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Civil Rights
  • 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.

  • Break bread and network for a stronger diverse Bangor at Interfaith Dinner Oct 9

     

    By Ramona du Houx 

    Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci has invited his community to an Interfaith Dinner starting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 9, at the Bangor High School cafeteria. It’s an opportunity for community members of all cultures and faiths to break bread and learn more about the Maine Multicultural Center, a network of educational, business, cultural services in Bangor region that are enriching the community with economic growth through diversity. 

    The FREE dinner’s theme is, “Many Faiths, Many Cultures, One Community,” and requires tickets that are available at the houses of worship listed below or by contacting Mayor Baldacci at: joe.baldacci@bangormaine.gov

    When Mayor Baldacci first came up with the idea of the dinner numerous community groups and faith-based organizations immediately embraced the concept and work began planning the event.

    Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci getting the word out about the Interfaith Dinner on Maine's morning news

    “In today’s world, when people of different faiths, different ancestries, different viewpoints can come together and celebrate as one community—that is itself both revolutionary and purely American,” said Mayor Baldacci. “This dinner is but one event that shows our city’s belief in the dignity and value of all people and our deep desire to be a welcoming community for all.”

    Baldacci’s grandparents were immigrants who created an iconic Bangor restaurant that was also known as a community-gathering place, employing many people from the area.

    “I am the grandson of Italian and Lebanese immigrants who came to America to escape the poverty and persecution of the Old World. My father’s parents started a restaurant that ran for 75 years. My mother’s family started a small grocery store on Hancock Street when Hancock Street in Bangor was a melting pot of immigrants and tenement houses. Over the years I’ve seen the kindness and support of so many. I hope our family has returned some positive contributions to our community,” said Mayor Baldacci. “Immigrants strengthen and enrich our country.”

    According to the Small Business Administration, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business in the United States than non-immigrants, and 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants. And immigrant-owned businesses create jobs for American workers. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7 million people in 2007, and generating more than $776 billion annually.

    Immigrants are also more likely to create their own jobs. According the U.S. Department of Labor, 7.5 percent are self-employed compared to 6.6 percent among the native-born.

    “Our city is strong and proud, prosperous and progressive. We welcome people of all Nations, all faiths, of all different backgrounds who all share a common love for America and for working and living together in peace and love with each other.

    Immigrants are our engineers, scientists, and innovators of cutting-edge technologies and companies. According to the Census Bureau, despite making up only 16 percent of the resident population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, immigrants represent 33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientist, and 24 percent of physical scientists. Additionally, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, in 2011, foreign-born inventors were credited with contributing to more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities.

    The University of Maine in Orono has numerous professors that have enriched the school’s curriculum.

    “Love Thy Neighbor is a daily reality, here. We come together from all different walks of life and viewpoints and find it in our hearts to work together to build a stronger community for all. We embrace our immigrants. It’s everyone’s home, and it’s the Bangor way to welcome everyone,” said the Mayor.

    Together, the Multicultural Center network participants believe that a successful economic future for the Bangor area is dependent upon the creation of a more culturally rich and ethnically diverse community environment which fosters the growth of new immigrant communities and works to retain and support our existing foreign-national residents.

    Sponsoring faith organizations include: Faith Linking in Acton, All Souls Congregational Church, Congregation Beth El, Hammond Street Congregational Church, Crosspoint Church of Bangor, Islamic Center of Maine, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. John’s Episcopal, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Temple of the Feminine Divine, and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor.

    Restaurants supporting the dinner include: Panda Garden, Happy China Buffet, Ichiban, and Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant.

    Due to space constraints, this dinner is limited to 250 guests.

    A collection also will be taken to support the Maine Multicultural Center. To learn more about the Maine Multicultural Center, visit www.mainemulticulturalcenter.org.

  • Attracting Immigrants helps communities

    From the Atlantic

    Immigrants take our jobs. They don’t pay taxes. They’re a drain on the economy. They make America less … American.

    You’ve probably heard all of these arguments, especially with the country recovering from a financial disaster. Indeed, they’ve been heard for a century or two, as successive waves of immigrants to this nation of immigrants have first been vilified, then grudgingly tolerated, and ultimately venerated for their contributions.

    This time, too, there is ample evidence that immigrants are creating businesses and revitalizing the U.S. workforce. From 2006 to 2012, more than two-fifths of the start-up tech companies in Silicon Valley had at least one foreign-born founder, according to the Kauffman Foundation. A report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, which advocates for immigrants in the U.S. workforce, found that they accounted for 28 percent of all new small businesses in 2011.

    Immigrants also hold a third of the internationally valid patents issued to U.S. residents, according to University of California (Davis) economist Giovanni Peri. In a 2012 article published by the Cato Institute, the libertarian (and pro-immigration) think tank, Peri concluded that immigrants boost economic productivity and don’t have a notable impact—either positive or negative—on net job growth for U.S.-born workers. One reason: Immigrants and native-born workers gravitate toward different jobs.

    But immigration, on the whole, bolsters the workforce and adds to the nation’s overall economic activity. Look at the impact on cities that attract the most foreign-born residents. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston are all major immigrant destinations and also economic powerhouses, accounting for roughly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product. In New York, immigrants made up 44 percent of the city's workforce in 2011; in and around Los Angeles, they accounted for a third of the economic output in 2007.

    Immigrants tend to contribute more to the economy once they’ve learned English and become citizens. A few cities—notably, New York—have a long history of ushering immigrants into the mainstream society and economy. Other parts of the country have less experience with newcomers but are learning to adapt.

    Take Nashville, for instance. As recently as 2009, immigrants living in the Tennessee capital had reason to worry. A conservative city council member proposed amending the municipality’s charter to require that all government business be conducted in English, allegedly to save money. This raised hackles. “Would the health department be allowed to speak Arabic to a patient?” or so The Tennessean, Nashville's leading newspaper, wondered. “Could a city-contracted counselor offer services in Spanish?”

    The voters apparently wondered, too, for they soundly defeated the English-only amendment, which had earned the enmity of businesses, religious organizations, and advocacy groups. “A significant moment in the city’s history when it comes to immigration,” recalls Nashville’s mayor, Karl Dean, a Democrat who had recently taken office. “Since that moment, the city really hasn’t looked back.”

    The foreign-born population in the Nashville metropolitan area has more than doubled since 2000; immigrants accounted for three-fifths of the city’s population growth between 2000 and 2012, and now constitute an eighth of all Nashville residents. When President Obama delivered a speech on immigration last December, he did it in Nashville. The city famed as the nation’s country music capital now boasts the largest U.S. enclave of Kurds, along with increasing numbers of immigrants from Myanmar and Somalia.

    They’ve been drawn to Nashville’s booming economy, which has ranked among the fastest-growing in the nation in recent years. But they’re not only benefiting from the local prosperity—they’re contributing to it. Immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Nashville residents to start their own small businesses, according to data compiled by the Partnership for a New American Economy. They also play an outsized role in important local industries, including construction, health care, and hotels.

    Nashville has welcomed these immigrants with open arms, in ways that other municipalities around the country are trying to emulate. In the forefront is a nonprofit organization called Welcoming Tennessee, started in 2005 to highlight immigrants’ contributions and potential role in Nashville’s future. It put up billboards around Nashville—“Welcome the immigrant you once were,” and the like—in hopes of defanging the political debate. The current race to elect a new mayor next month has drawn questions at campaign forums indicative of the new political tone, about how candidates would handle a diverse school system and assure that city services are available to all immigrants, legal or otherwise.

    The “welcoming” movement that started in Tennessee has evolved into “Welcoming America,” a national network of organizations that preach the economic upside of immigration and help people adjust to life in the United States. Since 2009, 57 cities and counties, from San Francisco and Philadelphia to Dodge City, Kansas, have taken “welcoming” pledges, meaning that the local governments committed themselves to a plan to help immigrants assimilate.

    The private sector, too, has shown an interest in bringing immigrants into the mainstream of American life. Citigroup is promoting citizenship efforts in Maryland, while another big bank, BB&T, has been holding educational forums across the Southeast to explain a federal program that issues work permits to young undocumented immigrants. Retailers such as American Apparel go out of their way to help foreign-born employees learn English and apply for citizenship. Beyond motives of altruism lay considerations of the bottom line. Foreign-born residents now make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, a not-to-be-ignored share of the consumer market. The next generation is more lucrative still: One in four American residents younger than 18 has an immigrant parent.

    Local governments, mindful of their pressing economic needs, have taken the lead. Many cities have created offices devoted to serving “new Americans” locally. Dayton, Ohio, has intensified its efforts to redevelop a neighborhood with a growing Turkish community. Nashville runs a program called MyCity Academy, which teaches leaders from immigrant communities about local government.

    Not every community that dubs itself a “welcoming city” will be able to replicate Nashville’s success. But Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, suggests some guidelines. Teaching immigrants how to speak English is “sort of foundational,” she says, “but it's helpful if the conversation doesn't stop there,” by also including how immigrants can thrive economically and gain access to health care. Muñoz endorses programs to connect ethnic leaders with local movers and shakers, to show the public that helping immigrants assimilate is “about all of us, as opposed to an ‘us and them’ kind of thing.”

    The biggest obstacle to welcoming immigrants may be the usual one: a lack of resources. “Every area, you could probably be putting money into,” says Nashville Mayor Dean. Even so, he’s pleased that another potential obstacle—community opposition—has faded. “I'm sure there’s people who are concerned,” he says, “but they’re quiet about it.”

    He adds, with more than a trace of civic pride: “I call it the happy moment here, how well the city has adjusted to being more diverse… It’s a good story, and you’ve got to be encouraged by it.”

  • Concert to Benefit Human Rights Education in Maine

    The Leopard Girls will perform their eclectic blend of jazz, rock, blues, and pop music at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick next Friday, October 6, at 7:30PM. Doors open at 7:00PM with a $10 suggested donation. All proceeds from the show will benefit the educational programming of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, a nonprofit education center and exhibition space located in Augusta.

    Leopard Girls is a five-piece act from Maine made up of Chris Simpson, Scott Woodruff, and Gary Lawless - formerly of Jimmy Midnight and The Yurtbirds – with Ben Hunsberger (welcomefarmmusic.com) and drummer Hal Ahlers of Blues Buzzards. For more information about Leopard Girls, visit their Facebook page atfacebook.com/TheLeopardGirls.

    The HHRC is housed in the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta.

    In addition to permanent exhibits on Holocaust survivors and liberators in Maine, the HHRC and Klahr Center host rotating historical and art exhibits, events, meetings for Maine social and school groups, and workshops for students and teachers that raise awareness of civil rights and human rights issues in Maine and beyond.

    The HHRC brings free educational programs like “Decision-Making in Times of Injustice,” “Yearning to Breathe Free: The Immigrant Experience in Maine,” “Civil Rights in America,” and others, to Maine high school students across the state with materials from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Facing History and Ourselves, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and other organizations.

    For more information about HHRC, its programs, and its exhibits, call (207) 621-3530, visit hhrcmaine.org, or visit the Klahr Center at 46 University Drive in Augusta.

  • Pingree Bill To Help Veterans Not have to Return Overpaid VA Benefits

    Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District wants to help resolve what she says is a growing problem affecting many veterans in Maine and around the country: overpayment of benefits by Veterans Affairs. She's sponsered a bill to amend the problem. H.R.3705  will direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to require the use of certified mail and plain language in certain debt collection activities so veterans understand their rights.

    The issue for veterans is being asked to repay large sums of money without advance notice or a way to appeal. Money the VA mistakenly paid them.

    Pingree  and her colleagues in Congress have been getting complaints from their veteran constituents and she's acting.

    “We heard from people who found out from the VA that they owed large amounts of money and often they had no idea that they owed anything, or they were allegedly sent a notice but it might have gone to a state they never lived in or a place they hadn’t been for a long time,” she says.

    Pingree’s office have helped veterans resolve these problems with the VA. She has sponsored Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act, H.R.3705 to remedy similar situations.

    With certified letters, Pingree says the VA can be sure that its notifications get to veterans. Without them, she says veterans can be hurt.

    “These are people who served their country. They’re injured. They have PTSD. They’re already in a difficult situation and we’re putting them in an even more vulnerable position, sometimes a devastating position,” said Pingree.

    Pingree says the increase in overpayment errors appears to be tied, at least in part, to Veterans Affairs’ effort to reduce its backlog of benefit cases.

    A public hearing on Pingree’s bill is scheduled for Wednesday.

  • Failure to speak out against Nazi extremism is complicity with hate

    As Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio said, “This isn’t hard.” In fact, it’s quite simple. “Very fine people” don’t march with Nazis.

    For us as Jews, the images from Charlottesville stir a particular kind of horror. Watching armed militias spout racism and anti-Semitism awakens a dread that is not theoretical. Their Nazi slogans should have been buried with the Third Reich. Survivors of the concentration camps still live among us. We are their friends, their children, their heirs. We carry the legacy of those who didn’t survive. And, appallingly, the Holocaust is hardly the only genocide humans have perpetrated. It can happen anywhere, even in an advanced country where the targeted groups are well-integrated into society.

    Our Jewish history makes us acutely sensitive to the dangers of ugly white nationalism. Anti-Muslim rhetoric, “White Lives Matter” and other forms of covert and overt racism, attacks on immigrants, “bathroom bills” and varied cruelty to LGBTQ and trans communities, all these come from the same base instincts that fuel anti-Semitism. We are all on edge.

    President Donald Trump’s failure to unambiguously repudiate neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups has defiled the presidency. Until now, it was unthinkable that a post-World War II president of the United States would suggest an equivalence between Nazi and KKK sympathizers and those who protest against them. There is no moral equivalence between evil and those who oppose it. The fact that David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the KKK, and Richard Spencer, a leader of the so-called alt-right, are among the few who are happy with the president’s statements tell us what we already know: he lacks a moral compass, and is giving succor to groups linked to some of the worst chapters of human history.

    We are gratified that so many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have spoken out. They are stating clearly that there is no place in the United States for the bigotry, hatred and violence that the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and their enablers espouse. We are even more grateful to those public figures who have specifically called on Trump to disavow white supremacists and remove their supporters from his administration. We are grateful, but we would go further and urge our representatives to restore federal funding to counter white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

    In this spirit, we ask all our elected officials, from the White House and Congress to our governor and Legislature down to our city councils and select boards, to state what should be obvious: hate groups are utterly unacceptable. Anyone who can’t tell the difference between a Nazi and an anti-Nazi protester is betraying the ideals on which this country was founded and should not hold public office. By their own avowal, they cannot govern on the foundation that all people are created equal.

    It’s rare to find an issue for which right and wrong are so clear. With radical hate, there is no room for equivocation. Failure to speak out is complicity.

    Our elected officials must act, but that is not enough. Our religious tradition is founded in communal responsibility. We are accountable not only for our individual sins and shortcomings but for those of our community. Tikkun olam — repair of the world — requires us all to act. We are taught, “Justice, justice shall ye pursue.” We are in a critical moment in history. In years to come, we may be asked “What did you do?” Each of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, must answer that we were not passive bystanders, but that we actively pursued justice for everyone in our community.

    Mary-Anne Saxl is president of Congregation Beth El in Bangor.

  • Rep. Cohen to Introduce Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald Trump After Comments on Charlottesville

    Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today announced that he will be introducing articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump following the President’s comments on the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    “I have expressed great concerns about President Trump’s ability to lead our country in the Resolution of No Confidence (H.Res. 456) that I introduced in July with 29 of my colleagues; however, after the President’s comments on Saturday, August 12 and again on Tuesday, August 15 in response to the horrific events in Charlottesville, I believe the President should be impeached and removed from office. Instead of unequivocally condemning hateful actions by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Klansmen following a national tragedy, the President said ‘there were very fine people on both sides.’ There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen.”

    “We fought a World War to defeat Nazis, and a Civil War to defeat the Confederacy.  In reaction to the downfall of the Confederacy, and the subsequent passage of the Reconstruction Amendments to our constitution, the KKK embarked on a dastardly campaign to terrorize and intimidate African Americans from exercising their newly acquired civil rights.  Subsequent incarnations of the Klan continued to terrorize African Americans with lynchings and civil rights murders such as the assassination of Medgar Evers and the killings of Schwerner, Chaney, Goodman and other civil rights workers.”

    “When I watched the videos from the protests in Charlottesville, it reminded me of the videos I’ve seen of Kristallnacht in 1938 in Nazi Germany. It appeared that the Charlottesville protesters were chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ and ‘blood and soil,’ an infamous Nazi slogan, as they marched with torches that conjured up images of Klan rallies. None of the marchers spewing such verbiage could be considered ‘very fine people’ as the President suggested. And it certainly appeared the participants were in lock-step. Some of the white nationalist protesters were interviewed by the media, such as Sean Patrick Nielsen. He said one of his three reasons for being there was ‘killing Jews.’ Another was Christopher Cantwell, one of the white nationalist leaders, who said he couldn’t watch ‘that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl’ and said he hoped ‘somebody like Donald Trump, but who does not give his daughter to a Jew,’ would lead this country. As a Jew and as an American and as a representative of an African American district, I am revolted by the fact that the President of the United States couldn’t stand up and unequivocally condemn Nazis who want to kill Jews and whose predecessors murdered 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, and could not unequivocally condemn Klansmen whose organization is dedicated to terrorizing African Americans.

    “President Trump has failed the presidential test of moral leadership. No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry. No moral president would ever question the values of Americans protesting in opposition of such actions, one of whom was murdered by one of the white nationalists. Senator John McCain rightfully tweeted this week that there was ‘no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate.’ Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.” President Trump has shown time and time again that he lacks the ethical and moral rectitude to be President of the United States. Not only has he potentially obstructed justice and potentially violated the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, but he has also shown that he is incapable or unwilling to protect Americans from enemies, foreign and domestic. Neo-Nazis and the KKK are domestic terrorists. If the President can’t recognize the difference between these domestic terrorists and the people who oppose their anti-American attitudes, then he cannot defend us.”

    Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who was an outspoken critic of Adolph Hitler, said:

     

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

     

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

     

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

     

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
     

    “They have come for me, and for the majority of my Congressional constituency. Accordingly, I must speak out today after what happened on Saturday and our President’s subsequent response. It is morally and legally incumbent upon me, based on my oath of office, to introduce articles of impeachment.” 

     

  • Disastrous new solar rules violate Maine's right to energy independence

    Aug. 18, 2017

    It’s shocking, but true. Thanks to the actions of a self-proclaimed anti-tax governor, Maine is about to become the first state where electric companies can charge fees for the energy you make and use at your own home or business. This will likely reduce your energy choices and increase energy costs for all Mainers.

    In Maine, we take pride in our independence and self-reliance. Many of us still grow our own vegetables or cut our own firewood. We don’t like big government or big corporations coming into our homes and watching us — especially to charge us new taxes or fees.

    But under new solar energy rules set to take effect in January, if you dare to make your own energy using solar panels, you’ll be charged fees for that energy. Central Maine Power (or Emera Maine, for some) will now monitor your home energy use and actually charge you for the electricity you make and consume onsite. Implementing these rules also will come with an enormous price tag that will be passed along directly to ratepayers like you and me.

    If that sounds wrong, it’s because it is.

    Imagine you’ve got a garden in your backyard, and when you decide to harvest your ripe tomatoes, the local grocery store sends you a bill. That’s the logic of the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s new solar energy rules. Hand-picked by Gov. Paul LePage, the members of this commission have a critical say in Maine’s energy future.

    Many legislators — both Democrats and Republicans — didn’t think the new solar energy rules seemed fair, so we worked diligently on a compromise. We came up with LD 1504, this session’s so-called “solar bill.”

    The bill would have banned new fees on the energy consumers generate at home. It would have delayed implementation of the rules and required the Public Utilities Commission to conduct a full cost-benefit analysis before coming back to the Legislature with a new proposal.

    It also would have lifted barriers to shared projects such as solar farms or community wind or hydro-energy projects, helping renters and others without an appropriate site to share in the benefits of self-generation.

    Despite LD 1504 being sponsored by a Republican, amended twice by Republicans, and initially passed with veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, it failed on the very last day of this session. A small minority of Republicans — including seven who flipped their votes — in the House sided with LePage to uphold his veto of the bill. As a result, these disastrous rules are set to take effect in January.

    It didn’t have to be this way.

    LD 1504 would have protected hundreds of good-paying, local jobs in the rooftop solar industry and cleared the way for the creation of many more. It would have recognized our rights as Mainers to produce our own energy.

    But, perhaps most importantly, LD 1504 would have saved all ratepayers money.

    The more small, distributed generation we have, like rooftop solar panels, the less we need to pay for expensive poles and wires to bring us energy. Our own homegrown energy can help lower costs for everyone.

    In fact, the primary driver of today’s rising electricity costs in Maine is continuous building of transmission poles and wires. This “overbuilding” is driven by Central Maine Power profit interests. They are guaranteed at least a 10 percent profit on transmission projects, and as a regulated monopoly, the more they build, the more they are allowed to charge you and me.

    It’s not surprising then that Central Maine Power lobbied hard to kill LD 1504, even bringing their CEO to Augusta to personally twist Republicans’ arms on the day of the vote.

    To protect your right to produce clean energy and local jobs, we’ll try again when the Legislature returns in January. The only way we’ll succeed is if constituents and ratepayers tell legislators they oppose Maine’s new, first-in-the-world fee on energy produced and used at home. 

    Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, is a former House Majority Leader and currently House Chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

  • Confederate battle flag isn’t a symbol of Southern heritage - It’s a flag of treason

    Posted Aug. 16, 2017, at 7:28 a.m.

    It is not a coincidence that at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Nazi swastika was carried side-by-side with the Confederate battle flag. Both flags were flown by armies that fired upon U.S. soldiers and the American flag. The first shots in the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, an American fort that proudly displayed the American flag. The “victors” at Fort Sumter gave a mighty cheer when the American flag was lowered. Throughout the war, Southern diarists referred to the American flag as the “hated Yankee flag.”

    The Confederate battle flag is a flag of treason.

    The Nazi flag and the Confederate battle flag were designed by groups that rejected the founding American creed of the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal.” The founding documents of the Confederate States of America espoused the supremacy of the white race and the need for the black race to be held forever subservient.

    While the Confederate army did not massacre 6 million people whom they considered subhuman, as did the Nazis, the Confederate army, under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former slave trader, slaughtered hundreds of African-American troops after the surrender of the Union garrison at Fort Pillow in Tennessee. They were outraged that a black man would ever be allowed to wield a gun. Forrest, after the war, helped found the Ku Klux Klan.

    Those who fly a Confederate battle flag side-by-side with the American flag are not only ignorant of history but they grossly misrepresent the core ideas that gave rise to the four years of treason that commenced with the attack on Fort Sumter. This was not, as Southern apologists claim, a defense of “states’ rights,” but a rejection of a democratic election won fairly by Abraham Lincoln. Well before Lincoln was ever inaugurated and signed a single piece of legislation, Southern states rejected the ideas of American democracy, the American nation and the American flag.

    The monument to Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, the focal point of the white supremacist rally, was not erected in the wake of the Civil War, but in the 1920s. It celebrates a man who took up arms against his own country. Monuments to Civil War generals began to be built not in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, but only after the disputed election of 1876.

    Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel Tilden for presidency, even though Tilden had won both the national popular vote and secured more electoral votes than Hayes but fell one shy of the majority needed to win the election. Hayes secured the 19 contested electoral votes needed to take the White House after pledging to remove federal troops from the South, ending the era of Reconstruction.

    These troops had been attempting to enforce the principles of equality and freedom over which the Civil War had been fought. This concession allowed the introduction of Jim Crow legislation, re-establishing the principles of white supremacy over which the South had committed its act of treason. Segregation and widespread denial of the enfranchisement of African-Americans quickly followed. The sudden re-emergence of the Confederate battle flag throughout the South only occurred in the 1950s as the courts, and then Congress, began undoing the legal framework of white supremacy embodied in the Jim Crow South.

    The American philosopher George Santayana once wrote that “those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Those Southern Republicans who still defend the Confederate battle flag as a sign of “Southern heritage” and deny slavery and treason as the cause of the Civil War should remember what the first Republican president said in his Second Inaugural Address: “To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend [slavery] was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war.” Lincoln had lived the history that Southern Republicans now try to sanitize.

    A little over a month after Lincoln spoke these words, he was slain by a white supremacist dedicated to the Confederate battle flag and the Confederacy, John Wilkes Booth. The time has come to squarely face the history of the Confederacy. Let us honor the Civil War dead at battlefields, but let us put an end to honoring in the public square either the flag of treason or the generals who led that treason.

    Arthur Greif lives in Bar Harbor and practices law in Bangor.

  • Press freedom groups that deserve support in age of Trump

    DONALD TRUMP HAS BEEN A BLESSING, albeit a mixed one, to some First Amendment and media law organizations. Since the election, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has received more than  $3 million in support, including $1 million from Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos. Meryl Streep gave the Committee to Protect Journalists a shout-out during her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards in January, resulting in a flood of donations. And the Freedom of the Press Foundation has stepped up its crowdfunding efforts and its digital security training for journalists.

    The work those organizations do is increasingly important because of the threats posed by Trump’s rhetoric and the economic challenges the news industry is facing, especially at the local level. A study last year reported that 53 percent of US newspaper editors agreed that “news organizations are no longer prepared to go to court to preserve First Amendment freedoms,” while 27 percent said they had been unable to bring a case at their own outlets because of the cost. More journos are working as freelancers, too, and new platforms are less likely to have in-house counsel or the resources to hire trial lawyers.

