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Maine Politics
  • 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Maine school boards plead for budget full funding-LePage threatens with veto

    Newport Schools stand to lose $1.5 million under Fredette/LePage proposal

    by Ramona du Houx


    Last night, June 25th, the RSU 19 Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution urging the State of Maine to fund education at 55percent.

    RSU 19 serves the Maine towns of Corinna, Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, and St. Albans and is the school system in House GOP Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s (R-Newport) district.

    On June 26th Governor LePage said he would veto the budget unless his demands were met in his budget proposal, which boils down to cutting education funding in school districts accross the state, amoungst other Draconian measures. 

    Despite twice voter-approved referendums instructing the state to hit this funding level,  Fredette and his House Republican caucus have been steadfast in their support of LePage’s budget proposal.

    “What is it going to take for Rep. Fredette to realize that Mainers want fair funding for their schools?” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “Since he hasn’t responded to voters who have asked for this twice, I sincerely hope he the educators and experts from his own hometown. It is time for Rep. Fredette and his GOP caucus to do the right thing, to support Maine people and fully fund the state’s share of K-12 public education.”

    Under the GOP education proposal, Fredette’s home district would lose $1.5 million dollars and fail to hit the 55 percent target in Maine law.

    According to the RSU 19 School Board, this lack of funding has caused towns in RSU 19 “to make up the difference, often by raising property taxes, cutting essential services, or both.” The board also makes clear that the failure is “preventing RSU 19 from recruiting highly trained, and qualified teachers; and retaining the excellent teachers already employed by the district.”

    Last night, Rep. Fredette’s school board said it loud and clear and even put it in writing - enact a budget that funds public schools at 55 percent as mandated by Maine voters to provide vital educational resources and relief to local taxpayers,” said Bartlett. “On behalf his own constituents, I’d encourage Rep. Fredette to heed their advice and support a budget that finally provides the resources necessary for kids and teachers to succeed.”

  • 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).

  • Stephen King's tweets have been blocked by Trump - what's the world coming to?

    Stephen King twitter account has been blocked by Mr. Trump .... there is truth in some tweets. Depends who tweets.

    Many, including the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, have questioned the constitutionality of blocking access to tweets considered official communications from the President of the United States.

  • Neil Rolde - writer, philanthropist, Maine politician, humanitarian passes

    On May 15th, 2017 with his family at his side Neil Rolde passed away in York, Maine. A memorial service for Rolde will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at the First Parish Church in York.

    "With a deep heart, and tremendous love for a man who gave so much to others, we will miss Neil in the depths of our souls. He'll live on forever in our hearts and with his books. Thank you Neil for blessing this Earth with your presence," said Ramona du Houx, Neil's publisher at Polar Bear & Co. 

    Neil Rolde was a Maine renowned historian, former politician and, philanthropist. As a youth he attended Phillips Academy in Andover where instructors encouraged his writing talents. He went on to Yale University and earned a Bachelor in Arts before attending Columbia University where he received a Masters in Journalism.

    Rolde grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts. He worked as a film writer before moving to Maine with his wife, Carlotta Florsheim, to raise their family. In York they brought up four wonderful children and enjoyed family visits with their eight grandchildren.

    Mr. Rolde’s many years of public service include being an assistant to Governor Kenneth M. Curtis of Maine for six years and 16 years as an elected Representative in the Maine Legislature. He represented his district of York, Maine and became Majority Leader of the Maine House during the 107th legislature from 1975-77. He became the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 1990 in an election bid against Bill Cohen.

    Many of Mr. Rolde’s books involve the history of Maine and its people. The plight of Native Americans has been a reoccurring theme in Rolde’s life since his childhood and he helped Maine’s tribes while he worked in the Curtis administration. His experiences led his to write one of Maine’s definitive historic books: Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians.

    More recently Neil focused on the plight of Jews during WWII and the Holocaust in a four-part series published by Polar Bear & Company: Breckinridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews; Crimes of War; More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, Volume I: The Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board and Volume II: More of The Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board; his last book in this series, The Bricha, will be published posthumously.

    He served as Chairman of the board of the Save our Shipyard nonprofit that successfully fought the potential cuts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard proposed by the BRAC federal commission, twice.

     “From his long service and leadership in the Legislature, to his generosity in the community, to successfully leading the charge to save Portsmouth Naval Shipyard -not once, but twice – he’s left and indelible mark on the state,” said U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree in a statement.  “He was a true believer in the adage that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.“

    "He was brilliant, witty and always a pleasure to spend time with. Like many others whose lives he touched, I learned so much from his stories and opinions. He will be missed,” said Pingree.

    The author won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council. Neil was very involved in his York community and remained politically active until his death.

    Mr. Rolde served on many State boards and commissions as well. A few are: the Maine Health Care Reform Commission, the Maine Historic Preservation, and the Maine Arts and Humanities Commission. His expertise led him to sit on many private non-profit boards as well, and he became Chairman, Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation, Vice-Chairman, University of New England Board of Trustees, Chairman, Board of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Chairman, Seacoast Shipyard Association Executive Board, Trustee, and the Maine Health Care Access Foundation.

    A list of Neil Rolde’s books:

    A list of Neil Rolde’s books:

    1. More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, Volume I: The Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board
    2. More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, Volume II: More of the Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board
    3. Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politicians
    4. Crimes of War
    5. Breckenridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews
    6. Continental Liar from the State of Maine: James G. Blaine
    7. Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians
    8. The Interrupted Forest: A History of Maine’s Wildlands
    9. Maine: A Narrative History
    10. Maine, Downeast and Different: An Illustrated History
    11. An Illustrated History of Maine
    12. Your Money or Your Health: America’s Cruel, Bureaucratic, and Horrendously Expensive Health Care System: How It Got That Way and What to Do About It
    13. Rio Grande Do Norte: The Story of Maine’s Partner State in Brazil: What It’s Like, What It’s Past Has Been, and What Are Its Ties to Maine
    14. The Baxters of Maine: Downeast Visionaries
    15. So You Think You Know Maine
    16.  Maine in the World: Stories of Some of Those from Here Who Went Away
    17.  O. Murray Carr: A Novel
    18. Sir William Pepperrell of Colonial New England

    Contributor as a historian and writer to:

    • To Katahdin: The 1876 Adventures of Four Young Men and a Boat
    •  Greatest Mountain: Katahdin’s Wilderness
  • 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."
  • Adam Cote is in the race for ME Governor saying he'll bring new leadership and build a strong economy

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Background on Adam:

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

    Cote’s 2008 congressional campaign performance:

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

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

  • LePages' budget proposal endangers state park jobs with private contractor jobs

    Maine's beauty, photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held a joint public hearing on March 10,2017 on portions of Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal that would outsource two dozen jobs at Maine’s state parks and eliminate management positions involved in overseeing historic sites or public lands.

    The proposal would not save the state any money and would merely shift funding to private contractors. Private companies have no moral incentives to maintain public lands as state workers have to under Maine's Constitution.

    “This state’s best assets - our people, our natural resources, our quality of life and place - are exactly what Mainers and our many, many visitors value about our state parks,” said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. “Our friendly, knowledgeable and hard-working rangers are part of what makes the experience so special. This proposal is yet another example of a shortsighted vision that neither saves the taxpayers money nor effectively stewards one of our key economic assets.”

    Maine’s more than 50 state parks and historic sites reported nearly 2.9 million visitors in 2016, setting an attendance record for the second straight year.

    But under the LePage Administration, Mainers are paying more to use their state parks. The price of an annual park pass rose 50 percent this year, from $70 to $105, the first increase since 2002.

    In addition since the consolidation of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Conservation in 2012, the LePage administration has cut the number of staffers throughout the new, larger agency. In some cases, state workers are doing more but not being compensated properly for the extra work. While in other departments - the work isn't getting done.

    “Mainers are paying more, yet the department is forced to do less and less. Key positions are going unfilled and services are being eroded,” said Michelle Dunphy, Chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. “It’s only a matter of time before our iconic Maine brand is damaged as a result. Democrats are focused on conservation policies that result in a stronger, more vibrant economy. ”

    The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee has now ended its joint committee public hearings. Next week, they will start receiving report backs from the policy committees and hold public hearings on legislation not related to the budget.

     

  • 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.

  • Phil Bartlett's letter of endorsement of Congressman Keith Ellison to head Democrats

    (Photo by Ramona du Houx of Phill Barlett outside MDP headquarters in Augusta.)

    The following is the Maine Democrat Party Chairman's letter of endorsement of  of Congressman Keith Ellison to head Democrats. 

    OPEN LETTER TO THE DEMOCRATIC STATE COMMITTEE

    Dear DSC members:
    One week from today I will be heading to Atlanta for the Democratic National Committee meeting and elections. I committed to inform you of my vote for chair in advance of the meeting, and I have now made my decision.
    As many of you know, I have been openly critical of the DNC in recent years. The 50 State Strategy that helped us win the White House in 2008 was abandoned and the DNC seemed to focus almost exclusively on the presidential election at the expense of state parties and down ballot candidates. And the DNC failed in 2016 at its core responsibility of conducting a fair and open primary process free of any appearance of bias.
    In evaluating the many outstanding candidates for DNC chair, I asked candidates questions about their plans to support our grassroots work, offered feedback and reviewed their detailed proposals.
    Here in Maine, we are working hard to strengthen our municipal and county committees, to expand our electoral work down ballot to ensure Democrats are elected at every level of government, and to support grassroots activism. We are also working to enhance our communications and develop a four-year strategic plan. I want to make sure the next DNC chair will support our work and offer innovative ways to engage voters, volunteers and supporters. 
    I believe that Congressman Keith Ellison has both the experience and passion to lead the DNC for the next four years. He is committed to a true 50 State Strategy and understands the role state parties can play in building a long-term progressive movement. Over the course of this campaign, he has sharpened his ideas and taken feedback he received to heart. His willingness to step down from Congress to be a full-time chair is a testament to his passion for this work. 
    Thank you for your commitment to the Maine Democratic Party!
    In solidarity,
    Phil Bartlett
    Chair, Maine Democratic Party
  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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.

     

  • Mainers call on Sen. Collins to oppose Trump's fossil fuel cabinet

    Enviromental leaders from Maine: Professor Charles Tilburg of the University Of New England, Glen Brand- the Sierra Club Maine Director, and Sarah Lachance and Bob Klotz from 350 Maine, take a stand to stop President-elect Trump pushing through his climate-denying nominees, at a press conference where they called on Sen. Susan Collins to vote against these nominees.  Courtesy photo.

    By Ramona du Houx

    Environmental leaders from Maine are calling on Senator Susan Collins to reject President-elect Trump’s climate-denying nominees to head the EPA, Energy, and State Departments. Trump aims to put foxes in the hen house, without weighing the damage that will happen to the world.

    “It’s time Senator Collins shows true leadership at this critical point in history when we know the science is clear and we must act now on real climate policy,” said Sarah Lachance, spokesperson for 350 Maine.  “Her first step in doing that is to say no to these cabinet nominees of climate deniers.”

    At a news conference organized by Sierra Club and 350 Maine and at a public protest in front of Sen. Collins’ Portland office, speakers denounced Trump’s “fossil fuel” cabinet nominees: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for EPA; Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State; and Rick Perry to run the Energy Department.

    One of the reasons some Republicans insist that climate change is not happening, when close to 90 percent of Americans say it is, simply is because if they continue to do nothing to stop it, then they are declaring they don't care what happens to millions of people around the world. Another reason - the oil companies will have to limit their activities that are contributing to climate change. That means -revenue losses.

    The march to Sussan Collins offices to make sure she knows she shouldn't support oil copany excs.

    “As one of the only Republican Senators who accepts the scientific consensus on climate change and supports action to address the climate crisis, Sen. Collins will play a pivotal role in approving or rejecting Trump’s “fossil fuel” cabinet,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director.  

    “The underlying causes of climate change are no longer debated within the scientific community,” said Professor Charles Tilburg, Associate Dean, College of Arts & Sciences at the University Of New England. “We have moved beyond this settled issue to examine the effects of the change on our environment.”

    For years, Scott Pruitt has led the legal charge to kill the EPA’s historic Clean Power Plan and other important environmental safeguards like stronger standards, and he has regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections.

    Pruitt is an unabashed climate science denier. Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus recognized by NASA, as recently as last May, Pruitt falsely said that “that debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” 

    As Secretary of State, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson would literally put the most powerful, private fossil fuel corporate interests in charge of our nation’s foreign policy.   For many years, Exxon Mobil was the driving force and a major funding source supporting climate denialism propagandists.

    UPDATE: on January 20th Collins stood by Sessions- showing she's no moderate

    Trump has nominated another denier of climate science, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, to lead the very department that Perry pledged to eliminate when he was a presidential candidate. 

    Recently, at a talk at Bowdoin College, Sen. Collins reiterated that she believes humans are causing climate change and that governmental action will be needed to solve the problem. “I have supported over and over again the ability of the EPA to advance greenhouse gas emissions policy—the Clean Power Act, for example.”  

    “Senator Collins can’t have it both ways:  she cannot support climate science deniers for critically important cabinet posts AND support policies to protect our climate and promote clean energy,” added Sierra Club’s Glen Brand.

    Following the news conference, more than 100 Maine climate activists  conducted a public protest at  in front of Sen. Collins’ Portland office before meeting with a senior member of the Senator’s staff. (photos)

  • 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.”

