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  • Congressmembers Pingree and Golden put in bill to fix to social security

    Congressman Jared Golden and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree are cosponsoring H.R. 4540, the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act, to help public workers harmed by the federal Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). “If you pay into Social Security, you should receive the benefits you’ve earned,” Congressman Golden said. “Nearly 1 in 4 Mainers, including more than 220,000 Maine seniors, receive Social Security benefits. But right now, thousands of Maine’s public servants are having their benefits reduced because of an outdated, confusing provision that doesn’t make sense for most workers. We shouldn’t punish hard-working folks who have second jobs or who make the transition into public service by slashing their benefits. This is a simple, bipartisan fix to a big problem for many Mainers.” H.R. 4540 would boost benefits by up to $150 per month for current retirees impacted by the WEP. It would make sure benefit calculations for future retirees reflect their earnings from jobs covered by Social Security.

  • Portland, Maine, secures $750,000 federal funds to build a new waterfront park

    Portland Maine has been granted $750,000 federal funds to build a new waterfront park, called “Portland Landing,” along the eastern waterfront.

    “Portland’s parks, trails, and outdoor spaces play a critical role in providing access to the bodies of water that make it an attractive destination,” said Sen. Angus King. “This funding will boost revitalization efforts to improve this area of the city by providing new recreational opportunities for underserved residents and creating vital connections to the Portland waterfront from the downtown district, benefiting residents and visitors of Portland.”

    City officials revealed a $16million plan two years ago to convert a 1.5-acre surface parking lot, known as the Amethyst lot, into a public park.

    The park's concept includes an area for outdoor events, a boardwalk, large oversize steps leading down to the water and a community boating area. Plans called for a more natural area along the northern upland side, including berms and other features to protect against potential storm surges. 

    The interim park will have raised planter beds, benches and low walls made of reclaimed granite, trees and perennials, lawn areas, walking paths along the water’s edge, a wooden guard rail, swing benches, a plaza for events and food trucks, a small parking area and a Sail Maine roadway, a nonprofit sailing school.

    This grant was awarded through the National Park Service’s Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Grant Program, a program funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) State and Local Assistance Program.

    Last year, legislation to permanently reauthorize the LWCF was enacted In Washington D.C. In April, Sens. Collins and Sen. King, of Maine, joined a bipartisan group in introducing legislation to permanently fund LWCF at $900 million per year.

  • Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Preparing for Weekend Ice Storm

    01/10/2020 01:53 PM EST

    AUGUSTA, MAINE - Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is preparing for a significant winter storm that could potentially bring dangerous ice conditions to portions of the state late Saturday night and Sunday. "We've been watching the storm since early this week," said MEMA Acting Director Peter Rogers. "Our operations team has a plan in place, and we will be hosting a conference call this afternoon and potentially throughout the weekend, as needed, with our partners including the National Weather Service, Department of Transportation, County Emergency Management Agencies, and electric utilities."

    Forecasts are calling for as much as a half an inch of ice in portions of the state late Saturday through Sunday, which could cause widespread damage including power outages as well as dangerous travel conditions.

    "We still have some time before the storm arrives, so its a good idea for citizens to take some steps to prepare now," said Rogers.

    In the case of a power outage, citizens should contact their town office or call 2-1-1 for sheltering and warming center locations. Its also a good idea to take some steps to prepare at home as well:

    - Stock up on emergency supplies such as non-perishable food, water, medication, pet supplies and other items needed in case it necessary to shelter at home. - Have a "Go Bag" ready with essential supplies should it be necessary to go to a shelter or other location. - Ensure that alternate heat and power sources are in proper working condition and properly installed.

    - Download the free FEMA app to receive location-specific alerts and warnings as well as targeted preparedness information.

    Those who are traveling should use extreme caution as roadways may be icy. If travel is necessary during this time, its important to remember the following:

    - Leave early and allow extra time when traveling and, if possible, drive before dark.

    - Pack an emergency kit in your car to include warm clothing, jumper cables, road flares, flashlight and batteries, food and water.

