's executive director.

    "L.D. 1432 will discourage public records requests under FOAA and cause unnecessary delay by state agencies and local municipalities," they wrote. "Worse, the law would violate the spirit of FOAA by making it more difficult for Maine citizens to monitor their government."
     
    As explained in the letter, the concern L.D. 1432 seeks to address - loss of money from unpaid records requests - is already covered by the state's public records law:

    L.D. 1432 would allow a custodian to require advance payment for all costs of producing a record - no matter how small - before that record is provided. While this may seem like a practical way for agencies to recoup their costs and prevent non-payment of fees, there is already a sufficient safeguard for agency budgets: § 408-A (10). This provision of FOAA allows custodians to require advance payment for requests made by individuals who have previously failed to pay a fee or are requesting records that will cost more than $100 to produce. Under § 408-A (10), advance payment can be required even before any time is expended on the search and retrieval process.

    The coalition outlined several scenarios under which the legislation could lead to excessive delays, including when a fee dispute arises between the custodian and requester. Rather than releasing the reports in expectation of future payment, the custodian in this example could instead use the new law to withhold all documents until a court adjudicates the conflict and payment is made. The public interest in those reports would meanwhile dissipate in the delay.

    The legislation also conflicts with the spirit of FOAA, the coalition testified, and would ultimately cost more to the public's right to know than whatever financial savings may occur. 

    "The intent of FOAA is to open government records to public view so Maine residents can better oversee the work being done on their behalf," according to the coalition. "The law should facilitate the flow of information not allow basic low-cost record requests to bottleneck while payment is pending."
  • Family care bill would modernize ME child care, elderly services system

    Editorial by Lori Moses is executive director of Catherine Morrill Day Nursery in Portland

    As the director of a licensed child care facility in Portland, I know first-hand that our existing child care system is fundamentally flawed. The ways our families live and work have changed dramatically over the past few decades, yet our caregiving policies are stuck in the 1950s.

    This is one of the reasons why so many families today are struggling in ways that their parents did not. While we once could rely on women’s unpaid labor at home to care for children, that is no longer the reality, as more women are in the workforce than ever before.

    Child care is the backbone of a healthy economy. Without it, many parents wouldn’t be able to work. Yet we are one of the few countries where child care is almost exclusively left up to the private market, and where the entire cost of child care is paid for by families. This has serious consequences for everyone involved, from families, to the owners and operators of child care facilities, to the child care professionals who keep them running.

    I know first-hand how difficult it can be for parents to afford quality child care. The private tuition for infants in my program is $15,236 a year, which is far out of reach for most residents of Maine. The state’s reimbursement rates for federal vouchers are about 20 percent lower than our private tuition, which is why so many child care providers can’t afford to accept them, resulting in limited access to child care for families who qualify for a voucher. My program is fortunate to have gap funding through various grants and contracts, or many of our families would not be able to access our program either.

    Ironically, even as most families cannot afford the cost of child care, providers like myself are faced with the slimmest of margins and can barely cover our own costs. While we do our best to pay fair wages to the child care professionals at our center, and are fortunate to be able to offer benefits for full-time work, the truth of the matter is that wages are still way too low.

    Essentially, the low wages of our child care staff subsidizes the entire child care system. This is a moral problem, in that those who care for others should be paid dignified wages, as well as a pragmatic one, as it makes it difficult to attract and retain qualified teachers. The high turnover in our field, especially in this tight labor market, isn’t good for workers, it isn’t good for families and certainly it isn’t good for the children.

    We are on an unsustainable path right now that benefits no one. Because of the high cost of care, many families are forced to make impossible choices between work and caring for their loved ones. Many Mainers end up leaving the workforce, losing income and affecting their future retirement security, as well as hurting our state’s economy. Some parents are forced to make child care choices in the informal, underground market that may actually do harm to the children. Clearly, our children are not our priority.

    It’s time we address this new reality and modernize our social safety net to meet the needs of families. It’s up to states like ours to lead the way.