  • What Bangor, Maine is doing to ease the state's deadly drug epidemic



    Editorial by Joseph M. Baldacci, former Mayor of Bangor now serves on the Bangor City Council
     
    According to the Maine attorney general’s office, 272 Mainers died of drug overdoses in 2015, a 30 percent increase over 2014. This year, we are easily surpassing those figures. On average, one Mainer dies each and every day from a drug overdose.
    In our own community, the fire department has seen use of Narcan — a nasal spray that can save someone from death by overdose — skyrocket in the last five years, from 15 uses of it in 2011 to 57 uses in 2015 to at least 100 uses on suspected overdoses just through Nov. 30, 2016. This spring, the Bangor City Council authorized the police department to also carry Narcan, and, as of Dec. 1, the police department has saved 16 lives with it. In 2015, the Bangor Police Department identified 66 cases as involving a possible overdose. So far this year, we are at 111 cases.
    We are fortunate and thankful to the men and women working as firefighters, paramedics and police officers. They are some of the real heroes of this effort to save lives.
    This is not a political issue, it is a human issue requiring human responses. It is an issue that requires state and national leadership — neither of which we have. Local communities are now forced to handle it with everything we have to save and protect citizens.
    Story continues below advertisement.
    Since 2014, Bangor has been in partnership with the Community Health Leadership Board as well as the hospitals and other nonprofits to better marshall local resources.
    The essential thing is that all of us act constructively and rationally in this effort. Because we have done this, we have made progress. Here’s where:
    Adult drug treatment court
    In 2012, the state closed the drug treatment court in Bangor that helped monitor on a weekly basis dozens of drug offenders as well as assist in their getting treatment. After a successful effort by both the City Council and state legislative delegation, the program has been reinstated, and it will be able to monitor and provide treatment options to at least 30 drug offenders at any one time.
    Law-Assisted Diversion Project
    The city is working on a jail diversion effort in partnership with the Health Equity Alliance. We also are working to fund a substance abuse case manager embedded in the police department. Both efforts will be coordinated with local hospitals and other providers to get nonviolent offenders treatment first, not jail first.
    Detoxification center
    The City Council has supported and sought the establishment of a 10-bed detox center to serve as a first stop for people who commit to recovery. Currently, the only places for people to detox are jail, home or the emergency room. None of those places are equipped to handle the complex needs of someone who is detoxing and establish a continuum of care for them when they leave detox.
    Regional model of continuum of care that increases rural access
    Acadia Hospital has taken the lead and has funding to enlist St. Joseph Hospital and Eastern Maine Medical Center providers in the provision of Suboxone — an alternative to methadone — in their primary care practice settings. This is currently in progress. Penobscot Community Health Care was awarded a federal grant to expand primary care medication-assisted treatment in its practices as did Health Access Network in Lincoln.
    Recovery
    The city has given strong support to Bangor Area Recovery Network efforts for its peer recovery coaching program. The city awarded funding for this important effort to help people stay clean.
    Early Recovery Treatment & Housing
    In conjunction with community partners, the city is involved in exploring several models to complete the continuum of care after someone is released from detox. We have reached out to the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative and may replicate some of its efforts here. Penquis is our lead partner on this work.
    I am proud of the work of my fellow councilors, along with a hard-working staff that works collaboratively to involve all community partners and has resulted in dozens if not hundreds of saved lives.
  • 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.”

     

  • It is no time to compromise with the forces of inequality and injustice

    BY KAREN HECK

    It’s been hard to figure out what to write this month, much less how I’m going to cope in the coming years. I’ve just experienced a national election that repudiated pretty much everything I’ve spent the last 35 years of my life working for — reproductive rights, peace, protections from hate speech and crimes aimed at people who aren’t straight, white, able-bodied, and male, and a society in which people actually care about something other than themselves. It’s that kind of love-your-neighbor-as-yourself society I internalized from my Sunday school lessons 50 years ago.

    It’s that kind of society Native tribes are fighting for in North Dakota. They are peacefully attempting to stop an oil pipeline from being built in order to protect water from the eventual oil leaks we know will occur. It’s the kind of society built by people who are thinking past their own generation to the lives seven generations on. It’s based on an understanding that water equals life and it’s their job to protect that life-giving element with all that they have. It’s a society I aspire to live in.

    It’s not at all like the crowd being assembled in Washington who will do all they can to grab what they can now and screw the next generation.

    I’m not naive enough to think the national media will be reporting on the news of Native tribes protecting water or the fact that the new administration’s focus on short-term gains rather than long-term public good will leave us less well-off than ever. I can pretty much figure out what we’ll be hearing and reading in the future based on the media’s obsession this past year in bringing us its version of the news.

    We’re now in the post-truth era of news. Who needs to check distortions and lies when reporting on a guy’s tweets and his rants is so entertaining? Editors and reporters had to know the man is unqualified for any governmental job, much less the most important one. How could they miss that he’s a guy who knows less about how government works than any high school student, whose temperament is less under control than a 2-year-old’s, and whose racist, misogynist, homophobic rants reminded people of Hitler?

    It’s clearly no longer the media’s job to give us information about qualifications, issues, or the policy ramifications of the candidates. If they were at all interested in that approach, they could have taken a hard look at Maine to project what would happen to the rest of the nation if a man like our governor was elected. We have a governor who has withheld millions of Victims of Crime money from the people of Maine who have been victims of crime! How much lower than that can you go? I’m pretty sure we won’t have to wait too long to find out. Owned and supported by drug and energy companies, the national media’s only interest was and is how much money can be made on the circus it had a hand in creating.

    If you’ve read this far, you know I’m angry. I’m also so sad. I’m sad to think about the future for children in this country. Those who espouse the kinds of thinking Trump and his appointees represent do not display the kinds of values we need our kids to learn. Those values include kindness, decency, and an understanding that life is not about winning but how you play the game.

    I will continue to remember that Hillary Clinton beat Trump by more than 2 million votes. I’ll continue to believe the country’s spirit is best represented by the Statue of Liberty. That spirit is a generous one, because we understand that we are one nation, indivisible and stronger together.

    Speaking out against those who would destroy that spirit is what I will continue to do. Taking to the streets to make my feelings known is one way forward for me. I made arrangements to be at the Million Women March in January.

    Closer to home in Waterville, I was proud to stand with more than 100 people in support of the Native American people protecting water from an oil industry that refuses to acknowledge it is contributing to climate disruption. I was also proud to be part of a small group in Castonguay Square standing in memory of transgender men and women across the globe and in this country who were killed for just wanting to be who they were.

    I realize that there will be calls for compromise with those who are going to be in power. But I will not compromise with an administration of racist, misogynist, homophobic beings bent on the destruction of the idea of equality and justice for all. I had hoped for better days after Nov. 8, but with apologies to Dylan Thomas, I will not go gentle into that good night but I will instead, rage against the dying of the light.

    Karen Heck is a longtime resident and former mayor of Waterville.

  • 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.

     

  • Your vote will honor the service of veterans

    Much is at stake, do your part as a citizen by voting this Election Day

     Editorial by Representative John Schneck of Bangor.

    In the coming week, Americans will mark two days that are significant to our democracy: Election Day and Veterans Day. On Tuesday, millions of Americans will make their voices heard at the polls. On Friday, we honor those who served to protect our nation and our freedoms. I urge you to participate in both.

     I’m honored to be a member of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which deals with veterans issues as well as policy around elections, campaign practices and voter registration. I’m especially proud of our work this year on new laws spearheaded by Democrats that help Maine keep up with the changing needs of Maine veterans, combat homelessness and address their higher education and transportation needs.

     

    As a veteran, a state lawmaker and a citizen, it’s been wonderful to see how engaged Mainers are this election season. You can see it in the large numbers of absentee ballots requested and cast, in the debates among candidates and in the day-to-day conversations with friends and neighbors.

     

    There’s a lot at stake this year, from who we put in the White House to who’ll be on our towns’ school boards.

     

    And, of course, voters will also decide what kind of Maine Legislature we’ll have for the next two years.

     

    Those decisions will affect how we educate our children and prepare them for the working world, whether Augusta shifts costs to local property taxpayers and whether we can achieve true welfare reform that moves people out of poverty and into sustainable employment – and that creates accountability and effectiveness throughout the system.

     

    I served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and I’m proud to serve in the Legislature alongside other veterans. Among House Democrats, we have veterans of the Army, Navy and Marines, veterans who also served in the Vietnam era, a younger veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the co-chair of the Legislature’s Veterans Caucus and a recipient of the Bronze Star.

     

    I know that each and every one of them wants voters to participate in our democracy.

     

    Meanwhile, some highly visible politicians are trying to cast doubt about the integrity of our election system. They’re trying to dissuade – even intimidate – voters from exercising their rights. They’re trying to undermine our American tradition of peaceful transfers of power.

     

    We’ve got to stand up against this. We’ve all got to live up to our responsibilities as citizens. So please do your part by voting this Tuesday. Your actions will honor the service of our veterans.

  • 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 Women Urged to Vote to Stop Trump

    In response to Donald Trump’s visit to Lisbon on October 28, 2016, Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett today joined Emerge Maine’sexecutive director Jill Barkley, District 20 State Senate candidate Kimberly Sampson, and former Auburn state legislator Barbara Trafton in urging Maine women to vote.

    “Donald Trump doesn’t inspire greatness in the lives of others; instead he criticizes, condemns, and complains,” said Sampson. “He doesn’t stand up for the least among us, but throws misguided and hurtful judgments like darts. That isn’t a man who has the Wisdom of Solomon or the temperament to handle nuclear codes. I invite the moderates among us to join us in supporting Hillary Clinton for president” said Sampson. “Perhaps you have been a staunch Republican most of your life. Perhaps this will be the first time you vote for a Democrat. Thank you. Thank you for recognizing that whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or Green, we are all Americans.”

    Held at the Maine Democratic Party’s Lewiston field office, the press conference was also attended by Androscoggin County Democratic Committee Chair Tom Reynolds, District 61 State Rep. Heidi Brooks, and District 74 State Rep. Peggy Rotundo. Standing behind the speakers was a large group of women and men who held signs and shouted their support.

    “No matter who or where you are, bragging about sexual assault is not acceptable. And it is certainly not acceptable for the next President of the United States,” said Barkley. “Trump has a well-documented history of denigrating women and promoting misogyny. He has called women names, rated them on their looks, and called his own accusers ‘liars’. Women can fight back against Trump’s misogynist rhetoric and elect leaders who will truly represent us – who will fight against the mistreatment of women and protect the rights of everyone.”

    “Let’s be clear: if one of us is a pig, we are all pigs,” said Trafton, who attended Wellesley College with Hillary Clinton. “If one of us is a fat bimbo, we are all fat bimbos. If one of us is rated a four, we are all fours. Both women and men are under attack when Trump devalues women and girls, espouses policies that undermine equal pay, supports punishing women for their family choices, and creates an environment that condones his so-called ‘locker room’ talk and actions.”

    In his remarks, Bartlett noted that he had a nine-year-old daughter and that Donald Trump “would have a profound impact on her future.”

  • Representative Heidi Brooks, running for re-election

    What office are you running for and why?

    I am running for re-election to the State House District #61 seat, representing part of Lewiston.  
     
    I am gratefully serving in my first term as a Maine State House Representative.  I am running for re-election because there is a lot of work to do.  We need to come together to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare, education, and a safe, affordable place to call home.  We need to improve our livable wage job opportunities, infrastructure, and transportation.  

    What role has Emerge Maine played in your candidacy?

    I've been fortunate to have a number of great women role models in my life.  Penthea Burns and Representative Peggy Rotundo introduced me to Emerge Maine.  Emerge Maine helped build up my confidence and envision the possibility of running for office. The Emerge Maine network has provided a tremendous amount of encouragement and support.    

    What advice would you give to another woman thinking about running for office?

    I would encourage anyone thinking of running for office to run. It is a rewarding experience to meet our neighbors and to have a number of one on one conversations.
  • '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.

     

  • Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership Supporters Join Congresswoman Giffords

    By Ramona du Houx

    Portland Maine Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, along with citizen co-sponsor of Question 3 ballot initiative, Judi Richardson, joined former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ 14-state, 42-day national “Vocal Majority Tour” in support of the Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership campaign on October 12,2016.

    The trio called on Mainers to vote to reduce gun violence in this election by voting Yes on Question 3.

    “Stopping gun violence takes courage - the courage to do what's right, and the courage of new ideas. I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line,” said Congresswoman Giffords“Now is the time to come together - to be responsible! Democrats, Republicans - everyone.”

    On January 8, 2011, at a “Congress On Your Corner” event in Tucson with her constituents, Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head from near point-blank range. In stepping down from Congress in January 2012, Congresswoman Giffords said, “I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country.” She is doing so with her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, with the organization that they founded- Americans for Responsible Solutions- as a way to encourage elected officials to stand up for safer communities. 

    Police Chief Sauschuck, (photo left with Giffords) who along with the Maine Chiefs of Police Association recently endorsed the Yes on 3 campaign, called on the Vocal Majority of Americans and Maine residents who support responsible change to our gun laws to stand up and speak out. 

    “Question 3 on this year’s ballot will close an enormous loophole in the law that means criminals, domestic abuse perpetrators and the severely mentally ill can more easily access firearms in our state. While no law will stop all crime, we know that background checks are the single most effective way to reduce gun violence, said Sauschuck.

    “I’m here today with Judi Richardson and Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, because we are all standing up and speaking out for what we know to be true: background checks are the best way of keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people who would use them to do harm to themselves or others.”

    Question 3 will require background checks for all gun sales in Maine, with reasonable exceptions for passing guns on to family members, and for loaning of guns between friends and neighbors while hunting.

    In states that require background checks on all handgun sales, FBI and CDC statistics have shown that there are 48 percent fewer police officers killed by handguns, 48 percent fewer suicides by firearms and 48 percent less gun trafficking.

    This measure is particularly important for Maine, where nearly half of all murders are due to domestic violence. FBI statistics indicate that in states that have similar laws to Question 3, 46 percent fewer women are shot and killed by their intimate partners.

     “There is more the people of Maine can be doing to help make our state safer. By voting to support Question 3 on election day, Mainers are using their voices to close the loophole in our law that means criminals can get a gun on the unlicensed market with no questions asked and face no responsibility for their actions when they use that gun in a crime. Question 3 is just a common sense solution to prevent prohibited persons from having easy access to firearms,” said Richardson, citizen co-sponsor of the Question 3 ballot initiative.

    The Vocal Majority Tour event in Portland was the 17th stop in the 42-day Tour, which Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly kicked off on September 27th in Orlando, Florida, the site of the deadliest mass shooting in our country’s history, the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub that left 49 people dead.

    Following the event today in Portland, the Vocal Majority Tour will travel to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for events with the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

    According to recent research, a strong majority of Mainers support this common-sense initiative that will help to keep guns out of the wrong hands, including closing the loopholes in our laws that let felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill buy guns without a background check.

    While some Sheriff's in Maine opose the measure the majority of police officers in the state's largest cities support the common sense plan. It's important to note that sheriffs are elected officials and many are up for re-election.

  • Richard Wolffe: ‘The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers’

    Richard Wolffe: ‘The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers’

    That banging sound you heard were the last nails being hammered into the coffin of the Trump campaign. Or it might have been the thumping of Donald Trump as he stalked the debate stage.

    Either way, the Republican nominee treated the notion of a contrite, humble performance with all the subtlety of a subway train. Not for him was the usual shame we associate with someone caught in a moment of sleaze.

    He prowled around Hillary Clinton, looming behind her when she approached the undecided voters in the audience. He hugged himself and hooked his hands in his belt. He inhaled so sharply through his nose that he sounded like he was snorting his own insults.