    - Do not drive if you have been drinking.

    - Fill your gas tank to avoid running out of gas and becoming stranded.

    - Fill your windshield-wiper fluid to ensure you can keep your windshield clear.

    - Remove all snow and ice from your vehicle before traveling.

    - Charge your cell phone before traveling.

    - Let others know where you will be traveling and when you expect to arrive at your destination.

    For additional preparedness, shelter and safety information, please visit Maine.gov/MEMA, or visit MEMA on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Gov. Mills lets 24 out of 27 bills she considered to become Maine law

     By Ramona du Houx

    Governor Janet Mills will allow 24 of the remaining 27 bills she held for further review last session to become law. She vetoed three.

    Governor Mills vetoed the following bills: LD 553 "An Act To Ensure Proper Oversight of Sports Betting in the State"; LD 517 "An Act To Facilitate Fair Ballot Representation for All Candidates"; and LD 268 "An Act To Create a Credit under the Commercial Forestry Excise Tax for Landowners Using Businesses Based in the United States".

    With respect to LD 553, Governor Mills wrote in her veto message that she respected the many hours of work members of the Legislature put into the bill but continued, “respectfully, I remain unconvinced at this time that the majority of Maine people are ready to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting on competitive athletic event.”

    “Before Maine joins the frenzy of states hungry to attract this market, I believe we need to examine the issue more clearly; better understand the evolving experiences of other states; and thoughtfully determine the best approach for Maine,” Governor Mills wrote. “That approach needs to balance the desire to suppress gambling activities now being conducted illegally and the need to protect youthful gamblers and those least able to absorb losses under a closely regulated scheme.”

    The bills Gov. Mills considered that will become law:

    • LD 54 “An Act To Limit the Influence of Lobbyists by Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions”
    • LD 545 “An Act To Ban Child Marriage”
    • LD 1208 “An Act To Expand the 1998 Special Retirement Plan To Include Detectives in the Office of the Attorney General”
    • LD 1311 “An Act Regarding the Sale of Dogs and Cats at Pet Shops”
    • LD 1386 “An Act Regarding the Determination of the Prevailing Wage Rate for Public Works Projects”
    • LD 1399 “An Act To Improve Oral Health and Access to Dental Care for Maine Children”
    • LD 1442 “An Act To Provide for Court-appointed Advocates for Justice in Animal Cruelty Cases”
    • LD 1518 “An Act To Establish a Fund for Portions of the Operations and Outreach Activities of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Diagnostic and Research Laboratory and To Increase Statewide Enforcement of Pesticide Use”
    • LD 1550 “An Act To Create a Victims’ Compensation Fund for Victims of Property Crimes”
    • LD 1597 “An Act To Provide a Sales Tax Exemption for Purchases Made by Nonprofit Seasonal Camps”
    • LD 1700 "Resolve, To Promote the Inclusion of African-American History and Culture in the Curricular Offerings of School Administrative Units"
    • LD 1718 “An Act To Exempt Purchases by Pet Food Pantries from Sales Tax”
    • LD 1809 “Resolve, To Increase Funding for Evidence-based Therapies for Treating Emotional and Behavioral Problems in Children”
    • LD 1838 “Resolve, Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services To Examine Options for Upper Payment Limit Adjustments for MaineCare Services”

    The Governor had until Saturday, January 11, 2020, after the opening of session, not including the first day, to either veto or to allow any held bills to become law without her signature.

  • Maine Special election set to fill House District 128 seat

    01/10/2020 

    A special election for the Maine House of Representatives District 128 seat is scheduled to coincide with the statewide Presidential Primaries and Special Referendum Election on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.


    The House seat, which represents the Town of Brewer, was previously held by Rep. Arthur "Archie" C. Verow, who was elected to the position in 2018. Verow died on Dec. 19, 2019.

    Per State election law, vacancies in House seats are not filled automatically; the municipal officers of the affected municipality must inform the governor if there is a need to fill the vacancy before the next general election. The governor shall then issue a proclamation and order a special election. The municipal officers of Brewer so informed Gov. Janet Mills on January 3, 2020 and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap signed the vacancy proclamation announcing the special election on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.