    This is why I support the universal family care bill introduced by Rep. Drew Gattine, which would provide universal child care, support for stay-at-home parents and universal home care for seniors and people with disabilities. This would all be paid for by ensuring that the wealthiest of our residents contribute their fair share in taxes. It would also address the low wages currently being paid to child care and home care professionals by guaranteeing a living wage, which would go a long way toward attracting the workforce that our children and our seniors need and deserve.

    If we really want all of our children to reach their potential, we must find a different way to support them, their families and our economy. That solution for Maine is universal family care.

  • Adam Cote is in the race for ME Governor saying he'll bring new leadership and build a strong economy

     

    A decorated veteran Adam Cote first ran for office in 2008 against Chellie Pingree for Senate in democratic primary. He also served in Bosina negociating the peace. He runs a renewable energy business and has shown he can work with everyone, while keeping to his objectives. He's popular in the 1st and 2nd districts of Maine. That is major to win the Governor's race.

      Veteran, small businessman and renewable energy attorney Adam Cote released the following statement today after filing to run for Governor.  A formal campaign kick-off will come later this year. 

    “I was born and raised in Sanford, Maine, where Paulina and I are raising our own young family today.  I love Maine and I believe deeply in service. I have not spent much time in Augusta, but I have learned leadership through 20 years as a soldier in places like Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and 16 years in the private sector as both a small businessman and a renewable energy attorney.

    I am running for Governor because I believe we need to make sure change starts in Maine in 2018.  With new leadership grounded in Maine values like hard work, innovation, a welcoming spirit and a belief that every person is deserving of respect, we will grow a strong economythat works for all of us, with good paying jobs in every part of Maine

    I know we can turn the page from the dead-end politics of division, strengthen the state we love, and leave it stronger and better for our kids and future generations. I hope you will join our campaign by signing up for news and updates at www.CoteForMaine.com and inviting your friends and family to be part of our team as well.” 

    Cote’s action today is in line with Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices guidelines for any candidate who has clearly decided to run for an office, in order to track and report costs and expenses associated with reaching out to voters.  

    “My service has not been in political office to this point in my life,” said Cote, “but I am determined to get started today building a strong, statewide, neighbor-to-neighbor campaign that will win in 2018.” 

     

    Background on Adam:

    • Born, raised and lives with his family in Sanford, Maine
    • 44 years old 
    • Graduate of Colby College and the University of Maine Law School
    • Married to Paulina Cote with five children, three girls and two boys
    • Awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Afghanistan, after taking over leadership of and turning around a dysfunctional, undisciplined company from another part of the country
    • Awarded the Combat Action Badge for his leadership after surviving and caring for fellow soldiers after the December 21, 2004 suicide bombing in the chow hall in Mosul, Iraq
    • Awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his exceptional service while assigned to the 52nd Troop Command 
    • Received the “White House Champion of Change” award from President Obama’s White House in 2013, recognizing his work as “a veteran working to advance clean energy and climate security”
    • Honored as the 2015 “Distinguished Alumni of the Year” by Colby College

    Cote’s 2008 congressional campaign performance:

    • Won 15,706 votes (26percent) as a first-time candidate and earned a strong second place finish in a six-way first district congressional primary, among many more established state politicians
    • Raised over $650,000 
    • Won York County, Maine’s 2nd largest, by over 1,000 votes, came within 377 votes of winning Kennebec County (4th largest) and came in second in all five of the other first CD counties
    • Won 25 towns in the First Congressional District – and came in second in all but three or four towns
    • Won every mill or former mill town located in the first CD, including several that are among the largest communities in the state, such as: Biddeford (Mane’s 6th largest city), Sanford (Maine’s 7th largest city), Saco (Maine’s 11th largest city), Augusta (came within 20 votes in Maine’s 9th largest city), Westbrook and Gardiner 

    For more information, visit www.CoteForMaine.com, a temporary webpage. 