    Wounded animals behave in strange ways, and Donald Trump was nothing if not strange at the second presidential debate. He went far beyond barking his usual interruptions and conspiracies from the darkest corners of the internet: he answered a question from a Muslim voter by saying it was “a shame” there was Islamophobia. Then, two feet away from his questioner, he stoked Islamophobia as much as he possibly could: “We could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem.”

    ‘Trump prowled around Hillary Clinton, looming behind her when she approached the undecided voters in the audience’

    He blamed Hillary Clinton for allowing him to pay no taxes. “Of course I do,” he admitted, when asked if he took advantage of tax loopholes. “So do all of her donors or most of her donors.”

    He blamed both Clintons for raising the issue of sexual assault, as if he was just a hapless victim. “I think it’s disgraceful and I think she should be ashamed of herself, if you want to know the truth,” he said.

    In any normal presidential debate, a nominee would be embarrassed to say something that evoked Gerald Ford’s calamitous assertion that there was no Soviet domination of eastern Europe. But Trump bettered Ford by several thermonuclear warheads: “I know about Russia but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia,” he said.

    The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers. A Red Bull display of sheer madness all the way to the end, when Clinton complimented his children.

    “I don’t know if it was meant to be a compliment,” he said. Donald Trump knows about elections but he knows nothing about their inner workings.

  • Bernie Sanders in Bangor and energizes Democrats to vote for Hillary Clinton

    Sen. Bernie Sanders came to Bangor on October 7, 2016 for a “Stronger Together” rally in support of Hillary Clinton, and Democrats up and down the ticket, at the Cross Insurance Center.

    Recent polls have shown Trump polling about 10 points ahead Clinton in the 2nd Congressional District that includes all of the state north of Augusta and Lewiston.

    “You and I and Hillary Clinton have a different vision of the country than Donald Trump,” said Sanders in his remarks. “You want to get angry? Here’s something to get angry about. You’ve got a multi-billionaire. And this guy pays nothing in federal income tax. And he thinks he’s a genius and brilliant for paying nothing. And he believes why do he and other billionaires have to pay their taxes when the middle class and the working class are paying their taxes. Well, Hillary Clinton and I have a different idea, and we say to Mr. Trump and his billionaire friends, ‘You know what, you are going to start paying your fair share of taxes.’”

    Sanders also spoke to Trump’s hypocrisy on trade.

    “But I say to Mr. Trump, stop talking the talk, walk the walk. If you are so concerned about outsourcing American jobs, why do you have factories in Bangladesh where you’re paying workers 30 cents an hour? Why are you making your ties in China? If you’re so concerned about the loss of American jobs, bring those manufacturing jobs back home to the United States of America.”

    Bernie Sanders brought incredible energy and thousands of Mainers into the political process to fight for good jobs and a fair economy. I'm proud to be a part of that work,” said Emily Cain, congressional candidate for Maine’s 2nd congressional district.

    The rally was live-streamed on the Hillary for Maine Facebook page, where it can still be viewed.

    “Senator Sanders made a powerful case today for Hillary Clinton, explaining why it’s so important we elect a president who will fight for every working Mainer, and not just for the billionaires like Donald Trump,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “Bernie Sanders led a powerful, populist movement that brought new life, new people and new ideas to our party. Thanks to his leadership, both the state and national parties adopted the most progressive platforms in party history.”

  • 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.

  • Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell endorses Emily Cain, praises Hillary

    “Emily Cain is on the side of Maine’s working families," said Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, seated directly next to Cain, on the left.

    By Ramona du Houx

    In Lewiston, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell endorsed Emily Cain in her campaign for Maine's 2nd Congressional District.

    “Emily Cain is on the side of Maine’s working families. Emily has an incredible record of success breaking through partisan gridlock and special interests to reduce the burdens on Mainers and stop our jobs from going overseas. Her bipartisan work with Governor LePage to pass balanced budgets with tax cuts for families and businesses was exemplary, and in Congress she will be an effective and tireless advocate for working Mainers,” said Senator Mitchell.

    Together, they visited with voters at Simones' Hot Dog Stand, held a rally and toured the L/A Museum.

    The museum is dedicated to preserving the economic and social history of the L/A area, and both Emily and Senator Mitchell spoke about growing jobs at home instead of letting jobs migrate overseas and how we must retake control of our economic future.

    He commented about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's presidental run.

    “She’ll be able to hit the ground running and deal with the many serious issues that we face in our country,” said Mitchell. “Trump wants to take the country backwards and going backwards doesn’t deal with our problems. I believe that, come Election Day, a majority of Americans will understand that, act on that and elect Hillary Clinton as president.”

    Senator George Mitchell has had a long and distinguished career. He served for several years as Chairman of DLA Piper, now Chairman Emeritus. Before that he served as a federal judge; as Majority Leader of the United States Senate; as Chairman of peace negotiations in Northern Ireland which resulted in an agreement that ended an historic conflict; and most recently as U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East. In 2008 Time Magazine described him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

    But what Mitchell said he was most proud of is his Mitchell Institute.

    The Mitchell Institute has given two scholarships for two highschool graduates or a $1,000 each from EVERY Maine high school since 1998. Thousands of young people have be encouraged and helped along their way to college, backed by the Mitchell Institute.

  • 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.
  • 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."

  • Alfond calls on Maine Senate President Thibodeau to poll senators for special session to take action in response to LePage's antics

    Senate Majority Leader Justin Alfond has called on Senate President Thibodeau to poll senators for special session to take action in response to the governor’s conduct.

    “We as lawmakers are taking the governor’s racially insensitive, violent and obscene words and actions seriously, and so we must be present and be counted,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond.

    Sen. Alfond has kept lines of communication open with Senate President Mike Thibodeau to ensure a pathway remains for the Senate to come in for a special session, which would require the Senate President to poll all members of the Senate to determine whether they consented to reconvene.

    However, President Thibodeau indicated to a reporter September 2, 2016 that he may not agree to poll the Senate, thus blocking any legislative action. 

    “The Legislature cannot do anything — whether it be censure or something more severe — unless it is in session. So the only question that matters is this: Will the Legislature act or not? If the answer is yes, Senate President Mike Thibodeau must move decisively,” Alfond said.

    “Maine cannot afford for its legislative leaders to hide behind arcane political process while Gov. LePage’s erratic, dangerous and demeaning behavior continues. The governor has shown he is unfit to lead our state. That is an emergency, and we must act in a real, meaningful way.

    “We hope Senate President Thibodeau will put whatever political concerns he may have to the side and poll the Senate with the same question being asked of the House of Representatives. For the sake of our constituents and our state’s reputation, we must all be on the record.”

  • Maine's Speaker Eves issues call for Special Session to take action regarding LePage's conduct

    House Speaker Mark Eves has issued an official call for a Special Session to take action regarding Gov. LePage's conduct.

     This is his statement:

    "Democrats have been clear throughout this latest crisis caused by the Governor.  The Governor's conduct was reprehensible.  Maine cannot afford to spend the next two years lurching from crisis to crisis caused by Governor LePage's erratic behavior instead of working on issues facing Maine people. He is unfit to serve as Governor and must resign or be removed from office.

    "The first step required under the Maine Constitution is for the Speaker of the House to poll all members of the House on whether or not they agree to come in for a special session.  Today, I am taking that action and asking each member to reply by next Tuesday, September 6 at 5:00 PM.

    "Here is the question we will be asking all House members:

    "Do you consent to coming in for a special session of the Legislature to take action regarding the Governor's conduct?"

    "We encourage the Senate to poll each Senator with the same question.  We believe it is clear that there are enough members of both parties in both chambers who believe we should take action.  Let's come back into Special Session and debate what the most appropriate action is.  It is time to have an up or down vote and let each of the people's elected representatives be accountable for their position."

    Former Senate President Justin Alfond said:

    "Late yesterday, I met with my fellow leaders from both parties to discuss bringing lawmakers in for a special session to hold Gov. Paul LePage accountable for his increasingly troubling words and actions. I’m pleased to report that the two presiding officers — Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate President Mike Thibodeau — agree that the governor must face real, meaningful consequences.

    "For the last week, I’ve heard from Mainers all over the state who have all said the same thing: Enough is enough. Gov. LePage has crossed the line and it’s time to do something about it. I’m hopeful that we will find some agreement that will bring lawmakers back into session.

    "I’ve said the best course forward, for the governor and for our state, would be Gov. LePage’s resignation, and I continue to believe that is the only outcome that will guarantee a return to stable, functioning government."

    “The Legislature cannot do anything — whether it be censure or something more severe — unless it is in session. So the only question that matters is this: Will the Legislature act or not? If the answer is yes, Senate President Mike Thibodeau must move decisively,” Alfond said.

  • LePage threatens state lawmaker, "I would point it right between his eyes"

    By Ramona du Houx
    Governor Paul LePage called a state lawmaker from Westbrook and left him a threatening phone message on August 25, 2016. LePage accused the lawmaker of calling him a racist, and said, “I’m after you.”

    More of what LePage said in a recorded message:

    “Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage, I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you cocksucker.”

    “I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksucker,” the governor continued. “You … I need you to, just friggin. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.”

    According to a television reporter Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine was among several people who had called the governor a racist, which Gattine later denied. On this heresay, Maine's Governor issued a death threat when he later called the same news crew to his home and continued to slam Gattine as “a snot-nosed little guy” that he would love to challenge to an old-fashioned duel.

    “I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” he reportedly said. “We would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.”

    Rep. Gattine has bravely criticized the governor for his so-called welfare reform programs, but never called LePage racist.

    Governor LePage’s direct threat against Rep. Gattine is both erratic and disturbing, and he is clearly unfit to lead our state. Not only did the governor blatantly say he would take violent action against a sitting lawmaker, he also twice invoked a homophobic slur to drive home his point. Those reckless remarks may incite others to violence. Our primary concern right now is for the security and well-being of Rep. Gattine and his family. Paul LePage is an increasingly menacing figure who does not reflect the values of our state," said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett.

    Rep. Gattine has been a strong supporter for workers rights and welfare support, as well as for the environment and creating jobs.

     "His comments about people of color and his obscene diatribe against Rep. Gattine — not to mention the stated fantasies about killing him — are unbecoming of the office of the governor. And they raise serious questions about his temperament and capacity to lead” wrote Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, and Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dawn Hill in a joint press release.

    Questions of the governor's mental stability have arisen from this and other incidents.

    Many are asking what can be done, as LePage does not reflect the majority of people living in Maine.

    "It's very simple for the better of the State of Maine -- he needs to resign and resign immediately.  He's lost any credibility to continue in office," said former Bangor Mayor, and current Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci.

  • 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.

  • Infants at risk because of LePage's DHHS outsourced contract

     

    Sen. Breen and Sen. Haskell: Seemingly unnecessary sole-source contract is troubling

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Senate Democrats are asking questions about why Governor Paul LePage’s administration gave control of a critical state program for infants to a third-party without a competitive bidding process and without availing itself of the checks and balances built in to the state procurement protocol.

    A report in August 11th Bangor Daily News described how the administration had “quietly handed off financial oversight” of Maine Families, a $23 million program that provides home visitations to new parents. By working with parents, home visitors have successfully reduced abuse and neglect and improved health for thousands of infants and families.  

    The report said the contract was awarded after “a closed decision-making process, the state’s questionable justification to avoid competitive bidding, and limited communication about the transfer of a multimillion-dollar state program to the nonprofit sector.”

    “The administration has always said the competitive bidding process makes state contractors more accountable and protects taxpayer dollars. I agree, which is why I’m at a loss for why this contract was handled behind closed doors and without seeking bids,” said Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth. “The Legislature needs to take a look at state procurement rules. We need to know that transparency and accountability are baked into the process.”

    Maine Families had been administered by a collection of groups across the state for years, with financial oversight maintained by the state. However, in April, LePage and his Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner, Mary Mayhew, signed away the program without a competitive bid or public input. The deal was also made without consultation with the state Attorney General -- a procedural safeguard in the procurement process -- thanks to an executive order signed by Gov. LePage making that safeguard “optional.”

    The report described how even board members of Maine Children’s Trust, the nonprofit awarded the sole-source contract, had questions and misgivings about the scope of its new work, the process by which it was awarded, and the effect it could have on the board’s independent advocacy for Maine children.

    “Sole-source contracts are a necessary part of government in the case of an emergency, but I can’t for the life of me see what caused the urgent need for the state to give up its role in ensuring this program’s success,” said Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland. “The facts presented in this report are troubling. As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, I would welcome an explanation from the administration.”

  • The Pejorative Mr. Trump by Neil Rolde

    THE PEJORATIVE MR. TRUMP BY NEIL ROLDE

    BLOG 46 HISTORY IN TODAY’S POLITICS

    By Neil Rolde

    The first time I ever heard the word “pejorative” in public discourse occurred when it was used unselfconsciously by Robert Monks Sr., a Republican aspirant for major office in the State of Maine. Over the years, I have come across it on occasion and have, once I mastered its usage, employed it myself. Webster’s states its meaning as “to make worse,” “disparaging” and “depreciative.”

    Donald Trump has been called a lot of names, as most politicians are, even the meek and the mild ones and Mr. Trump is anything but that. But to someone of my age and religious background, some of his remarks touch a deep wound.

    Unabashedly, Trump uses the slogan of “America First” for his campaign. This slogan does indeed have a pejorative ring for those of us Jews who remember the pro-Nazi slant, pre Pearl Harbor, of the organization in our country headed by Charles Lindbergh. Under the guise of keeping America out of the war, it peddled the Nazi tune of preventing the U.S. from opposing Hitler’s rampage in Europe. Its most fanatic members were to be jailed as potential Fifth Column saboteurs and its organization dismantled once we entered the fray.

    Now, alas, the hateful name has been resurrected and ballyhooed by Mr. Trump.

    Since it strikes me that the presumptive Republican nominee for President has little knowledge of American history (nor probably much use for it) I can excuse him for not knowing that the first Nazi slogan in the 1920’s was “Make Germany Great Again.” So here once more, he is not being original but simply clueless by adopting “Make America Great Again” as another of his by-words.

    To be sure, some folks have likened Donald Trump’s authoritarian style to Adolf Hitler’s and others to Benito Mussolini’s. Personally, I would choose the latter. In looks, alone, it must be said, the moustache less Trump is much more akin to the late Italian dictator. Especially with that jut-jawed demeanor of Trump’s and his pompous swaggering. Trump’s hair color doesn’t seem to match II Duce’s but then, again, what color is the man’s coiffure? Obviously its orange hue comes from a dye or dyes. There are other similar but more intangible connections: like Mussolini, Trump was a liberal in his early politics — Mussolini a fervent Socialist but who went on to invent Fascism, the forerunner to Hitler’s National Socialism.