    So the work the big organizations like the RCFP, CPJ, and FPF do is more and more necessary (and routinely excellent). But they’re not the only players in this space.

    Just a few weeks ago, The Washington Post published a story about the lesser-known Student Press Law Center, which advocates for student journalists. It’s deserving of support, but hasn’t benefited from the recent financial and publicity groundswell. (Disclosure: I’m a volunteer attorney for the SPLC.)

    Groups like the SPLC—dedicated to First Amendment and media law, and doing impactful work, but not as well known as some of its bigger brethren—deserve attention. Many provide niche services or tailored expertise; some are also vulnerable to economic challenges, or risk being overlooked. With that in mind, I recently conducted short interviews with representatives at 10 such organizations. I’m sharing them here in the hope that CJR readers will find the information helpful—or perhaps even consider one of the groups worthy of support.

    I left out many good organizations, some because they’re already well known (the Sunlight Foundation, the Knight First Amendment Institute, and the First Amendment Center), and others because they do First Amendment work but have broader missions ( the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Press Photographers Association, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation), and still others because of space constraints.

    That said, here are some First Amendment and media law organizations that deserve attention:

    Our work strengthens First Amendment and related rights for all citizens by ensuring that the attorneys who defend those rights are equipped to do so.

    Media Law Resource Center (Jeff Hermes, deputy director)

    What does the organization do? Our primary focus is on providing the lawyers who represent media organizations and First Amendment interests with the information and resources they need to carry out that role. We also have a charitable sister organization, the MLRC Institute, whose mission is to educate the public [about] First Amendment rights.” Has the main organization’s work changed under Trump? “Certain issues have taken greater prominence: press access to the executive branch; protection of journalistic sources and reporters against retaliation for reporting on the government; and maintaining the strong protections…for media organizations in defamation and other content-liability lawsuits in the face of public statements attacking the press. When the…attacks [began], we asked our members whether they might be available for pro bono help in cases where the administration attempts to use litigation to chill speech, and a large number responded positively.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Most directly, we support our members who receive our benefits…Some MLRC resources are available to the public, too. And more broadly, our work strengthens First Amendment and related rights for all citizens by ensuring that the attorneys who defend those rights are equipped to do so.

    There has been more discussion and a deeper interest among students and teachers about free speech rights.

    First Amendment Law Clinic at Michigan State University College of Law (Nancy Costello, director)

    What does the organization do? “[We] provide pro bono legal [services] to [student] journalists grappling with censorship and other First Amendment issues, …and [we] offer workshops to high school journalists and their faculty advisors…to teach them about student press rights. (Law students teach the workshops, which have visited 40 schools since 2011.) The law students also submit FOIA requests [for] information about policies at Michigan schools to monitor whether they restrict protected speech.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “There has been more discussion and a deeper interest among students and teachers about free speech rights. Much of the class discussion led by [our] law students focuses on current events.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Mostly [student journalists] and their faculty advisors. In the late fall, [we are] launching the McLellan Free Speech Online Library…to provide a cache of legal answers to often-asked questions about student speech and press rights. It will also offer a general guide to news sources [and] a Q&A section for students to send in questions and receive answers in a short period of time. The website will be geared for people between 14 and 21.” 

    We have taken on many new matters dealing with executive branch accountability and potential conflicts of interest in the new administration.

    Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School (Hannah Bloch-Wehba, Stanton First Amendment Fellow)

    What does the organization do? “[We are] a law student clinic dedicated to increasing government transparency, defending the essential work of news gatherers, and protecting freedom of expression. We provide pro bono representation to…news organizations, freelance journalists, academics, and activists…[We’ve] litigated FOI cases that compelled the release of information about the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [and] the rules for closing the military commissions at Guantanamo.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Government accountability, national security, and newsgathering rights have been at the core of [our] work since…2009. The election confirmed the need for our [work], and…we have taken on many new matters dealing with executive branch accountability and potential conflicts of interest in the new administration.” Who benefits from the organization’s work?“Our clients benefit most directly [but not exclusively]…Last year, for example, the clinic obtained a federal court order recognizing a constitutional right of…access to all phases of an execution. We also obtained a court order requiring the Department of Defense to release statistics about the…personnel stationed at its Guantanamo Bay detention center. These are wins not just for our clients…but also for the public.”   

    The president’s negative statements pertaining to US news media create an atmosphere of distrust for our nation’s largest distributor[s] of information about their government.

    National Freedom of Information Coalition (Daniel Bevarly, executive director

    )What does the organization do? “NFOIC and its 45 state affiliates make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies, and procedures to ensure the public’s access to their records and proceedings.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “There is much more attention being focused on…the freedoms of speech and press. The president’s negative statements pertaining to US news media create an atmosphere of distrust for our nation’s largest distributor[s] of information about their government.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “While our organization is dominated by journalists and media lawyers…our programs and work help citizens, journalists, attorneys, businesses, (and anyone who seeks public information).”

    Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? ‘No.’

    Scott & Cyan Banister First Amendment Clinic at UCLA School of Law (Eugene Volokh, director)

    What does the organization do? “We file friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of various organizations and academics in First Amendment cases throughout the country, in state and federal court.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “No.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “The courts, which get useful perspectives; nonprofits such as the Reporters Committee [for Freedom of the Press]…and Electronic Frontier Foundation, whom we represent pro bono; and students, who work on all of the cases.” 

    The highest elected office in the land has set a tone of hostility to free speech and access.

    First Amendment Coalition (David Snyder, executive director)

    What does the organization do? “[Our] mission…is to protect and promote freedom of expression and the people’s right to know…Our activities include free legal consultations for journalists; educational and informational programs; legislative oversight of bills affecting access to government; and public advocacy through writing of op-eds and public speaking.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Our core mission and activities remain the same, but the focus and emphasis have changed…The highest elected office in the land has set a tone of hostility to free speech and access. This…has made much more difficult the work of journalists and others seeking to gather facts in order to understand and critique their government…[W]e see more questions from reporters about the ‘disappearing’ of information from websites…, and the need for litigation that pushes back against the executive branch has increased.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “The public, including the media,…for whom the acquisition and understanding of the government is an essential component of their business model.”

    Trump’s blocking of people on Twitter sparked me to write an op-ed about whether that violated a First Amendment right of citizens to access his account.

    Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida (Clay Calvert, director)

    What does the organization do? “The project analyzes current First Amendment issues—from whether rap music lyrics constitute true threats of violence to the constitutionality of regulating fake news—by filing friend-of-the-court briefs, writing scholarly articles, publishing op-eds, and providing testimony if needed to legislative bodies.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Trump’s blocking of people on Twittersparked me to write an op-ed about whether that violated a First Amendment right of citizens to access his account. His obsession with fake news directly led to three of my graduate research fellows…co-authoring a paper on the First Amendment aspects of regulating fake news. [And] I field more media calls now that Trump is in office. [He] is truly lifetime employment for those of us who comment on [media law] issues. Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Hopefully the public benefits most. That’s why going beyond writing academic articles and amicus briefs is so important. Responding swiftly and thoughtfully to great questions posed by journalists’ calls and emails really is key in the public education process.” 

    Free expression has been a core value of the internet since its earliest days, and it faces increasing pressures from a range of sources, beyond President Trump’s suspicion of the media.

    Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (Vivek Krishnamurthy, instructor)

    What does the organization do? “[We] provide pro-bono legal services…in areas related to law and technology, including First Amendment and media law. Our work…ranges from counseling freelance journalists threatened with defamation claims to representing amici in litigation on state anti-SLAPP laws.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Free expression has been a core value of the internet since its earliest days, and it faces increasing pressures from a range of sources, beyond President Trump’s suspicion of the media. As…more content comes under the control of a few large entities, it’s key to track the consequences and hold those organizations accountable. Policies aimed at reducing online harassment and combating ‘fake news’…may have significant impacts on free speech if not…narrowly tailored.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Ideally, both our clients and our students: the clients in that they receive free, high-quality legal services, and the students in that they develop their knowledge and professional skills.”

    Because of the administration’s anti-press…public persona, I have gotten a lot of calls from media.

    Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University (Roy Gutterman, director)

    What does the organization do? “[We] educate students and the public on…First Amendment values. We host events [and] speakers, and [give] the Tully Free Speech Award to a journalist who has faced significant turmoil in performing journalism…Last year, we honored Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who was in prison in Iran, …and a student told me afterward that meeting him changed her life.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Because of the administration’s anti-press…public persona, I have gotten a lot of calls from media. On campus, I have…participated in a number of speeches and teach-ins to help people understand the role of the First Amendment.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Students and the campus community are the primary beneficiaries…[We] have hosted some of the biggest events on campus [featuring] Daniel Ellsberg, Larry Flynt, and Mary Beth Tinker.”

    "I can’t explicitly relate requests to President Trump, but one wonders if there is a greater willingness to make more specious requests in a culture where the president is regularly caught misleading the public.

    New Media Rights at California Western School of Law (Art Neill, founder and executive director)

    What does the organization do? “We work primarily on the effect that overreach by rights-holders in the copyright and trademark space has on…freedom of speech. We provide legal services, education, and policy advocacy for creators—including journalists, startups, and consumers.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Anecdotally, we have seen an uptick in content takedown defense requests. In addition to that uptick, there is a significant uptick in the amount of [takedown] requests that are baseless. I can’t explicitly relate [those] requests to President Trump, but one wonders if there is a greater willingness to make more specious requests in a culture where the president is regularly caught misleading the public.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? Creators [and others] who need intellectual property, privacy, and media law expertise.And with the proliferation of nonprofit journalism projects, they…need the services any other new nonprofit or business needs. We [draft] contracts for [them], distribution agreements for their clients, and terms of use and privacy policies for their apps and websites. They also need to know how to form and structure the business.”

    Jonathan Peters is CJR’s press freedom correspondent. He is a media law professor at the University of Georgia, with posts in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Law.
  • Journalism is a public service. We should fund it like one

    LOCAL NEWS IS IN DIRE STRAITS.

    In a quest for profit, publishers have gutted newsrooms and hollowed outcoverage of local communities. As the industry struggles to build the business model of the future, it’s missing an opportunity to embrace a funding mechanism that can enshrine journalism as a public service: the special service district.

    The United States currently hosts more than 30,000 special service districts, which fund everything from local fire departments and water infrastructure projects to sanitation services and hospitals. Special service districts are paid for by taxes or annual fees assessed in a geographic area; and, in turn, they deliver services to the communities that fund them. They can be created by town councils or voted into existence via referendum.

    During the past year, my colleagues and I at Community Information Districts worked to lay the foundation for a special service district model for local journalism. Journalists we spoke with were intrigued by the idea, though some become apprehensive when asked to view the proposal as a taxpayer. But we also spoke with taxpayers, who were generally receptive.

    At a series of New Jersey community forums on improving local media across the state, those residents in attendance understood the model and supported the mission. The community news and information needs raised at these events can be met, but not every community can currently support viable business models to meet those needs. That’s where a community information district (CiD) comes in.

    MY HOMETOWN OF FAIR LAWN, New Jersey, has a population of 32,000 people. An annual $40 contribution per household could deliver a $500,000 operating budget to a newsroom devoted to understanding and serving the local news and information needs of its community.

    That budget could support print or online newspapers, or livestreaming town council meetings. A special service district for local journalism could convene community forums or media literacy classes, launch a text message and email alert system, or pay for chatbots that answer locally relevant questions, like “Is alternate side parking in effect?”

    Access to news and information is key to democratic governance. The CiD model offers a financial engine for sustainable and radically local journalism.

    Each community could shape its own information district through a needs assessment or a targeted engagement campaign. To prevent political interference, a board of trustees made up of residents and community stakeholders, could oversee their local CiD. Communities could allocate funding through a participatory budgeting process, and hold regular referendums to determine whether or not it should reauthorize the CiD.

    Community information districts are not a cure-all, and there are obstacles to establishing them. Some communities might resist the notion of an additional tax. Others may not have the tax base to support such services in the first place. We are still looking for solutions to these issues, but they are not insurmountable. Next year, my colleagues and I plan to release a guide to help communities establish their own CiDs and navigate variations in state law. The guide will also establish good governance guidelines, offer samples of legislative language, and outline best practices in local journalism and community information for CiDs.

    Access to news and information is key to democratic governance. The CiD model offers a financial engine for sustainable and radically local journalism, which supports the regional and national press in turn. It provides a direct financial incentive for journalists to leave the coasts, deeply engage their communities, and prioritize the impact of their work above pageviews. CiDs could revitalize and sustain local news, rebuild trust, and increase civic engagement across the country.

  • Mayor Joe Baldacci's remarks for Charlie Howard, murdered 33 years ago because he was gay

     Mayor Joe Bladacci's Full Remarks at the church service in Bangor, Maine

    "I first want to thank all of you and the important work being done that reverberates with hope all across our community.

    It is important for all of us, as human beings, to remember, to learn from, to never forget, to struggle against the multitude acts of injustice, which take place everyday in our world that diminishes us all.

    And so it is with the death of Charlie Howard. It has been 33 years but our memories should never forget the horror of his death as well as the injustice done to millions of people since the beginning of time solely on account of who they love. 

    Why? Why should we never forget? Why should we struggle against the injustices done to others? 

    As was written in the Bible and as we know from daily life man is a fallen creature. From dust to dust, from ashes to ashes all of us share in the imperfections, the sins, the mortality of a being a human being in this world.

    At the same time we share the impulses to raise ourselves higher and closer to the example of our Creator. The ancient lesson of love thy neighbor and to treat others as we would like to be treated is not merely something to be embroidered on a quilt it is to be a reality, a way of life, a necessary function of our want not only to survive but to thrive.

    What these ancient lessons should teach all of us is not only tolerance and justice, hand in hand it also instructs us on humility, love, respect, kindness. It is when we, in our humanly imperfect way try to live by these values and not merely give them lip service that we can move forward together as a people.

    What we have learned from all of human history is that when we stray or abandon these values the consequences for all of us can be tragic.

    As it was centuries ago; so it is still here and now. We are being tested just as prior generations were.

    In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King Jr. declared that,  'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never can we afford to live with the narrow, the provincial, outside agitator idea. Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered anywhere in this country.'

    So let us all remember that for well or I'll what we do here in Bangor does matter and does send out reverberations of hope or hate to the rest of the world.

    And Charlie Howard's death reverberated not only in Bangor but all around the world. I was a 19 year old delegate to the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. I didn't hear about this tragedy until I woke up the next day in California and it was on the front page top story of every paper. I was personally ashamed of my community. The tragedy rocked Bangor and Maine out of our collective slumber from the hate and degradation too many people had accepted as a "normal" way to deal with people who are different from us. 

    In many ways Bangor, thankfully, is a different city than it was 33 years ago. We have passed anti discrimination laws, we have welcomed same sex marriages.

    But we are all well aware that we can never rest, never forget — never just sit back in self-satisfaction. 

    Charlie Howard's senseless murder, continues to reverberate with shame and horror. And we are gathered here to remember and send forth even stronger waves of hope, of love, of justice and tolerance. Because I still believe that hope and justice, that love and tolerance will always ultimately triumph over hate.

    I have always believed in the idea that one person can make a difference, that we do does matter to others, that we can choose to be examples of light or darkness to the rest of the world. Just as you have chosen I choose the light. 

    In today's world our values of basic human decency toward others are under attack. Human decency is as radical as the Old Testament and as relevant as the racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobic fears that we see too often in power when reason, respect and tolerance should be in the lead.

    So I have come here not only to thank you but to ask you to fight even harder. And I need your help right here in Bangor, Maine. 

    I see a City that is strong and proud. That is both prosperous and progressive. I see a City that welcomes people of all Nations, all faiths, of all different backgrounds who all share a common love for America and for working and living together in peace and love with each other.

    I see a City where Love Thy Neighbor is a daily reality. I see a City where we come together from all different walks of life and viewpoints and can still work together to build a stronger community for all. 

    And what each and everyone us does will decide if those hopes. become reality. I am fully confident that this is what Bangor is and can become. Because I have seen it happen before.

    I am the grandson of Italian and Lebanese immigrants who came to America to escape the poverty and persecution of the Old World. My father's parents started a restaurant that ran for 75 years. My mother's family started a small grocery store on Hancock Street when Hancock Street in Bangor was a melting pot of immigrants and tenement houses. I have seen the kindness and support of so many. I hope our family has returned some positive contributions to Maine and America. And today it is no different: immigrants strengthen and enrich America.

    And it can happen again and again. 

    In Bangor building a Maine Multicultural Center here is not by itself enough but it is a very important step forward. We have to continue to build and reinforce our ancient values of tolerance, respect, justice as an accepted ethos of how to build a stronger community for all. 

    So I ask for your help in building a Multicultural Center and in making the idea of Bangor as the most welcoming of cities a reality.

    I ask each of you to be bright lights of positive energy to overcome the dark so our common humanity can advance.

    The legacy of Charlie Howard and of all of those attacked, beat upon, discriminated against should not only be for us to never forget the hate but to keep spreading the love and mercy and justice that will overcome the dark.

  • Maine's Secretary Dunlap assures citizens of protections for voter registration information

     In response to voter concerns regarding a high-profile request for voter registration information, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is reminding voters that Maine law protects their information in multiple ways.

    On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, Secretary Dunlap received a letter from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, on behalf of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Secretary Kobach serves as vice chairman on the commission, of which Secretary Dunlap is also a member.

    In his letter, Secretary Kobach states: 

    “… in order for the Commission to fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting, I am requesting that you provide to the Commission the publicly available voter roll data for Maine, including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information. … We would appreciate a response by July 14, 2017. Please be aware that any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.” 

    Secretary Dunlap, in consultation with legal counsel at the Office of the Attorney General, is currently reviewing this request for access to Maine’s Central Voter Registration (CVR) information. If the commission is determined to be eligible for access to the CVR information under Maine law, that access would be limited in both scope and use based on Maine’s CVR statute.

    “Maine citizens can be confident that our office will not release any data that is protected under Maine law, to the commission or any other requesting entity,” said Secretary Dunlap.

    For government use, Maine law allows the release of the voter's name, year of birth, residence address, mailing address, electoral districts, voter status (active or inactive), date of registration or date of change of the voter record if applicable, voter record number and any special designations indicating uniformed service voters, overseas voters or township voters.  (Please note that the “voter record number” is a unique number created in the voter registration system and is not inclusive or reflective of a person’s driver license number or Social Security number.)

    A CVR report provided to a government entity does not include the voter’s party affiliation, full date of birth (only the year), voter participation history, social security number, or felony conviction information (as Maine does not restrict voting based on felony convictions).

    The CVR statute is clear that the recipient of voter data is not allowed to share it or make it public. Additionally, data made available to requesters may not be used for solicitation or for purposes other than their own activities and may not be redistributed.

     

  • Maine voters overwhelmingly voted for Research and Development bonds

    The official tabulation of votes from the June 13, 2017 Special Referendum Election show that the bond issue was approved overwhemingly by Maine voters.

    The Elections Division has certified the results and Gov. Paul LePage signed the official vote proclamation.

    The certified election results show a total of 63,468 votes in favor of the bond issue, and 39,549 votes in opposition. Voters cast a total of 104,213 ballots in this single-question statewide referendum, with 1,196 blanks.

    Question 1 asked: “Do you favor a $50,000,000 bond issue to provide $45,000,000 in funds for investment in research, development and commercialization in the State to be used for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades that enable organizations to gain and hold market share, to increase revenues and to expand employment or preserve jobs for Maine people, to be awarded through a competitive process to Maine-based public and private entities, leveraging other funds in a one-to-one ratio and $5,000,000 in funds to create jobs and economic growth by lending to or investing in small businesses with the potential for significant growth and strong job creation?”

    The funds will support job growth in Maine’s high tech industries, creating good-paying jobs, new products and new services. Mainers will benefit from innovation in biotech, forest products, marine resources and information technologies. New construction projects will create additional jobs for building contractors, tradespeople, equipment suppliers, and professional service providers, increasing economic activity throughout the State.

    The funds will be administered by the Maine Technology Institute (MTI)www.mainetechnology.org and applicants will be selected through an independent, review process to select projects with the greatest potential for return on investment. Applicants are required to match dollar-for-dollar, the amount of the grant award -increasing private sector investments and accountability.

    The Elections Division will post the results online this week at http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/results/index.html.

    The legislation will become law 30 days from the date of the official proclamation (July 21, 2017).

  • First-ever AT&T wireless strike could close retail stores this weekend

    Nevada. This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, which could result in closed retail stores this weekend.

     By Ramona du Houx

    AT&T workers who are members of Communications Workers of America (CWA) walked off the job May 19, 2017 in Portland, Maine and across the United States protesting AT&T’s failure to present serious proposals that invest in good jobs with a future. During the three-day strike this weekend, a majority of AT&T wireless, wireline, and DIRECTV workers are fighting for fair contracts.

    In January 2017, the company posted fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share of 66 cents on revenue of $41.8 billion.

    Nationwide, the groups striking represent four different union contracts and include wireless workers in 36 states and DC; wireline workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut; and DIRECTV technicians in California and Nevada. This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, which could result in closed retail stores this weekend. 

    While the three-day strike may inconvenience customers in the short term, AT&T workers are committed to putting an end to unnecessary frustration and poor service because of AT&T’s lack of investment in its core business.

    Workers are demanding AT&T commit to bargaining that addresses affordable benefits, fair wages, and job security. Workers are also protesting AT&T’s pervasive offshoring of jobs to low-wage contractors, which eliminate good jobs and hurt customer service. 

    After nearly four months of bargaining, AT&T wireless workers are striking. Despite making over a $1 billion a month in profits, AT&T continues to squeeze customers and employees at a time when most Americans believe they are worse off financially than the generation before them.

    Since 2011, AT&T has eliminated 12,000 call center jobs in the U.S., closing and downsizing call centers across the country. Rather than keeping those good-paying jobs here at home, AT&T has contracted with third-party vendors operating in countries with low wages and weak labor protections. A recent report from CWA shed new light on AT&T’s sprawling web of 38 third-party call centers in eight countries that are driving low wages and compromising quality service for millions of AT&T customers.

    At AT&T’s annual shareholder meeting at the end of April, AT&T workers protested the company’s unfair bargaining and announced they had given the company 72-hours’ notice to end their contract extension.

    In late March, 17,000 AT&T wireline workers in California and Nevada went on strike to protest the company’s change of working conditions in violation of federal law. The strike ended when workers won an agreement with the company that it will no longer require employees to do work outside of their expertise and classification. Since a recent merger, 2,300 DIRECTV workers in California and Nevada have been in negotiations for their first contract since April 2016, and hundreds of workers at AT&T East who manage the 911 dispatch system for AT&T have also worked without a contract for over a year.

  • West Virginia journalist arrested after asking HHS Secretary Price a direct news question

    "This formidable censor of the public functionaries, by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise be done by revolution. It is also the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being." --Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823. ME 15:489 about a free press.

    "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it." --Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786.

    By Samantha Schmidt May 10 - article in the Washington Post

    West Virginia reporter Dan Heyman attempted to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price a question about the Republican health-care bill on May 9. He was arrested for “Willful Disruption of State Government Processes." (Valerie Woody/West Virginia Citizen Action Group)

    As Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price walked through a hallway Tuesday in the West Virginia state capitol, veteran reporter Dan Heyman followed alongside him, holding up his phone to Price while attempting to ask him a question.

    Heyman, a journalist with Public News Service, repeatedly asked the secretary whether domestic violence would be considered a preexisting condition under the Republican bill to overhaul the nation’s health care system, he said.

    “He didn’t say anything,” Heyman said later in a news conference. “So I persisted.”

    Then, an officer in the capitol pulled him aside, handcuffed him and arrested him. Heyman was jailed on the charge of willful disruption of state government processes and was released later on $5,000 bail.

    Authorities said while Secret Service agents were providing security in the capitol for Price and Kellyanne Conway, special counsel to the president, Heyman was “aggressively breaching” the agents to the point where they were “forced to remove him a couple of times from the area,” according to a criminal complaint.

    Heyman “was causing a disturbance by yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price,” the complaint stated.

    But Heyman said he was simply fulfilling his role as a journalist and feels that his arrest sets a “terrible example” for members of the press seeking answers to questions.

    “This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do,” Heyman said. “I think it’s a question that deserves to be answered. I think it’s my job to ask questions and I think it’s my job to try to get answers.”

    Price and Conway were visiting Charleston, W.Va., to hear about efforts to fight opioid addiction in a state that has the nation’s highest drug overdose death rate. They met privately with state and local policymakers and members of several groups, including officials of an addiction treatment center and an addiction hotline, according to the Associated Press.

    Before Heyman’s arrest, no police officer told him he was in the wrong place, Heyman said. He was wearing a press pass as well as a shirt with a Public News Service logo on the front, and identified himself to police as a reporter, he said.

    At the news conference, Heyman’s lawyer called the arrest a “highly unusual case” and said he has never had a client arrested for “talking too loud.” The lawyer, Tim DiPiero, described Heyman as a mild-mannered, reputable journalist and called the arrest “bizarre” and “way over the top.”

    Heyman has worked as a reporter for about 30 years, and his stories have appeared in the New York Times, NPR and other national news outlets, he said. Since 2009, he has worked as a West Virginia-based producer and reporter for Public News Service, a nonprofit news service that provides content to media outlets while also publishing its own stories.