  • Rep. Golden introduces bill to protect workers from wage theft

     

    Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden’s bill introduced his bill to protect workers from wage theft and make sure they are compensated when they become the victim of it to the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee today.

    “People work hard for their money and they should get paid every dollar they have earned,” said Golden, D-Lewiston. “Wage theft is illegal and morally wrong. It’s not just the wages that get stolen; it’s also the respect of being paid for the hard work you put in. We need strong consequesnces to deter employers from committing wage violations in the first place, but also good protections so that workers can speak up and recoup their wages when they aren’t paid what they’ve earned.”

    Golden offered an amendment to the bill at the public hearing. As amended, the measure would increase penalties for violating timely pay statutes to $500 for the first violation and $2,500 for each subsequent violation. It would institute triple damages as remedies for wage theft and allow for an employee’s right to take legal action to recoup wages and damages. It also strengthens protections against employer retaliation for workers who take action against wage violations.

    “An honest day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. Everyone in Maine agrees that workers should be paid their full wages for all of the hours they work,” said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “Unfortunately, wage theft is a serious problem in Maine. Wage theft hurts working people and it gives an unfair advantage to low road employers over honest Maine businesses. We need stronger enforcement to ensure that every worker is paid what they are owed.”

    “In general, businesses in Maine care about their employees and bend over backwards to fix wage mistakes that happen in good faith,” said Rep. Mike Sylvester, D-Portland, a co-sponsor of the bill and a member of the committee. “This bill is trying to provide relief for those employees who work for employers trying to game the system by withholding wages. Intentional wage theft is wrong and, if it’s occurring, workers should have protections.”

    Golden is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents part of the city of Lewiston. He is the Assistant House Majority Leader. 

    Sylvester is in his first term in the Maine House and represents District 39, which includes the East End of Portland, Upper Bayside and many of the islands of Casco Bay. He serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development.

  • Holocaust Day of Remembrance at the Klahr Center in Augusta, Maine

    The Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine [HHRC] will host its annual Yom HaShoah: Holocaust Day of Remembrance program at the Michael Klahr Center at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, 2017. 

    This year's program will include a screening of the film “Disobedience: The Sousa Mendes Story,” the incredible true account of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese Consul who defied the orders of his government and granted thousands of visas to “undesirables” during the Holocaust. The program will also include a Q & A with Mona Pearl Treyball, the daughter of Sousa Mendes visa recipient, Sara Tanne. 

    Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches was one of the great heroes of the Second World War. As the Portuguese consul stationed in Bordeaux, France, he found himself confronted in June of 1940 with the reality of many thousands of refugees outside the Portuguese consulate attempting to escape the Nazis.

    Though Portugal was officially neutral as a nation, Portuguese diplomats were told to deny safe haven to refugees, including Jews, Russians, and stateless individuals who could not return to their countries of origin.

    Sousa Mendes defied that order and issued thousands of visas over a 12-day period. “I would rather stand with God against Man than with Man against God,” he declared.

     This program is presented in conjunction with the HHRC’s exhibit “Heroism in Unjust Times: Rescuers During the Holocaust,” on view fromWednesday, April 24 - August 11, 2017.

    For more information about Disobedience and Sousa Mendes, visit the Sousa Mendes Foundation at http://sousamendesfoundation.org.

    The program is free to attend, though donations are gratefully accepted. Light refreshments will be provided, and all are welcome and encouraged to join the HHRC on this special day of commemoration and reflection.

    For more information on this year’s Yom HaShoah: Holocaust Day of Remembrance program or to learn about more events hosted by the HHRC, visit hhrcmaine.org, call (207) 621-3530, or email infohhrc@maine.edu.

  • It’s high time to invest in Maine’s transportation infrastructure

    Editorial By Representative Andrew McLean of Gorham

    In my view, there is nothing more fundamental than the work our government does to provide for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods.