    So both Mussolini and now Trump have squiggled over to the Far Right. I will not shrink from stating baldly that Mussolini, much more than the buffoon he came to be seen as, ended badly, shot alongside his mistress by Partisans in Milano and both bodies strung upside down.

    Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominee for President, embraces Pres. Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention. Mrs. Clinton will face Mr. Trump in the election for President this November. Photo by Alex Cornell du Houx

    I pray that Donald Trump may never have such a misadventure just as I pray — and fight for— his never becoming President of the United States. The man is simply a super con artist. Recent revelations have shown that he is also a dead beat in repaying his debts. Same about his promises to charity. He is proud of his stuffing people from whom he has borrowed money. We should keep him from attaining the title of Honorable, which is accorded to all elected officials in the United States.

  • Hillary Clinton accepts Democratic Nomination becomes first women in history to do so

    Thank you! Thank you for that amazing welcome. 

    Thank you all for the great convention that we’ve had.

    And Chelsea, thank you. I'm so proud to be your mother and so proud of the woman you've become. Thanks for bringing Marc into our family, and Charlotte and Aidan into the world. 

    And Bill, that conversation we started in the law library 45 years ago is still going strong. It's lasted through good times that filled us with joy, and hard times that tested us. 

    And I've even gotten a few words in along the way.

    On Tuesday night, I was so happy to see that my Explainer-in-Chief is still on the job. I'm also grateful to the rest of my family and the friends of a lifetime. To all of you whose hard work brought us here tonight. And to those of you who joined our campaign this week.  And what a remarkable week it's been.  

    We heard the man from Hope, Bill Clinton. And the man of Hope, Barack Obama. America is stronger because of President Obama's leadership, and I'm better because of his friendship.  

    We heard from our terrific vice president, the one-and-only Joe Biden. He spoke from his big heart about our party's commitment to working people, as only he can do.

    First Lady Michelle Obama reminded us that our children are watching, and the president we elect is going to be their president, too. 

    Photos of Hillary giving her speach by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    And for those of you out there who are just getting to know Tim Kaine – you're soon going to understand why the people of Virginia keep promoting him: from city council and mayor, to Governor, and now Senator.  He'll make the whole country proud as our Vice President.  

    And I want to thank Bernie Sanders. Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary.  You've put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong. 

     And to all of your supporters here and around the country:  I want you to know,I've heard you.  Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion.  That's the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.  We wrote it together – now let's go out there and make it happen together.

    My friends, we've come to Philadelphia – the birthplace of our nation – because what happened in this city 240 years ago still has something to teach us today. 

    We all know the story. But we usually focus on how it turned out - and not enough on how close that story came to never being written at all.  

    When representatives from 13 unruly colonies met just down the road from here, some wanted to stick with the King. Some wanted to stick it to the king, and go their own way. The revolution hung in the balance. Then somehow they began listening to each other … compromising … finding common purpose.   

    And by the time they left Philadelphia, they had begun to see themselves as one nation.

    That's what made it possible to stand up to a King. That took courage. They had courage. Our Founders embraced the enduring truth that we are stronger together.  

    America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying. 

    And just as with our founders, there are no guarantees. It truly is up to us.  We have to decide whether we all will work together so we all can rise together.

    Our country's motto is e pluribus unum: out of many, we are one.  Will we stay true to that motto?  

    Well, we heard Donald Trump's answer last week at his convention.  He wants to divide us - from the rest of the world, and from each other. 

    He's betting that the perils of today's world will blind us to its unlimited promise. He's taken the Republican Party a long way...  from "Morning in America" to  "Midnight in America." He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.  

    Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time.  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

    Now we are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have. We will not build a wall. Instead, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a good paying job can get one.   

    Photos of Hillary Clinton after her speech, by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    And we'll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are already contributing to our economy! 

    We will not ban a religion. We will work with all Americans and our allies to fight and defeat terrorism. 

    Yet we know there is a lot to do. 

    Too many people haven't had a pay raise since the crash. 

    There's too much inequality. Too little social mobility. Too much paralysis in Washington. Too many threats at home and abroad. 

    But just look at the strengths we bring as Americans to meet these challenges. We have the most dynamic and diverse people in the world. We have the most tolerant and generous young people we've ever had. We have the most powerful military. The most innovative entrepreneurs. The most enduring values.

    Freedom and equality, justice and opportunity. We should be so proud that these words are associated with us.  I have to tell you, as your Secretary of State, I went to 112 countries, and when people hear those words – they hear America.

    So don't let anyone tell you that our country is weak. We're not. Don't let anyone tell you we don't have what it takes. We do. 

    And most of all, don't believe anyone who says: “I alone can fix it.”  

    Those were actually Donald Trump's words in Cleveland. And they should set off alarm bells for all of us.  

    Really? I alone can fix it? Isn't he forgetting? Troops on the front lines.

    Police officers and fire fighters who run toward danger. Doctors and nurses who care for us. Teachers who change lives. 

    Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem.  Mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe.

    He's forgetting every last one of us.  Americans don't say: “I alone can fix it.” We say: “We'll fix it together.” 

    Remember: Our Founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power. Two hundred and forty years later, we still put our faith in each other.    

    Look at what happened in Dallas after the assassinations of five brave police officers. Chief David Brown asked the community to support his force, maybe even join them. 

    And you know how the community responded? Nearly 500 people applied in just 12 days. That's how Americans answer when the call for help goes out.  

    20 years ago I wrote a book called “It Takes a Village.”  A lot of people looked at the title and asked, what the heck do you mean by that?   

    This is what I mean. None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community or lift a country totally alone.     

    America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger. I believe that with all my heart. 

    That's why “Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history. It's not just a slogan for our campaign.

    It's a guiding principle for the country we've always been and the future we're going to build.  

    A country where the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top. Where you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school, no matter what zip code you live in. 

    A country where all our children can dream, and those dreams are within reach. Where families are strong… communities are safe…  And yes, love trumps hate. 

    That's the country we're fighting for. That's the future we're working toward…  And so it is with humility. . . determination . . .  and boundless confidence in America's promise… that I accept your nomination for President of the United States!

    Watch the final day of the Democratic National Convention in less than 4 minutes

    Now, sometimes the people at this podium are new to the national stage.

    As you know, I'm not one of those people. I've been your First Lady. Served 8 years as a Senator from the great State of New York.

    Then I represented all of you as Secretary of State.

    But my job titles only tell you what I've done. They don't tell you why.

    The truth is, through all these years of public service, the “service” part has always come easier to me than the “public” part.

    I get it that some people just don't know what to make of meSo let me tell you.

    The family I'm from . . . well, no one had their name on big buildings. My family were builders of a different kind. Builders in the way most American families are.

    They used whatever tools they had – whatever God gave them – and whatever life in America provided – and built better lives and better futures for their kids.

    My grandfather worked in the same Scranton lace mill for 50 years. Because he believed that if he gave everything he had, his children would have a better life than he did. And he was right.

    My dad, Hugh, made it to college. He played football at Penn State and enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor.  

    When the war was over he started his own small business, printing fabric for draperies.  I remember watching him stand for hours over silk screens.   

    He wanted to give my brothers and me opportunities he never had.  And he did.

    My mother, Dorothy, was abandoned by her parents as a young girl.  She ended up on her own at 14, working as a house maid.  She was saved by the kindness of others.  

    Her first grade teacher saw she had nothing to eat at lunch, and brought extra food to share.  The lesson she passed on to me years later stuck with me:  No one gets through life alone.  We have to look out for each other and lift each other up.  

    She made sure I learned the words of our Methodist faith: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.” 

    I went to work for the Children's Defense Fund, going door-to-door in New Bedford, Massachusetts on behalf of children with disabilities who were denied the chance to go to school. 

    I remember meeting a young girl in a wheelchair on the small back porch of her house. She told me how badly she wanted to go to school – it just didn't seem possible. And I couldn't stop thinking of my mother and what she went through as a child.  

    It became clear to me that simply caring is not enough. To drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws. You need both understanding and action. 

    So we gathered facts. We built a coalition. And our work helped convince Congress to ensure access to education for all students with disabilities.   

    It's a big idea, isn't it?  Every kid with a disability has the right to go to school.   

    But how do you make an idea like that real?  You do it step-by-step, year-by-year… sometimes even door-by-door.   

    And my heart just swelled when I saw Anastasia Somoza on this stage, representing millions of young people who – because of those changes to our laws – are able to get an education.  

    It's true... I sweat the details of policy – whether we're talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs.   

    Because it's not just a detail if it's your kid - if it's your family. It's a big deal.  And it should be a big deal to your president.   

    Over the last three days, you've seen some of the people who've inspired me. People who let me into their lives, and became a part of mine.    

    Hillary Clinton celebrating after her acceptence speech. Photos by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    People like Ryan Moore and Lauren Manning. They told their stories Tuesday night.  

    I first met Ryan as a 7-year-old. He was wearing a full body brace that must have weighed forty pounds because I leaned over to lift him up.  

    Children like Ryan kept me going when our plan for universal health care failed…and kept me working with leaders of both parties to help create theChildren's Health Insurance Program that covers 8 million kids every year.   

    Lauren Manning, who stood here with such grace and power, was gravely injured on 9/11. It was the thought of her, and Debbie St. John, and John Dolan and Joe Sweeney, and all the victims and survivors, that kept me working as hard as I could in the Senate on behalf of 9/11 families, and our first responders who got sick from their time at Ground Zero. 

    I was still thinking of Lauren, Debbie and all the others ten years later in the White House Situation Room when President Obama made the courageous decision that finally brought Osama bin Laden to justice.  

    In this campaign, I've met so many people who motivate me to keep fighting for change. And, with your help, I will carry all of your voices and stories with me to the White House.  

    And you heard, you heard from Republicans and Independents who are supporting our campaign. I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For the struggling, the striving and the successful. For those who vote for me and those who don't. For all Americans. Together.

    Tonight, we've reached a milestone in our nation's march toward a more perfect union:  the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for President.   

    Standing here as my mother's daughter, and my daughter's mother, I'm so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between.   

    Happy for boys and men, too – because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone.  When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit.  So let's keep going, until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves. 

    Because even more important than the history we make tonight, is the history we will write together in the years ahead. Let's begin with what we're going to do to help working people in our country get ahead and stay ahead. 

    Now, I don't think President Obama and Vice President Biden get the credit they deserve for saving us from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.   

    Our economy is so much stronger than when they took office.  Nearly 15 million new private-sector jobs. Twenty million more Americans with health insurance.And an auto industry that just had its best year ever. That's real progress.   

    But none of us can be satisfied with the status quo. Not by a long shot.

    We're still facing deep-seated problems that developed long before the recession and have stayed with us through the recovery.

    I've gone around our country talking to working families. And I've heard from so many of you who feel like the economy just isn't working.

    Some of you are frustrated – even furious. And you know what??? You're right.It's not yet working the way it should.

    Americans are willing to work – and work hard. But right now, an awful lot of people feel there is less and less respect for the work they do. And less respect for them, period.

    Democrats are the party of working people. But we haven't done a good enoughjob showing that we get what you're going through, and that we're going to do something about it.

    So I want to tell you tonight how we will empower Americans to live better lives.

    My primary mission as President will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States... From my first day in office to my last! Especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind.

    From our inner cities to our small towns, from Indian Country to Coal Country. From communities ravaged by addiction to regions hollowed out by plant closures.

    And here's what I believe. I believe America thrives when the middle class thrives. I believe that our economy isn't working the way it should because our democracy isn't working the way it should.

    That's why we need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And if necessary we'll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!

    I believe American corporations that have gotten so much from our country should be just as patriotic in return. Many of them are. But too many aren't. It's wrong to take tax breaks with one hand and give out pink slips with the other.

    And I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again.I believe in scienceI believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.

    I believe that when we have millions of hardworking immigrants contributing to our economy, it would be self-defeating and inhumane to try to kick them out. Comprehensive immigration reform will grow our economy and keep families together - and it's the right thing to do.

    Whatever party you belong to, or if you belong to no party at all, if you share these beliefs, this is your campaign.  

    If you believe that companies should share profits, not pad executive bonuses, join us.  If you believe the minimum wage should be a living wage and no one working full time should have to raise their children in poverty… join us.

    If you believe that every man, woman, and child in America has the right to affordable health care…join us. If you believe that we should say “no” to unfair trade deals... that we should stand up to China... that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers…join us.  

    If you believe we should expand Social Security and protect a woman's right to make her own health care decisions… join us.  

    And yes, if you believe that your working mother, wife, sister, or daughter deserves equal pay… join us...  Let's make sure this economy works for everyone, not just those at the top.

    Now, you didn't hear any of this from Donald Trump at his convention.   He spoke for 70-odd minutes – and I do mean odd.  And he offered zero solutions.

    But we already know he doesn't believe these things.  No wonder he doesn't like talking about his plans. You might have noticed, I love talking about mine.

    In my first 100 days, we will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.  Jobs in manufacturing, clean energy, technology and innovation, small business, and infrastructure.

    If we invest in infrastructure now, we'll not only create jobs today, but lay the foundation for the jobs of the future. And we will transform the way we prepare our young people for those jobs.

    Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all!   We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt.

    It's just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, but students and families can't refinance theirs. 

    And here's something we don't say often enough: College is crucial, but a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job. 

    We're going to help more people learn a skill or practice a trade and make a good living doing it.  We're going to give small businesses a boost.  Make it easier to get credit. Way too many dreams die in the parking lots of banks.

    In America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.  We're going to help you balance family and work.  And you know what, if fighting for affordable child care and paid family leave is playing the “woman card,” then Deal Me In!

    Now, here's the thing, we're not only going to make all these investments, we're going to pay for every single one of them. And here's how: Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes.

    Not because we resent success. Because when more than 90% of the gains have gone to the top 1%, that's where the money is. And we are going to follow the money. And if companies take tax breaks and then ship jobs overseas, we'll make them pay us back. And we'll put that money to work where it belongs … creating jobs here at home!

    Now I know some of you are sitting at home thinking, well that all sounds pretty good. But how are you going to get it done?  How are you going to break through the gridlock in Washington?

    Look at my record.  I’ve worked across the aisle to pass laws and treaties and to launch new programs that help millions of people.  And if you give me thechance, that’s what I’ll do as President.