    Maine's three political parties the Democrats, Green Independents, and Republicans will now caucus to choose their candidates for the vacant seat. Candidate nominations are due to the Office of the Secretary of State by 5 p.m. on Thursday, January 23, 2020. Non-party candidates must circulate petitions and obtain the signatures of at least 50 registered voters in House District 128. The deadline to submit the petitions to the Secretary of State is also by 5 p.m. on January 23, 2020, after first having the signatures certified by the municipal clerks.

    Write-in candidates must declare their candidacy by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. Non-party petition forms and write-in candidate declaration forms may be obtained by contacting the Elections Division of the Secretary of State at 624-7650.

    The candidate who is elected in the March 3 special election will serve out the remainder of Rep. Verows two-year term, through December 2020.
  • Influenza Becomes Widespread in Maine

    01/08/2020 09:55 AM EST

    Vaccination and simple precautions prevent spread of disease

    AUGUSTA – Influenza has been confirmed in all 16 Maine counties and is now classified as widespread across the state. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) reminds residents and visitors to get vaccinated and take proper precautions to stay healthy.

    So far during this influenza season, which began in the fall of 2019 and will continue into the spring, 90 people in Maine have been hospitalized with influenza and 1,287 positive influenza tests have been reported. This is likely an underrepresentation of the true number of those infected with influenza, or flu, throughout the state. Nationally, it is estimated that more than 6.4 million people have been infected since late September 2019.

    Flu viruses spread when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Seasonal influenza symptoms include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, and fatigue. In some cases, influenza can result in more severe symptoms. So far this season, Maine has recorded six flu-related deaths.

    "Influenza is unpredictable and, in some cases, deadly," said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. "The most effective way to prevent the spread of influenza is to get vaccinated, and it's not too late to get a flu shot."

    Influenza vaccination is recommended each year for anyone 6 months of age and older. Vaccination can reduce a person's risk of contracting the illness, and subsequent doctors' visits, and missed work and school due to influenza. The influenza vaccine can also reduce the severity of the illness, should a vaccinated person contract influenza. Studies show the influenza vaccine saves children's lives, prevents serious events associated with chronic lung disease, diabetes, and heart disease, and prevents influenza-related hospitalization among working-age and older adults.

    Maine CDC suggests four simple steps to reduce the spread of the illness:

    • Wash your hands.
    • Cover your cough.
    • Stay home when you're sick.
    • Get vaccinated.

    For more information on influenza, please visit: www.maineflu.gov

    To find the nearest influenza vaccination options , please visit: www.vaccinefinder.org/

  • Maine DHHS urges people to enroll in HealthCare.gov Coverage

    12/17/2019 12:13 PM EST

    The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released the following statement today in response to Monday's announcement by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that open enrollment for HealthCare.gov plans will be extended until 3 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

    Open enrollment was originally scheduled to end at midnight on Sunday,  December 15, but was extended due to technical issues experienced by consumers trying to enroll.

    "This is the last opportunity to sign up for a HealthCare.gov plan for coverage in 2020," said Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. "While eligible Mainers can apply for MaineCare anytime of year, I urge anyone who tried to enroll through HealthCare.gov but hasn't yet selected a plan to try again today. Maine people have affordable, high-quality options for coverage."

    Open enrollment for private plans on the federal HealthCare.gov marketplace began Nov. 1, with coverage starting on January 1, 2020. According to one analysis, 59 percent of HealthCare.gov enrollees in Maine can find a plan for $10 or less per month, while 74 percent can find a plan for $75 or less. Benchmark premiums in Maine will drop for the second consecutive year, falling by 6 percent in 2020, following an 8 percent decrease in 2019.

    Maine people are eligible for insurance through MaineCare if their annual income is less than $17,236 for a single person or $29,435 for a family of three. Eligible Maine people may enroll in MaineCare at any time of year. Maine people with incomes above the MaineCare threshold but less than $49,960 for a single person or than $85,320 for a family of three may be eligible for lower monthly premiums on the federal marketplace.