    Our transportation network of roads, bridges, airports, rail lines, seaports, and bike and pedestrian facilities is critical to the success of our economy.

    During times of great peril and when our country had fewer means than we do now, we invested in our infrastructure. During the Civil War, we built the Transcontinental Railroad.

    During the Great Depression, we built the Hoover Dam, and, right after World War II, we constructed our Interstate Highway System. These were - and continue to be - monuments of our collective will and vision.

    While previous generations constructed these engineering marvels, over the last few years we have not even been able to find the funding to maintain our state’s basic assets.

    Traffic congestion, pedestrian and driver safety, damage to vehicles from bad roads, businesses that don’t have easy access to market - all of these and more cost our economy millions of dollars every year.

    In fact, the Maine Department of Transportation has estimated that we need $160 million every single year just to keep up with basic maintenance.

    There’s no way around it. It’s going to cost money to fix this problem and there will be growing pains until we get there.

    The only way to succeed in building a long-lasting statewide infrastructure is by ensuring everyone - gas companies, consumers, green car manufacturers and communities - have equal stakes in the outcome.

    This session I have a bill which combines Republican and Democratic proposals to fund improvements in Maine’s infrastructure by raising revenue from four sources, including gas sales, motor vehicle and green vehicle registrations and the sales tax.

    Gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in over a decade, and yet the gas tax hasn’t been adjusted.

    Motor vehicle registration fees have not been raised since the 1970s and actually cost the state money.

    Hybrid and electric car producers pay less or nothing at all while still using our roads and bridges.

    And our sales tax, while taxing transportation related items such as tires, motor fuel and other items, currently doesn’t pay for our infrastructure needs, and it should.  

    My bill is a starting point. There are many other ideas that could be viable options for raising revenue to pay for a long-term plan to improve Maine’s infrastructure.

    This issue is not just important to people who sit on the left or right side of the political spectrum.

    It doesn’t matter if we come from Kittery or Fort Kent. We don’t drive on Democratic roads or Republican roads - we drive on Maine roads.

    Now more than ever, we need an honest and constructive conversation on how to fix our transportation. And, frankly, there couldn’t be a better time. Without a solution, we will continue to tread water, falling further and further behind every year.

    Our economy is counting on bold and innovative leadership on this issue. This bill and these ideas begin that conversation.

     

     

  • Democrats introduce measures to reduce Maine's Property Taxes

    On April 12, 2107 Democrats on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA) formally introduced three amendments outlined in their budget proposal, The Opportunity Agenda. The plan calls for the largest property tax cut in Maine history; invests in jobs and the economy; fully funds public schools; makes college degrees more affordable and attainable; supports families, seniors, children and veterans; and provides meaningful student debt relief.

    “For years, homeowners have seen their property tax rates skyrocket to cover the cost of education and essential services,” said Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), chair of the AFA committee. “Direct property tax relief, as outlined in these amendments, will enable Mainers to keep more money in their pockets and municipalities to balance their budgets without increasing property taxes.  We’ve heard from our constituents that this is their priority and we are committed to being the voice of the people in this budget debate.” 

    “For as long as I’ve been in public service, whether on the Town Council or in the Senate, constituents have been consistent in their demand for lower property taxes, and I intend to deliver. The Homestead Exemption provides targeted relief to people who build their lives and raise their families in Maine. To be eligible, the home must be a primary residence — not a summer home or an income property. Increasing the exemption will put money right back into Mainers’ pockets, which they can save or spend in the local economy,” said Sen. Cathy Breen of Falmouth, the Senate Democratic lead on the Committee, who introduced an amendment to grow the Homestead Exemption. 