    Lark Corbeil, chief executive and founder of Public News Service, said Heyman’s arrest took the organization “very much by surprise.”

    “From what we can understand, he did nothing out of the ordinary,” Corbeil said in an interview with The Washington Post. “He was doing what any journalist would normally do, calling out a question and trying to get an answer.”

    The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia said in a statement that Heyman’s arrest constituted “a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press.” It called the charges against Heyman “outrageous” and demanded they be dropped immediately.

    “This is a dangerous time in our country,” the statement read. “Freedom of the press is being eroded every day.”

    Today was a dark day for democracy,” the ACLU of West Virginia added. “But the rule of law will prevail. The First Amendment will prevail.”

    Heyman said he has been reporting on health care issues for many years, calling it “well-trodden ground” in his coverage. As a veteran journalist, he is used to criticism, he said, but he has never heard of a reporter being arrested for asking a question. Heyman said he thinks the public relies on journalists aggressively “pursuing the truth.”

    “If they don’t like the stories I write, that’s fine,” Heyman said. “They can criticize me all they want.”

    “But just saying that I shouldn’t be able to do my job is a bit ridiculous,” he added.

  • Maine News Groups and NEFAC call for Preservation of State House Committee Recordings

    The New England First Amendment Coalition expressed concern this week about a proposed policy that would limit access to recordings of the Maine State House Facilities Committee, calling such recordings “an invaluable tool to aid with accuracy and immediacy, and one that is in the public’s great interest.”

    The State House Facilities Committee is responsible for, among other things, the management of the capitol grounds and legislative space in the State House. It is currently considering three policies for the recording of its public hearings:

    (1) provide the recordings for public viewing on the legislature’s website,
    (2) provide the recordings to the public only by request, or
    (3) immediately delete the recordings after they are publicly broadcasted.

    The committee is also exploring copyright protection against the public distribution of the recordings if they are ultimately preserved.

    These options are being considered in response to the fears of some committee members that widely distributed recordings of public hearings may have an adverse impact on those providing testimony.

    In an April 25 letter to the committee — drafted by the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition — NEFAC, MFOIC, Sun Media Group and MaineToday Media addressed those concerns while advocating for public access.

    “Members of the public who offer testimony do so in a public forum, where they can be clearly seen and heard, and that testimony is streamed live to be heard by untold numbers of people,” the groups wrote. “Preserving information that has already been made public does no harm. In fact, quite the opposite.”

    A publicly accessible archive of the recordings, the groups explained, has research and educational value. There is also the legal value of having a record of committee dialogue: “Preservation and access eliminates any question about what was said in committee rooms, including by those offering testimony and by elected officials, many who ask questions for more information and clarity.”

    The immediate deletion of the recordings will also limit the ability of news organizations to inform their communities, according to the groups. Of additional concern is the idea that the recordings could be given copyright protection and their distribution limited by the very taxpayers who paid for them.

    “Media companies, upon which the public relies for information, often access these files for background material, to confirm facts and also to report on current legislation,” the groups wrote, adding that the recordings “are unquestionably public records which the public has an absolute right to access.”

  • 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."
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 96 Maine Attorneys Sign Letter to Collins and King Opposing Confirmation of Gorsuch to Supreme Court


    Ninety Six Maine attorneys have signed a letter to Maine Senators Collins and King today opposing the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and urging the two Senators to filibuster the nomination. Senator Collins has already endorsed Gorsuch, while not taking a position on the filibuster rule, while Senator King is still deliberating both issues.

    The letter, organized by Mainers for Accountable Leadership, expressed the lawyers’ concern about Gorsuch’s extreme, conservative views and about the wisdom of confirming a lifetime appointment to the Court while the President is under federal investigation.

    “Gorsuch would shape our jurisprudence for generations and his opinions show that he is not a normal candidate, but an activist judge with an extreme agenda,” said Jackie Sartoris, an attorney in Brunswick. “He consistently sides with corporate interests, and against the least powerful. His opinions on administrative agency decisions, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, show that he is even more willing to overturn federal regulations than was Justice Scalia​. He treats corporations as people. And our Senators should support regular order in the Senate, which requires 60 votes to allow a confirmation vote for a Supreme Court nominee.”  

    “Russian intrusion in the 2016 US election and Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign have compromised the integrity and legitimacy, of this White House. Nobody should get a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court while the investigations are underway,” said Theressa Harrigan of Cornish, an MFAL member.

    The letter was drafted by Sartoris, a MFAL member who is also a leader of Brunswick Area Rising, two “Indivisible” affiliate groups. It was a direct response to a letter from 49 Maine lawyers endorsing Gorsuch released last week days before Collins endorsed Gorsuch. MFAL’s analysis of that letter revealed it was signed by a veritable who’s who of Maine’s Republican Party establishment, including attorneys connected to Collins, Governor Paul LePage and other Republican operatives and donors.

    “The 49-lawyer letter seems orchestrated to provide political cover for Collins’s decision to back the extremist Gorsuch,” said April Humphrey of Yarmouth, an MFAL Leader. “Collins support of such an extreme candidate raises doubts about her moderation. And Sen. KIng needs to come off the fence and speak for Mainers in defending the filibuster rule and opposing Gorsuch”

    “Over 10 million dollars have been spent by corporate-backed interests to secure Gorsuch’s seat,” said Dini Merz of Falmouth, an MFAL leader. “Regular Mainers have to work hard just to be heard against this sort of big money. This letter, from experienced professionals, reflects a broader concern Mainer’s have about this appointment.”

    ##

    The Text of the Letter:

    The Honorable Susan Collins                                                                                                       United States Senate 413                                                                                                                 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510

    The Honorable Angus King                                                                                                                   United States Senate 133                                                                                                                 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510

    Dear Senators Collins and King:

    We, the undersigned Maine attorneys, oppose the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We have reached a decision to make this request independently. We view your vote on the nomination to this lifetime appointment to be of enough gravity that we come forward publicly and urge you to vote against confirmation of Judge Gorsuch.

    Our reasons for opposing the nomination of Judge Gorsuch are varied. In an effort to inform your understanding of concerns raised by this group of your constituents, this letter will touch on issues that have been raised but should not be assumed to characterize the views of each of the signers on all points.

    The influence of each Supreme Court nominee on our system of justice typically continues long after a President leaves office. The decisions of the Court collectively reach into every corner of the experience of United States citizens, affects much of our nation's public policy and even touches on intimate aspects of our personal lives. The Court, to a significant degree, shapes who we are as a nation for generations to come. We, as attorneys and officers of the court, have both professional and personal investments in maintaining and strengthening respect for the rule of law and for the Judiciary. For this and other reasons, we are invested in the choices of the Justices of the Supreme Court and the Senate's "advise and consent" role.

    Concerns over the Gorsuch nomination arise over a number of points ranging from the context of the current moment in American governance and the integrity of our democratic republic to various aspects of the nominee's record. Concerns arise from the following: 1) the unprecedented events that presaged this nomination; 2) the reasoning underlying a number of judicial decisions written by the nominee; and 3) other indicators from the nominee's speeches, interviews and extra-judicial writing of an agenda out of step with the mainstream of American jurisprudence.

    Judge Gorsuch’s nomination takes place against an unprecedented backdrop. Just last month, F.B.I. director, James B. Comey publicly confirmed an investigation into interference by agents of the government of Russia into the presidential election and whether associates of the president were in contact with Moscow. With evidence showing, for the first time in our nation’s history, that the Presidency is occupied by a person elected with the benefit of foreign interference in our election process. Given the gravity of these concerns and the credibility of the officials and sources raising them, the issue of whether it is appropriate for the President, while an investigation is ongoing, to fill a vacancy to the Court that stands to be the final arbiter in matters arising from these events.

    Concerns also center around the President's open admission that the selection process involved vetting by ideologically skewed interests groups, including specifically the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. During the campaign Trump explicitly stated that if he were elected president, his judicial nominees would “all [be] picked by the Federalist Society.” He later added the Heritage Foundation to the list of vetters. These two organizations have rigid ideological views. It is reported that Judge Gorsuch is a Federalist Society member who has spoken and been honored at society events. These connections and how they could control or influence the nominee's decisions if confirmed to the Court were not laid to rest during the confirmation hearings.

    In a similar vein, where prior presidents have made plain that they do not apply litmus tests to judicial nominees, candidate Trump pledged to only choose "pro-life judges" who would overturn Roe v. Wade and nominees with expansive views of Second Amendment rights. Given that this nominee was apparently chosen based on a litmus test, Judge Gorsuch needed to adequately assure us that he did not provide the assurances expected by the official who nominated him. As with other questions, Judge Gorsuch declined to go into detail on the matter.

    A leading point for many of those concerned about the nominee's record of jurisprudence is concern that Judge Gorsuch too consistently demonstrates a bias in favor of business interests over the rights and interests of powerless individuals. Judge Gorsuch has written eloquently about impingement on the rights of corporations. In contrast, Gorsuch has expressed direct and explicit disapproval of individuals who in his view too readily turn to the courts to protect their civil rights and other interests. In 2005, Judge Gorsuch wrote in an essay entitled “Liberals’N’Lawsuits" published in the National Review: “American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom . . . as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage” to other issues. He went further in the same essay to say that individuals bringing cases and controversies of public concern to the courts is “bad for the country.”

    Concern also arises over Judge Gorsuch's narrow view on deference to be given to scientists and policy experts during judicial review of administrative actions. In Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, Judge Gorsuch wrote not only the majority opinion but a separate concurrence to challenge the Supreme Court ruling in in the case of Chevron v. NRDC. In Chevron, the Supreme Court held that where federal law is unclear or vague, the courts should defer to interpretations by the agency experts that implement the law, except where the agencies clearly get it wrong. Chevron is a common-sense approach to judging voluminous, complicated regulations. Gorsuch disagrees with such "Chevron deference" arguing instead for judges, like himself to draw their own conclusions with far less knowledge on detailed, technical regulations. Judge Gorsuch's approach is frequently favored by regulated business entities who are more confident in their ability to convince judges instead of true experts in the field. Some people feel his hostility to Chevron deference also aligns with Steve Bannon's expressed desire to see “the deconstruction of the administrative state.”

    Another concern over the Gorsuch nomination arises in connection with the issue of campaign finance. In Judge Gorsuch's concurring opinion in the case of Riddle v. Hickenlooper he wrote “[n]o one before us disputes that the act of contributing to political campaigns implicates a ‘basic constitutional freedom,’ one lying ‘at the foundation of a free society’ and enjoying a significant relationship to the right to speak and associate—both expressly protected First Amendment activities.” Here and elsewhere, Gorsuch makes plain that he believes that political money and free speech rights are inextricably linked. He supports a higher standard of review for any limits to political campaign contributions. This approach again benefits corporate interests over ordinary citizens who are not high donors.

    Many observers raised concerns over what they see as Judge Gorsuch's narrow view on civil rights. His jurisprudence reveals a deep skepticism even hostility towards important civil rights that are not explicitly set forth in the Bill of Rights. Many are concerned that he will not uphold rights to privacy, autonomy and self-determination, rights to be a parent, to reproductive freedom, to engage in private consensual adult relationships, and to marry. His opinions, for example, regarding access to birth control, including in the case of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, put great emphasis on corporate personhood and business “religious freedom” while shortchanging rights of privacy and access to health care, particularly for women.

    In short, Judge Gorsuch conveys a consistent bias towards powerful business interests over individuals and entities with less power and influence. These are among the concerns raised by Maine attorneys like those whose signatures appear below. We urge you to oppose the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

  • Protesters demand Maine’s elected leaders stop Gorsuch confirmation but Collins might break filibuster

    By Ramona du Houx

    After shoveling out of a spring snow storm that dumped up to a foot about a hundred Brunswick area residents gathered for an outdoor rally organized by two indivisible groups: Mainers for Accountable Leadership and Brunswick Area Rising. The looming vote on Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was one focus of the citizen's protest.

    The rally was part of the growing political movement in Maine and across the nation that recently blocked Republican’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    “Make no mistake, rallies and protests just like today were responsible for stopping Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said April Humphrey, a leader of MFAL and a small business owner who relies on the ACA for health insurance.

    “A lot of commentators pointed to the Freedom Caucus, saying they sank the Trump/Ryan repeal bill. The fact is, it was too moderate for the Freedom Caucus from the get go because we pushed moderate lawmakers to oppose outright repeal. We are going to keep mobilizing, keep calling our Senators, keep showing up at their offices to put a stop to the extreme agenda Republicans are trying to push through.”

    Participants called on Maine’s elected leaders in Washington, D.C. to halt the confirmation process for the Supreme Court nominee, saying that no decision should be made on his appointment until there is an independent, impartial investigation of Trump’s ties with Russia.

    On Friday March 31st an MFAL delegation delivered a petition to Senators Collins and Kings offices signed by 600 Mainers opposing the Gorsuch nomination and McConnell’s plan to change senate rules to make it possible to confirm Gorsuch by only 51 votes.

    “A Supreme Court Justice is forever. Judge Neil Gorsuch is only 48 years old. His past opinions show that he is no normal candidate, but an activist judge with an extreme agenda,” said Jackie Sartoris, a Brunswick attorney and leader of Brunswick Area Rising.

    “He consistently takes the side of corporate interests, and against the least powerful. His opinions respecting the work of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and others indicates that he is more extreme in his willingness to overturn their regulations even than was Justice Scalia​, giving even more power to corporate interests.

    "He thinks that corporations are people, and that they should be able to impose their religious beliefs on employees​, including on a woman's right to access birth control and make health care choices. Judge Gorsuch is an extreme, activist nominee, and he must be rejected. Our Senators must oppose any change to Senate rules that would bypass the normal process requiring a 60 vote threshold for Supreme Court confirmations.”

    The groups were adamant about the need for a thorough investigation of the ties the Trump campaign and transition had to Russian intelligence officials involved in illegal manipulation of the 2016 election. Both Senators Collins and King support the ongoing Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, but the groups say that investigation cannot be independent.

    “Russian intrusion into the 2016 US election and intimate ties between the Trump campaign and transition have compromised the integrity, even the legitimacy of this White House. The House investigation is fatally compromised and, despite promises, the credibility of the Senate investigation is doubtful,” said Gordon Adams, former White House official and a leader of MFAL.

    “Only an independent commission and Special Counsel can credibly get to the bottom of this crisis. Maine’s delegation, particularly our two senators who sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, should be demanding such a commission and counsel. Moreover, as long as this investigation and any subsequent prosecution are incomplete, Senators Collins and King ought to vote against confirming Judge Gorsuch, a conservative activist, to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”

    The groups also took aim at administration threats to reproductive rights and environmental protections, and called for continued vigilance against renewed efforts to repeal the ACA and replace it with an even more extreme version of the doomed ACHA.

    “Education funding and policy are being challenged at the federal and state levels as never before, and placing an extraordinary burden on our towns.  Education is a public good - yes, it benefits individuals, but it also benefits our communities, and is a critical foundation of our democracy.  This foundation is undermined when we do not provide educators with the support needed to work with the complex reality for each child in each classroom.  That reality is sometimes wonderful, sometimes messy, and is rarely measured by test scores,” said Joy Prescott, Brunswick School Board Member.

    “So what can we do?  Support our schools locally, make our voices heard in Augusta and Washington, and stay engaged to make sure our leaders understand the issues - complicated, nuanced, and yet critically important issues - that will affect both our children and the everyday fabric of our communities.​”

    “Corporate money and power has shifted the Republican party, with its longstanding history of conservation, into one that stands up only for short-term profits. The Trump administration, like the LePage administration, places no value on what can't make a quick profit, no matter the future cost, said Stephen Walker, Brunswick Town Councilor and wildlife biologist.

    “The cost is to our natural resources, and it will be borne by our children and grandchildren. Our natural resources and our Maine values are under attack, and we need to stand up now and organize to turn this around.”

  • Maine Freedom of Information Council shows more Lawmakers supporting Government Transparency efforts

    In a report for Sunshine Week last year, the Maine Freedom of Information Council wrote:

    “All over the United States, as well as in many other countries, there seems to be a surge of efforts by governments to limit access to information collected, generated, or held by governments at all levels.

    “Sometimes limitations are enacted in the name of security (national or local); sometimes in the name of privacy; sometimes because providing that information would be ‘a burden’ on government agencies; sometimes to protect ‘trade secrets’ whose public availability would offend businesses that states are increasingly trying to retain or woo to bolster their economies. Whatever the proffered justification, the result is the same: additional limitations on citizen access to information that taxpayers are footing the bill for.”

    The very same introduction applies during Sunshine Week 2017, although perhaps even more strongly now. Here is a summary of some of the issues the MFOIC has acted on since last year.

    Legislative Candidate’s Pledge

    MFOIC contacted all 365 candidates for the Maine Legislature running in the November 2016 election and asked them if they would sign a pledge “to uphold and protect the letter and the spirit of the Maine Freedom of Access Act.”

    Of the 365 candidates, 86 said they were willing to sign the pledge. (Several others said they supported the content but did not feel that candidates should be asked to sign pledges.) This is twice the number who signed a similar pledge in 2012, and represented about 24 percent of legislative candidates.

    Judicial Branch Action Regarding Dismissed Cases

    In Maine, the Administrative Office of the Courts began implementing a new policy “of impounding all files of dismissed criminal cases, except for those ending in a plea, once 30 days have passed after charges have been dismissed. This policy also, apparently, prevents criminal defendants charged with crimes from accessing their own dismissed case files.” (Quote taken from a letter to the Chief Justices written by First Amendment attorney Sigmund Schutz, a member of MFOIC and the New England First Amendment Coalition, and supported by the coalitions as well as other organizations.) The new policy was reviewed and set aside, thus keeping access to dismissed cases public.

    Terrence E. Pinkham v. Dept. of Transportation

    MFOIC, along with NEFAC, filed an amicus brief in a case that involved the Maine Department of Transportation, which asserted that appraisal reports in MDOT takings are exempted from disclosure to the public under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA). This meant, according to the MDOT, that a plaintiff who wanted to dispute the valuation on his taken property could not have access to the appraisal even though that plaintiff was seeking discovery in a court proceeding. The court found, as suggested in our brief, that simply because appraisals are exempted under FOAA rules does not mean that they are exempt from disclosure to parties in litigation with the State of Maine.

    Conservatorship of Emma

    A conservator of a parent’s estate petitioned to have information about the assets of the estate removed from a County Probate Court’s website. The information is available at the court’s physical premises at any time it is open; the petitioner just does not want it to be placed online. The Supreme Judicial Court was asked to decide whether this should be state practice for probate courts, and the court requested that MFOIC act as appellee and submit a brief arguing that such information should be available in electronic form online just as it is in physical form at the probate court’s location. The appellant submitted a brief, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, arguing that certain probate court information, specifically financial information, that is available physically should not be available online. In the end, the Supreme Judicial Court decided not to decide on the question. The MFOIC in January submitted comments on regulations seeking to address the issue in lieu of a court decision.

    In the present political climate, there is likely to be even more resistance on the part of some government entities to keep access to government information as open as possible for citizens. Those who believe, along with Justice Brandeis that, indeed, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant” must therefore be more alert and active in ensuring that we all have the information we need as citizens to make informed decisions and to keep our government all levels accountable to those who consent to be governed.

  • LePage Proposes Bill that would Directly Increase Maine Kids living in Poverty



    By Ramona du Houx

    Governor LePage, Commissioner Mayhew, and Rep. Ken Fredette rolled out the draft idea of a proposed bill that would plunge Maine children, and their families, further into poverty. The governor needs the bill to codify some changes to welfare programs that his administration has already made by executive action. Many of the proposals outlined by LePage have been introduced as bills in the past but died in the legislature.

    Since LePgae's so called reforms have been put in place the number of children living in deep poverty and the infant mortality rate has risen. According to the 2016 Kids Count Data Book, more Maine children live in poverty than before the recession. Now, over 82,000 children in Maine — more than the entire populations of Bangor, Augusta and Biddeford combined - live in poverty.

    The USDA estimates that 15.8 percent of Maine households, or more than 209,000 individuals, are food insecure.
     
    “These so-called ‘reforms’ by the administration have created lasting damage. We’ve driven children and families deeper into poverty, increased childhood hunger, and removed basic health care from struggling families," said Health and Human Services Chair, Dr. Patty Hymanson. 
     
    "I believe that true reform means improving people’s lives, not driving them deeper into poverty. True reform should be based on a vision that would reduce child poverty by creating real opportunities for Maine families. I propose stabilizing families so that they can meet their basic needs, breaking down barriers to work, eliminating the welfare ‘cliff,’ expanding access to education for better paying jobs, making child care and transportation more accessible and affordable and holding government accountable to administer programs that truly reduce poverty."

    Trying to promote the package that would potentially endanger thousands of children LePage has the audacity to call his proposed changes — the Welfare Reform for Increased Security and Employment Act.

    "If we want Maine children to thrive, we need to reduce the number of children living in poverty. That starts with supporting and properly administering effective anti-poverty programs, while creating an economy that works for everyone," said Rita Furlow is senior policy analyst at the Maine Children’s Alliance.

    LePage's Draconian measure will:

    Shorten the lifetime limit for Maine families under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from five years to three years, also codifying a work requirement for the same program and establishing a $5,000 asset test on certain households that get food stamps. It will also:

    — Place photographs on electronic benefits cards
    — Ban or suspend parents not cooperating with child support services from receiving food assistance
    — Disqualify lottery and gambling winners of $5,000 or more from receiving food assistance
    — Require education programs paid for with TANF money to be for jobs with average or better outlooks
    — Ban repeat felony drug offenders from receiving food assistance
    — Disqualify all adults in a household from receiving TANF if an individual is convicted of welfare-related theft or fraud

    While the Republicans declare they want less government LePage continues to propose more government invasion into the lives of Maine citizens.

  • NEFAC, Media Groups Argue for Right to Record Police in Second Circuit

    The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined an amici curiae brief in a case involving a journalist arrested in 2011 while recording police at an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York.
     
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit - which has jurisdiction in Vermont and Connecticut - is currently hearing the case and has an opportunity to find a clearly established First Amendment right to record police in public places.

    "Without a clearly defined right to record, journalists and citizens seeking to document police activity run the risk of being arrested - even when the act of recording does not interfere with the duties being carried out by law enforcement," argued NEFAC and 62 fellow amici in a March 17 brief drafted by the National Press Photographers Association.
     
    The case, Higginbotham v. City of New York, involves a journalist who was covering the Occupy Wall Street protest on Nov. 15, 2011, at Zuccotti Park in New York. The journalist was arrested while recording the separate arrest of a protester by police. The journalist claimed the police retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights.
     
    In the brief, NEFAC and fellow amici argue for a clarification of the constitutional right to record police activity in public places and that this right should be determined "clearly established." This determination is important because police officers can be protected by qualified immunity against lawsuits involving the right to record if that right isn't clearly established by the courts.
     
    According to the brief:
     
    [T]his court should embrace the opportunity to provide judicial assurance that the right to photograph and record police activity in public places is enshrined in the First Amendment. In addition, since the First Amendment guarantees the freedom to document police activity, this court should give that guarantee teeth by holding that the constitutional right to record police is "clearly established." Otherwise, officers in this circuit will continue to argue . . . that the doctrine of qualified immunity provides blanket protection against lawsuits challenging arrests aimed at thwarting the lawful recording of police activity.
     
    Other New England states - Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island - are in the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. That court in 2011 confirmed a First Amendment right to openly record police officers carrying out their duties in a public place. 
     
    In Glik v. Cunniffe, the First Circuit court explained that "gathering information about government officials in a form that can be readily disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs."
  • 24 Million without healthcare—Why? We have to do better

     

    Editorial by Timothy Burns - the chief radiation physicist at the Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer, where he ensures patients get safe and effective radiation treatments. He is also active in the newly formed Bangor chapter of Maine AllCare.

    I know numbers. I am a radiation oncology physicist, so I use math and science to help physicians and the rest of our team treat cancer patients with X-rays. I’m used to large numbers and complex systems, but hearing the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s estimates about the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act left me numb. 

    There are a lot of numbers we can discuss in respect to this bill: $880 billion, the cut to Medicaid; $600 billion, the tax cut; 43 percent, the percent of births in Maine to mothers on Medicaid; $7,260, the estimated increase in out-of-pocket costs to a 60-year-old making $20,000 per year in Penobscot County. 

    As bad as those numbers are, the more important number is 24 million, which is really all you need to know about House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump’s health care plan. That’s how many Americans the Congressional Budget Office predicts will lose their insurance by 2026 if this plan becomes law. That is a big number. If you remember it, great, but you can leave those numbers to the policy experts for a minute. There is a much smaller number I want to talk about: one.

    We are privileged to live in America. Our industries, ingenuity and ideals serve as inspiration to the world. While we excel on so many levels, we fall woefully short when it comes to health care. The American medical community should be the envy of our peers, but there is one glaring hole. If we get sick, we expect the exams, blood tests, diagnostic imaging, genetic testing, consultations, surgery, chemotherapy, long-term care or whatever medical intervention is called for, but we can get it only if we have the right insurance or the means to pay. 

    In America, arbitrary personal factors often determine if you can get health care at a cost you can afford. You may be eligible for Medicare, VA coverage or Medicaid. Your employer may offer you coverage. This system leaves massive gaps, and that is what puts us in a category of one globally. One neighbor can feel a dreaded lump and get the best care money can buy. Another could feel the same lump and know she can’t afford to pay the doctor’s bill and the grocery bill. She puts off the doctor so her kids can eat. The lump grows, and the cancer spreads. Instead of seeing her children graduate, get married and have kids of their own as her neighbor does, without insurance she dies needlessly and much too young. 