    But Trump, he's a businessman.  He must know something about the economy. 

    Well, let's take a closer look.  In Atlantic City, 60 miles from here, you'll find contractors and small businesses who lost everything because Donald Trump refused to pay his bills. Now remember what the President said last night -- don't boo, vote.

    People who did the work and needed the money, and didn't get it – not because he couldn't pay them, but because he wouldn't pay them. He just stiffed them.That sales pitch he's making to be your president? Put your faith in him – and you'll win big?  That's the same sales pitch he made to all those small businesses.

    Then Trump walked away, and left working people holding the bag.

    He also talks a big game about putting America First. Please explain to me what part of America First leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado. Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan. Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio. Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin.

    Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again – well, he could start by actually making things in America again.

    The choice we face is just as stark when it comes to our national security. Anyone reading the news can see the threats and turbulence we face.

    From Baghdad and Kabul, to Nice and Paris and Brussels, to San Bernardino and Orlando, we're dealing with determined enemies that must be defeated. No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance. Looking for steady leadership.

    You want a leader who understands we are stronger when we work with our allies around the world and care for our veterans here at home. Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do it will be my highest priority. I'm proud that we put a lid on Iran's nuclear program without firing a single shot – now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel's security. I'm proud that we shaped a global climate agreement – now we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves. I'm proud to stand by our allies in NATO against any threat they face, including from Russia. I've laid out my strategy for defeating ISIS.

    We will strike their sanctuaries from the air, and support local forces taking them out on the ground. We will surge our intelligence so that we detect and prevent attacks bef

  • 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

  • Senator Sanders: “I am proud to stand with her”

    Remarks as Prepared for Delivery


    Good evening. How great it is to be with you tonight.

    Let me begin by thanking the hundreds of thousands of Americans who actively participated in our campaign as volunteers. Let me thank the 2.5 million Americans who helped fund our campaign with an unprecedented 8 million individual campaign contributions — averaging $27 a piece. Let me thank the 13 million Americans who voted for the political revolution, giving us the 1,846 pledged delegates here tonight — 46 percent of the total. And delegates: Thank you for being here, and for all the work you’ve done. I look forward to your votes during the roll call on Tuesday night.

    And let me offer a special thanks to the people of my own state of Vermont who have sustained me and supported me as a mayor, congressman, senator and presidential candidate. And to my family — my wife Jane, four kids and seven grandchildren — thank you very much for your love and hard work on this campaign.

    I understand that many people here in this convention hall and around the country are disappointed about the final results of the nominating process. I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am. But to all of our supporters — here and around the country — I hope you take enormous pride in the historical accomplishments we have achieved.

    Together, my friends, we have begun a political revolution to transform America and that revolution — our revolution — continues. Election days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent — a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice — that struggle continues. And I look forward to being part of that struggle with you.

    Let me be as clear as I can be. This election is not about, and has never been about, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders or any of the other candidates who sought the presidency. This election is not about political gossip. It’s not about polls. It’s not about campaign strategy. It’s not about fundraising. It’s not about all the things the media spends so much time discussing.

    This election is about — and must be about — the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and grandchildren.

    This election is about ending the 40-year decline of our middle class the reality that 47 million men, women and children live in poverty. It is about understanding that if we do not transform our economy, our younger generation will likely have a lower standard of living then their parents.

    This election is about ending the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we currently experience, the worst it has been since 1928. It is not moral, not acceptable and not sustainable that the top one-tenth of one percent now own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, or that the top 1 percent in recent years has earned 85 percent of all new income. That is unacceptable. That must change.

    This election is about remembering where we were 7.5 years ago when President Obama came into office after eight years of Republican trickle-down economics.

    The Republicans want us to forget that as a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, our economy was in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Some 800,000 people a month were losing their jobs. We were running up a record-breaking deficit of $1.4 trillion and the world’s financial system was on the verge of collapse.

    We have come a long way in the last 7.5 years, and I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for their leadership in pulling us out of that terrible recession.

    Yes, we have made progress, but I think we can all agree that much, much more needs to be done.

    This election is about which candidate understands the real problems facing this country and has offered real solutions — not just bombast, fear-mongering, name-calling and divisiveness.

    We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor. We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger — not leadership which insults Latinos, Muslims, women, African-Americans and veterans — and divides us up.

    By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that — based on her ideas and her leadership — Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. The choice is not even close.

    This election is about a single mom I saw in Nevada who, with tears in her eyes, told me that she was scared to death about the future because she and her young daughter were not making it on the $10.45 an hour she was earning. This election is about that woman and the millions of other workers in this country who are struggling to survive on totally inadequate wages.

    Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. She understands that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And she is determined to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure — our roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater plants.

    But her opponent — Donald Trump — well, he has a very different view. He does not support raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — a starvation wage. While Donald Trump believes in huge tax breaks for billionaires, he believes that states should actually have the right to lower the minimum wage below $7.25. What an outrage!

    This election is about overturning Citizens United, one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in the history of our country. That decision allows the wealthiest people in America, like the billionaire Koch brothers, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying elections and, in the process, undermine American democracy.

    Hillary Clinton will nominate justices to the Supreme Court who are prepared to overturn Citizens United and end the movement toward oligarchy in this country. Her Supreme Court appointments will also defend a woman’s right to choose, workers’ rights, the rights of the LGBT community, the needs of minorities and immigrants and the government’s ability to protect the environment.

    If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.

    This election is about the thousands of young people I have met who have left college deeply in debt, and the many others who cannot afford to go to college. During the primary campaign, Secretary Clinton and I both focused on this issue but with different approaches. Recently, however, we have come together on a proposal that will revolutionize higher education in America. It will guarantee that the children of any family this country with an annual income of $125,000 a year or less — 83 percent of our population — will be able to go to a public college or university tuition free. That proposal also substantially reduces student debt.

    This election is about climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet, and the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations. Hillary Clinton is listening to the scientists who tell us that — unless we act boldly and transform our energy system in the very near future — there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, more rising sea levels. She understands that when we do that we can create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs.

    Donald Trump? Well, like most Republicans, he chooses to reject science. He believes that climate change is a “hoax,” no need to address it. Hillary Clinton understands that a president’s job is to worry about future generations, not the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry.

    This campaign is about moving the United States toward universal health care and reducing the number of people who are uninsured or under-insured. Hillary Clinton wants to see that all Americans have the right to choose a public option in their health care exchange. She believes that anyone 55 years or older should be able to opt in to Medicare and she wants to see millions more Americans gain access to primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs through a major expansion of community health centers.

    And What is Donald Trump’s position on health care? No surprise there. Same old, same old Republican contempt for working families. He wants to abolish the Affordable Care Act, throw 20 million people off of the health insurance they currently have and cut Medicaid for lower-income Americans.

    Hillary Clinton also understands that millions of seniors, disabled vets and others are struggling with the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs and the fact that Americans pay the highest prices in the world for their medicine. She knows that Medicare must negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and that drug companies should not be making billions in profits while one in five Americans are unable to afford the medicine they need. The greed of the drug companies must end.

    This election is about the leadership we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and repair a broken criminal justice system. It’s about making sure that young people in this country are in good schools and at good jobs, not in jail cells. Hillary Clinton understands that we have to invest in education and jobs for our young people, not more jails or incarceration.

    In these stressful times for our country, this election must be about bringing our people together, not dividing us up. While Donald Trump is busy insulting one group after another, Hillary Clinton understands that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. Yes. We become stronger when black and white, Latino, Asian-American, Native American — all of us — stand together. Yes. We become stronger when men and women, young and old, gay and straight, native born and immigrant fight to create the kind of country we all know we can become.

    It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That’s what this campaign has been about. That’s what democracy is about. But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. Among many other strong provisions, the Democratic Party now calls for breaking up the major financial institutions on Wall Street and the passage of a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. It also calls for strong opposition to job-killing free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton presidency — and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen.

    I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I remember her as a great first lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a first lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care. I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children.

    Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here tonight.

  • ‘Better late than never’ is no way to tackle drug crisis, Alfond says

    Following questions from Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond on Thursday, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration says it is finally moving forward to establish a new detox facility approved and funded by the Legislature six months ago.

    The administration claims it has followed an appropriate timeline of its own choosing. However, the authorizing law required the administration to begin funding the detox center by June 30, 2016. Instead, a DHHS spokeswoman said it is “tentatively” scheduled to take the very first step — issuing a request for proposals — sometime next week.

    “It was good to see how quickly Gov. LePage moved to fund new law enforcement measures contained in the very same law that created this detox center. So why the snail’s pace when it came time to focus on treatment?” said Sen. Alfond. “He and his administration can hide behind bureaucratic red tape all they want, but the fact is there was no justification for this delay. The timetable was set by law.”

    “The reality is that we are losing Mainers to drugs. Children are being born already drug-dependent,” Alfond continued. “The Legislature passed a good bill as an emergency in January so that we could tackle the drug crisis quickly. ‘Better late than never’ might be good enough for the governor, but I’d like to see him justify that to a family who has lost a loved one to addiction.”

    Dr. Merideth Norris was the medical director of Spectrum Health in Sanford, a recovery program that provided medication-assisted treatment in the form of methadone, which closed its doors in August 2015 because of reduced state payments. The facility is to reopen under the management of Grace Street Services in July, and will offer comprehensive addiction treatment.

    In the meanwhile, Dr. Norris has been treating low-income Mainers suffering from addiction at her private practice. Thanks to a lack of available care, her patients travel from all over the state, including from as far away as Deer Isle, to receive treatment.

    “Until we address the demand for opioids by providing comprehensive treatment — including medication-assisted therapy — we can expect the overdoses and the deaths to continue,” Dr. Norris said. “A detox facility is a start, and can provide a safe environment where people can make the transition off drugs. But it’s just one piece of an integrative, balanced treatment plan. People in Maine are continuing to suffer and are continuing to die. They shouldn’t have to wait.”

    The governor’s refusal to obey the letter of the law regarding the detox center is just the latest example of the executive branch’s blatant disregard for the law, the co-equality of the Legislature and the separation of powers:

     

    • Earlier this week, Gov. LePage issued an executive order, saying he would not comply with portions of enacted law directing funding for county jails, pay increases for overworked and underpaid mental health professionals. Instead, he pledged to gut public health spending to pay for the initiatives.
    • A Bangor Daily News investigation on Sunday revealed that DHHS has illegally spent federal dollars reserved for impoverished children on unrelated programs.
    • Last week, Gov. LePage pledged to eliminate Maine’s administration of SNAP, a move that would violate state law, in an escalating fight with the federal government, proving Gov. LePage is willing to break the law to take food off the plates of hungry Mainers.

     

    “Given everything we’ve seen in just the past few weeks, one has to wonder what other laws Gov. LePage plans to violate in reckless pursuit of his agenda,” Sen. Alfond said.

  • Maine's ballot order of referendum questions for Nov. 2016



    The ballot order of the five citizens’ initiative questions that will appear on the Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 Referendum Election ballot is now finalized, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced Monday.

    The order of these citizens’ initiative questions on the ballot was determined by a random drawing Monday morning, which was open to the public. Below is the order of the initiatives, as they will appear on the ballot:

     

    QUESTION 1: An Act To Legalize Marijuana. “Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”

     

    QUESTION 2: An Act To Establish The Fund to Advance Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education. “Do you want to add a 3% tax on individual Maine taxable income above $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct support for student learning in kindergarten through 12th grade public education?”

     

    QUESTION 3: An Act to Require Background Checks for Gun Sales. “Do you want to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law, and with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity?”

     

    QUESTION 4: An Act to Raise the Minimum Wage. “Do you want to raise the minimum hourly wage of $7.50 to $9 in 2017, with annual $1 increases up to $12 in 2020, and annual cost-of-living increases thereafter; and do you want to raise the direct wage for service workers who receive tips from half the minimum wage to $5 in 2017, with annual $1 increases until it reaches the adjusted minimum wage?”

     

    QUESTION 5: An Act To Establish Ranked-Choice Voting. “Do you want to allow voters to rank their choices of candidates in elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative, and to have ballots counted at the state level in multiple rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins by majority?”


    The full text of each proposed bill is available for viewing on the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions’ Citizens’ Initiatives webpage, along with proponent information. Per Maine law, bond issues must appear after the citizens’ initiatives on the ballot. One bond issue will be on the Nov. 8, 2016 ballot:

    • An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Improve Highways, Bridges and Multimodal Facilities. "Do you favor a $100,000,000 bond issue for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities, equipment and property acquisition related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137,000,000 in federal and other funds?"

    For more information about the November 2016 elections, visit http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/upcoming/index.html.  Information on voter registration and locating your polling place can also be found on the Corporations, Elections and Commissions website.

  • LePage threatens to stop food stamps for over 200,000 Mainers

    Part of LePage's letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

    By Ramona du Houx

    Just when you think Gov. Paul LePage can’t stoop any lower with his attacks on working people that need food stamps (SNAP) to augment their minimum wage salaries, he pulled this. LePage wants to abolish Maine’s food stamp program, which is funded by the United States Federal Government, by ending the state's administration of the program. 

    "We are literally talking about taking the food off the table of Maine families struggling to make ends meet," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.  "SNAP is a program funded by the federal government but the law is clear—it's up to the states to run it.  If Maine were to pull out of SNAP, then Maine people would not have access to it. Families that depend on SNAP—seniors, children, veterans—would go hungry.  This is not how we treat each other in Maine."

    LePage wrote to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack informing him that if the USDA won’t allow Maine to restrict food stamps from being used to purchase sugary foods and drinks, he’ll do it anyway or withdraw from the food stamp program altogether.

    “It’s time for the federal government to wake up and smell the energy drinks,” wrote LePage. “Doubtful that it will, I will be pursuing options to implement reforms unilaterally or cease Maine’s administration of the food stamp program altogether.”

    According to Bennett, the state asked the federal government for a waiver so it could create a pilot program that wouldn’t allow food stamps to be used for the purchase of “junk food.” That waiver request was denied.

    “This latest temper tantrum threatens to punish the very people it purports to help. I’d ask the governor this: How does taking food off the tables of hungry Maine families support healthy eating habits?” said Sen. Justin Alfond.

     “The governor is free to pick as many political fights with the federal government, the Legislature and other perceived rivals as he wants. But he shouldn’t use real Maine families, dealing with real hunger, as props in his political theater."

    Approximately 200,000 Mainers receive food stamps, down from a high of more than 250,000 in 2012.