    The amendments proposed included: 

    • Increasing the Homestead Exemption - The proposed amendment would increase the share of exempted value by 50 percent - going from $20,000 to $25,000 in the first year of the biennium, and to $30,000 in the second year.  Estimated $50 million dollars in tax relief.
    • Expanding the Property Tax Fairness Credit - This program gives refundable tax credits to low- and middle-income homeowners and renters to offset high property tax  and rent costs.  The amendment offered would expand the benefit to reach more Maine families. Estimated $33 million dollars in tax relief.
    • Increasing Municipal Revenue Sharing -  The Municipal Revenue Sharing program redirects a percentage of the state’s total sales and income tax revenue back to communities to cover the cost of essential services such as law enforcement, road and bridge maintenance, and fire protection. The amendment offered would increase the percentage from 2% to 3%. Estimated $64 million sent back to municipalities. 

    “Our plan uses every tool available to provide the largest property tax relief effort in our state’s history,” said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon (D-Freeport). “As we work through this process, it will be clear that our plan capitalizes on our natural advantages, delivers quality services and invests in Maine’s future. That’s what Mainers want and we intend to deliver.”

  • Barry Hobbins nominated to become Maine's Public Advocate

    Governor Paul R. LePage nominated the Hon. Barry J. Hobbins of Saco on April 12, 2017 to serve as the Public Advocate, a position that represents the interests of Maine ratepayers in proceedings before the Maine Public Utilities Commission, including issues regarding electricity and natural gas prices. The Office of the Public Advocate also supports Mainers on matters related to telecommunications, including accessibility to broadband internet.

    Hobbins, a lawyer in private practice for 39 years, has concentrated in telecommunications law, real estate, municipal and administrative law, land use planning, business and corporate law, criminal and family law.

    “Maine's Public Advocate plays a critical role in protecting the interests of consumers and ratepayers before the Public Utilities Commission, the Legislature and elsewhere. Tim Schneider has done an outstanding job leading this office, and will be sorely missed,” said Rep. Berry, D-Bowdoinham.

    “Barry Hobbins has extensive experience as a legislator, legislative leader, and as my predecessor in co-chairing the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities & Technology.  Having served with Barry for eight years, I have seen firsthand his commitment to public service. I look forward to holding a confirmation hearing soon, and learning more about how Barry hopes to stand up for consumers and ratepayers.”

    A well-known and respected legislator, Hobbins was first elected in 1972 as the youngest member of the 106th Maine Legislature. He also served in the 114th Legislature, then the 122nd through 125th Legislatures. During his time in the State House, he was a member of many Committees, including Business Legislation, Labor and Judiciary, and served as both House Chair and Senate Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.

    While serving on the EUT committee, he developed a thorough knowledge of energy issues and was in charge of overseeing the Office of the Public Advocate as it related to wholesale electricity markets, interstate electricity transmission and interstate gas transportation. He also became familiar with the workings of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates interstate communications of radio, television, satellite and cable systems.

    A lifelong resident of Saco, Hobbins is a graduate of Thornton Academy. He earned a B.A. degree from University Maine Orono and his law degree from the Franklin Pierce Law Center, now known as the New Hampshire School of Law.

  • Update on Senate Investigations into Russia's Hack, by Sen. Angus King

    Editorial by Sen. Angus King.

    As you’ve likely seen in the news, the congressional investigations into Russia’s meddling in our democracy have been getting a lot of attention lately – and rightfully so. I am a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and this work has been keeping me very busy. I wanted to give you an update on the focus of our investigation and let you know that our Senate committee is approaching our work with all the gravity it calls for.

    In this investigation, we are working to find answers to three important questions:

    • First, what exactly did the Russians do during the 2016 election, and how did they do it?
    • Second, was there a relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians?
    • And third – a question that deserves a great deal more attention than it is currently receiving – what was the level of Russian interference in state and local voting systems?

    Though it hasn’t been discussed as much as other issues at play, that third question concerns some scary stuff: We have evidence the Russians tried to probe and prod into state and local election processes in 2016 – raising questions about whether they might attempt to monkey around with voter registration, polling machines and ballots. Everything we know so far suggests they were unsuccessful, but they weren’t doing it for fun – and they will be back. If the Russians had somehow managed to change a few hundred thousand votes in Michigan, for example, it could throw our entire political system into chaos – and that’s exactly what Putin wants.