    This, some would argue, is the American dream. Both neighbors have access to the same insurance and care. They had the freedom to choose their care. That’s personal liberty, they say. 

    This is nothing new. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”

    The evidence is overwhelming and clear: People are more likely to die prematurely when they lack insurance, and the Republican plan will drastically decrease the number of people with insurance. We need our political leaders to know it’s not acceptable in the richest country on Earth to pass laws that could result in thousands of preventable deaths each year. No law is perfect, especially in health care. But the American Health Care Act is not even a good faith effort to insure more people. So, let’s revisit our lonely number, one. 

    We can improve our health care system by allowing everyone to enroll in a plan with a single payer. Another bill, HR 676, is before Congress that would expand Medicare to provide health coverage for all Americans. If you are that one who loses insurance or are priced out of the market before you feel the lump, your lawmakers have failed you. What tax cuts are worth that?

    One is easier to remember than 24 million. Take it from a physicist.

  • Family struggles with Maine's retirement system over veteran disability benefits- Rep. Berry has fix

    Wife of former Marine Patrol Officer testified in favor of a fix authored by Rep. Seth Berry

    A Brunswick woman wants to make sure that what happened to her husband and family never happens to anyone else.

    In a public hearing before the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee this week, Darcie Couture urged passage of a measure that would make sure disabled veterans who are part of the Public Employee Retirement System qualify for disability benefits if they become unable to work.

    Couture’s husband, Scott, served in the Marine Patrol for over 15 years and, during that time, experienced increasingly serious post-traumatic stress stemming from his service in Iraq. After a while he became unable to work but was denied disability retirement benefits after a particularly unpleasant hearing process even though the VA had determined that he had a service-connected disability. 

    “My concern is that if we do not address this system and change it, it will not be long before we see the death of a veteran, who is so despondent after being grilled in a room about all of his PTSD triggers that he chooses to end the struggle once and for all,” said Couture. 

    After Scott lost his final appeal, Couture eventually connected with Rep. Seth Berry, who submitted LD 521. The measure would change the law so that, in future cases, a VA determination of a service-connected disability would automatically qualify a public employee for benefits.

    Rep. Seth Berry at home in Bowdoinham, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    “No family should have to go through this,” said Berry, D-Bowdoinham. “PTSD is a major issue that affects many Maine veterans. We need to come together and close this gap before anyone else falls through it.”

    The committee will schedule a work session on Berry’s bill in the coming days.

    Berry represents House District 55: Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Swan Island, and most of Richmond. He previously served from 2006-2014, the final two years as House Majority Leader.  

  • Former CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project will lead MECA

    The Maine College of Art’s (MECA) Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Laura Freid, Ed.D., as the 18th president of the 135 year-old institution.

    Freid comes to MECA as a passionate and proven advocate for the arts and education, most recently serving in partnership with internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project, a global cultural arts organization based at Harvard University.

    Silkroad works to connect the world through the arts, presenting musical performances and learning programs, and fostering radical cultural collaboration around the world to lead to advancing global understanding.

    Her prior leadership experience includes serving as Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations at Brown University and Chief Communications Officer at Harvard University where she was publisher ofHarvard Magazine.

    Led by alumnus Brian Wilk ’95, incoming chair of MECA’s Board of Trustees, and Vice President at Hasbro Toys, MECA’s presidential search process officially started in August  2016, when a search committee composed of a diverse group of representatives from within the MECA community convened to discuss and understand the most essential attributes needed in the College’s next leader.

    In announcing the choice, Wilk remarked on the thorough and extensive nature of the selection process. “It was clear to the entire search committee that we needed someone who has the skills, experience, and appetite to continue building our mission of educating artists for life while expanding our reputation as an international destination for world-class arts education. After carefully considering our impressively deep pool of seasoned candidates from all over the world, our search committee unanimously agreed that Dr. Laura Freid was the right person to guide MECA through our next critical period of growth.”  


    Debbie Reed, chair of the MECA Board of Trustees, described Freid as “an exceptional leader who understands MECA’s mission and the importance of creativity.” According to Reed, “From the moment we met Laura, we were interested in learning more about her demonstrated track record of engaging multiple constituencies while serving in senior leadership roles at multiple institutions. The Board of Trustees looks forward to an exciting future under Laura’s leadership as we move the College forward.”

    “I am grateful for the dynamic leadership that has guided MECA to date and to the entire College community and the city of Portland for creating such an exciting American center for the arts, culture and entrepreneurship,” Freid said. “In times as rife with international, political, and economic tensions as we are experiencing today, I believe investing in the arts has never been more imperative. Art gives us meaning and identity, helping us reflect on and shape our lives; it is fundamental to our well-being. That is why I believe providing artists with the education they need to succeed is such a critical and vital mission.”

    Freid’s educational background is rooted in the philosophy of aesthetics and in the history of reputation in higher education. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Washington University, an MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and an Ed.D. from University of Pennsylvania.

    Freid will take office on or before July 1st, replacing Interim President Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s Poet Laureate and former Director of the Haystack Mountain School of Arts. Kestenbaum stepped in to lead during a transition year after Don Tuski, Ph.D. accepted the position of President at Pacific Northwest College of the Arts in Portland, Oregon, on the heels of six years of continuous enrollment and endowment growth at MECA.

  • Trump unfit to serve

    Admit it: Trump is unfit to serve

    Editorial by E.J. Dionne Jr. Opinion writer The Washington Post

    Let’s not mumble or whisper about the central issue facing our country: What is this democratic nation to do when the man serving as president of the United States plainly has no business being president of the United States?

    The Michael Flynn fiasco was the entirely predictable product of the indiscipline, deceit, incompetence and moral indifference that characterize Donald Trump’s approach to leadership.

    Even worse, Trump’s loyalties are now in doubt. Questions about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia will not go away, even if congressional Republicans try to slow-walk a transparent investigation into what ties Trump has with Putin’s Russia — and who on his campaign did what, and when, with Russian intelligence officials and diplomats.

    Party leaders should listen to those Republicans who are already pondering how history will judge their actions in this wrenching moment. Senators such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seem to know it is only a matter of time before the GOP will have to confront Trump’s unfitness. They also sense that Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser for lying about the nature of his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States raises fundamental concerns about Trump himself.

    The immediate political controversy is over how Congress should investigate this. Republican leaders say attention from Congress’s intelligence committees is sufficient, and for now Democrats have agreed to this path. But many in their ranks, along with some Republicans, argue it would be better to form a bipartisan select committee that could cross jurisdictional lines and be far more open about its work.

    Those pushing for the select committee have reason to fear that keeping things under wraps in the intelligence panels could be a way to bury the story for a while and buy Trump time. Letting Americans in on what went on here, and quickly, is the only way to bolster trust in this administration, if that is even possible. And let’s face the reality here: It could also hasten the end of a presidency that could do immense damage to the United States.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in the meantime, must immediately recuse himself from all decisions about all aspects of the Russia investigation by the FBI and the intelligence services. Sessions should step back not simply because he is an appointee of the president but, more importantly, because he was a central figure in the Trump campaign. He cannot possibly be a neutral arbiter, and his involvement would only heighten fears of a coverup.

    In this dark moment, we can celebrate the vitality of the institutions of a free society that are pushing back against a president offering the country a remarkable combination of authoritarian inclinations and ineptitude. The courts, civil servants, citizens — collectively and individually — and, yes, an unfettered media have all checked Trump and forced inconvenient facts into the sunlight.

    It is a sign of how beleaguered Trump is that his Twitter response on Wednesday morning was not to take responsibility but to assign blame. His villains are leakers and the press: “Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia.”

    It is notable that in acknowledging that the news reports are based on “information,” Trump effectively confirmed them. At the same time, he was characteristically wrong about Russia, whose government prevents transparency and punishes those who try to foster it. There’s also this: Kremlin agents stole information from a political party in a free country. That is very different from the actions of the media’s informants inside our government who are holding our own officials accountable for their false denials and fictitious claims.

    It will be said that Trump was elected and thus deserves some benefit of the doubt. Isn’t it rash to declare him unfit after so little time?

    The answer is no, because the Trump we are seeing now is fully consistent with the vindictive, self-involved and scattered man we saw during the 17 months of his campaign. In one of the primary debates, Jeb Bush said of Trump: “He’s a chaos candidate and he’d be a chaos president.” Rarely has a politician been so prophetic.

    And this is why nearly 11 million more Americans voted against Trump than for him. His obligation was to earn the trust of the 60 percent of Americans who told exit pollsters on Election Day that they viewed him unfavorably. Instead, he has ratified their fears, and then some.

    As a country, we now need to face the truth, however awkward and difficult it might be.

  • Scientists call on Collins

    The Penobscot is polluted with mercury - we need the EPA

    Editorial by Dianne Kopec and Aram Calhoun,

    As the name implies, the goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect our environment, and it has worked toward that goal since it was created in 1970. That start date is important to the people and the environment of the lower Penobscot River, for in late 1967, the HoltraChem chlor-alkali plant began operating in Orrington on the banks of the river. In the first four years of the plant’s operation, waste mercury was routinely discharged into the river. Much of that mercury continues to contaminate the Penobscot.

    We ask that the community, and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King — who will soon vote on the nominee to head the agency, Scott Pruitt — consider the value of the EPA and the critical importance of appointing a director who embraces the mission of protecting our environment.

    Senator Susan Collins – (202) 224-2523 Senator Angus King – (202) 224-5344

    We are scientists. We examined the impact of the mercury discharges into the river as part of the Penobscot River Mercury Study, an independent court-ordered study of mercury contamination of the Penobscot River from the HoltraChem plant. This work gave us first-hand knowledge of the value of the EPA and of the environmental consequences when regulations are absent or not enforced.

    One of the first actions of the EPA was a thorough revision of water pollution laws and the creation of the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1972.

    For the first time in our history, the government began regulating pollutant discharges into surface waters. It was no longer legal for the Orrington chemical plant to dump its waste mercury into the Penobscot. Instead, HoltraChem began storing the waste mercury in landfills that greatly reduced the amount of mercury entering the river. Yet, roughly 90 percent of an estimated nine tons of mercury that was ultimately released into the Penobscot River was discharged before the EPA began regulating pollutant discharges into our rivers, streams and lakes.

    Today, the evidence of those mercury discharges can be seen in the sediment of the Penobscot River. Buried 16 inches below the surface of the sediment is a layer of extreme mercury contamination, deposited during the early years of plant operation.

    The sediment deposited after EPA was created is less contaminated.

    Yet, buried contaminants do not always remain hidden. River and slough channels can change course, releasing long-buried mercury into the surface sediment that is swept up and down the river with the tide. So in some parts of the lower Penobscot the most contaminated sediment is not buried, but near the surface, where it enters our food web and accumulates in our fish, birds and lobster.

    Now 50 years later, we have mercury concentrations in waterfowl almost four times greater than the Maine action level for mercury in muscle tissue, prompting the state’s first health advisory on the consumption of breast meat from ducks. Migratory song birds arrive in marshes along the lower Penobscot with low mercury burdens, but quickly accumulate mercury concentrations in their blood that exceed levels known to cause reproductive failure. Average mercury concentrations in lobster living near the mouth of the Penobscot River are two to three times greater than the Maine action level, and individual lobster have concentrations over six times greater.

    There is now a state ban on lobster harvesting in that area. Without EPA regulations, the river would be even more contaminated. Finally, mercury concentrations in the surface sediments of the river are seven to 10 times greater than background concentrations in rivers Down East, and we estimate it will take a minimum of 60 to 400 years, depending on the area, for the Penobscot to clean itself.

    Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, has been nominated to head the EPA, despite the fact that he is a leading advocate against the agency. His history of suing the EPA over environmental regulations, the same regulations that now limit discharges to the Penobscot, should disqualify him from service as the agency’s director.

    This is only one example of the positive role the EPA plays in safeguarding public and environmental health. Environmental regulations save our country money, provide jobs, and ensure the health of all animals, plants and the humans who see clean air, water and soil as an American right. The EPA needs a leader who will defend that right.

    Dianne Kopec is an adjunct instructor in the department of wildlife, fisheries, and conservation biology at the University of Maine in Orono. Aram Calhoun is a professor of wetlands ecology at UMaine. Peter Santschi, a regents professor in the department of marine sciences at Texas A&M University in Galveston, and Ralph Turner, a mercury researcher at RT Geosciences Inc., also contributed to this piece.

  • Freeport's rapid response to KKK leaflets left in Maine driveways

    By Ramona du Houx

    On January 30,2017 Ku Klux Klan recruitment leaflets were distributed in driveways in Augusta, Topsham, Freeport and possibly other Maine communities.

    In a rapid response to declare the KKK's values are not those of the majority of Maine, residents of Freeport will gather Tuesday night at 7pm at a “community meeting to reaffirm Freeport’s values.”

    The Freeport forum will focus specifically on the leaflets and on what the town's response will be.The meeting, scheduled at the Freeport Community Center, will be hosted by Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, who said she was disturbed and angry about the fliers.

    “I and my neighbors and fellow Freeporters, at least, because I don’t know where else this has landed, will absolutely stand together and say that there is no place for these people anywhere in our community,” Gideon said. “The values they represent on that flier or their voicemail is not ones any of us share and that we will absolutely, loudly drive them away.”

    Rep. Seth Berry, a Democrat from Bowdoinham, posted on Facebook that KKK fliers were found Monday in Topsham. He also said that just more than a week ago, on the day President Donald Trump was inaugurated, a student at Mt. Ararat Middle School handed another student a dollar bill with a note full of racial slurs suggesting the student use dollar “to fix your [ethnic] features.”

    “In my 17 years in the [School Administrative District 75} family and 10 years teaching in other schools, I’ve never seen this much overt bigotry. I am sickened by it, and especially concerned for those targeted," wrote Rep. Berry who worked at Arrarat.

    The KKK, the oldest American hate group, targets black Americans Jews, immigrants, gays and lesbians and, until recently, Catholics. They used to have a large presence in Maine in the 30's, with Donald Tump's campaign there has been a resurgence of the group throughout America.

  • REPA: A new Maine movement against discrimination and hate crimes

    On January 16, 2017 two Maine women launched a national anti-hate movement, which they call REPA: Respecting Everyone for a Powerful America. 

    On REPA's website, co-founders Arlene Kellman and Alexis Sixel, encourage all to sign the REPA pledge, a personal declaration to work toward understanding and respecting all people and promoting a safe and hate-free America.


    The founders state, “In the past year, we have observed a decline in thoughtful, respectful debate and a rise in rhetoric that targets certain individuals and groups of individuals in a manner that promotes hostility and violence. We believe that the majority of Americans do not support this behavior, and we are calling for a nonpartisan effort to stand up against the purveyors of hate and work toward a return to a respectful and unified nation.”

    They invite individuals, as well as businesses and institutions, to sign the REPA pledge with the goal of building a climate of tolerance and assuring targeted minorities of safe places where they will be treated with respect. More information on REPA and the REPA pledge may be found at www.repapledge.org.



    About REPA: The goal of REPA is to create a national movement to counter hate rhetoric and hate crimes and build a stronger country through a shared commitment to mutual respect. At its foundation is the belief that the diversity of the American population is a great strength, and differences among people can be bridged through thoughtful dialogue.

  • Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Maine and how Dirigo Health helped

    By Ramona du Houx

    Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 thousands of Mainers have gained coverage, and hundreds of thousands more have had their coverage substantially improved.

    On January 16, 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an extensive compilation of state-level data illustrating the substantial improvements in health care for all Americans over the last six years.

    The data show that the uninsured rate in Maine has fallen by 17 percent since the ACA was enacted, translating into 22,000 Mainers gaining coverage, some transfered to the ACA from the established state program, Dirigo Health Care. 

    Photo: President Barack Obama came to Maine after the ACA was enacted and praised Governor John Baldacci for his work on the creation of the Dirigo Health Care Act. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    “As our nation debates changes to the health care system, it’s important to take stock of where we are today compared to where we were before the Affordable Care Act,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether Mainers get coverage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market, or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA. Millions of Americans with all types of coverage have a stake in the future of health reform. We need to build on our progress and continue to improve health care access, quality, and affordability, not move our system backward.”

    Photo: Governor John Baldacci with Robin Mills talking about Dirigo Choice in 2007. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Maine was an unusual case, because the state had enacted the Dirigo Health Care Act during the Baldacci administration, and many of the ACA benefits were already apart of Dirigo. Because of Dirigo it was easier to transfer over to the ACA.

    Governor John Baldacci deserves recognition for creating a model for the ACA. Other portions of Dirigo were dismantled by Gov. Paul LePage, who succeeded Baldacci. Never-the-less Baldacci's Dirigo saved thousands of lives by giving people health insurance for the first time, by expanding preventative care, covering more young adults, by eliminating the pre-existing condition and discrimination against women in health coverage.

    Dirigo Choice, the insurance branch of Dirigo Health, insured more than 40,000 Mainers and also became a model for President Obama’s ACA. In 2010 Monique Kenyon said, "We were shocked,” when she found out her husband was suffering from cancer. “Being a middle-income family we didn’t qualify for any assistance. We couldn’t afford all the treatment without insurance, but insurance companies wouldn’t accept him because he has this preexisting condition. He’s still with us because of Dirigo Choice.”

    Signed into law in the 2003 Dirigo Health Care Reform Act was a bold step toward universal health coverage during a time when policymakers in Washington D.C. and in state houses struggled to take even small steps. A few years later Governor Romney of Massachusetts used elements of Dirigo in his health care policies.

    “In many ways, Dirigo was a pace-setter and blueprint to national reform,” said Trish Riley, former director of Maine Governor John Baldacci’s Office of Health Policy and Finance. Riley said the program saved many lives by helping thousands of uninsured gain access to medical care and enabling more than 1,000 small businesses to provide insurance for their owners and employees.

    Baldacci expanded Medicare, covering many more Mainers, but LePage has refused to accept this part of the ACA, so thousands who were on, what the state calls MaineCare were kicked off because of LePage -  too many have died.

    In 2003, Maine ranked 16th healthiest among the states; in 2010 Maine was in the top ten. In 2003, Maine ranked 19th among the states in covering the uninsured; in 2010 Maine was sixth. With Dirigo Health, Maine created an efficient public health system with eight districts that cover the entire state through Healthy Maine Partnerships. During the Baldacci administration the state reached a milestone in healthcare coverage, won awards for Dirigo and became a model for the nation. (photo below taken in 2010)

    The ACA picked up the torch and contained to save the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in Maine.

    Highlights of theACA  data include:

    Employer Coverage: 702,000 people in Maine are covered through employer-sponsored health plans. 

    Since the ACA this group has seen:

    An end to annual and lifetime limits: Before the ACA, 431,000 Mainers with employer or individual market coverage had a lifetime limit on their insurance policy. That meant their coverage could end exactly when they needed it most. The ACA prohibits annual and lifetime limits on policies, so all Mainers with employer plans now have coverage that’s there when they need it.
    Young adults covered until age 26: An estimated 8,000 young adults in Maine have benefited from the ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.

    Free preventive care: Under the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no extra cost to consumers. This provision benefits 588,281 people in Maine, most of whom have employer coverage.

    Slower premium growth: Nationally, average family premiums for employer coverage grew 5 percent per year 2010-2016, compared with 8 percent over the previous decade. Family premiums are $3,600 lower today than if growth had matched the pre-ACA decade.


    Better value through the 80/20 rule: Because of the ACA, health insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of each premium dollar on health care or care improvements, rather than administrative costs like salaries or marketing, or else give consumers a refund. Mainers with employer coverage have received $2,507,067 in insurance refunds since 2012.


    Medicaid: 273,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including 115,217 children and 52,077 seniors and people with disabilities covered by both Medicaid and Medicare. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility and strengthened the program for those already eligible.

    40,000 Mainers could gain coverage: An estimated 40,000 Mainers could have health insurance today if Maine expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Coverage improves access to care, financial security, and health; expansion would result in an estimated 5,000 more Mainers getting all needed care, 5,700 fewer Mainers struggling to pay medical bills, and 50 avoided deaths each year.
    Thousands of Mainers with a mental illness or substance use disorder could get help: Nearly 30 percent of those who could gain coverage if more states expanded Medicaid have a mental illness or substance use disorder.


    Maine could be saving millions in uncompensated care costs: Instead of spending $40 million on uncompensated care, which increases costs for everyone, Maine could be getting $430 million in federal support to provide low-income adults with much needed care.
    Children, people with disabilities, and seniors can more easily access Medicaid coverage: The ACA streamlined Medicaid eligibility processes, eliminating hurdles so that vulnerable Mainers could more easily access and maintain coverage.


    Maine is improving health care for individuals with chronic conditions, including those with severe mental illness: The ACA established a new Medicaid flexibility that allows states to create health homes, a new care delivery model to improve care coordination and lower costs for individuals with chronic conditions, such as severe mental illness, Hepatitis C, diabetes and heart disease
    Individual market: 75,240 people in Maine have coverage through the Marketplace. Individual market coverage is dramatically better compared to before the ACA:

    No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions: Up to 590,266 people in Maine have a pre-existing health condition. Before the ACA, these Mainers could have been denied coverage or charged an exorbitant price if they needed individual market coverage. Now, health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage or charge people more because of pre-existing conditions.
    Tax credits available to help pay for coverage: Before the ACA, only those with employer coverage generally got tax benefits to help pay for health insurance. Now, 63,896 moderate- and middle-income Mainers receive tax credits averaging $342 per month to help them get covered through HealthCare.gov.

    Women pay the same as men: Before the ACA, women were often charged more than men just because of their gender. That is now illegal thanks to the ACA, protecting roughly half the people of Maine.

    Greater transparency and choice: Before the ACA, it was virtually impossible for consumers to effectively compare insurance plan prices and shop for the best value. Under the ACA, Maine has received $5 million in federal funding to provide a more transparent marketplace where consumers can easily compare plans, choosing among 25 plans on average.

    Medicare: 315,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicare. The ACA strengthened the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its life by over a decade.

    Medicare enrollees have benefited from:

    Lower costs for prescription drugs: Because the ACA is closing the prescription drug donut hole, 18,970 Maine seniors are saving $19 million on drugs in 2015, an average of $986 per beneficiary.
    Free preventive services: The ACA added coverage of an annual wellness visit and eliminated cost-sharing for recommended preventive services such as cancer screenings. In 2015, 165,892 Maine seniors, or 71 percent of all Maine seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B, took advantage of at least one free preventive service.

    Fewer hospital mistakes: The ACA introduced new incentives for hospitals to avoid preventable patient harms and avoidable readmissions. Hospital readmissions for Maine Medicare beneficiaries dropped 4 percent between 2010 and 2015, which translates into 232 times Maine Medicare beneficiaries avoided an unnecessary return to the hospital in 2015. 

    More coordinated care: The ACA encouraged groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to come together to provide coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve. 6 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in Maine now offer Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to receive higher quality, more coordinated care.

    ACA Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)

  • Maine's Women’s Walk in Portland and Augusta in Solidarity with March on Washington, D.C.

    In solidarity with marches on Washington, D.C., Augusta, ME, and all over the U.S. Women's Walk Portland is set for Saturday, January 21. The walk starts at 10:30a.m. at the top of Congress Street on the Eastern Prom. This peaceful walk proceeds down Congress Street to Congress Square Park, ending between 12:00 and 1:00p.m.

    The Augusta event will start at 10 AM  and run until 12 PM at 111 Sewall Street, the state capitol. From their facebook page, "We will rally together at the Maine State Capitol to have our voices heard. This is not going to be a march from point A to point B, it is going to be a march in place at the Burton M. Cross building. This is a rally in support of women's rights, civil liberties and protection of the planet. This is an INCLUSIVE march, and EVERYONE who supports women's rights is welcome."

    In addition to the connection to the D.C. event, the Portland Walk aims to demonstrate support for women's, civic, and human rights.

    Organizers are currently reaching out to residents of Greater Portland and beyond to foster diverse representation at the walk, including immigrant groups, students, men, women, and children.

    Anyone wishing to participate, especially those not able to travel to marches farther away, are encouraged to attend.

    "After a very contentious election I thought about our collective responsibility to create the kind of community we want to live in - one that supports those working for equality, freedom and justice for all Mainers. Organizing this walk in solidarity with the marches in DC and elsewhere is a start. One where we can introduce participants to one another and to opportunities where they can make a difference going forward," said Kathryn Yatesthe organizer. 

    During and after the walk, participants will have a chance to connect with agencies and organizations providing support to women and families of Maine.

    Opportunities to stay connected and to help local groups will also be provided via email for those who wish it.

    For more information or to sign up, visit the Walk’s Facebook events page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1778266389086894/

    As of1/9/17, over 800 people have expressed interest and 174 are committed to attend, with those numbers growing every day.

    A national “Sister Marches” page, https://actionnetwork.org/events/womens-walk-portland, is also documenting attendance of participants in Maine and across the US.

    A permit for the walk was issued on December 30, 2016, by the city of Portland (above photo). No snow date has been set. The walk will take place in any weather. 

    Cities across the country are issuing permits for other solidarity Marches. Chicago, President Barack Obama's home town, plans one of the biggest.