    “Threatening to eliminate this vital program scares seniors and other SNAP recipients who, undoubtedly, are some of the most at-risk individuals in the state of Maine,” stated Amy Gallant, AARP Maine Advocacy Director.

    Maine seniors are disproportionately impacted by limited access to adequate nutrition. Feeding America, a nationwide non-profit network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries, predicts a 50% increase in the number of seniors facing hunger in Maine by 2025. The sharpest increase in food insecurity is found among older Mainers living just above the poverty line. Many have a disability, live alone, are divorced, or unemployed.

    The number of Maine seniors who rely on the Food Supplement Program increased statewide by 32% in the past five years. Nearly 70% of older Mainers who are eligible for SNAP are not currently enrolled. “Older Mainers are reluctant to utilize this program because of stigma,” said Gallant.  “Political rhetoric such as threatening to eliminate the program pushes people away. Mainers are proud and independent people, and find it hard enough to ask for help when times get tough. That’s why so many Maine seniors who could benefit from SNAP do not apply.”

    SNAP continues to be the primary and best defense against hunger. If SNAP were to be reduced or eliminated in Maine, the already long wait list for Meals on Wheels would drastically and unsustainably increase.  Food pantries would not be able to meet the increasing need in their communities. “Mainers would be forced to choose between food, fuel, medicine and other essential costs,” said Gallant, “Many seniors would simply go without.”

  • Maine Democrats set to take back State Senate as primary results roll in

    By Ramona du Houx

    With primary results flooding in, it’s becoming clearer that the Maine State Senate has a good opportunity to take back the Senate this November. Strong Democratic nominees are now on the ticket to face Republican challengers. Presidential election years traditionally bring out more voters. And in Maine, more voters at the polls, more often than not, means Democratic victories.

    “We’re proud of the many Democrats who stepped up to serve their communities by running for office this year. The level of interest in our caucus and primary process has driven Democratic voter registration over the last few months – with the number of new or updated Democratic registrations more than doubling those of Republicans,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “We are excited to welcome these thousands of new Democrats to our party, and we look forward to our continued conversations in every corner of the state as we fight to ensure the voices of working Mainers are heard.”

    Major results from the June 14, 2016 primary—

    State Rep. Ben Chipman cruised to victory in the Democratic primary for Maine Senate District 27 in Portland, on June 14, 2016 against Dr. Charles Radis and Rep. Diane Russell, a fourth-term lawmaker. Russell’s eked out 23 percent in the Portland race.

    Chipman will run in November against Republican Mark Lockman and the Green Independent Party’s Seth Baker.

    In the five other Democratic primaries for the Maine Senate:

    Rep. Mark Dion was leading with 51 percent of votes to Portland City Councilor Jill Duson’s 42 percent and former Rep. Ann Peoples of Westbrook with 6 percent in the race for the open seat in District 28.

    Rep. Justin Chenette beat Rep. Barry Hobbins for the nomination to the seat to be vacated by Sen. Linda Valentino in District 31.

    Surry nurse Moira O’Neill beat Former legislator Ted Koffman with 65 percent of the vote and will face Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth in November.

    Shenna Bellows of Manchester declared victory over Gardiner City Councilor Terry Berry in Senate District 14 in southern Kennebec County, with 82 percent of votes. Sen. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, is leaving the seat.

    Sen. Susan Deschambault of Biddeford will beat former Mayor Joanne Twomey with 85 percent of votes in Senate District 32 in York County from Kennebunkport to Lyman. Deschambault will face Republican Steve Martin of Biddeford.

     

  • Sen. Alfond: Chipman best choice for Portland, Maine in State Senate Primary


    Rep. Ben Chipman 

    Senator Justin Alfond (D-Cumberland) released the following statement regarding the Democratic Primary in Senate District 27:

    Today, I'm endorsing Rep. Ben Chipman to be the next Senator for District 27.

    “Eight years ago, I ran for the open Portland Senate seat. Just like today, it was a competitive three-way primary. We all competed fiercely for the seat, respected each other, and focused on Portland. I've never endorsed in a legislative primary, and I had every intention to stay out of this one. But over the last week, the actions of one campaign made me realize that I have to speak up.

    “The actions by Rep. Russell and her campaign are beyond the pale. Rep. Russell's campaign and her allies have stooped to the worst kind of political tactics. Gutter politics are not how we do things in Portland and it makes our democracy weaker when we disrespect Maine voters like this.

    “Portland deserves a Senator who bring out the best of our city. Portland Democrats should vote tomorrow for a candidate who treats everyone with respect, works collaboratively and has the experience to get results.

    “I have tremendous respect for Dr. Chuck Radis and I sincerely hope that he does well tomorrow and stays involved. But we can only nominate one Democrat to represent us in Augusta, and I believe the best person for the job is Rep. Ben Chipman.

    “For the last six years, Rep. Chipman has worked for Portland in every imaginable way. He's been a tireless advocate for Portland's economy, our schools and strengthening our social safety net. He has accomplished all this by keeping his head down, building relationships with his colleagues and fiercely advocating for our values.

    “As a leader in the Democratic Party for the last six years, I can tell you, that when committed progressives like Ben are a part of the Democratic Party, it makes us stronger. We need more progressive Democrats like Ben.”

  • Clinton's huge victory in Virgin Islands, with 84.2 percent of the vote moves her closer to Democratic nomination

    Hillary Clinton in Maine, September 18, 2016

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's huge victory in Virgin Islands, with 84.2 percent of the vote moves her closer to Democratic nomination, picking up 6 of the territory’s 7 pledged delegates at stake.

    She is now about 60 delegates short of the 2,383 needed to advance to the November general election.

    The Virgin Islands is one of five U.S. territories that casts votes in primaries and caucuses to decide the nominee, even though those residents aren’t eligible to vote in November. While its pool of 7 delegates is small, the island chain took on more importance as Clinton gets closer to clinching the nomination.

    Earlier this month, former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Hillary in the Virgin Islands while Sanders went to Puerto Rico, which has 60 delegates at stake in a primary June 7, 2016.

    According to the associated press, Clinton now has 1,775 delegates to Sanders’ 1,502, based on primaries and caucuses. When including superdelegates, Clinton’s lead is substantial – 2,322 to Sanders’ 1,548. It takes 2,383 to win.

    Six states including New Jersey and California will vote on Tuesday, with 694 delegates up for grabs. The District of Columbia is the last to vote on June 14.

  • NRCM blasts Gov. LePage for wasting tax payer funds on his smear campaigns

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    On June 2, 2016 The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) called on Governor Paul LePage to stop spending Maine taxpayer money on his smear campaign against NRCM, which has featured an incendiary “Wanted” poster displayed at a Town Hall meeting in March, weekly attacks by the governor on NRCM in speeches and radio interviews, and most recently an unprecedented harassment letter sent May 27, 2016 from the governor to NRCM members. 

    “Governor LePage is the most anti-environment governor in Maine history. He’s angry because his attacks on Maine’s waters, air, forests, and wildlife have been broadly rejected through bipartisan votes at the State House,” said NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann. “The steps he’s taking to lash out at a nonprofit organization like NRCM, because we disagree with his misguided agenda, are unprecedented and must stop. The governor should not be using Maine taxpayers’ money for his vendetta against NRCM.”

    Today NRCM is sending a Freedom of Access letter to the Governor’s Chief Counsel requesting copies of all documents in possession of the Office of the Governor that mention NRCM. The letter includes a request for all information about involvement of the governor’s staff and the use of taxpayer funds for research into NRCM’s membership, tracking down addresses of NRCM members, and producing and mailing a letter to NRCM members.    

    “Gov. Paul LePage’s egregious use of taxpayer dollars to send harassing letters to supporters of NRCM is both unethical and unprofessional,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “The governor may disagree with the policies promoted by NRCM, but that does not give him license to use his government staff and taxpayer-funded office supplies to harass its donors. I call upon Gov. LePage to apologize to NRCM and to personally compensate the state for the government resources expended on this outrageous effort.” 

    “Last week the governor’s office was scouring the Internet for the addresses of NRCM members so he could send them a harassment letter, but next week he could be sending similar letters to members of any organization that disagrees with his policies. Where does this stop? This tactic harkens back to something that Joseph McCarthy would have done in the 1950s, not a governor of the state of Maine in 2016” said Pohlmann. “In his war against NRCM, the governor is wasting the taxes of hard-working Mainers, including NRCM members, to attack the state’s leading organization that works to protect Maine’s environment and promote a sustainable economy. That is unacceptable behavior."

    Over the past two months, the governor has mentioned NRCM by name at least 40 times in more than a dozen speeches, interviews, and Town Hall meetings—more frequently than he has mentioned any other organization in Maine. 

    “Since elected in 2010, the governor has tried to weaken the laws and safeguards that protect Maine’s lakes, waterways, forests, and wildlife. Maine people don’t support his anti-environment agenda, and a bipartisan majority of Maine lawmakers has consistently voted it down,” said Pohlmann. “The governor is wrong and Maine people are right:  a healthy environment is the very foundation for our economy.”

    “Maine’s environment and economy go hand-in-hand. Over the past 50 years, Maine people, nonprofit groups, businesses, communities, and state lawmakers have worked carefully to create safeguards for Maine’s air, clean water, forests, and wildlife that contribute billions of dollars annually to the Maine economy.”  

    “The governor may believe we need to wreck Maine’s environment to create jobs, but he is wrong.  NRCM will continue to fight against the governor’s radical anti-environment agenda, confident that we represent the overwhelming view of Maine people who love the nature of Maine."

    Citizens and other organizations quickly got behind the NRCM.

    “Governor LePage’s letter is part of an all-too-familiar pattern of irresponsible, abusive behavior.  Whether his target is NRCM or Speaker of the House Mark Eves, he is once again misusing the power of his office, in this case using taxpayer dollars, to wage a baseless campaign against his political opponents," said Glen Brand of the Sierra Club Maine .

    "The content of his NRCM letter is full of falsehoods and attacks against Mainers’ strong environmental ethic and our common-sense understanding that Maine’s economy depends upon protecting our conservation heritage and maintaining a safe and clean environment.Governor LePage is reminding us once again why he has become a state and national embarrassment​.​"​

    The Letter from Gov. LePage to the NRCM's director, Lisa Pohlmann

  • Congressman Poliquin secretly reversed his vote- reversing his position on discrimination

    US Capitol on Pres. Obama's second Inageration. photo by Ramona du Houx

    ON May 20, 2016, Congressman Poliquin reversed his vote on an amendment to stop federal money from going to defense contractors who discriminate against gays and lesbians. Congressman Poliquin was the deciding vote on this key measure.

     “Congressman Poliquin apparently has no moral compass on the issue of discrimination. He voted 'yes' last year and 'no' yesterday. But what’s truly disappointing is that Congressman Poliquin didn’t come clean with voters, but instead reversed himself in secret as part of a backroom deal with Republican leadership,” said Emily Cain. 

    Last year, Congressman Poliquin voted “yes” on another amendment that “prohibits use of funds by Federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity” – exactly what he voted against yesterday.

    Congressman Poliquin changed his vote yesterday just hours after raking in thousands of dollars at a Washington D.C. fundraiser with Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, Congressman

    Supporting discriminatory laws harms our society and our economy. North Carolina’s discriminatory law this year was predicted to cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.

  • Volunteers launch gun background check campaign in Maine

     Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership, a new coalition of law enforcement officials, gun violence survivors, sportsmen, gun owners and gun violence prevention advocates, officially launched the campaign to close a dangerous loophole in Maine’s background check system with volunteer events across the state.

    “Mainers have a culture of responsible gun ownership and a proud hunting and sporting heritage,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett. “The background check initiative, which will be on the ballot in November, protects law-abiding gun owners while making it harder for dangerous people to get guns.” 

    On May 14, 2016 the coalition conducted door-to-door canvasses in Damariscotta, Portland and Rockland and a volunteer phonebank in Bangor. Throughout the following week, volunteers will hold events across the state – including in Eastport, Belfast, Norway and Houlton – to talk to their friends and neighbors about the initiative.

    “Background checks work,” said Caribou Chief of Police Michael Gahagan. “Since 1998, they have prevented more than 2.4 million felons, domestic abusers, people with severe mental illness and other dangerous people from getting guns nationwide. And in states that already require background checks for all gun sales, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by their partners and 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are killed by handguns.”

    Currently in Maine, criminal background checks are only required for gun sales at licensed dealers. That means felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people can easily buy guns anonymously from unlicensed sellers — including at gun shows, through classified ads and from strangers they meet online — no background check required, no questions asked. The Maine Background Check Initiative would close this loophole by requiring that everyone buying a gun in Maine get the same background check, no matter where they buy it or who they buy it from.

    “While this initiative will not prevent every tragedy, it will make Maine safer and save lives,” said Judi Richardson of South Portland, whose daughter, Darien, died six years ago as a result of gunshot wounds. Judi and her husband, Wayne, are two of the citizen sponsors of the ballot measure. “We cannot bring Darien back, but we are committed to doing everything possible to protect others from this pain by reducing gun violence.” 

    About Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership

    Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership is a coalition of community organizations, survivors of gun violence, law enforcement, faith leaders, domestic violence prevention advocates, sportsmen, law enforcement officials and other concerned Mainers working to close the background check loophole in Maine law.

     

  • Despite massive support for solar energy bill LePage's veto stands as GOP abandons clean energy jobs in Maine

    GOP members fall in line behind governor, reject collaborative comprehensive policy

     By Ramona du Houx

    Forty-nine House Republicans sided with the governor April 29th and sustained his veto of a historic solar energy bill that would have created hundreds of new clean-energy jobs, increased installation tenfold and reduced electricity costs for all ratepayers.

    The vote was 93-50, short of the two-thirds needed to override the veto.  LD 1649, An Act To Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development, is now dead.

    “Too many Republicans fell in line behind the governor today. They turned their backs on Maine workers, Maine’s homegrown solar industry and new investment for Maine,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who sponsored the legislation that created the stakeholder process that led to LD 1649. “An amazing collaborative effort created the opportunity to grow good-paying jobs of the future and modernize our economy. I thank the 12 Republicans who refused to throw that all away and chose good policy over partisan politics.”

    LD 1649 would have created 650 new jobs by growing new solar markets, protected 300 existing jobs, increased installation tenfold (from the current 18 megawatts to 196 megawatts) and created between $58 million and $110 million in ratepayer savings. It would have created a comprehensive solar policy for Maine, the only New England state without one. Maine is in last place in the region in solar development and job creation.