    The Senate Intelligence Committee is dedicated to conducting our investigation in a fully bipartisan manner. It’s the only way to ensure our report has credibility when we get to the end of the road. The committee is carefully balanced – composed of eight Republicans, six Democrats and me – and we’ve been consulting and meeting nearly every day. Everybody knows this is an issue fraught with partisan overtones, and I won’t pretend this will be easy work. But this won’t be a whitewashing, and it won’t be a witch hunt, either. In fact, I rank this right up there with the most important work of my career, and many of my colleagues – Democrats and Republicans alike – feel the same way. Putin isn’t a Democrat or a Republican. He’s an opportunist, and this wasn't just a one-off; we need to be prepared for the same tactics in the next election.

    I know everyone wishes we could report our findings tomorrow, but this will be a long process. We have a mountain of materials – thousands of pages of documents – to go through, and we don’t want to leave a single stone unturned. Optimistically, I’d say six months is a reasonable estimate for our timeline, but it may take longer. In my eyes, the most important thing is that we end this process with a credible report for the American people.

    That’s why I’m pushing for as many open hearings as possible. In order for our work to be credible, it must be done as publicly as possible. We can’t go behind closed doors for six months and come out and say, “Here’s what we found.” That won’t cut it. My hope is that so much of our work will be done in the open that, once we release our findings, you’ll say, “Yeah. I saw the evidence for myself, and I came to the same conclusion.”

    Thanks for taking the time to read this – it’s important to me to keep you informed of developments like this, and I appreciate your support.

  • Mainers Wearing Hazmat Suits Tell Susan Collins: No Nuclear Option!

    Senator Collins pivotal in debate over ending 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court confirmations

    Mainers wearing hazmat suits visited Senator Susan Collins’ Portland office today to urge her to oppose the so called “nuclear option.”

    The move, being considered by Senate Republicans, would change the Senate filibuster rule to remove the 60 vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees. With 44 Senators committed to filibustering President Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, he will not get the 60 votes required for confirmation via normal procedure. The event was organized by Mainers for Accountable Leadership (MFAL) and Progressive Portland.

    “Senator Collins should reject the nuclear option. It’s toxic,” said Steven Biel of Progressive Portland. “We are bringing her this hazmat suit because we hope she will take the lead in cleaning up the mess created by over a year of partisan warfare, starting with the unprecedented blockade of Merrick Garland.”

    With both houses of Congress controlled by Republicans and Donald Trump in the White House, MFAL and Progressive Portland believe that this is not the time to erode the system of checks and balances.

    “If Senator Collins believes in the Senate rules, she must uphold them even when it benefits the other side,” said April Humphrey of Mainers for Accountable Leadership.

    In 2005, when Democrats filibustered a number of former President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, Senator Collins was one of 14 senators who brokered a bipartisan deal to avert the nuclear option. Then, in 2013, when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid led efforts to eliminate the filibuster for some presidential appointments, Collins said:

    I have consistently worked to protect the rights of the minority whether I was serving in the minority or the majority. In 2005, I strongly opposed a Republican plan to employ the so-called ‘nuclear option.’ I was deeply concerned that, by adopting changes in the standing rules by a simple majority, party-line vote, the majority party would have had unprecedented power to limit debate [which] impedes careful consideration of the most important matters before Congress and is not in our country's best interest

    “If Neil Gorsuch can’t get 60 votes, then Republicans shouldn’t change the rules. They should change the nominee,” said Jackie McNeil of MFAL.

    The group pointed out that because of the narrow Republican majority in the senate, moderates like Senator Collins have enormous leverage to diffuse the partisan conflict.

    “Senator Collins and her fellow Senate moderates hold all the cards. They could team with moderate Democrats to insist on a mainstream Republican in the mold of an Anthony Kennedy. The question is whether they want to,” said Biel.

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