    “We’re planning and hoping for the largest women’s Rally and March outside of Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 21, 2017,” said Ann Scholhamer, one of the March Chicago Co-Chairs. “We have been hard at work with our dedicated volunteers to confirm an incredible slate of speakers, representing issues brought to light during the campaign and diverse issues of concern to Chicago women.”

    For more information on the walk in Augusta, Maine please click on the image below, which will take you to their facebook page.

  • Rep. Devin combats ocean acidification, addresses conference with Gov. Jerry Brown

    Rep. Mick Devin, of Newcastle, ME, joined fellow members of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, including California Governor Jerry Brown, at a combat acidifacation launch event in CA. 

    Maine recognized as a national leader in fighting for healthier oceans 

    By Ramona du Houx

    In December of 2016,  U.S. and global leaders launched the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification in Coronado, CA.  Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, represented Maine at the event and was a key speaker. 

    “It was an honor to show the rest of the country how Maine is a leader when it comes to addressing the quality of the water in our oceans,” said Rep. Devin. “Scientists are working around the clock because they know how many people depend on the ocean to make a living.”

    The oceans are the primary protein source for 2.6 billion people, and support $2.5 trillion of economic activity each year. Maine's lobster industry could suffer greatly from ocean acidification. Catches like this one would only be read in history books. This lobster was put back into the ocean, as it's way beyond the size fishermen can legally catch.

    Maine is seen as the leading state on the East Coast addressing ocean acidification.  Maine was the first state to establish an Ocean Acidification Commission.  As a result of the commission the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Alliance, or MOCA, was established. 

    Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and other carbon sources dissolves in the water and forms carbonic acid. Other sources of acidification include fresh water from rivers and decomposing algae feeding off nutrients in runoff. Carbonic acid dissolves the shells of shellfish.

    Maine’s major inshore shellfisheries, including clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins, could see major losses if ocean acidification is left unchecked.

    At the conference, Devin addressed how state leaders are using science to establish priorities in dealing with the rising acidity of the earth’s oceans. He explained how Maine used those priorities to develop a long-term action plan.  

    He stressed the importance of addressing ocean acidification by developing plans to remediate and adapt to it. Devin said that strategy is crucial for Maine to maintain its healthy marine economy, particularly the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, which are valued well in excess of billion dollars annually. 

    Devin finished his presentation by showing a slide of a boiled lobster dinner and repeating his trademark line about one reason the marine economy matters to so many: “People do not visit the coast of Maine to eat a chicken sandwich.” 

    The Alliance includes several state governments, governments of Canadian provinces, North American tribal governments, and countries as far away as France, Chile and Nigeria. 

    While lobsters are the iconic image of Maine, many other shell fish will be effected, like musscles, and clams. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Members have five primary goals: advancing scientific understanding of ocean acidification; taking meaningful actions to reduce causes of acidification; protect the environment and coastal communities from impacts of a changing ocean; expanding public awareness and understanding of acidification; and building sustained global support for addressing the problem.

    Devin, a marine biologist at the Darling Center in Walpole and a member of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House. He represents Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, part of South Bristol, Monhegan Plantation and the unorganized territory of Louds Island.

     

  • The 128 Legislature and how to help the state out of stagnation

     By Ramona du Houx

    Members of the 128th Legislature were sworn into the Maine House of Representatives on December 7, 2016, led by Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. There are 25 new members and 52 returning representatives in the House, including 36 women.

    “Today, we start out with a Maine economy that is lagging behind New England and the rest of the country in terms of economic growth, recovery of jobs lost during the recession and wage growth,” said Gideon, D-Freeport.  “We lead New England when it comes to the number of Maine children and seniors living in poverty. Those are the facts.  And here is another fact: We have to do better. We will always work together and come to the table in search of common ground to help the 1.3 million Mainers who expect us to rise above politics.” 

    There are issues that could grow Maine’s economy, which haven’t been addressed during the LePage administration. Instead he’s focused on cutting benefits and lowering taxes for the wealthy. in his speach today to the lawmakers he talked about changing the Minimum wage referendum that passed, not about how to grow jobs.

    In a recent interview, Former Governor John Baldacci sited a study conducted by Former Governor King, which listed the top areas in need of investment that still remain areas that need funding.

    "The two leading factors in the study were the education and training of the population and the amount of Research and Development funds invested to help businesses get the latest cutting edge technologies so they can compete successfully with other businesses anyone in the world,” said Gov. Baldacci.

    Maine has suffered under LePage by the lack of Research and Development (R&D) funds that used to spur economic activity as the research, conducted at the University of Maine and other laboratories, was regularly used by start-up Maine companies, there-by growing jobs across Maine. The people have always voted overwhelmingly for R&D bonds in Maine. But LePage doesn’t believe in bond issues and has held bond funds hostage in the past.

    "We've been doing a terrible job at putting resources in Research and Development," said Gov. Baldacci, who invested dramatically in R&D during his administration. "We also need to focus on job training. We're not doing enough to match jobs to the industries established here. Our Labor Department needs to be our Human Resource Department. There are plenty of job opportunities out there that need trained workers and plenty of workers who want the opportunity to work. Our people, families, and small businesses aren't looking for a handout, but are looking for opportunities. Our responsibility is to make sure that happens throughout all of Maine."

    Baldacci started this work with Former Labor Secretary Laura Fortman, but little has been done to progress these job opportunities under the LePage administration.

    The lack of these investments, along with other LePage policies has led to stagnation in Maine.

    “Under Republican leadership, Maine has lagged behind in the national economic recovery. We work longer hours than our neighbors in any other state in New England, yet the purchasing power of our paychecks in one of the lowest in the country. Meanwhile, our governor has turned a blind eye as five of our friends, family members and neighbors die every week from the opioid epidemic. I look forward our leadership team’s work over the next few months to create good jobs and a fair economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top." 

    Members of the House include teachers, small business owners, nonprofit leaders, a former mill electrician, prominent civil rights advocates, farmers, former law enforcement officials, and veterans. 

    “I’m proud of the bipartisan work we achieved last session, particularly to improve services for veterans, but there is more work to be done,” said veteran Marine Rep. Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden. “In the short term, our first task is to pass a balanced budget that reflects the needs of our state, but we also have to keep an eye on the future. Maine needs to create good paying jobs by investing in the infrastructure our communities need to compete. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these and other challenges facing our state.”

  • Democrats won a battle for greater transparency for LePage's forensic facility plan

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine democrats won a battle for greater transparency to build a secure forensic facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center on November 30, 2016. 

    Democrats said the forensic unit project needs vetting by the Legislature’s appropriations and health and human services committees for a range of reasons including the financing, operations and policy matters related to who would be housed in the facility. Gov. LePage intends for the facility to be privately run, which could jeopardize the health and wellbeing of citizens if not carefully monitored. That overseeing duty needs to be clarified by the Legislature.

    “This is a fundamental change in how Maine cares for forensic patients that demands proper legislative oversight and public input.” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon “DHHS has never brought this proposal to the Legislature, but is essentially threatening to build the project elsewhere and at greater cost if they don't get their way. We must provide proper care to Mainers with serious mental illness, and we are committed to making this happen with the proper oversight that protects this vulnerable population.”

    The Democrats present at the Legislative Council meeting – Gideon, Speaker Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe – sought to table the proposal so it could be fully vetted as soon as the 128the Legislature convenes in January.

    House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, however, forced a vote to simply approve the project. His motion failed by a vote of 3-3.

    “Let’s remember what got us here in the first place. Three years ago, the feds came in and found that Riverview patients were severely abused – sometimes even with pepper spray and Tasers,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “As lawmakers, we have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the patients in the state’s care. We can’t simply hand a blank check over to the administration.”

     

  • We need to finish FDR’s economic bill of rights

    The current economic and political turmoil in the United States invites us to look back, not in a nostalgic way, but to remember important moments in our nation’s history and take inspiration from the work of transformational leaders. Thus, the Progressive Era and the New Deal are receiving fresh attention.

    We can note as well how voting rights expanded over time to include women as well as men, and blacks as well as whites, and consider how public education spread across the land to include community colleges and state universities as well as elementary and secondary schools.

    Reflecting on our national history can stir up hope and courage, for we have often shown ourselves to be a people of great projects. Some past projects may merit criticism, even condemnation, in the light of current insights and priorities. Yet, however flawed, these projects, together with those that are praiseworthy, indicate that in generations past, America was not afraid of big dreams and acted on those dreams.

    In contrast, America today often sounds small-minded and small-hearted. We need dreams of a gracious society that rival the best dreams of the past so that we can act boldly upon them. We can even bring back good dreams that were not fulfilled in their time but can be realized in ours.

    World War II was still raging when Franklin Delano Roosevelt dispatched his 1944 Message to Congress on the State of the Union. This message included eight points that he identified as a “Second Bill of Rights.”

    Roosevelt told Congress that the nation cannot rest content if some fraction of Americans are without the necessities of life. As America began by asserting inalienable political rights, so with the growth of the national economy, “these political rights proved inadequate to assure equality in the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

    He claimed that certain economic rights “have become accepted as self-evident” and that an economic bill of rights was necessary, expressing these rights in simple, stirring language:

    “The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

    “The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

    “The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

    “The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

    “The right of every family to a decent home;

    “The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

    “The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

    “The right to a good education.”

    Subsequent government actions have helped Americans to realize portions of these rights, but the record is mixed and remains always subject to change for the worse. Our national record in some respects compares poorly to those of other nations.

    While the American bill of political rights is admired by freedom-loving people around the globe, the weakness of our economic rights leaves many of our international friends puzzled and disappointed. The need for improvement in these areas is urgent. So, too, is the need to secure these rights as part of our Constitution.

    In his 1944 Message to Congress, Roosevelt noted that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ ” Keeping alive the political principles contained in the first Bill of Rights requires supplementing them with a second Bill of Rights that addresses economic issues.

    Legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein’s 2004 study, “The Second Bill of Rights: FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever,” helped revive interest in what he calls “the speech of the century” and its implications.

    Sunstein notes that FDR’s economic rights proposal “was a direct product of America’s experience with the desperation and misery of the Great Depression.” A 21st-century economic bill of rights can also draw on the tragedy of the Great Recession and the inhumane economy that has prevailed in America throughout the last four decades.

    Our nation made horrible mistakes. We can learn from them. We can establish a far more gracious society than the one we have endured in recent years.

  • Maine officials respond to falsehoods about college student voting rights

    Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s chief elections official, is reminding college students and others in Maine that their right to vote is not constrained by other obligations involved in establishing residency in Maine. 

    "Every American citizen has the right to vote. Establishing residency for the purpose of voting carries with it no association to paying fees or taxes -- you don’t pay for a right,” said Dunlap. Residency obligations in Maine, such as vehicle registration and driver’s licensure, are administered separately from the elections process.

    Secretary Dunlap is seeking to educate voters in the wake of misleading flyers (below) distributed at Bates College in Lewiston yesterday, which stated that students who vote in Maine must pay hundreds of dollars to switch their vehicle registrations and licenses in order to vote. These flyers seek to dissuade citizens from voting out of a fear of legal and financial repercussions. 

    “It says a great deal that these flyers have been distributed with no attribution as to who paid for them or who is responsible for their content -- which is illegal,” said Dunlap. “Attempting to prevent American citizens from participating in their democratic process of self-governance through intimidation and fear is shameful, and it should be treasonable.” 

    Governor LePage said, “Casting ballots in two different states is voter fraud, which is why Maine law requires anyone voting here to establish residency here. We welcome college students establishing residency in our great state, as long as they follow all laws that regulate voting, motor vehicles and taxes. We cannot tolerate voter fraud in our state.”

    Governor Paul LePage’s statement this morning, which underscores the message in these flyers, ignores the fact that the public policies around driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations and taxes are not related to anyone exercising their right to vote, and pose no barrier to the citizen.

    “It’s very clear here that the Governor is trying to keep college students from turning out to vote in Maine. There are already fliers going around giving students false information about their right to vote here—the Governor should be calling out these lies rather than bolstering them," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “In Maine, we’ve always been proud to have some of the highest voter participation rates in the country.  And students—whether they are from Maine or are residents while they attend school—have been a big part of that. They have a clearly established legal right to vote in our state if they choose to do. Their participation in our civic process is something we should encourage, not discourage.”

    “Sadly, his statements only inflame an atmosphere of doubt and fear among the voters. I think it speaks loudly to how powerful the individual right to vote is when there are those who would keep citizens from wielding it,” said Dunlap.  "Whether an individual obtains a Maine driver’s license or not has no impact on their ability to exercise their right to vote.

    “The governor’s statement seems designed to make college students afraid to vote. Voter intimidation and harassment is illegal, and we call on the Department of Justice to investigate the intent of the governor’s comments," said Zachary Heiden, legal director at the ACLU of Maine. “College students who live in Maine have the right to vote in Maine, and they are not subject to different laws than anyone else. Many of these young people are voting for the first time in a presidential election. The governor should be encouraging that civic participation, not doing everything in his power to undermine it.”

    Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills has issued the following statement in response to questions about voting requirements for people in Maine. 

    “No one should feel that they cannot vote if they are a citizen of the United States, if they are 18 years of age or older and if they are a resident of Maine for however short or long a time.  Whether you just retired here, whether you are living with family, whether you are here  looking for work, or whether you are taking classes here, the requirements for residency in Maine are straightforward and uncomplicated and not related to stricter requirements for licenses, car registrations or tuition. No one should fear financial consequences for exercising their constitutional right to vote.  There are no financial penalties, and it is shameful that anyone would suggest otherwise. I call upon leaders and candidates of all parties to disavow efforts of any sort to intimidate and disenfranchise voters.  We should encourage every citizen to exercise his or her constitutional right to vote tomorrow,” said Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills.

    For more information about declaring residency to vote in the State of Maine, visit the Maine Department of the Secretary of State website.

     

  • Fake Maine newspapers spread lies to unsuspecting voters



    The Maine Republican Party and The House Republican Majority Fund, run by Minority Leader Ken Fredette, are using deceptive campaign tactics designed to confuse and mislead voters in House districts and communities throughout the state.

    Republicans are printing, mailing and distributing fake "newspapers," that are nothing more than advertisements for Republican House candidates and designed to look like local news publications. The names of the "newspapers" are based on local town or school names and include fake advertisements designed to further convince voters that the "newspapers" are real.

    Freeport Democrat Sara Gideon, who serves as assistant House majority leader,is outraged at the fake newspapers. "There’s a smell of deceit to it that I think is really disturbing," said Gideon. “They are really deceptive. For example, they will even use the name of sports teams from the local town in the title to get attention. I think for many people they won’t be able to discern they are actual political advertisements."

    The fake "newspapers" are being mailed to voters and distributed to convenience stores and newspaper stands across the state.

    "This is why so many people have lost faith in politicians and hate politics. It's one thing to communicate to voters about voting records and differences of opinions between candidates, but it's a whole other thing to intentionally deceive voters with false and misleading campaign tactics," said Speaker of the House Mark Eves.

    Many of the "newspapers" even falsely claim the Republican candidates were endorsed by the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine when, in fact, the Democratic candidate received the actual endorsement. Such was the case in Pittsfield, where the "newspaper" claimed Republican candidate Scott Strom received SAM’s endorsement when, in fact, Rep. Stanley Short actually received the group’s endorsement. The newspaper even went so far as to use SAM executive director David Trahan’s signature without permission, forcing Trahan to respond and for Short to take out an advertisement in the real local newspaper.

    Majority Leader Jeff McCabe said, "The SAM endorsement means something to voters so it’s very disappointing to see partisan politicians lie about their candidates receiving endorsements."

    The false and misleading claims have also extended to the Maine Republican Party’s attack mail program against Democratic House candidates.

    "I've never seen such false and misleading ads in local races," said Gideon. "Democratic House candidate Gerry Gibson, from Waterboro, has received several attack mailers blaming him personally for all the problems in the legislature. Gerry has never even been elected to office and just retired from the U.S. Air Force this past year after serving our country for 20 years. To Gerry, that’s especially offensive."

  • Fake Maine newspaper from Republicans misleads with lies



    Maine Public: PAC Under Fire for Printing Fake Newspapers, Using Official's Signature

     

    A Republican political action committee controlled by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette is under fire for distributing political ads masquerading as local newspapers.

    Democrats say some of the materials falsely suggest that GOP candidates have won an important endorsement.

    Some of the the ads in question are designed to look like a local newspapers, and Democrats say they’re being mailed to voters and also distributed to convenience stores and newspaper stands across the state. Some cite bogus endorsements by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, even though the the group had actually endorsed the Democrat in the race.

    The ads even used the signature of David Trahan, the executive director of SAM. Trahan, a former Republican state senator, is angered by the ads.

    “I made it very clear to those folks that were doing it we weren’t happy with it. Very disturbing to me. It’s not OK. And I think they need to apologize — if it was a mistake, come clean and apologize,” he says.

    Trahan says SAM not only endorses candidates but grades them on the basis of their response to a questionnaire on issues of importance to its members. He says from now on, SAM will not issue grades, only endorsements.

    He says the ads are another example of how nasty this election year has become.

    “I have never seen it this bad. And I hope sane minds prevail and people back down off the cliff,” Trahan says.

    Freeport Democrat Sara Gideon, who serves as assistant House majority leader, says she’s outraged at the fake newspapers. She says there have been plenty of pieces of campaign literature from both parties that have distorted records or used half-truths, but this is a new low.

    “They will talk about certain issues that tend to divide Republicans and Democrats. This is very different. There’s a smell of deceit to it that I think is really disturbing,” she says.

    Gideon says while the outright lies concerning SAM endorsements are the most egregious part of the fake newspapers, she says other candidates have been accused of voting on legislation when they have never even held elective office.

    “They are really deceptive. For example, they will even use the name of sports teams from the local town in the title. They will have the sports schedules. I think for many people they won’t be able to discern they are actual political advertisements,” she says.

    Fredette could not be reached for comment. Gideon says Democrats are considering whether to file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission about the ad campaign using fake newspapers.

    The commission has a special meeting scheduled Monday morning, but this issue is not on the agenda.

  • Maine Attorney General Mills seeks volunteer mediators to help consumers

     Are you interested in helping Maine consumers resolve disputes with businesses?

    The Attorney General’s Office is recruiting volunteer mediators for the Consumer Mediation Service, with the next training next training scheduled for February 2017.

    For more than 30 years the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office has offered a free and voluntary complaint resolution program for Maine consumers, staffed by trained volunteers and overseen by full-time staff.

    Volunteers will mediate consumer complaints over the phone or by mail in the Attorney General’s Augusta Office on a variety of matters including express and implied warranty issues, landlord-tenant, car repairs and car sales, and more. Volunteers will be thoroughly trained in consumer law and mediation techniques at February’s three day training.

    They will then volunteer between 4 to 6 hours per week on a schedule convenient to them during normal business hours under the supervision of members of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

     

    To learn more about the program and download the application please go to our website -http://www.maine.gov/ag/about/volunteer_mediators.shtml. Applications must be received byJanuary 1, 2017 to be considered for the February class.

     

    Please direct all inquiries to Complaint Examiner Martha Currier at (207) 626-8847 or: Martha.currier@maine.gov

  • 'We have the power to declare that ‘enough is enough' says AG Mills, Simpson in Bangor outside Trump rally

    Maine Attorney General Janet Mills speaks at a press conference before Donald Trump's rally at the venue later that afternoon. Katie Mae Simpson looks on with concern. Courtesy photo

    by Ramona du Houx

    Donald Trump held a rally in Bangor, Maine on October 15, 2016. The millionare decided to make Bangor a stop on his campaign for President, because Maine's 2nd District may vote for him, eventhough Sen. Collins has witdrawn her support of the Republican candidate and Trump has made outragious comments towards women.

    Gathered outside the Cross Insurance Center, before Trump spoke to a rally, Democrats called out the fomer Reality show host for his remarks that glorified sexual violence.

     “I grew up in Washington County, here in the 2nd Congressional District,” said Maine Democratic Party Executive Director Katie Mae Simpson. “When I was twelve years old, I was repeatedly sexually assaulted by several boys on my school bus. They grabbed me, without my consent, in the way that Donald Trump described grabbing women. I have a five-year-old daughter, and I do not want her to reach her pre-teen years – the age at which I was assaulted – with Donald Trump as her president. Trump has been to Maine several times, convinced that he can earn at least one of our electoral votes. I hope Mainers will join me in saying enough is enough, that we can work together to end rape culture. The first step is to end the political career of a man who dismisses the glorification of sexual violence as just ‘locker room talk.’” 

     In a tape made public by the Washington Post last week, Trump suggested he could touch and kiss women without their consent because he was a “star.” 

    “No man should ever treat or speak of women the way that Donald Trump has,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “Trump’s comments are not ‘locker room talk,’ and many athletes have come forward to dispel this myth. Rather, they are the language of misogyny that has been prevalent throughout his entire campaign.”

    Since the first tape surfaced, the flood gates have opened and new stories about sexual asults by Trump have serfaced. He is currently under investagation, accused of raping a 13 year old. A court date has been set.

    “Donald Trump’s inexcusable actions that demean and degrade women have no place in Maine and no place in the White House,” Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. “I urge Mainers to remember First Lady Michelle Obama’s call to action: ‘We have knowledge, we have a voice, we have a vote.’ Early voting by absentee has already begun in Maine. We have the power to declare that ‘enough is enough,’ and that we will not tolerate this deeply-rooted misogyny in our country. I urge Mainers to visit your town clerk’s office next week and cast your ballot against Donald Trump as soon as you can.”

    Several Democratic state legislators and members of various chapters of the Maine College Democrats stood in support at the press conference.

     

  • Ranked-choice voting a poor method to empower voters

    Editorial by Gordon Weil

    Suppose you regret the election of Gov. Paul LePage, seeing it as the result of his opposition vote being split between two other major candidates. 

    One solution, you think, might be ranked-choice voting, believing that way another candidate would have defeated LePage, despite his having the most first-place votes.

    There are at least four other ways of dealing with plurality elections. They are less unusual, less complicated and more transparent. They are all less costly. And they are less dangerous to real democracy.

    The runoff election. The most obvious is the runoff, a second-round election between the two top vote-getters when nobody wins a majority. Unlike ranked-choice voting, runoffs exist in several other states.

    The runoff allows for a second round of campaigning, giving voters a close look at the finalists and a real choice.

    In 2015, the five-candidate Lewiston mayoral race failed to produce a majority winner, so the city held a runoff between the top two vote-getters. The second-place finisher in the first round was elected after a fresh discussion of the issues and with voters for three other candidates making a new choice.

    Critics say second-round runoffs have lower voter turnouts. In Lewiston, the turnout for the first election, conducted at the same time as other issues, including state ballot items, was 8,332. The turnout for the runoff, an election involving only the two mayoral candidates, was 8,229, with only about 100 fewer voters turning out.

    As for cost, if we assume runoffs require as much as a general election, in a nonpresidential year the Maine secretary of state’s office says that the state’s election cost has reached $247,931, or 41 cents per voter. So that could be the cost of a runoff.

    What voters would buy is a real chance to vote, the most important role most people play in a democracy. Is a real election worth much less than the cost of a candy bar?

    The secretary of state’s office estimates that ranked-choice voting in the first year would cost $910,000, about $1.61 per voter. The added expenses would cover tabulating equipment, printing, temporary employees and ballot transportation. Similar costs would be imposed by each ranked-choice election.

    In short, ranked-choice voting alone would cost more, almost four times the cost of a runoff.

    Top-two primary. All candidates run against each other in the primary, and the top two finishers go onto the election ballot.

    There are no party primaries. The result may even be that two candidates of the same party or with similar views face each other in the election. In contrast, runoff elections are usually between candidates of different parties.

    This system has real advantages. It could cut state and municipal expenses for tabulation of two political party primaries in June, when parties select their candidates for state and federal office. It prevents split voting from affecting the result. It’s used in California and a few other states.

    In Maine, that system could have yielded an election between LePage and independent Eliot Cutler in 2010 and between LePage and Democrat Mike Michaud in 2014.

    Plural nomination. A candidate may appear more than once on the ballot. That could allow a candidate to run as both a party nominee and an independent.

    In closely contested elections in recent decades, the candidates for governor were a Republican, a Democrat and a former Democrat running as an independent. These independents were Jim Longley, the 1974 winner, Angus King, who won in 1994 and 1998, and Cutler in the two LePage elections.

    Though he ran as an independent for the U.S. Senate, King usually votes with Senate Democrats. Recently, he joined Maine Democrats in welcoming Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the party’s vice presidential candidate. He could run as a Democrat in 2018, probably a good idea for the party, which would want a strong Senate candidate on the ballot to help the rest of the ticket.

    Right now in Maine, a candidate can only appear once on the ballot. Would King give up his independent line on the ballot?

    This alternative, also called “electoral fusion,” would require only minor legislative changes and could prove a viable alternative to ranked-choice voting. A candidate like King could run on two different lines on the ballot, Democrat and independent, avoiding a split that LePage might try to exploit.

    This procedure is authorized in nine states and has been frequently used in New York. Earl Warren was elected this way as governor of California and went on to be chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    What all these voting methods have in common is they are used in other states, and they are part of the American political tradition, while ranked-choice voting is not used in any American statewide, congressional or state legislative election. They all accomplish the same purpose sought by ranked-choice advocates.

    Status quo. The best solution is probably to stick with the current use of plurality elections, also used by the overwhelming majority of states. The person with the most votes is elected. Of course, a candidate lacking a first-round majority may win, but that’s also true in ranked-choice voting.  