  • Juvenile Justice Task Force meeting and community forum to be held in Portland in December

    AUGUSTA  –  The Juvenile Justice System Assessment & Reinvestment Task Force will hold its December meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 18 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Abromson Community Education Center, 88 Bedford Street, Portland. The meeting will be followed by a performance of Exposed by Maine Inside Out in Hannaford Hall. The meeting and performance are open to the public.

    In addition to its regular monthly meeting, the Task Force will host the final of four community forums that evening at Hannaford Hall auditorium from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. to gather input from the public about Maine’s juvenile justice system and related community needs. The Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP), the organization conducting the assessment, will facilitate the conversation. The forum is also open to the public.

    Established in May, the group was formed to examine the state’s juvenile justice system and develop recommendations for a continuum of community-based alternatives to incarceration for system-involved youth and those at risk of becoming involved in the justice system. Information about the Task Force, including the schedule of meetings and forums can be found at: www.mainejjtaskforce.org

    Chaired by Rep. Michael Brennan, D-Portland, Department of Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty, and Jill Ward of the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy and Law, the Task Force is comprised of government leaders from multiple agencies, legislators, the Judiciary, practitioners and impacted communities. The Task Force will work with the staff from CCLP to assess the efficacy of the current system and develop recommendations to improve outcomes for system-involved youth. A report with recommendations is expected in Feb. 2020.

  • Mills directs full-scale education & outreach campaign to warn young Mainers of vaping risks

     

     In response to new data showing an increase in e-cigarette use among Maine youth, Governor Janet Mills announced on November 13, 2019  that her Administration will launch an education and prevention campaign targeted to young people to raise awareness about the dangers of e-cigarette use and will move to eliminate provision in state law that still allows some individuals under the age of 21 to buy tobacco products.

    “Vaping poses a serious risk to the health of young people across Maine, and as this disturbing data shows, far too many are drawn in by the false allure of e-cigarettes,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Young people know that smoking cigarettes is dangerous to their health. Now, it is important they understand that vaping is also dangerous. My Administration will launch an education and prevention campaign to aid in that effort. We will also accelerate the implementation of Maine’s law requiring buyers of tobacco products to be at least 21 years old. There should be no exceptions to this important law that protects public health.” 

    “We want all Maine people, especially our youth, to be aware of the health risks associated with electronic cigarettes,” said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “The Maine CDC is launching a prevention and outreach campaign in early 2020 to inform young people and their families about the dangers these products pose.”

    In early 2020, the Administration, through the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC), will launch a full-scale education and prevention campaign that will speak directly to young people through social media, YouTube, TV, radio, and other platforms to warn them about the dangers and risks associated with e-cigarette use. It will be followed by outreach to educate parents about the dangers of vaping and will be funded with revenue from the sales of e-cigarette products.

    The Administration will also move to eliminate a provision in state law that still allows some individuals under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The minimum age to buy tobacco products in Maine is 21, which is the result of a law that took effect in July 2018. However, a provision in the law allows individuals who had turned 18 as of July 1, 2018 to continue to buy tobacco products lawfully. The Administration will introduce legislation in the upcoming short session that, if passed, will eliminate the provision and immediately require all individuals who want to purchase tobacco products to be at least 21 years of age.

    In the coming weeks, the Administration will also work with the Legislature to explore other strategies related to e-cigarette use that could help protect the health and welfare of Maine’s youth.

    These new actions come in the wake of Governor Mills signing into law in May a bill that bans e-cigarettes use on school property. It also comes in the wake of her direction to Maine CDC to work with the Maine Office of the Attorney General to pursue increased compliance checks on e-cigarette purchases at retailers throughout Maine to prevent sales to youth. Maine already conducts these checks on both electronic and combustible cigarettes but has boosted the focus on e-cigarettes. Maine also already bans all online sales of e-cigarette products and licenses tobacco product sellers to ensure oversight. 