    “It’s outrageous that 49 Republicans voted to deny Maine job growth, economic development opportunity and lower electricity bills for the families and businesses in their districts,” said Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, House chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “This bill was crafted by stakeholders from diverse perspectives and improved through bipartisan legislative cooperation. We needed this jump start for our stagnant economy.”

    “This is an extremely disappointing moment for solar power in Maine.” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “It took years of hard work to hash out this broadly-supported solar policy that works for Maine. I’m so proud that Maine people, businesses, towns, and others stood up together to call for Maine to get out of last place on solar and reap the jobs, lower cost electricity, and pollution reductions it brings. Unfortunately the Governor and his allies worked aggressively to thwart the bill at all costs.” 

    The state currently has roughly 300 solar jobs.

    Key features of the bill included:

     

    • Installing 196 MW of solar by 2021, including: 70 MW of residential and small business solar, 36 MW of large community solar, 50 MW of grid-scale (< 5 MW) solar, and 40 MW of commercial/municipal solar. From these categories would have been 8 MW of solar located at agricultural businesses.
    • Revising net-metering to become what some are calling “next-metering,” allowing homes and businesses to continue to consume their own solar power and receive bill credits for what they put back onto the grid, but increasing stability.
    • Grandfathering customers by allowing them to stay with traditional net-metering or swap to the new program when it is rolled out in 2017.
    • Completely lifting the arbitrary limits that are currently in place on community solar, allowing for many types and scales of community solar farms.
    • Using market mechanisms to build solar at the lowest price possible, while better capturing the benefits of solar as a clean source of renewable energy that produces power at some peak periods, and returning that value to all ratepayers.
    • Incorporating multiple adjustment and review mechanisms, to make sure the program is succeeding with the twin goals of developing solar and lowering electricity costs for all.

     

     LD 1649 was crafted by a stakeholders group made up of Maine’s solar businesses, municipal leaders, environmental groups, Maine’s public advocate and utility companies. After it was crafted by the Energy Committee, Co-chairman Sen. David Woodsome, R-North Waterboro, and Rep. Norman Higgins, R-Dover-Foxcroft, amended the bill to include additional protections for ratepayers and additional allocations for agricultural solar.

    LePage vetoed LD 1649 April 28th after meeting with Gideon. The two had met five times to find a common ground, and Gideon and the stakeholders agreed to accept the governor’s two proposals. LePage then asked for another change that the coalition could not accept because it would harm Maine solar businesses and jeopardize jobs.

    In his veto letter, the governor incorrectly states that there are no price caps for long-term contracts. In fact, the existing bill with the Woodsome-Higgins amendment had three different price caps built in: on the prices that the Public Utilities Commission can set for residential solar; on how prices can be adjusted in the future; and on bids the PUC can accept for all the other market segments. In his recent negotiations with Gideon, the governor asked for a cap that would be set after 18 months to the standard offer, currently 6.5 cents per kwh for Central Maine Power, which the bill’s proponents rejected as harmful to nearly all of Maine’s solar installers.

    The bill already monetized the value of renewable energy credits and returned that money to all ratepayers to lower their costs. The bill’s proponents had also been willing to include other renewables in the bill.

  • Maine Senate passes GOP-led Medicaid expansion bill

    The Maine Senate on Tuesday gave initial approval to a Republican-sponsored bill to accept federal dollars to expand access affordable health care for low-income Mainers.

    The bill was approved 18-17, with three Republicans joining all 15 Democrats in supporting the bill. Those Republicans were Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton; Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta; and Sen. David Woodsome, R-North Waterboro.

    LD 633, sponsored by Sen. Saviello, would draw down major increases in federal funding to provide health insurance to nearly 80,000 Mainers. The bill would lead to influx of more than $2 billion in federal funding over the next five years, and is estimated to create 3,000 jobs.

    The bill utilizes Medicaid to provide coverage to the poorest Mainers, and private health insurance to expand access to affordable health care for other low-income residents. It requires eligible enrollees to contribute to the cost of their care, and helps unemployed Mainers find jobs. If the federal government reneges on its pledge to cover the vast majority of the cost, the bill sunsets.

    “Sen. Saviello has done his homework,” said Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, the lead Senate Democrat on the Health and Human Services Committee. “This bill is different than any we’ve seen. Its various pieces are drawn from the best examples of success in other states. By taking the best there is to offer, this bill provides a responsible path forward for health care for the entire state.”

    All newly enrolled Mainers would be required to contribute to the cost of their health coverage. Those covered by Medicaid would have to pay copayments up to the level allowed by the federal government, while those enrolled through the marketplace would be required to pay up to 5 percent of their incomes for premiums, copayments and deductibles. The bill also includes provisions to connect newly covered unemployed Mainers to job referrals through the Department of Labor.

    If enacted, the bill would see Maine join 31 other states that have accepted available federal health care funds to support health care. Notably, other states have seen tremendous savings to their correctional systems by providing coverage for addiction and mental health treatment. LD 633 has the endorsement of the Maine Police Chiefs and Maine Sheriffs associations.

    “This money will provide budget relief to our communities, where criminal justice and correctional systems have become de facto drug treatment and mental health care centers for the uninsured,” said Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham. “States like Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Washington are all seeing millions of dollars in savings to their criminal justice and corrections system. Like them, Maine can better provide for our criminal justice and health care systems if we pass this bill.”

    The bill faces additional votes in the House and Senate.

  • Maine House advances bill to fund county jails

    Bipartisan measure critical to preventing increases in property taxes 

    After a strong vote in the Senate, House Democrats along with some House Republicans united Monday to advance a bill that provides desperately needed funding to support Maine’s county jails.

    “We’ve heard loud and clear from sheriffs and other county officials from across rural Maine,” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “We need this solution to protect property taxpayers, especially for residents of areas like Somerset County where other factors like inadequate education funding and falling valuations of key properties are already squeezing them.”

    As amended, LD 1614, Resolve, to Provide Funding for the County Jail Operations Fund, provides approximately $2.4 million for fiscal year 2016 for Maine’s county and regional jails. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kim Rosen, R-Hancock, earned a strong 102-44 vote in the House.

    “Today, lawmakers voted to protect Maine’s cities and towns from bearing rising costs that could lead to devastating tax increases for Maine’s families,“ said Rep. Lori Fowle, D-Vassalboro,  House chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. “We found a way to connect our county jails with the resources they desperately need and protect our families at the same time.”

    Despite support from all House members on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, both Republican and Democratic (two senators voted against the bill), and a strong earlier vote on the House floor, House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, and Assistant Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, voted against the bill.

    In testimony before the Criminal Justice Committee, Lincoln County jail administrators said a 9 percent funding cut from 2015 to 2016 has left them inadequately funded and has led to staff layoffs. The Oxford County jail faces even more dire circumstances and will be forced into insolvency in 2017 if ongoing deficits are not addressed.

  • 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.

  • After Gov. LePage stalls, Susan Deschambault finally sworn into Maine Senate

    On Tuesday afternoon, Democrat Susan Deschambault was sworn into office as the newest member of the Maine Senate, representing Senate District 32.

    Sen. Deschambault was joined by family and friends in the governor’s Cabinet Room, where Gov. Paul LePage administered the oath of office shortly before 5 p.m. The swearing-in took place four days after Gov. LePage refused to swear in Sen. Deschambault at the scheduled swearing-in ceremony on Friday morning, April 1.

    “I am honored to represent the communities of Senate District 32 in the Maine Senate,” said Sen. Deschambault. “I’m dedicated to using the time left this session to work with my new colleagues for the good of the folks back home who chose me to represent them in Augusta. I want to thank my fellow senators, on both sides of the aisle, for welcoming me  so warmly. Now, let’s get to work.”

    The senator will begin her duties in the Maine Senate immediately, and will be present and voting during this evening’s session.

    “I’m excited to welcome Sen. Deschambault to the Maine Senate, where I know she will be a fierce advocate not only for her own constituents, but for all Maine people,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland. “Her experience in corrections will be invaluable as we seek a balanced, effective approach to fighting the drug crisis. The entire Senate is better off for having her. I only wish she’d been here sooner.”

    Sen. Deschambault is a fourth-generation, lifelong Biddeford resident, who has served her community on the City Council, the Planning Board and the York County Budget Committee. She had a long a distinguished career for the Department of Corrections, where she worked as a social worker for 43 years. Sen. Deschambault also was the first woman elected Police Commissioner for the City of Biddeford.

    Sen. Deschambault defeated Republican Stephen Martin in a special election held in Senate District 32 on March 29. She won the election with 57 percent of the vote.

    The special election was called after former Sen. David Dutremble resigned his office for personal reasons. Senate District 32 includes the communities of Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman.

    Sen. Deschambault has been assigned to serve on the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

  • Bill to make Maine a primary state gets bipartisan support

    With a unanimous vote, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on April 2, 2016 endorsed a bill that would put Maine on the path to holding presidential primaries in 2020.

    The bill was sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland after this year’s presidential caucuses left a wake of frustrated voters across the state.

    “Once again this year, we were reminded of the shortcomings of the caucus system,” said Sen. Alfond on Monday. “Whether it was because of long lines, overcrowding, or the inflexible schedule of the caucuses, too many Mainers didn’t have a chance to vote. Mainers deserve better. A primary would ensure that everyone who wants to have a say in the nominating process will have that chance.”

    Caucuses require voters to participate in sometimes lengthy meetings in order to show their support of a presidential candidate. Republican caucuses this year were held in centralized locations, forcing some voters to drive long distances to take part. Democratic caucuses, especially in more populous communities such as Portland, were overcrowded, causing lines that lasted as long as five hours.

    Primaries allow voters to cast private ballots at the polls the same way they do in an election. Polling places are open all day, allowing voters with busy schedules, children or other responsibilities to vote when it’s convenient for them.

    The bill, as amended by the committee, establishes a March presidential primary in Maine while charging the Secretary of State with submitting a bill next year to address the cost of the primary and other logistic details. If unanswered questions remain or logistic hurdles cannot be cleared, a sunset provision of the bill would revert the state back to caucuses.

    “We know that many people still have questions about how, exactly, the primary would be run,” Sen. Alfond said. “Those questions must be answered. But this bill gets the ball rolling and makes clear that no Maine voter will be left out again.”

    The bill now heads to the Senate for initial votes. 

  • Maine AFL-CIO endorses Emily Cain for US Congress

    The Executive Board of the Maine AFL-CIO voted to endorse Emily Cain for Congress based on her long record of support for workers' issues and economic fairness.

    "Maine people know that the economy is out of balance. Too many politicians continue to prioritize the demands of Wall Street CEOs over the needs of working families. Emily has a long and strong record of standing with working people. 

    "In Congress, Emily Cain will work hard to raise wages for Maine’s working families and to build an economy that works for all, not just the wealthy few.  On issues like workers' rights, workplace safety, retirement security and unfair trade policies that are devastating our communities, we don't have to ask Emily twice where she stands - she's with Maine working families. We look forward to working to elect Emily Cain to Congress this November," said Cynthia Phinney, President of the Maine AFL-CIO. 

    The Maine AFL-CIO, a federation of unions representing 40,000 Maine workers, works to improve the lives and working conditions of all working people in Maine.


    "I am honored to earn the endorsement of the Maine AFL-CIO.  They deserve a US Representative who works as hard as the people of their member unions, and one who will fight to create jobs, strengthen the middle class and ensure the American Dream is accessible for everyone. I am looking forward to winning this seat back in November and working with the AFL-CIO as Maine’s member of Congress from the 2nd district,”  said Former State Senator and House Minority Leader, Emily Cain.

  • At Gov. LePage’s Bath town hall, three WANTED posters were erected outside by the governor's office

    Photos by Chris Cousins of the BDN

    Bangor City Councilor, Joe Baldacci calls for LePage's resignation

    At Governor Paul LePage’s Bath town hall, three "wanted" posters were erected outside by the governor's office.

    Peter Steele, LePage’s communications director, unabashedly admitted the posters were produced and paid for by the governor’s office and that there might be more posters like them at future town hall meetings.

    "It is deeply disturbing that our governor would target Maine people with “Wanted” posters," said Phil Bartlett, Chairman of the Maine Democratic Party. "With the violence we've been seeing at Trump rallies, it is imperative for all political leaders to dial down the rhetoric. It is not funny. It is irresponsible and dangerous."

    The three "wanted" posters unveiled March 10, 2016 featured Matt Schlobohm of the Maine AFL-CIO, Ben Chin, former candidate for Lewiston mayor who works at the Maine People’s Alliance, and Nick Bennett of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

    “Governor LePage’s most wanted posters are reckless, disrespectful and fuel the worst in our politics. They are also the classic LePage playbook of attacking anyone who disagrees with you as a way to hide from your own failed record. Scratch below the bluster and blunder and you have a Governor who has consistently sided with the wealthy and powerful over working people. Maine people deserve better than Gov. LePage’s divisive and reckless approach," said Maine AFL-CIO Executive Director Matt Schlobohm.

    LePages' wanted posters were stylied after FBI notices. Offical wanted posters include a picture of the alleged criminal or of a facial composite image produced by police.

    “When is the governor going to get serious about having a genuine dialogue with Maine people? His latest antics are at best childish and possibly even reckless in our current political climate,” saidHouse Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “What’s next? ‘Wanted’ signs for the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, AARP, Maine Municipal Association, Maine Hospital Association and Maine State Chamber of Commerce because they have spoken out against the governor’s political short-sightedness?” 

    Bangor City Councilor, Joe Baldacci called for LePage's resignation over the Wanted posters.

    "Putting out of Wanted posters on some of your political opponents is just more political garbage- which it is. But it is also an invitation to not only make our politics coarser, meaner and less productive but to dehumanize your opponents," said Bangor City Councilor Baldacci. "Lepage is almost taunting his political opponents. He should resign."

    LePages' posters have no place in Maine politics being paid for by the Governor's Office. These are attacks on private citizens, putting them and their organizations they are affiliated with -- at risk.

    Attorney General Janet Mills should be asked to investigate the issue as it clearly is defamatory.

  • Maine lawmakers unveil proposal to restore accountability in welfare programs

    Maine’s Democratic leaders on March 10, 2017 unveiled “Welfare that Works,” a package of policy proposals to transform the current welfare system to better address fraud and abuse and more effectively lift Mainers out of poverty.

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, were flanked by members of both chambers as they described rising frustration with a system that isn’t working. 

    “Mainers, we’re listening. You’re right. Our welfare system is broken. It’s not helping lift Mainers out of poverty and it’s too susceptible to fraud and abuse,” Eves said. “Our plan restores accountability to the system, targets benefits to the things families really need, and gets people back to work by opening the doors to the education and training they need to get good-paying jobs. It’s time for lawmakers to come together and implement a real solution.”