    And today’s system avoids more than $910,000 in the added costs of ranked-choice voting. The system imposes an obligation on voters to be aware of the risks of divided opposition. The media and civic groups must do a better job of educating and informing voters on those risks.

    In the current system, the voters must inform themselves and then decide. While there are workable alternative methods, ranked-choice voting — untested in state or federal elections — is an unsatisfactory substitute for widely accepted ways of providing real voter choice.

    Gordon Weil is a former Harpswell selectman and state official who headed three state agencies under Gov. Joseph Brennan. Weil also was a correspondent for the Washington Post. He lives in Harpswell.

  • Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment - A Maine Exhibit

    Justice?, by Ramona du Houx
     
    Maine's Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment exhibit opens on Thursday, September 22nd and runs through December 22nd, 2016
     
    The exhibit will be at the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive in Augusta.
    Featured are 36 works by 17 Maine artists who were inspired by the rights granted by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
    Themes depicted relate to many areas of American society covered by the amendment: including due process, liberty, gender and sexuality, race, legal protections, equality in the workplace, housing, education, law enforcement, rights of the incarcerated, tolerance, and local, state, and federal representation
    The exhibit is being hosted by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, in conjunction with the Harlow Gallery of the Kennebec Valley Art Association, with support from the Maine Humanities Council and associated program support by the Maine Arts Commission.
     
    The Holocaust and Human Rights Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or weekends and evenings by appointment or when other events are being held.
    People Power, by Ramona du Houx
     

    Participating artists are listed below alphabetically by town:

    Augusta: Anthony Austin
    Bangor: Jeanne Curran
    Biddeford: Roland Salazar
    Brunswick: Mary Becker Weiss
    Camden: Claudia Noyes Griffiths
    Falmouth: Anne Strout
    Gardiner: Allison McKeen
    Hallowell: Nancy Bixler
    Lincolnville: Petrea Noyes
    Manchester: Bruce Armstrong
    Solon: Ramona du Houx
    Tenants Harbor: Otty Merrill
    Town Unknown: Julian Johnson
    Waterville: Jen Hickey
    West Rockport: Barbra Whitten
    Wilton: Rebecca Spilecki
    Winslow: Mimi McCutcheon

    There are several events planned in association with this project, including the Pride Film Festival – a series of four free films held Friday nights in October at 7 p.m. The films this year are The Boys in the Band (10/7), Fire (10/14), Paragraph 175 (10/21), and The Danish Girl (10/28).
     
    Mike Daisey’s one man play The Trump Card had sold out runs this fall in Washington and New York and is now touring throughout the country. With special permission from the playwright, HHRC Program Director and UMA adjunct professor of drama David Greenham will read the hard-hitting and hilarious monologue on Saturday, October 22nd at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 23rd at 2 p.m.
    The Trump Card reminds all of us of the role we have played in paving the way to create one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in recent memory. Tickets for The Trump Card are $15 and proceeds benefit HHRC’s educational outreach programs.
    As the Stage Review put it, “Daisey breaks down what makes Trump tick—and in doing so illuminates the state of our American Dream and how we’ve sold it out.” 
     
    14th Amendment by Allison McKeen 
    The HHRC is also pleased to host Everyman Repertory Theater’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly November 17th, 18th and 19th. The Pulitzer Prize winning play is a love story set in Missouri in 1942 and addresses issues of prejudice and the injustices that caused many to flee Europe in the years leading up to World War II.  
    The New York Times said about the play, “It is perhaps the simplest, and the most lyrical play Wilson has written—a funny, sweet, touching and marvelously written and contrived love poem for an apple and an orange.”   Tickets go on sale September 27th.
     
    Also in November, a group of UMA drama students under the direction of adjunct drama professor Jeri Pitcher will present a reading of their work in progress called Created Equal. The project, created in partnership with the HHRC, the UMA Writing Center, and UMA students will focus on the importance of the 14th amendment today. A full performance of the piece is planned for the spring of 2017.
  • United Nations Summit on Refugees Pledges World Support



    On September 20,2016, President Obama joined UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as well as leaders from Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico, and Sweden in hosting the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, culminating a sustained effort to rally nations to step up their efforts in response to the largest mass displacement crisis since the Second World War. From their joint statement:

    "We have come together in support for the millions of refugees and other persons who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world.  The majority are women and children, who are often at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.  At a time when global response mechanisms have been strained past their limits by displacement levels not seen since the Second World War, it is incumbent upon the international community to act. 

    "We recognize that this crisis, while disproportionately driven by conflict in Syria, is truly global in nature, and demands a global response and political solutions.  We also recognize the extraordinary steps that the international community has taken over the course of 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems and institutions that will be required to meet the growing need—including at the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.  We applaud U.N. Member States for coming together at the high-level plenary meeting on September 19 to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants." 

    The Summit built on a meeting earlier in the day to mobilize private sector resources to address this same crisis Based on commitments received prior to the Summit, the results are as follows:

    Fifty-two countries and international organizations participated in the Summit, announcing commitments that cumulatively increased their total 2016 financial contributions to UN appeals and international humanitarian organizations by approximately $4.5 billion over 2015 levels; roughly doubled the number of refugees they resettled or afforded other legal channels of admission in 2016; created improved access to education for one million refugee children globally; and, improved access to lawful work for one million refugees globally. 

     Over the course of 2016, 11 of the countries participating in the Summit have at least doubled their financial contributions for humanitarian assistance as compared to last year, with four countries committing to at least ten times more this year than in 2015. Notably, several new countries have pledged to maintain substantially higher rates of humanitarian financing for multiple years. Additionally, at least 18 countries across four continents committed to starting or significantly expanding UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs, or announced plans to significantly increase their admission of refugees based on family reunification, scholarships, or humanitarian visas.  Seven countries committed to resettle and/or admit at least ten times more refugees than they did in 2015.

    To achieve the Summit’s goal of improving refugees’ access to education, 17 major refugee-hosting countries pledged to help increase refugees’ school enrollment, including by constructing new classrooms, training and hiring new teachers, and certifying and streamlining refugee education programs that previously offered only informal education or education using foreign curricula. Fifteen countries also committed to take concrete action to improve refugees’ ability to work lawfully by adopting policies that permit refugees to start their own businesses, expanding or enacting policies that allow refugees to live outside camps, making agricultural land available, and issuing the documents necessary to work lawfully.  

    The Summit also showcased two new platforms that will improve the international community’s ability to share more equitably the responsibility for protecting refugees. 

    The World Bank announced the Global Crisis Response Platform, which will provide low- and middle-income countries hosting large refugee populations with access to financing on favorable terms for projects to benefit both refugees and their host communities. 

    The United States intends to contribute at least $50 million over the next five years to the Platform's middle income facility, subject to the availability of appropriations, above and beyond the $25 million contribution we announced earlier.  This will leverage three to four times as much in low cost financing.  We also look forward to supporting the facility for low income countries later this year as part of our broader replenishment of the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. 

    Additionally, the United States helped to establish the Emergency Resettlement Country Joint Support Mechanism (ERCM) – a joint project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – which will provide both financial and technical assistance to countries that are interested in establishing or expanding refugee resettlement programs.

    The Summit built on efforts by the international community throughout 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems required to meet the growing need of refugees, including: the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, and the UN Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.

    U.S. Contributions to the Refugee Crisis-

    Protecting and assisting refugees is a foreign policy priority and a proud tradition for the United States.  Since 1975 the United States has resettled more than 3.2 million refugees representing more than 70 nationalities.  We increased the number of refugees resettled annually in the United States from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 this year, and, as recently announced, have established an admissions target of 110,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2017.  

    The United States has also increased alternative pathways of admission, providing special immigrant visas to more than 11,000 people at risk from Iraq and Afghanistan in FY16, an increase of more than 4,000 from FY 2015.  Last year the United States provided more than $6 billion in humanitarian assistance worldwide.  We anticipate providing more than $7 billion in humanitarian assistance to international organizations and non-governmental organizations by the end of the current fiscal year. In direct support of the Summit’s goals, the United States recently made a contribution of nearly $37 million for UNHCR’s work with countries hosting refugees to increase the number of refugee children receiving a quality education. 

    The United States is proud to have provided $20 million in support for the Education Cannot Wait Platform, the world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, championing access to education in the most complex and dangerous environments.  

     The United States is also committed to making financial contributions to each of the groundbreaking financial platforms launched in connection with the Summit.  We are pleased to have provided $11 million to the ERCM and intend to contribute at least $50 million over the next five years, subject to the availability of appropriations, to the Global Concessional Financing Facility – the middle-income portion of the World Bank’s Global Crisis Response Platform

    Full Joint Statement on Leaders' Summit on Refugees:

    We have come together in support for the millions of refugees and other persons who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world.  The majority are women and children, who are often at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.  At a time when global response mechanisms have been strained past their limits by displacement levels not seen since the Second World War, it is incumbent upon the international community to act. 

    We recognize that this crisis, while disproportionately driven by conflict in Syria, is truly global in nature, and demands a global response and political solutions.  We also recognize the extraordinary steps that the international community has taken over the course of 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems and institutions that will be required to meet the growing need—including at the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.  We applaud U.N. Member States for coming together at the high-level plenary meeting on September 19 to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants. 

    Throughout these engagements, certain priorities have become clear.  We must seek to increase international humanitarian assistance funding, offer opportunities for refugee resettlement and alternative forms of legal admissions, and facilitate refugees’ access to education and lawful employment.  We also note the importance of increasing the pool of countries that provide significant levels of humanitarian assistance beyond the current largest donors, as well as the number of countries providing opportunities for resettlement or other lawful paths to admission.  Throughout we have, of course, continued to reaffirm the obligation of states to respect international law, international human rights law, and where applicable, international refugee law and international humanitarian law.  We convened today’s Summit with these goals in mind and—because of the concerted efforts and generosity of the international community — we are in a position to reflect on the important progress we have made, while recognizing the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead.  In particular: 

    In order to mobilize more substantial and sustainable funding for UN humanitarian appeals and other international humanitarian organizations, and provide further support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees, we sought a $3 billion increase in global humanitarian financing and commitments to maintain funding in future years. Through our mutual efforts, over the course of 2016, the 32 donors participating today have contributed this year roughly 4.5 billion additional dollars to UN appeals and international humanitarian organizations than in 2015.    We commend all governments that have made new and significant humanitarian contributions this year, as well as the important contributions of host countries and will work to provide more aid and direct support.  We continue to urge all governments to do even more over the years to come.

     In addition, the Summit also sought to provide longer-term solutions for refugees stranded in exile, whose lives are on hold.  Governments participating here today have come together, with different types of commitments, to approximately double the global number of refugees resettled and afforded other legal channels of admissions and to improve asylum systems.  Some governments have committed to starting or significantly expanding new UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs and others have greatly increased the numbers of refugees admitted through family reunification or humanitarian admission visas.  Several governments have committed to admit significant numbers of refugees into their countries for the first time in recent history.  We welcome the inclusion of civil society, which, in many cases, has established private sponsorship programs. To support these efforts, we commend the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR for creating the Emerging Resettlement Countries Joint Support Mechanism, which will help new resettlement countries select, prepare, and support the movement of refugees, and develop systems to welcome and support refugees upon arrival. 

    We also sought to increase the number of refugees in school by one million globally, and the number of refugees able to lawfully work by one million. Altogether, at least 17 governments participating in today’s Summit have committed to strengthen and adapt their policies so that more refugees can attend school and/or lawfully work.  The commitments announced today will help ensure that one million children have improved access to education and that one million more refugees have opportunities to pursue opportunities to legally access work.  Noting the importance of fostering an environment of inclusion, as applicable, we are pleased that so many countries have made commitments to help facilitate these goals and recognize that, for purposes of implementation, refugee host countries will continue to require sustainable donor support.  

    In this connection, we welcome efforts by UNICEF and the international community to establish Education Cannot Wait, the world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, championing children’s right to access education in the most complex and dangerous environments.  We likewise applaud the World Bank’s establishment of a Global Crisis Response Platform, which will provide grants and loans to help low and middle-income countries that so generously host large numbers of refugees.  This financing can help provide quality education and economic opportunities for refugees and their host communities.  There was consensus that the international community must recognize the protracted nature of the majority of refugee situations and work to strengthen coherence between humanitarian and development support so that our international response provides refugees with the tools necessary to be self-reliant and productive wherever they reside.

    Finally, we applaud those countries participating in the summit that, through their pledges, have made qualitative leaps in their commitment to humanitarian financing and/or resettlement and other humanitarian admissions.  Others have committed to strengthen their institutional capacity to address the specific needs of asylum seekers and refugees, especially those of the most vulnerable groups. 

    In closing, we recognize that no routine mechanism exists yet to facilitate the kind of voluntary responsibility-sharing for refugees that was demonstrated today or to more comprehensively address other challenges arising from large-scale refugee crises. We therefore commit to working together in support of the development of the Global Compact on Responsibility Sharing for Refugees, and to develop tools and institutional structures to improve the international architecture and lay a foundation for addressing both the immediate and the long-term challenges of managing refugee flows effectively and comprehensively. 

  • ME's proceeds from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s close to $82M

    Maine makes over $2,270,635in 33rd auction

    Article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine brought in $2,265,634.20 from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), 33rd auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances.

    RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. 

    The program, first started in Maine when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had a bill introduced. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House. To date RGGI has brought in $81,837,449.15 to the state for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. 

    “RGGI is working. It is helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation," said Former State Representative Seth Berry, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

    States sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. These programs are spurring innovation in the clean energy economy and creating green jobs in the RGGI states.

    14,911,315 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $4.54.

    The September 7th auction was the third auction of 2016, and generated $67.7 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2allowance auctions exceed $2.58 billion dollars.

    “This auction demonstrates RGGI’s benefits to each participating state, helping to reduce harmful emissions while generating proceeds for reinvestment. Each RGGI state directs investments according to its individual goals, and this flexibility has been key to the program’s success across a diverse region.” said Katie Dykes, Deputy Commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Another key RGGI strength is our commitment to constant improvement, as exemplified in the program review process. The RGGI states are continuing to evaluate program elements and improvements as part of the 2016 Program Review, with the goal of reaching consensus on program revisions that support each state’s unique goals and priorities.

    Governor John Baldacci led the effort in Maine to join RGGI and had a comprehensive energy plan similar to Cuomo. Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels and bring clean energy jobs to the state. His administration created grants to help new innovations like the floating offshore wind platforms and windmills developed at the University of Maine under Dr. Habib Dagher's leadership. (photo: by Ramona du Houx. Dr. Dagher talks with Gov. John Baldacci about the next steps for wind farm implementation offshore. The prototype of the floating windfarm is the firs photo on the page)

    Nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).        

    “Independent reports have found the reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is creating jobs, reducing consumers’ utility bills, and boosting state economies while driving down carbon emissions,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Our reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is supporting Governor Cuomo’s transformational clean energy and energy efficiency goals to generate 50 percent of New York’s energy from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030, ushering in the low-carbon economy essential to the wellbeing of future generations.”

  • Rep. Chenette submits bill for Gov. recall process as other action blocked action to hold LePage accountable

    Rep. Justin Chenette has submitted legislation to establish a recall process for state elected officials including the governor, as other action to hold Maine's Gov. Paul LePage accountable was blocked by Republicans in the House and Senate.
    “It’s become clear that House Republican leadership is holding up our ability to convene a special session of the Legislature to hold the governor accountable,” said Chenette, D-Saco. “Let’s give the power to the people by providing the public an extra tool of governmental accountability, especially when other elected officials fail to hold each other and each branch of government to task.” ​
    Recall is a procedure that allows citizens to remove and replace a public official before the end of a term of office. If passed, Maine would join 19 other states plus the District of Columbia to permit the recall of state elected officials.
    Meanwhile, House Speaker Mark Eves on Septermber 6, 2016 announced the results of his formal poll of the House Representatives, conducted to determine whether the House would reconvene for a special session of the Legislature to take action regarding Gov. Paul LePage’s recent conduct.

    The final results were 84 in favor of reconvening, and 67 opposed. All but four Republican member of the House refused the special session, blocking any action to hold the governor accountable for his racially insensitive words, his threatening behavior, the embarrassment he caused to the state and the economic consequences of his actions.

    “With the whole country and world watching, it is now official and in the record books. Elected Republican leaders have failed Maine people,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

    The Maine Constitution allows the Legislature to reconvene for a special session if majorities of both parties consent to return in a poll. The Constitution bestows sole authority to conduct that poll on the presiding officers — the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate.

    Senators from both parties were denied even the option of weighing in when Senate President Mike Thibodeau chose not to conduct the poll — refusing to take even the first step toward accountability for the governor.

    “By refusing to bring Senators in for a special session, Republican leaders have prevented any possibility of healing the damage and turning the page for Maine,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland.

    Chenette, serves on theothe Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.


    The following are remarks, as prepared, delivered by Speaker Eves and Sen. Alfond:

    Eves statement:

    “With the whole country and world watching, it is now official and in the record books. Elected Republican leaders have failed Maine people.

    “Under Maine’s Constitution, I asked our Republican colleagues to agree we needed to take some kind of action on Gov. LePage’s repeated, inexcusable conduct – and how he prevents us again and again and again, from working on issues import to Maine people.

    “Democrats have been clear: We know the governor must resign or be removed from office to prevent our state from being stuck in dysfunction for the next two years.

    “We are here on record and on behalf of Democrats in the Legislature to say, we believe Maine deserves so much better.

    “As the governor himself suggested on Tuesday, it is time for him to 'move on.’ Our Republican colleagues failed even the basic democratic test of being willing to be on record.

    “They are unwilling to even say ‘yes’ on the need to have an open, public discussion on how to move Maine forward. Republicans – by hiding today – are enabling two more years of distraction and dysfunction by Gov. LePage.”

    Alfond statement:

    “Mainers were united in their outrage at Gov. Paul LePage's words and actions. They were united in their demand that the he be held accountable.

    “And now, they are united in disbelief that Republicans wouldn't even take the first step toward that accountability.

    “The idea that the Maine Senate – or any Maine senator – could not even take up a debate on the simple, nonpartisan issue of how to take some kind of action to deal with Gov. LePage’s conduct is utter nonsense.

    “By refusing to bring senators in for a special session, Republican leaders have prevented any possibility of healing the damage and turning the page for Maine.

    “By not acting and hiding behind empty excuses, Republican Senators and House members have become Gov. LePage’s enablers. They guarantee Maine will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis for the next two years.

    “The governor's behavior isn't just reprehensible, it's a threat to Maine's economy. Investors and visitors alike grow more hesitant to bring business to Maine every time the governor brings national shame on our state.

    “An Associated Press story about whether or not people should boycott Maine as a result of Gov. LePage’s conduct ran in hundreds of newspapers across the country this weekend.

    “Because of Republicans' inaction, the Legislature will do nothing to defend Maine’s economy or protect our state’s proud reputation. Worst of all, it will do nothing to hold our governor accountable. Their inaction guarantees it only will be only a matter of time until we are back in this position again."

  • Deadline Aug. 30 for public comment on Maine referenda to appear in citizens’ guide

    The Department of the Secretary of State is currently accepting submissions of public comment to appear in the Citizens’ Guide to the Referendum Election.

    The department publishes the Citizens’ Guide each fall before the Referendum Election. Any individual, corporation, political action committee or other organization may file public comments in support of, or in opposition to, a ballot measure for publication in the guide. The Secretary of State’s Division of Elections allows for up to six commentary submissions – three in support and three in opposition – on each referendum question.

    This year, voters will decide on five citizens’ initiatives and one bond issue that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot:

    • Question 1: An Act to Legalize Marijuana
    • Question 2: An Act To Establish The Fund to Advance Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education
    • Question 3: An Act To Require Background Checks for Gun Sales
    • Question 4: An Act To Raise the Minimum Wage
    • Question 5: An Act To Establish Ranked-choice Voting
    • Question 6: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Improve Highways, Bridges and Multimodal Facilities

    Ballot measure public comments are limited to 300 words or less and must be accompanied by a completed application form and a $500 fee. Public comments must be submitted electronically and filed with the Secretary of State by the deadline of Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016.

    The Citizens’ Guide to the Referendum Election will be available on the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions website before Election Day.

    Copies of the guide are also printed and distributed to public libraries throughout the state.

    For the application form, instructions and rules on the Citizens’ Guide to the Referendum Election public comment submission process, visithttp://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/upcoming/index.html.

  • Maine watches President Barack Obama's speach of unity, hope and equality at the DNC

     

    President Barack Obama's remarks– As Prepared for Delivery

    Photographs by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    Hello, America.

    Twelve years ago tonight, I addressed this convention for the very first time.

    You met my two little girls, Malia and Sasha – now two amazing young women who just fill me with pride.  You fell for my brilliant wife and partner Michelle, who’s made me a better father and a better man; who’s gone on to inspire our nation as First Lady; and who somehow hasn’t aged a day. 

    I know the same can’t be said for me.  My girls remind me all the time.  Wow, you’ve changed so much, daddy. 

    And it’s true – I was so young that first time in Boston.  Maybe a little nervous addressing such a big crowd.  But I was filled with faith; faith in America – the generous, bighearted, hopeful country that made my story – indeed, all of our stories – possible.

    A lot’s happened over the years.  And while this nation has been tested by war and recession and all manner of challenge – I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your President, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America.

    How could I not be – after all we’ve achieved together?

    After the worst recession in 80 years, we’ve fought our way back.  We’ve seen deficits come down, 401(k)s recover, an auto industry set new records, unemployment reach eight-year lows, and our businesses create 15 million new jobs.

    After a century of trying, we declared that health care in America is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody.  After decades of talk, we finally began to wean ourselves off foreign oil, and doubled our production of clean energy.

    We brought more of our troops home to their families, and delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.  Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our kids.

    We put policies in place to help students with loans; protect consumers from fraud; and cut veteran homelessness almost in half.  And through countless acts of quiet courage, America learned that love has no limits, and marriage equality is now a reality across the land.

    By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. 

    And through every victory and every setback, I’ve insisted that change is never easy, and never quick; that we wouldn’t meet all of our challenges in one term, or one presidency, or even in one lifetime. 

    So tonight, I’m here to tell you that yes, we still have more work to do.  More work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a decent retirement; for every child who needs a sturdier ladder out of poverty or a world-class education; for everyone who hasn’t yet felt the progress of these past seven and a half years.  We need to keep making our streets safer and our criminal justice system fairer; our homeland more secure, and our world more peaceful and sustainable for the next generation.  We’re not done perfecting our union, or living up to our founding creed – that all of us are created equal and free in the eyes of God.

    That work involves a big choice this November.  Fair to say, this is not your typical election.  It’s not just a choice between parties or policies; the usual debates between left and right.  This is a more fundamental choice – about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.

    Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward. 

    But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative.  What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world.  There were no serious solutions to pressing problems – just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate.

    And that is not the America I know. 

    The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity.  The America I know is decent and generous.  Sure, we have real anxieties – about paying the bills, protecting our kids, caring for a sick parent.  We get frustrated with political gridlock, worry about racial divisions; are shocked and saddened by the madness of Orlando or Nice.  There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten; parents who wonder whether their kids will have the same opportunities we had. 

    All that is real.  We’re challenged to do better; to be better.  But as I’ve traveled this country, through all fifty states; as I’ve rejoiced with you and mourned with you, what I’ve also seen, more than anything, is what is right with America.  I see people working hard and starting businesses; people teaching kids and serving our country.  I see engineers inventing stuff, and doctors coming up with new cures.  I see a younger generation full of energy and new ideas, not constrained by what is, ready to seize what ought to be.

    Most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together – black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young and old; gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love. 

    That’s the America I know.  And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, and has devoted her life to it; a mother and grandmother who’d do anything to help our children thrive; a leader with real plans to break down barriers, blast through glass ceilings, and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American – the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton.

    Now, eight years ago, Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination.  We battled for a year and a half.  Let me tell you, it was tough, because Hillary’s tough.  Every time I thought I might have that race won, Hillary just came back stronger.

    But after it was all over, I asked Hillary to join my team.  She was a little surprised, but ultimately said yes – because she knew that what was at stake was bigger than either of us.  And for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment, and her discipline.  I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise or attention – that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion.  I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for.

    Hillary’s still got the tenacity she had as a young woman working at the Children’s Defense Fund, going door to door to ultimately make sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education. 

    She’s still got the heart she showed as our First Lady, working with Congress to help push through a Children’s Health Insurance Program that to this day protects millions of kids. 

    She’s still seared with the memory of every American she met who lost loved ones on 9/11, which is why, as a Senator from New York, she fought so hard for funding to help first responders; why, as Secretary of State, she sat with me in the Situation Room and forcefully argued in favor of the mission that took out bin Laden.

    You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office.  Until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis, or send young people to war.  But Hillary’s been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions.  She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes for the working family, the senior citizen, the small business owner, the soldier, and the veteran.  Even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect.  And no matter how daunting the odds; no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits. 

    That’s the Hillary I know.  That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire.  And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America.

    And, by the way, in case you were wondering about her judgment, look at her choice of running mate.  Tim Kaine is as good a man, as humble and committed a public servant, as anyone I know.  He will be a great Vice President, and he’ll make Hillary a better President.  Just like my dear friend and brother Joe Biden has made me a better President.

    Now, Hillary has real plans to address the concerns she’s heard from you on the campaign trail. She’s got specific ideas to invest in new jobs, to help workers share in their company’s profits, to help put kids in preschool, and put students through college without taking on a ton of debt.  That’s what leaders do. 