    Earlier today, the Maine CDC released data showing that 28.7 percent of Maine high school students report currently using e-cigarettes (at least one time in the past 30 days), an increase from 15.3 percent in 2017. The increase aligns with the most recent data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, which show that 27.5 percent of high school students throughout the United States report having used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days, an increase from 11.7 percent in 2017.

    The number of Maine high school students who report ever having used an e-cigarette product increased from 33.2 percent in 2017 to 45 percent in 2019. While the number of high school students who reported current use of conventional cigarettes dropped from 8.8 percent in 2017 to 7.1 percent in 2019. 

    “Notably, the 2019 responses show a decrease in the percentage of Maine students who smoke or use other forms of conventional tobacco products,” said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. “Young people in Maine are getting the message that tobacco use is dangerous. But they need to realize that vaping also poses great risks to their health.” 

    Additionally, Maine CDC and the Maine Department of Education continue to work with partners across the state to help prevent young people from initiating use of and exposure to e-cigarettes. A workgroup has met regularly to create educational resources and presentations to increase awareness.

    Governor Mills continues to urge all Maine people to be fully aware of the health risks associated with using electronic smoking devices, including vaping, and to consult their health care provider if they experience symptoms of lung illness after using such devices.

  • Attorneys General Defending Rights of Tipped Workers by Challenging Proposed Labor Rule

    12/10/2019 
    AUGUSTA - Attorney General Aaron M. Frey, as part of a coalition 19 attorneys general led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, submitted a comment letter to the Department of Labor opposing its proposed rescission of protections for tipped workers.

    Under Maine wage and hour law, employers are required to pay their employees the minimum wage, which in Maine is $11.00 per hour. Currently, if an employee works in a service job with tips, Maine employers can meet this requirement either by paying employees the full minimum wage or by paying a lower cash wage, no less than $5.50 per hour, and take a credit for the difference with the tips that employees earn. This is known as the "tip credit." In Maine the combination of tip credit and base wage must add up to the minimum wage by the end of the 7-day work week. If it doesn't the employer must pay the difference.

    For decades, tipped workers have been protected by what is known as the 80/20 Rule. The rule ensures that any worker being paid the lower cash wage-due to their employer utilizing the tip creditspends at least 80 percent of their work time doing tipped work.

    Under DOLs proposal, the 80/20 Rule would be eliminated and employers would be able to assign virtually unlimited amounts of non-tipped work such as cleaning, cooking and other back of the house tasks while still taking a tip credit and paying workers a lower wage.

    This proposal would harm workers, increasing their uncertainty about take-home pay and opening the door to potential abuse from employers, said Frey. This rule should not be adopted.

    In their comment letter, the attorneys general explain that the proposed rule would further erode the already low wages of tipped workers and leave them more vulnerable to wage theft. The coalition further argues that the proposal is contrary to the purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act to protect workers and that DOL did not abide by the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act when it failed to examine the proposals impact on wages and increased reliance on social safety net programs.

    Along with Maine, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Massachusetts, todays comment letter was filed by the Attorneys General of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
  • Maine State alert to corporations and non-profits regarding misleading solicitations

    11/19/2019 
    AUGUSTA - Maine corporations have recently received misleading solicitation mailings with an offer to file annual reports for the corporation, for a $185 fee.

    Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is reminding all corporate and non-profit entities that the Division of Corporations does not mail out the annual report form.

    The "solicitation form" looks similar to the Division of Corporations' annual report form, but it is not prescribed or recognized by the Maine Department of the Secretary of State and this mailing does not come from the departments Division of Corporations. Maine corporations have received similar solicitations in recent years from entities operating under various names.

    The legal deadline to file the 2020 annual reports with the Secretary of States office is June 1, 2020 and corporate entities can file those reports online at https://icrs.informe.org/nei-sos-icrs/ICRS beginning January 1, 2020.

    Any corporation that has questions about the solicitation or form is encouraged to obtain advice from a lawyer or business advisor. In addition, those with questions can contact the Maine Division of Corporations at (207) 624-7752 for information about corporate annual report and other business entity filing requirements under Maine law.