    And then there’s Donald Trump.  He’s not really a plans guy.  Not really a facts guy, either.  He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.

    Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion?  Your voice?  If so, you should vote for him.  But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, and seeing the economy grow, and creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close.  If you want someone with a lifelong track record of fighting for higher wages, better benefits, a fairer tax code, a bigger voice for workers, and stronger regulations on Wall Street, then you should vote for Hillary Clinton. 

    And if you’re concerned about who’s going to keep you and your family safe in a dangerous world – well, the choice is even clearer.  Hillary Clinton is respected around the world not just by leaders, but by the people they serve.  She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military. And she has the judgment, the experience, and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism.  It’s not new to her.  Our troops have pounded ISIL without mercy, taking out leaders, taking back territory.  I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed.  She’ll finish the job – and she’ll do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country.  She is fit to be the next Commander-in-Chief.

    Meanwhile, Donald Trump calls our military a disaster.  Apparently, he doesn’t know the men and women who make up the strongest fighting force the world has ever known.  He suggests America is weak.  He must not hear the billions of men, women, and children, from the Baltics to Burma, who still look to America to be the light of freedom, dignity, and human rights.  He cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein, and tells the NATO allies that stood by our side after 9/11 that they have to pay up if they want our protection.  Well, America’s promises do not come with a price tag.  We meet our commitments.  And that’s one reason why almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago.

    America is already great.  America is already strong.  And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump. 

    In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person.  And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election – the meaning of our democracy. 

    Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.”  Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix.  It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades, because he’s not offering any real solutions to those issues.  He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear.  He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election. 

    That is another bet that Donald Trump will lose.  Because he’s selling the American people short.  We are not a fragile or frightful people.  Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order.  We don’t look to be ruled.  Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago; We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, We, the People, can form a more perfect union. 

    That’s who we are.  That’s our birthright – the capacity to shape our own destiny.  That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny and our GIs to liberate a continent.  It’s what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot, and marchers to cross a bridge in Selma, and workers to organize and fight for better wages.

    America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us.  It’s always been about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.

    And that’s what Hillary Clinton understands.  She knows that this is a big, diverse country, and that most issues are rarely black and white.  That even when you’re 100 percent right, getting things done requires compromise.  That democracy doesn’t work if we constantly demonize each other.  She knows that for progress to happen, we have to listen to each other, see ourselves in each other, fight for our principles but also fight to find common ground, no matter how elusive that may seem.

    Hillary knows we can work through racial divides in this country when we realize the worry black parents feel when their son leaves the house isn’t so different than what a brave cop’s family feels when he puts on the blue and goes to work; that we can honor police and treat every community fairly.  She knows that acknowledging problems that have festered for decades isn’t making race relations worse – it’s creating the possibility for people of good will to join and make things better.

    Hillary knows we can insist on a lawful and orderly immigration system while still seeing striving students and their toiling parents as loving families, not criminals or rapists; families that came here for the same reasons our forebears came – to work, and study, and make a better life, in a place where we can talk and worship and love as we please.  She knows their dream is quintessentially American, and the American Dream is something no wall will ever contain.

    It can be frustrating, this business of democracy.  Trust me, I know.  Hillary knows, too.  When the other side refuses to compromise, progress can stall.  Supporters can grow impatient, and worry that you’re not trying hard enough; that you’ve maybe sold out.

    But I promise you, when we keep at it; when we change enough minds; when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen.  Just ask the twenty million more people who have health care today.  Just ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband he loves.  Democracy works, but we gotta want it – not just during an election year, but all the days in between. 

    So if you agree that there’s too much inequality in our economy, and too much money in our politics, we all need to be as vocal and as organized and as persistent as Bernie Sanders’ supporters have been.  We all need to get out and vote for Democrats up and down the ticket, and then hold them accountable until they get the job done.

    If you want more justice in the justice system, then we’ve all got to vote – not just for a President, but for mayors, and sheriffs, and state’s attorneys, and state legislators.  And we’ve got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed.

    If you want to fight climate change, we’ve got to engage not only young people on college campuses, but reach out to the coal miner who’s worried about taking care of his family, the single mom worried about gas prices.

    If you want to protect our kids and our cops from gun violence, we’ve got to get the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, who agree on background checks to be just as vocal and determined as the gun lobby that blocks change through every funeral we hold.  That’s how change will happen.

    Look, Hillary’s got her share of critics.  She’s been caricatured by the right and by some folks on the left; accused of everything you can imagine – and some things you can’t.  But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for 40 years.  She knows she’s made mistakes, just like I have; just like we all do.  That’s what happens when we try.  That’s what happens when you’re the kind of citizen Teddy Roosevelt once described – not the timid souls who criticize from the sidelines, but someone “who is actually in the arena…who strives valiantly; who errs…[but] who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.”

    Hillary Clinton is that woman in the arena.  She’s been there for us – even if we haven’t always noticed.  And if you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue.  You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport.  America isn’t about “yes he will.”  It’s about “yes we can.”  And we’re going to carry Hillary to victory this fall, because that’s what the moment demands. 

    You know, there’s been a lot of talk in this campaign about what America’s lost – people who tell us that our way of life is being undermined by pernicious changes and dark forces beyond our control.  They tell voters there’s a “real America” out there that must be restored.  This isn’t an idea that started with Donald Trump.  It’s been peddled by politicians for a long time – probably from the start of our Republic.

    And it’s got me thinking about the story I told you twelve years ago tonight, about my Kansas grandparents and the things they taught me when I was growing up.  They came from the heartland; their ancestors began settling there about 200 years ago.  They were Scotch-Irish mostly, farmers, teachers, ranch hands, pharmacists, oil rig workers.  Hardy, small town folks.  Some were Democrats, but a lot of them were Republicans.  My grandparents explained that they didn’t like show-offs.  They didn’t admire braggarts or bullies.  They didn’t respect mean-spiritedness, or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life.  Instead, they valued traits like honesty and hard work.  Kindness and courtesy.  Humility; responsibility; helping each other out.

    That’s what they believed in.  True things.  Things that last.  The things we try to teach our kids. 

    And what my grandparents understood was that these values weren’t limited to Kansas.  They weren’t limited to small towns.  These values could travel to Hawaii; even the other side of the world, where my mother would end up working to help poor women get a better life.  They knew these values weren’t reserved for one race; they could be passed down to a half-Kenyan grandson, or a half-Asian granddaughter; in fact, they were the same values Michelle’s parents, the descendants of slaves, taught their own kids living in a bungalow on the South Side of Chicago.  They knew these values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke; a baseball cap or a hijab.

    America has changed over the years.  But these values my grandparents taught me – they haven’t gone anywhere.  They’re as strong as ever; still cherished by people of every party, every race, and every faith.  They live on in each of us.  What makes us American, what makes us patriots, is what’s in here.  That’s what matters.  That’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries, and blend it into something uniquely our own.  That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here.  That’s why our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service.  That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end.

    That’s America.  Those bonds of affection; that common creed.  We don’t fear the future; we shape it, embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own.  That’s what Hillary Clinton understands – this fighter, this stateswoman, this mother and grandmother, this public servant, this patriot – that’s the America she’s fighting for.

    And that’s why I have confidence, as I leave this stage tonight, that the Democratic Party is in good hands.  My time in this office hasn’t fixed everything; as much as we’ve done, there’s still so much I want to do.  But for all the tough lessons I’ve had to learn; for all the places I’ve fallen short; I’ve told Hillary, and I’ll tell you what’s picked me back up, every single time.

    It’s been you.  The American people.

    It’s the letter I keep on my wall from a survivor in Ohio who twice almost lost everything to cancer, but urged me to keep fighting for health care reform, even when the battle seemed lost.  Do not quit.

    It’s the painting I keep in my private office, a big-eyed, green owl, made by a seven year-old girl who was taken from us in Newtown, given to me by her parents so I wouldn’t forget – a reminder of all the parents who have turned their grief into action.

    It’s the small business owner in Colorado who cut most of his own salary so he wouldn’t have to lay off any of his workers in the recession – because, he said, “that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of America.”

    It’s the conservative in Texas who said he disagreed with me on everything, but appreciated that, like him, I try to be a good dad.

    It’s the courage of the young soldier from Arizona who nearly died on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but who’s learned to speak and walk again – and earlier this year, stepped through the door of the Oval Office on his own power, to salute and shake my hand.

    It’s every American who believed we could change this country for the better, so many of you who’d never been involved in politics, who picked up phones, and hit the streets, and used the internet in amazing new ways to make change happen.  You are the best organizers on the planet, and I’m so proud of all the change you’ve made possible.

    Time and again, you’ve picked me up.  I hope, sometimes, I picked you up, too.  Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me.  I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me.  Because you’re who I was talking about twelve years ago, when I talked about hope – it’s been you who’ve fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long.  Hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; the audacity of hope!

    America, you have vindicated that hope these past eight years.  And now I’m ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen.  This year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me – to reject cynicism, reject fear, to summon what’s best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next President of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.

    Thank you for this incredible journey.  Let’s keep it going.  God bless the United States of America

  • More Maine kids would go hungry under LePage plan to shut down food stamp program

    Editorial by Rep. Scott Hamann (D) of South Portland 

     Here’s a sobering truth. Since Governor Paul LePage took office, extreme child poverty has spiked faster in Maine than anywhere else in the United States.

    I serve on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. 

    For years, we’ve seen evidence that Maine is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to the well-being of our children. A new report confirms this.

    The Kids Count report shows that more Maine kids are growing up poor – some of them extremely poor, as in $12,000 or less per year for a family of four. The latest figures show that 19 percent of Maine children are living in these conditions.

    The implications are huge for our youth and for the success of our state as a whole. We need policies that give Maine kids a decent shot at success and that help families climb out of poverty. 

    But the governor chooses to attack the poor rather than poverty itself.

    Here’s one of the latest, troubling examples.

    The governor is at odds with the federal government over SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – commonly known as food stamps. The governor, like a good number of people, doesn’t want food stamps to cover junk food, but that decision rests solely with the federal government.

    So, what does the governor want to do?

    He’d shut down Maine’s SNAP program completely, eliminating all emergency food assistance for 200,000 Mainers. These are mothers, fathers, young children, veterans, senior citizens and people with disabilities who reply on SNAP to eat and stay healthy. 

    I agree that SNAP should be spent on nutritious foods and beverages. No argument here. But shutting down the entire program does nothing to help families escape poverty and hunger.

    Consider that on the governor’s watch, more than 60,000 Maine children battle food insecurity and that Maine has the highest rates of both child and senior hunger in New England.

    Yet his solution to hunger is more hunger?

    Instead of attacking the poor, let’s attack poverty – together.

    We need to approach food insecurity as the public health crisis that it is. We need to recognize that it’s far less expensive to make sure that people have access to proper nutrition than to pay for avoidable, diet-related health care costs down the road.

    Here’s a real solution: make healthy food more accessible to all families.

    We’ve got ways to do this. There are federal programs available to help low-income households purchase fruit and vegetable, farmers throughout the state eager to feed their neighbors in need. And we have education programs that teach food-insecure Mainers how to make healthy food choices on a budget.

    It’s time for solutions. Let’s bring together experts from the public and private sectors and work together to strengthen SNAP without hurting Mainers.

  • Editorial: Rep. Doore: We need an economy that works for all of us

     

    Editorial by Rep. Doore:

    Minimum wage boost would help workers, their families and our entire economy

    In November, voters will decide whether Maine’s low-wage workers will finally get a raise. I say it’s about time.

    I believe an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay and that no Mainer working full time should live in poverty. But our minimum wage here in Maine has been stuck at $7.50 an hour since 2009. 

    Even though the cost of living keeps going up, wages are nowhere close to keeping pace. We have a chance to move Maine’s wage a bit closer to a living wage. 

    Under the proposal, the minimum wage would go up to $9 next year. It would increase gradually after that – $1 a year until it reaches $12 in 2020 – and then have a cost-of-living adjustment pegged to the federal Consumer Price Index.

    These days, a Mainer working full-time for the minimum wage takes home only about $12,300 a year – that’s about $300 a week. No one can support a family on wages like these. 

    The governor is painting an inaccurate picture of the ballot question and Maine’s low-wage workers.

    The fact is that 90 percent of low-wage workers are 20 years old and older.

    They include hard-working Mainers in highly skilled positions. They are nursing assistants, preschool teachers and paramedics. They are working seniors who can’t afford to retire. They are working parents struggling to support their children.

    A new report – Kids Count – shows that a growing number of Maine children are living in poverty. Forty-eight thousand Maine kids – 19 percent – are growing up poor. Clearly, we are moving in the wrong direction when it comes to the well-being of our kids and what this means for the future of our entire state. 

    Raising the minimum wage is one thing we can do to get us moving in the right direction. This much-needed boost in the minimum wage would help workers, their families and our entire economy.

    More Mainers will be able to climb out of poverty and be able provide their kids with groceries, a roof over their heads and other basics. And putting more money in the pockets of working Mainers benefits the economy by generating millions in additional consumer spending.

    What we need is an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few.

    But the governor fails to see that. He keeps pushing policies that would hurt everyday Mainers.

    Even though many of his fellow Republicans oppose it, the governor keeps trying to sell his income tax plan. It would be a great deal for the wealthy. But getting rid of the income tax would simply shift the burden onto everyday Mainers and put at risk important public services like schools, police, fire protection and road maintenance.

    Eliminating the income tax would create a huge hole – one that we could not fill even if we cut off all state funding for public education and higher education.

    Who would be left to pick up the rest of the tab?

    Property taxpayers like you and me. Working families that are struggling to keep up, let alone put some money aside for their future. Seniors on fixed incomes who are already having a hard time staying in their homes.

    It’s time for policies that promote strong communities and a brighter economic future for all of us. I hope you’ll keep that in mind when you weigh in on the minimum wage in November.

     

  • Bra protest about ending double standards for girls-about rights

    Editorial by Kaitly Juvik, a couragious lady

    was leaving my fourth period class at Helena high school in Montana, getting ready to go to lunch with a friend when one of my vice-principals stopped me in the hallway.

    “Did you forget something today?” she said. “I need to talk to you about your inappropriate attire.”

    It was 25 May. At the time, I was wearing a black T-shirt that was off the shoulder, which is not against the school’s dress code. So I was surprised when the vice-principal asked me if I had forgotten an article of clothing.

    “No,” I responded, confused.

    “Are you wearing a bra?” she continued.

    “No,” I replied.

    “Well, you need to either cover up or put one on, because there are a lot of male teachers and male students here, and that makes them uncomfortable. They don’t want to see that.”

    I felt embarrassed. I felt almost violated. You couldn’t even really tell I wasn’t wearing a bra. Even if I bent over, you couldn’t see anything. I would not have worn the shirt if you could. I’m not about showing everything off – that’s just not me.

    I choose not to wear a bra very often, because I find it more comfortable. Most of my friends never wear bras, either. I was really thrown off by the vice-principal’s comments, so I told her I would put something different on and left.

    But later, I looked in the handbook, and I saw there was nothing in there about bras, except that your bra strap can’t be showing. That obviously wasn’t a problem for me.

    I posted about it on my Snapchat, and a ton of people contacted me. Everyone was mad. One of my friends texted me suggesting we organize a “no bra day” as soon as possible.

    A lot of people supported us, and it was simple. All we planned to do was go to school bra-less. We didn’t want to harm anybody. We didn’t want to make the administration upset. It was for us.

    It was about gender equality and teaching people not to sexualize women’s bodies. We’re always asked to do things to make guys more comfortable. If my boobs make you uncomfortable, then why are you looking at me in that way?

    This was to show girls that they can be comfortable with their bodies without worrying about making someone else uncomfortable.

    I wasn’t doing it for attention, and I did not expect that it would get so big.

    On 27 May, we went to school without our bras, and a lot of teachers and students were talking about it.

    I got pulled into the principal’s office four times that day. In one of the meetings, the principal asked me to take down our Facebook page, telling me it was a distraction to people’s learning, and it was getting out of hand.

    I was super frustrated, because he was the one distracting from my learning by making me meet with him during class – all because we weren’t wearing bras. He wasn’t understanding the point of what we were doing. I tried to explain that we were standing up for ourselves and that I have freedom of speech and expression.

    I walked out crying, because I was just so mad.

    My friend told me that a local news station had showed up and wanted to talk, and I was so upset at the time, I thought: why not?

    I had people from as far as the UK, France and India contact me. And I’ve had a lot of awful comments. I’ve been called every name in the book. People have sent me messages saying “kill yourself”, “you’re a huge whore”, “no one wants to see your boobs”. Some said I’m just an “attention seeker”.

    I have a pretty thick skin, but I don’t look at the comments any more.

    It’s gotten huge, and I’m extremely thankful that the word has gotten out. But I don’t want the focus to be on the bra any more.

    This is about ending body shaming. This is about ending double standards for girls.

    It started with me, but it’s not about me. It’s about women everywhere being able to be comfortable in their own bodies.

  • Gov. John Baldacci and City Councilor Joe Baldacci to host Pro-Minimum Wage Spaghetti Dinner in Augusta

     

    Proceeds to help feed needy children in the area and their families

     By Ramona du Houx

    Former Governor John Baldacci and Former Bangor Mayor and City Councilor Joe Baldacci will host a spaghetti supper to highlight why the minimum wage should be increased. The dinner will be held at Cony High School, 60 Pierce Drive, Augusta on May 11th, from 5:30-7:30. And it’s only $5 per person!

    “These spaghetti dinners have always been a great opportunity to bring the community together for a family dinner that encourages discussion and unity on important working class issues,” said Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci. 

    The Baldacci brothers will be cooking the spaghetti sauce from their family’s secret recipe that became famous at Momma Baldacci’s, the former family restaurant of Bangor. The two-term governor, along with his brother will be serving the meal.

    “Our dinners have become a family tradition, one where we’re proud to help out when and where we can,” said Governor John Baldacci.

    Gov. John Baldacci serves up the famous Baldacci spaghetti at a charity dinner. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Proceeds will go to the Augusta Food Bank to benefit needy children in the area and their families.

    Augusta City Councilors Dale McCormick, Linda Conti, and Anna Douglass Blodgett are graciously co-hosting the event.

    Speakers from the Maine Center for Economic Policy, the Maine People's Alliance, the Maine Democratic Party, other political leaders and concerned citizens will address the dire economic situation faced by low income Mainers and the need for action to increase the minimum wage. According to the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute (EPI) the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is worth $2 less today than it was in 1968 when adjusted for inflation.

    Maine’s minimum wage is currently $7.50 an hour, increased during Baldacci administration in 2009. All efforts to raise the minimum wage at the state level since then have been defeated by Governor Paul LePage.

    Maine’s current minimum wage forces far too many families onto welfare rolls, and the need for federally subsidized healthcare. Someone working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage of $7.50, would earn $300 each week—or approximately $15,600 every year—well below the federal poverty line for families of two or more.

    Up until the early 1980s, an annual minimum-wage income—after adjusting for inflation—was enough to keep a family of two above the poverty line. At its high point in 1968, the minimum wage was high enough for a family of three to be above the poverty line with the earnings of a full-time minimum-wage worker. The falling minimum wage has led to poverty and inequality.

    “Historically low wages are being paid because that is what the inadequate law—which doesn't increase at the same rate as the cost of living—says workers can be paid. This out-of-date law undervalues the hard work of too many people. Nobody working a 40 hour week should live in poverty,” said Governor John Baldacci. “We hope this dinner will help generate support for a statewide minimum wage increase.”

    An Alliance for a Just Society estimates that $15.82 an hour would be a livable wage. 

    Mainers for Fair Wages, a coalition including the Maine People's Alliance, Maine Small Business Coalition, and Maine AFL-CIO, launched a successful petition process for a citizen initiative to raise Maine's minimum wage in June of 2015. The initiative will be on the ballot this November. If passed it would increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2017 and then by $1 a year until it reaches $12 by 2020. After that the wage would increase at the same rate as the cost of living. The initiative would also incrementally raise the sub-minimum tipped wage until it matches the minimum wage for all other workers by 2024.

    Six months after the minimum wage in Seattle, Washington jumped to $11 an hour—on its way to $15—the restaurant industry has continued to boom, despite dire predictions.

    Raising the state minimum wage would directly affect more than 130,000 low-wage workers in Maine, most of them women and many of them are supporting families, according to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute.

    The EPI estimates that gradually increasing the wage to $12 per hour would give over 120,000 Maine workers—more than a fifth of the state’s workforce—a raise.

    EPI calculates a $12 minimum wage would mean: 

    • 60 percent of the workers who would be affected are women.
    • 85 percent are over the age of 20.
    • 75 percent work in service, sales, and office and administrative support occupations.
    • 75 percent work in: retail, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.
    • 40,000 children have at least one parent who would get a raise from this change. 

    For years the Baldacci family ran an Italian restaurant in Bangor. Its last incarnation was Momma Baldacci’s and it became a meeting place known for its food, conversation, and community atmosphere. To highlight and help issues in the community and around the sate the Baldacci’s started charity spaghetti dinners.

    For more information please go RaiseMEwage.  https://raisemewage.wordpress.com/

  • Nobody Should be Working Full-Time and Still Live in Poverty

    Editorial by Mark Eves, the Maine Speaker of the House

    On Wednesday, May 11, I’m looking forward to joining the Baldacci family as they host a spaghetti supper in support of raising the minimum wage. The dinner, at $5 per person, will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Cony High School, 60 Pierce Drive, in Augusta.

    The dinner is focused on why raising the minimum wage is so important for our state, and I want to take a minute to share why I’ll be supporting the minimum wage referendum on this year’s ballot.

    Like so many Mainers, my wife and I worry about how to make ends meet. We worry how we’ll balance our car payments and grocery bills with the hopes of sending our three kids to college and whether we’ll actually be able to care for our parents as they get older.

    And just like our neighbors, we’re willing to work hard to make up the gaps. Mainers don’t want things handed to us. We just want providing for our families and saving for our kids’ future to be a little less difficult.

    No Mainer should be working full time and still live in poverty.

    Yet that’s the reality for too many families that depend on a minimum wage salary.

    Despite rising costs for basic needs, our state’s minimum wage has remained at $7.50 an hour since 2009.

    Maine’s economic future depends on the strength of our workforce, the ability of our families to invest in their children, and the success of our businesses.

    Raising the minimum wage in Maine is a critically important and long overdue move, both for families struggling to get by on low wages and our lagging economy. By putting money back into the pockets of Mainers who will spend it in their communities we can jump start our businesses, help reduce poverty, and begin to keep pace with other states who continue to get ahead.

    In November voters will decide on a referendum that would raise Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 an hour in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2020. Further increases would be tied to the cost of living, and the current subminimum wage for employees such as restaurant workers who receive tips would be phased out over a longer period of time.

    Almost 100,000 full-time workers in Maine would directly benefit from an increase in Maine’s minimum wage. Overall, 29 percent of all workers in our state would see an increase. And, more than 52,000 Maine children would benefit from one or both parents getting a raise.

    I’ve heard countless stories from Mainers, including parents like Katie Logue of Auburn, who work full time at low-wage jobs and struggle to afford the basic necessities that they need to provide for their families. Katie had to rely on food assistance and was even homeless despite working full time at a convenience store for $8 an hour.

    Beyond ensuring people like Katie are finally paid what they are worth, it’s the right thing to do to make sure every Mainer can bring a paycheck home that makes it possible to provide for their family.

    Raising the minimum wage is also the smart thing to do for Maine’s businesses statewide.

    Hundreds of business owners, such as Adam Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls, have already come out in support of raising Maine’s minimum wage.

    Adam was right when he said, “When working Mainers make a decent living, they spend that extra money in our communities. It is good for the whole economy, including my business. In the last year and a half, Lee Auto Mall has raised our starting wage from $9 to $10 and six months ago we raised it to $11 per hour. It is good for our employees and it is the right thing to do.”

    Maine desperately needs this economic growth at a time when our businesses continue to struggle with regional, national and international competition.

    This legislative session we raised wages for law enforcement officers serving on the front lines and mental health and direct-care workers who take care of our most vulnerable.

    Hard-working Maine families also deserve a raise.

    Raising Maine’s minimum wage is the right thing to do for our families, our businesses, and our economy.

    By Mark Eves, the Maine Speaker of the House

  • Eve's to file appeal after federal judge ruled in favor of Gov. LePage

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves and his attorney David Webbert talk to reporters after a federal judge ruled Gov. LePage's office gave him immunitiy.

    By Ramona du Houx

    A federal judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of Gov. Paul LePage and dismissed a lawsuit filed by House Speaker Mark Eves over his loss of a job at Good Will-Hinckley.

    David Webbert, Eves’ attorney said, "Mark Eves will file an appeal and have his case reviewed by three judges on the Court of Appeals in Boston. We are confident that the Court of Appeals will agree that Governor LePage violated the basic rules of our Constitution when he used taxpayer money to blackmail a private organization into firing his political opponent for partisan purposes. Mark Eves is determined to hold Governor LePage accountable for his abuses of power that undermine our democracy." 

    U.S. District Judge George Singal issued a 44 page ruling that declared LePage was immune from the lawsuit.

    “Ultimately, the governor’s alleged threats were made in his official capacity, and the individuals hearing those threats believed that the governor could exercise his executive discretion to impound amounts appropriated in the budget,” Singal concluded. “Therefore, even assuming his threats to withhold such funds from GWH amounted to an abuse of his discretion, the court finds that the Governor is entitled to immunity under [the law].”

    David Webbert, Eves’ attorney, said the decision would be appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

  • Last minute overrides of Gov.LePage vetoes give hope for public safety and well being of citizens

    By Ramona du Houx

    While the Solar energy bill that would have created over 600 jobs and helped Mainers save on their electricity bills failed to be overridden. Other important bills did meet the challenge standing up to Gov. LePage's veto pen.

    Notably, An Act To Provide Access to Affordable Naloxone Hydrochloride for First Responders, which was a bill that drew national attention because of Gov. LePage's outrageous comments concerning addicts. LePage basically said if someone overdoses they should die. The bill empowers the police to revive people who suffer from an overdose by using Naloxone Hydrochloride. Without police intervention many people who overdose would die. It's important to say, a lot of these citizens are everyday people caught in the recent up turn of drug addiction because drug companies have been promoting the use of prescription drugs which have often led to heroin addictions.

    “With their votes today, Maine lawmakers declared that we must seize every opportunity to prevent overdose deaths,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, the bill’s sponsor. “The opioid epidemic in our state is claiming the lives of five Mainers every week and inflicting heartache on countless others. We know that putting naloxone in more hands saves lives. Our actions can make all the difference for Mainers struggling with addiction.”

    An Act To Address Employee Recruitment and Retention Issues at State Mental Health Institutions also survived by a large bi-partisan margin. This bill will help Dorethea Dix mental hospital in Bangor and Riverview in Augusta. Both have undergone LePage administration cuts. Riverview failed to meet federal standards and was fined by the US government.

    Also, An Act Regarding the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program survived. The law continues an important transparency program, so that the public can have a watchman-an ombudsman-looking our for long term care in Maine. The list, with unofficial tallies, of April 29th's over-ride session are below:

    VETO LETTER DATE

    LD #

    TITLE

    SPONSOR

    HOUSE

    SENATE

    OVERRIDEN/SUSTAINED

    4/27/2016

    690

    An Act To Ensure the Safety of Home Birth

    Volk

    127-17

    28-7

    Overridden

    4/27/2016

    1253

    An Act To Improve the Evaluation of Public Schools

    Bates

    112-31

    33-1

    Overridden

    4/27/2016

    1472

    Resolve, To Enhance the Administration of the Child and Adult Care Food Program by Creating Clear Guidelines for Organizations and Streamlining the Application Process

    Alfond

    23-12

    Sustained

    4/27/2016

    1481

    An Act To Protect Maine's Natural Resources Jobs by Exempting from Sales Tax Petroleum Products Used in Commercial Farming, Fishing and Forestry

    Davis

    4/27/2016

    1489

    An Act To Clarify Expenditures Regarding Androscoggin County

    Rotundo

    87-61

    Sustained

    4/27/2016

    1629

    An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Study the Public Reserved Lands Management Fund

    Hickman (introducer)

    90-58

    Sustained

    4/27/2016

    1645

    An Act To Address Employee Recruitment and Retention Issues at State Mental Health Institutions

    Katz

    116-25

    34-1

    Overridden

    4/27/2016

    1649

    An Act To Modernize Maine's Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development

    Dion (introducer)

    93-50

    Sustained

    4/27/2016

    1675

    Resolve, To Create the Task Force on Public-private Partnerships To Support Public Education

    Kornfield (Introducer)

    137-12

    30-4

    Overridden

    4/26/2016

    1689

    An Act To Protect Children in the State from Possible Sexual, Physical and Emotional Abuse by Persons Who Have Been Convicted of Crimes

    Maker

    100-49

    29-5

    Overridden

    4/26/2016

    1552

    An Act To Reduce Morbidity and Mortality Related to Injected Drugs

    Vachon

    108-40

    25-9

    Overridden

    4/26/2016

    365

    An Act To Provide a Tax Reduction for Modifications To Make a Home More Accessible for a Person with a Disability

    Verow

    148-0

    34-0

    Overridden

    4/26/2016

    419

    An Act To Promote Academic Opportunities for Maine Youth during Summer Months

    Pierce, T

    93-56

    Sustained

    4/26/2016

    1514

    An Act To Conform Maine Law to the Requirements of the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation

    Sirocki

    141-7

    20-14

    Sustained

    4/25/2016

    1279

    An Act To Authorize Advance Deposit Wagering for Horse Racing

    Picchiotti

    120-29

    23-11

    overridden

    4/25/2016

    1521

    An Act To Create Equity among Essential Nonprofit Health Care Providers in Relation to the Sales Tax

    Gattine

    139-10

    34-1

    Overridden

    4/25/2016

    1579

    An Act Regarding the Maine Clean Election Fund

    Rotundo

    84-63

    Sustained

    4/25/2016

    1465

    An Act To Require the State To Adequately Pay for Emergency Medical Services

    Lajoie

    139-10

    33-1

    Overridden

    4/25/2016

    1498

    An Act To Clarify Medicaid Managed Care Ombudsman Services

    Vachon

    118-28

    29-5

    Overridden

    4/25/2016

    1696

    Resolve, To Establish a Moratorium on Rate Changes Related to Rule Chapter 101: MaineCare Benefits Manual, Sections 13, 17, 28 and 65

    HHS Committee Majority

    102-45

    28-6

    Overridden

    4/25/2016

    867

    An Act To Provide Tax Fairness and To Lower Medical Expenses for Patients under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act

    Libby

    23-12

    Sustained

    4/25/2016

    655

    Resolve, To Study the Feasibility of a State Firefighter Training Facility

    Lajoie

    93-55

    Sustained

    4/22/2016

    1692

    An Act To Amend and Clarify the Laws Governing the Brunswick Naval Air Station Job Increment Financing Fund

    Gerzofsky

    85-62

    26-9

    Sustained

    4/22/2016

    1617

    An Act Regarding the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program

    Brakey

    34-1

    129-18

    Overridden

    4/22/2016

    1614

    Resolve, To Provide Funding for the County Jail Operations Fund

    Rosen

    148-0

    33-2

    Overridden

    4/22/2016

    1224

    An Act To Amend the Child Protective Services Laws

    Malaby

    147-1

    34-0

    Overridden

    4/22/2016

    654

    An Act To Expand the 1998 Special Retirement Plan To Include Detectives in the Office of the Attorney General

    Nadeau

    96-53

    Sustained

    4/20/2016

    1394

    An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Strengthen the Adequacy and Equity of Certain Cost Components of the School Funding Formula

    Kornfield (Introducer)

    95-52

    Sustained

    4/20/2016

    1398

    An Act To Reduce Electric Rates for Maine Businesses

    Mason

    110-38

    33-2

    Overridden

    4/20/2016

    1468

    An Act To Improve the Safety of Ferries in the State

    Miramant

    113-32

    35-0

    Overridden

    4/20/2016

    1540

    An Act To Protect All Students in Elementary or Secondary Schools from Sexual Assault by School Officials

    Cyrway

    140-6

    34-1

    Overridden

    4/20/2016

    1547

    An Act To Provide Access to Affordable Naloxone Hydrochloride for First Responders

    Gideon

    132-14

    29-5

    Overridden

    4/20/2016

    1686

    An Act To Amend the Finance Authority of Maine Act

    Volk

    100-49

    29-5

    Overridden

     

  • Congress should confirm Obama's choice for the Supreme Court - Sen. George Mitchell

    Editorital by Former U.S.Senator George Mitchell

    Sen. Mitchell photo by Ramona du Houx


    Controversy over U.S. Supreme Court nominees is nothing new. What we are seeing from Senate Republicans today, however, is what Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe correctly describes as an “unprecedented” and “shameful abdication of their constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on filling this Supreme Court vacancy.” Never in recent memory has the Senate majority attempted to object not only to a particular nominee but also to the president’s constitutional responsibility to fill a vacancy on the high court.

    During my time serving the people of Maine in the U.S. Senate, I had the privilege and responsibility of participating in the confirmation process for eight associate justice nominees. I voted to confirm six of these nominees, including four nominated by Republican presidents. In each case, the nominee received meetings with senators, a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

    When I was serving as Senate majority leader in 1991, leading a Democratic majority larger than the one held today by Republicans, President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall. Within two months of receiving the nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings. Despite the immense and lasting controversy that ensued, the nomination was reported out of the committee.

    There were 48 senators who were opposed to the nomination. We could have prevented Thomas from being confirmed by using a filibuster to prevent a vote on his nomination. I was urged to do so by many outside groups and several of my colleagues. I refused and decided Thomas should get a vote. He prevailed 52-to-48. We could have denied him a vote and a seat on the Supreme Court, but we insisted on doing the right thing.

    We hoped to reverse the dangerous downward spiral in the Senate’s handling of Supreme Court nominees, in which both parties had participated. Unfortunately, our hopes were not realized. The downward spiral has continued and has reached a new low in the reaction of most Republican senators to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland.

    A substantial majority of Americans reject the arguments Senate Republicans have put forward to justify their unprecedented blockade of the president’s unquestionably well-qualified and highly regarded nominee. They claim we have to ignore the urgent need to fill this vacancy until the people can decide. Well, the people have decided. Nearly 66 million Americans voted to re-elect Barack Obama in 2012. They believed they were getting a full vote, not three-fourths of a vote. And Obama got a full term, not three-fourths of a term.

    None of the Republican senators up for re-election this year who support this blockade have argued that they should recuse themselves from participation in other Senate business until the people can decide, nor should they. They should do their jobs by fulfilling their constitutional responsibility to consider and vote on the president’s nominee.

    I commend Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who has agreed to meet with Garland. Her Republican colleagues should join her and agree to hold hearings and an up-or-down vote on Garland.

    Just about everybody in this country, including the Republican members of the Senate, knows that the right thing to do is to hold a hearing and to permit a vote on the president’s nomination. I hope the senators will rise to the occasion, as other senators have done in the past.

    George J. Mitchell represented Maine in the U.S. Senate for 15 years, including six as majority leader. He later led Northern Ireland peace negotiations and chaired the International Fact Finding Committee on Violence in the Middle East. This OpEd first appeared in The Boston Globe.

  • Maine Superior Court remands determination on marijuana legalization petition

    By Ramona du Houx

    In a decision handed down today, Justice Michaela Murphy of the Kennebec County Superior Court remanded the decision of the Maine Department of the Secretary of State on the citizens’ initiative “An Act To Legalize Marijuana.”

    On March 2, the department found that the petition effort did not have enough valid signatures of Maine voters to qualify for the 2016 ballot, as the petitioners had submitted 51,543 valid signatures, while 47,686 were deemed invalid. A minimum of 61,123 valid signatures from registered Maine voters is required in the citizens’ initiative process. 

    The determination was challenged in a legal appeal that concluded with the decision today. Of the petition signatures found invalid, 31,338 of those were rejected for the oath signature of the notary who witnessed the circulator’s oath, due to significant variances in the signatures that did not match the notary signatures on file.

    In her ruling, Justice Murphy found that “the record… demonstrates that the Secretary of State committed an error of law by applying a vague, subjective and/or unduly burdensome interpretation (of the law) to invalidate (the signatures on the basis of the oath signature).

    “Requiring a notary’s signature to appear identically on every petition signed is unreasonable and abridges the Constitutional right to initiative,” she stated. “The State has presented no evidence, and the court is aware of none, correlating the variability of a notary’s signature with incidences of fraud in administering the circulator’s oath.”

    “We thank Justice Murphy for her work and we are reviewing the impact of this decision and considering our options at this time,” said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

  • Maine Senate Democrats stand with LGBT community to uphold 2005 human rights protection

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine lawmakers made a promise that the state will never again return to the days when discrimination against LGBT Mainers was permitted under the law. These Maine Senate Democrats made their stand on April 7,2016 in responce to a proposed citizen initiative.

    Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus denounced an effort led by fringe extremist Michael Heath, who has embarked on a petition drive to place a citizen initiative on the ballot that would remove hard-won protections from discrimination for LGBT Mainers.

    “Our state has a proud history of leading the fight for equality for all,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, speaking on behalf of the entire caucus.* “We will oppose any effort to turn back the clock to the old days, when Mainers could be fired from a job, denied housing, or kicked out of the diner simply because of who they are.”

    In 2005 Governor John Baldacci ensured that LGBT Mainers became a protected class in law under the Maine Human Rights Act, granting them protection from discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and credit.

    (photo at Left by Ramona du Houx)

    Heath, a longtime enemy of equality, fought the 2005 changes to the Maine Human Rights Act and marriage equality referendum approved by voters in 2012.

    * Every member of the Maine Senate Democrats has signed on to the above statement. They are:

    • Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland
    • Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dawn Hill, D-York
    • Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth
    • Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford
    • Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham
    • Sen. Jim Dill, D-Orono
    • Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick
    • Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor
    • Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland
    • Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville
    • Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston
    • Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth
    • Sen. Dave Miramant, D-Camden
    • Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford
    • Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco
  • Maine Democrats successfully block bill to put Riverview mental patients in prison

    Democrats in the Maine Senate on April 6, 2016 blocked a bill by Gov. Paul LePage that would allow the state to transfer mental health patients at Riverview Psychiatric Center to a super-maximum security prison, even if they had never been convicted of a crime.

    In a 17-18 vote, the 15 Senate Democrats were joined by three Senate Republicans -- Roger Katz of Augusta, Brian Langley of Ellsworth and David Woodsome of North Waterboro -- in blocking the bill.

    The bill would have allowed the state to transfer patients from Riverview to the Intensive Mental Health Unit, or IMHU, at the state prison in Warren. Instead, the Senate passed an amended version of the bill, which ensures patients in state custody will continue to receive the appropriate level of care, even if they are transferred from Riverview.

    “We agree with the governor that patients from Riverview need quality health care in a facility that provides hospital level of care,” said Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, a member of the Health and Human Services Committee. “Noncriminal patients do not belong in a prison but in a hospital where treatment is the priority.”

    Having been passed in the House earlier this week, the bill now faces final votes in both chambers.

    “The very idea that patients who have never been convicted of a crime would be put in a prison setting is appalling, and I’m thankful we were able to defeat this bill,” said Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, the lead Senate Democrat on the Health and Human Services Committee. “Instead, we passed a responsible bill that recognizes the sometimes dangerous environment at Riverview while respecting patients’ rights.”

    As amended, LD 1577 requires forensic patients in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services to be cared for in facilities that provide hospital level of care. Forensic patients are those who are determined by the court to be incompetent to stand trial or not criminally responsible.

    The measure requires DHHS to place patients in state-owned hospitals that provide the appropriate level of care, such as Dorothea Dix in Bangor. If that is not possible, the next choice would be another accredited hospital in Maine. Barring that, patients could be sent to an accredited hospital out of state.

    Last month, Dr. James Fine, the psychiatrist at the IMHU, told the committee that the unit is nothing like a hospital in that it is focused on behavior control and security. He also said that the intensive mental health unit can be dangerous, with a recent rape reported within the unit and potentially fatal fights.

    According to Fine and the Department of Corrections, if Riverview patients were brought to the IMHU, they would be kept in a unit that serves primarily inmates with a history of violent crime such as murder and rape. They would spend periods of the day subject to lockdown, have regular interactions with prison guards, be shackled during movement and be subject to other protocols meant to handle inmates at a maximum-security prison. Behavioral problems would be addressed with mace, shackles or other interventions typical of corrections facilities. The committee heard a graphic description of how inmates at the IMHU are sometimes forcibly “extracted” from their cells.

    During his appearance before the committee last month, LePage said that when he proposed the bill he believed that the IMHU provided the same level of care as a hospital. When he learned he was mistaken, he said that it ought to.

  • Bill to keep Maine's mental health services in place advances unanimously in the House

    By Ramona du Houx

    Committee addresses concerns of Mainers who faced sudden loss of crucial supports

     Mainers facing the sudden loss of crucial mental health services under new LePage administration rules cutting eligibility will have the time to find adequate replacement supports under a bipartisan bill crafted and unanimously supported by the Health and Human Services Committee. 

    The measure voted out April 6, 2016 keeps in place services that help Mainers with mental illness stay in their homes and avoid more costly hospitalization and residential services. The committee’s bill provides at least a 120-day transition period for each individual affected by the Department of Health and Human Services’ plan and, if alternative, adequate services are not available, 90-day extensions through June 30, 2017. 

    “The Mainers who spoke up about the harm they could suffer under the administration’s plan were loud and clear. They cannot withstand the immediate loss of vital supports without anything to replace them,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbook, the House chair of the committee. “We cannot allow the administration to make these cuts without providing a lifeline.”

    Hundreds of Mainers turned out last week to stand united against the LePage administration’s eligibility changes to Section 17 of the MaineCare rules. The plan limits automatic eligibility to Mainers with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, potentially leaving behind Mainers with post-traumatic stress disorder, major anxiety disorder and other diagnoses. 

    “This arrangement provides a soft landing for Mainers who may no longer be eligible for Section 17 services,” said Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, the lead Senate Democrat on the committee. “By providing time to transition, and flexibility, we can ensure that no Mainer dealing with a mental health diagnosis is left without the help they need to leave stable lives.”

     The administration recently notified 24,000 Mainers with serious mental illness that they may lose services. The plan will be implemented Friday. 

    DHHS is telling affected Mainers they might be able to get care elsewhere while also planning rate cuts of 24 to 48 percent for those services that providers won’t be able to absorb. DHHS also suggests its new “behavioral health home” program as an alternative, but availability is limited and, in some areas, not an option at all.

    The administration categorizes the Section 17 eligibility changes as “routine technical” ones, which do not require review and approval from the Legislature. However, affected individuals made use of a rarely used option to petition the Legislature for review.

  • Hundreds stand against administration’s DHHS mental health service cuts in Maine

    By Ramona du Houx

    Community supports help affected Mainers live in their homes, prevent hospitalization 

    Hundreds of Mainers turned out Friday to stand united against the LePage administration’s cuts to mental health services and testify to the harm that they and their families will suffer as a result.

    Tiffany Murchison of Bath told the Health and Human Services Committee how she developed agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder, causing her world to shrink until she could not even go outside to get her mail. With the support of a community support worker, she slowly arrived at where she is today, standing before the committee, a Meals on Wheels volunteer and a business owner. Under the proposed changes, she would not have been eligible for the services she credits with saving her life.

    “Mental illness does not require medical equipment such as a wheelchair; however community services are a mental health patient’s wheelchair. Like a wheelchair, community support allows mental health patients to live more independently,” Murchison testified.

    The crowd packed the committee room and required five additional overflow rooms. They were among the 24,000 Mainers with serious mental illness who were recently notified that this month they may lose the services that help them stay in their homes and avoid more costly hospitalization and residential services.

    The Department of Health and Human Services is planning to limit automatic eligibility to Mainers with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, potentially leaving behind Mainers with post-traumatic stress disorder, major anxiety disorder and other diagnoses.

    Sen. Cathy Breen testified about her 21-year-old daughter, who has been living child-onset schizophrenia since the sixth grade. She would remain eligible, but would lose critical services nonetheless because the changes are causing Merrymeeting Behavioral Health Services in Brunswick to close. Breen said her daughter is certain she will wind up back in the hospital if she loses the services.

    “How does she know that? Because that’s exactly what happened last summer,” said Breen, D-Falmouth. “Like many families in this bumpy transition from the child mental health system to the adult system, we had a gap in support services. She deteriorated rapidly, and by August, she had a cast of characters in her head who – every day, all day – threatened to kill her family if she didn’t get to the nearest overpass and throw herself onto Interstate 295.”

    The administration is imposing the cuts through eligibility changes to Section 17 of the state’s MaineCare rules. The administration categorizes the eligibility changes as “routine technical” ones, which do not require review and approval from the Legislature. However, affected individuals made use of a rarely used option to petition the Legislature for review.

    “We cannot allow the administration to dismantle the supports that allows Mainers with mental illness to live independently and avoid institutionalization,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, the House chair of the committee. “DHHS is playing a shell game with people’s lives – cutting services here, reducing reimbursement rates for providers there and directing attention to other services that simply aren’t available for many Mainers.”

    DHHS is telling Mainers they might be able to get care in other programs while also planning devastating rate cuts of 24 to 48 percent for those services that providers won’t be able to absorb. DHHS also suggests its “behavioral health home” program as an alternative, but the program is so new that availability is extremely limited and, in some area, not an option at all.

    The committee will have the opportunity to propose legislation protecting people from these cuts. Any bill reported out by the committee ultimately will need approval from the full Legislature to go into effect.

    This is the second time in two months that Maine citizens have asked the Legislature to intervene because of the harm they would suffer under administration plans to cut support services for vulnerable Mainers.

    In February, the first petition effort ultimately led to a bill that would require legislative oversight for any changes to the services for adults with intellectual disabilities and autism. That bill, LD 1682, won final Senate approval April 1, 2016.

  • Bill to protect patients transferred from Riverview Mental Hospital clear hurdle in Maine House

    Ramona du Houx

    Measure ensures transfers are only to facilities that provide appropriate levels of care

    The Maine State House of Repersentatives on April 5, 2016 gave its initial approval to a bill ensuring that people with mental illness who require hospital care will continue to have that care in an appropriate setting if transferred from Riverview Psychiatric Recovery Center. The vote was 81-66.

    As amended, LD 1577 requires patients needing hospital-level care who are determined incompetent to stand trial or not criminally responsible to be cared for in facilities that have been accredited to provide hospital level of care by the Joint Commission, an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs.

    “We agree with the governor that patients from Riverview need quality health care in a facility that provides hospital level of care,” said Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, a member of the Health and Human Services Committee. “Noncriminal patients do not belong in a prison but in a hospital where treatment is the priority.”

    The measure requires the Department of Health and Human Services to place patients in state-owned hospitals that provide the appropriate level of care. If that is not possible, the next choice would be another accredited hospital in Maine. Barring that, patients could be sent to an accredited hospital out of state.

    The measure also requires DHHS to develop a plan for noncriminal patients who no longer need hospital-level care but do need to be at a secure facility. The department would be required to report every 90 days to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on its progress on the plan and the status of transferred patients.

    LD 1577 is a bill from Gov. Paul LePage. The original measure, now the minority report,

    proposed fixing the problems at Riverview by criminalizing mental illness and sending hospital patients to the Intensive Mental Health Unit, or IMHU, at the Maine State Prison in Warren.

    Last month, Dr. James Fine, the psychiatrist at the IMHU, told the committee that the

    unit is nothing like a hospital in that it is focused on behavior control and security. He also said that the intensive mental health unit can be dangerous, with a recent rape reported within the unit and potentially fatal fights.

    According to Fine and the Department of Corrections, if Riverview patients were brought to the IMHU, they would be kept in a unit that serves primarily inmates with a history of violent crime such as murder and rape. They would spend periods of the day subject to lockdown, have regular interactions with prison guards, be shackled during movement and be subject to other protocols meant to handle inmates at a maximum-security prison. Behavioral problems would be addressed with Tasers, pepper spray and other interventions typical of corrections facilities. The committee heard a graphic description of how inmates at the IMHU are sometimes forcibly “extracted” from their cells.

    During his appearance before the committee last month, LePage said that when he proposed the bill he believed that the IMHU provided the same level of care as a hospital. When he learned he was mistaken, he said that it ought to.

     

  • Maine's Rep. Gideon denounces effort to roll back LGBT rights

    Petition effort aims to legalize discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity

     Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon on April 6, 2016 denounced any effort to legalize discrimination against LGBT Mainers.  

    “Michael Heath fundamentally misunderstands Maine people. He should know by now that we reject discrimination in any form,” said Gideon, D-Freeport. “If he wants to avoid another crushing defeat, he should abandon this effort to undermine our values. We will stand up for the human rights of all Maine people again.”

    Heath is leading a campaign to remove sexual orientation and gender identity from Maine’s Human Rights Act and has initiated a petition effort to do so. In 2005, Maine voters decided to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the Act, which protects Mainers from discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and credit.

    Heath, a longtime opponent of LGBT Mainers, fought the 2005 changes to the Maine Human Rights Act and marriage equality referendum approved by voters in 2012.

  • Maine House stands its ground on Hickman bill establishing a right to food

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine has New England’s highest rate of food insecurity

    The House on March 31, 2016 insisted on its previous approval of a bill to amend Maine’s Constitution to address the issues of food security and food self-sufficiency in Maine.

    Rep. Craig Hickman introduced the bill to establish a constitutional amendment declaring that every individual has a natural and unalienable right to food.

    “Food is life. When one in four children among us goes to bed hungry every night, we must do better,” said Hickman, D-Winthrop, House chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. “We cannot allow a single one of us to go hungry for a single day. Maine has all the natural resources and the hard-working, independent-spirited and resourceful people who will make a way out of no way. We will find and feed ourselves the food we want to eat.”

    The House gave initial approval to the bill March 29, 2016 with a vote of 97 to 45. The Senate voted Wednesday to reject the measure. The bill now goes back to the Senate.

    With more than 84,000 hungry children, Maine has New England’s highest rate of food insecurity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “This bill is about freedom of choice, access to wholesome food, food self-sufficiency, freedom from hunger, individual responsibility and our basic fundamental right to work out our own nutrition regimen free from unnecessary interference,” said Hickman.

    Because the bill proposes to amend the Constitution, it needs two-thirds approval by the Legislature in order to send it to the people for a vote in the next statewide election.

    Hickman is an organic farmer and House chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.  He is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents Readfield, Winthrop and part of Monmouth.