    “For too long, politicians have used welfare as a political football, bickering back and forth while Mainers’ lives and taxpayer dollars hanged in the balance,” Alfond said. “The truth is, welfare isn’t working for Maine taxpayers, and it’s not working for those Mainers trying to pull themselves out of poverty. Hunger is growing. Extreme poverty is growing. Homelessness continues to plague our state. Welfare that Works fixes problems in the system by implementing safeguards to prevent abuse while providing Mainers the tools they need to get off welfare and into jobs — nothing more, nothing less.”

    Cornerstones of the new proposal include stopping welfare abuse before it happens, targeting benefits for housing while reducing the amount of cash in the system, and focusing on job training and education programs so Mainers can get off welfare and into jobs.

    ‘Welfare that Works’ implements the following policies:

     

    • Product Ban: Welfare that Works blocks the use of EBT cards to purchase items including tattoos, lottery tickets, alcohol and other products that don’t help Mainers climb the economic ladder.
    • Targeted Housing Assistance, Cash reduction: Welfare that Works reduces cash assistance currently in the system by approximately $5 million and converts a portion of cash assistance into a housing reimbursement paid directly to landlords.
    • Targeted provision of benefits: Welfare that Works recognizes and addresses the different reasons Mainers fall on hard times, including domestic violence, mental or physical illness, and unemployment. It builds customized bridges to independence that include transitional jobs, training and education, and streamlined coordination of appropriate services to ensure Mainers get the tools they need to succeed.
    • Improved accountability and Citizen oversight: Welfare that Works increases accountability and effectiveness throughout the welfare system. The plan calls for measurable benchmarks to ensure welfare programs effectively lift families out of poverty, and get Mainers back to work. It also establishes a Citizen Oversight Board, empowering Maine people to be the watchdogs that make sure welfare works.

     

    The Democrat’s proposal comes at time of increasing need for Maine’s communities and families. Over the past five years, extreme poverty for children has increased by 50 percent statewide, and food insecurity for families has increased by 10 percent.

  • Maine Democratic Party previews statewide caucuses for March 6th

    In a detailed press call, Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett and Executive Director Jeremy Kennedy previewed the events and processes for the statewide caucuses taking place on Sunday.

    “We are incredibly excited for the start of the caucuses and are making sure that every Mainer who is eligible to participate has the information to do so,” said Chairman Bartlett. “Maine Democrats have two incredible candidates to choose from, and we are looking forward to seeing their enthusiasm and passion at caucuses all over the state.”

    Democratic caucus meetings will take place in almost 500 towns between 1 PM and 8 PM on Sunday, March 6th, town specific locations and start time can be found on the Maine Dems website. There are 3,591 state delegates at stake on Sunday. Each town’s caucus will choose delegates to attend the Maine Democratic State Convention in May. State convention delegates will then choose delegates to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. Maine will send 30 delegates and 2 alternates to the National Convention. 

    “Our volunteers and conveners have been putting in extra hours to make sure we’re all set for the weekend,” said Kennedy. “We are incredibly lucky to have such a strong network of activists all over the state that help us organize such an operation.”

    The Maine Democratic Party office will remain open and fully staffed to handle any requests that come up on caucus day and until the last caucuses finish reporting their results.

    More information on the caucus meetings go HERE or calli the Maine Democratic Party office at 207-622-6233

  • Broadband bill clears Maine House hurdle with bipartisan support

    Broadband bill clears Maine House hurdle with bipartisan support

    Bill boosts economic development through $1 million in infrastructure funding

    The Maine House of Repersentatives, on March 3, 2016, gave its initial approval to an economic development bill that would expand broadband access in rural Maine. 

    The voted “under the hammer,” or by unanimous consent, on LD 826, An Act To Promote Maine’s Economic Development and Critical Communications for Rural Farms, Businesses and Residence by Strategic Public Investments in High-speed Internet.

    The bill provides $1 million from the General Fund annually to the ConnectME Authority, which is charged with facilitating universal availability of broadband in the state. It would bring total annual funding for ConnectME up to $2.2 million.

    “The House recognized that high-speed, high-capacity Internet access is not a luxury, but as much of a necessity as decent roads and reliable electricity,” said Rep. Robert Saucier, D-Presque Isle, who is sponsoring the bill with the backing of the Aroostook County Farm Bureau and the Maine Farm Bureau. “We need this investment if Maine – all of Maine – is going to prosper and succeed.”

    The state’s primary fiber-optic network, called the Three-Ring Binder, consists of three loops in southern, northern and Downeast Maine. But many Maine communities, homes and businesses remain unconnected to this 1,100-mile long broadband interstate and will not be able to make use of it until the rest of the network – the off-ramps and local road off the interstate – are in place.

    Eighty percent of Maine households are underserved in terms of broadband, and some have no access at all. Adequate access is definite as speeds of 10 mbps for both uploading and downloading, the type of speed needed to videoconference, take an online class or share files with colleagues and clients.

    “Maine needs a 21st century infrastructure if we’re going to compete successfully in the 21st century economy,” said Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, House chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology. “Kicking the can down the road is no way to jump start economic development or grow good jobs with strong wages. Now is the time to act.” 

    The bill faces further action in the House and Senate.

  • Citizens’ initiative to regulate and tax marijuana does not qualify for ballot

    by Ramona du Houx

    The citizens’ initiative petition effort to legalize and tax marijuana does not have enough valid signatures of Maine voters to qualify for the 2016 ballot, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap confirmed on March 2, 2016.

    Over 47 thousand petitions submitted were not valid. That's right, 47,000.

    The petitions for “An Act To Legalize Marijuana,” which was combined with a similar citizens’ initiative effort to legalize marijuana, had been in circulation since April 28, 2015. On Feb. 1, 2016, the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions received 20,671 petitions with 99,229 total signatures of those who support the initiative.

    Staff members at the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions have completed the process of certifying all of the petitions and have found a maximum of 51,543 valid signatures (subject to checking for duplicates), while 47,686 proved to be not valid. A minimum of 61,123 valid signatures from registered Maine voters is required in the citizens’ initiative process and the effort has failed to meet that threshold.

    According to the proposed bill summary, this legislation proposed to legalize the possession, purchase, growth and sale of marijuana to those who are at least 21 years of age, and tax its sale, among other provisions. Visithttp://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/citizens/index.html to view the proposed legislation in its entirety. 

  • Maine Building Trades unanimously endorse Emily Cain for Congress

     The 14 affiliated local unions of the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council (MSBCTC) voted unanimously to endorse Emily Cain, a Democrat running for Congress in Maine’s Second Congressional District. The 14 affiliates of the MSBCTC represent 4,000 skilled workers Statewide.

    “Emily understands the challenges that face working class Mainers, and we’re confident that she will stand up for workers’ rights and benefits,” said John Napolitano, President of the MSBCTC. “She understands that we need strong unions to make the American economy work for the middle class. And she knows a bad trade deal when she sees one – she’ll fight to keep skilled, good paying jobs where they belong: right here in our local economies.”

    Chartered in 1964, the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council (MSBCTC) brings together 14 local affiliates throughout Maine representing more than 4,000 skilled workers in the building and construction trades. The MSBCTC works with State and municipal governments and organizations, as well as developers, contractors and non-profits, to increase the number of unionized opportunities in construction throughout Maine. The MSBCTC also represents workers' interests in Augusta by actively promoting and tracking legislation that protects collective bargaining rights, improves working conditions and safety, increases benefits and wages, and encourages local hiring.

  • LePage needs to release voter-approved bonds for senior housing

    Last week, the Maine State Housing Authority Board of Directors wrote a letter to Gov. Paul LePage, asking for guidance on when and if he would release voter-approved bonds for affordable senior housing passed by voters.

    “Before we encourage developers to invest their time and money and before we obligate staff resources to this project, it would be helpful to know if and when you plan to approve the bonds,” Maine State Housing Authority Chairman Peter Anastos said.

    The seniors who would have received a safe, warm home and the 70 percent of voters who supported the bonds deserve an answer.

    With rising property taxes, high heating costs and big health care needs, many seniors are forced to give up their homes and move into assisted living facilities, nursing homes or into the homes of adult children or other relatives, who may be struggling to make ends meet themselves.

    And, while we’re already aware our seniors and our families need help, a new series of studies unearth alarming ways in which we’re falling behind.

    nationwide study by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire found that 40 percent of Maine’s seniors are low income or living in poverty, a percentage higher than our neighboring states of New Hampshire and Vermont.

    This is not the only study that reveals concerning trends for Maine. A recent government survey shows roughly 16 percent of Maine households don’t know where their next meal is coming from, compared to a national average of 14 percent.

    Compounding these problems is a shortage of nearly 9,000 affordable rental homes for low-income older adults, which will grow to more than 15,000 by 2022 unless action is taken to address the problem, according to a report by Abt Associates.

    Our seniors face poverty, hunger and constantly rising costs in housing, transportation and food.

    They deserve better. Maine can do better.

    LePage’s 2015 budget attempted to slash funding for the Drugs for the Elderly program that helps 35,000 seniors pay for lifesaving medications.

    In addition, after legislative leaders, including me, crafted the Keep ME Home plan to help support our seniors and their independence, the governor vetoed a number of the bills passed, including important efforts to protect seniors from financial fraud and support caregivers to participate in the health care planning for their loved ones.

    Luckily, legislators came together to override these vetoes, and voters overwhelmingly endorsed our actions with the passage of our affordable senior housing bond at the polls in November.

    Despite the clear and broad support of the Legislature and Maine people, the governor has yet to release these funds. We hope the governor will stick to his word to support the elderly by releasing the bonds, which will help more Maine seniors live in their communities independently.

    Pope Francis once said, “a population that does not take care of the elderly and of children and the young has no future because it abuses both its memory and its promise.”

    While we have made some progress, there is more to be done. Lawmakers have before us meaningful opportunities to help Maine’s seniors supported by both parties in this legislative session.

    Legislators will continue to work on other proposals to help seniors stay in their homes — including increases in wages for direct care workers, funding the Home Weatherization and Repair for Seniors Home Fund and increasing access to transportation services for homebound seniors.

    These proposals and the pending $15 million in affordable housing bonds awaiting release by LePage are common-sense measures that continue our work supporting seniors in our state.

    It is time for all of Maine’s leaders, including LePage, to work together and start honoring Maine’s promise to its seniors and families.

    First published in the Bangor Daily News

  • LePage tries to claims "protected immunity" in pending federal court lawsuit against him by the Speaker Mark Eves

    Mark Eves at his desk in the state house, photo by Ramona du Houx

    Here is the public statement of the attorney for Speaker Mark Eves, David Webbert, about the brief filed by the Governor last evening in Speaker Eves’s federal civil rights lawsuit:

    “The Governor’s brief doubles down on the false and dangerous view that the Governor is above the law and that there are no limits on what he can do to punish his political opponents.

    "The Governor claims, yet again, that he can require every private organization in Maine that receives state funding to hire only members of his political party for all leadership positions.

    "The Governor’s extreme views are without historical or legal precedent and are contrary to clearly established federal constitutional rights. The Governor wants a one-party government for Maine, without the checks and balances that get in his way, but that is not what our Maine Constitution and our federal Constitution say.

    "The Governor’s latest brief pleads for the federal court to let him out of the case based on a laundry list of immunities. His lead argument is that he is 'protected by absolute immunity' because what he did was 'a protected legislative act.'

    "The Governor frequently insults the constitutional powers of Maine’s Legislature Branch, but in federal court he is glad to claim for himself absolute legislative immunity. Last month the Governor told the public that 'he can't wait' to get sworn testimony in this case. The Governor should be true to his word and not hide behind an immunity shield. The Governor can and should make the right choice and defend his actions in open court to a jury of Maine citizens.”

  • Advocates demand full implementation of Maine's Voter-Approved Clean Elections Law

    Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE) is calling on the administration to fully implement Maine’s new Clean Election law that was approved by voters in November of 2015. 

    The LePage administration is blocking the transfer of $1 million in additional funding that was a key part of the legislation, despite its having been approved with a double-digit margin.

     “Voters spoke loud and clear in November with a 10-point margin of victory. We want a strong and fully funded Clean Election law to keep our lawmakers accountable to us, everyday voters, not wealthy campaign donors. By refusing to transfer the funding, the administration is blatantly defying the will of Maine voters,” said Andrew Bossie, MCCE Executive Director and President of the fall ballot effort. 

    Prior to November’s referendum, Maine’s Clean Election Act was allocated $2 million in funding a year. Question 1 increased that funding to $3 million and made changes to allow Clean Election candidates to better compete with privately-financed candidates. By law, the additional $1 million in funding should have been transferred no later than Feb. 22, 2016. As of Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, the money has yet to be transferred, and there are no signs from the controller or the governor’s office that they intend to respect the voice of Maine people and transfer the funds. 

    “By a wide margin Democrats, Republicans, Greens and independents want to reduce the role of money in politics. They want a strong and fully funded Clean Election law, timely transparency, and government accountability,” said Ed Youngblood, a former Republican State Senator from Brewer and MCCE board member. “This isn’t a partisan issue. This is a matter of respect for the rule of law as voters intended. The money should be transferred to the Clean Election Fund immediately. We can't ignore the result of the election just because we don't agree with the outcome. That’s why we have the citizen-initiative process.” 

    Candidates from all political parties are registering to run using the newly strengthened Clean Election system. As of Feb. 22, 74 percent of all registered candidates for state legislature have filed their intention to use Clean Elections to finance their 2016 races. This figure is up significantly from 2014 when 53 percent of candidates used Clean Elections, but not quite as high as 2008 when 81 percent of legislative candidates used Clean Elections. 

    The Maine Clean Election Act was originally passed by popular vote in 1996 and aims to reduce the influence of wealthy special interests, corporations and PACs on elected officials by allowing candidates to run using a public financing. To qualify, candidates must demonstrate local support by collecting small-dollar donations from voters within their own districts. Unlike privately financed candidates, Clean Election candidates are forbidden to raise money from special interests for their political ambitions. Maine voters enacted changes at the ballot this fall to restore Maine’s Clean Election law after the courts and legislature weakened it.

     “The voters have spoken; and now candidates from all parties are signing up in large numbers to use our improved, voter-centered Clean Election law, which will elevate the voice of everyday people in our elections. It’s time for Gov. LePage to listen by ensuring that the new system is fully funded,” said Bossie.

  • Citizens’ initiative for firearms background checks found valid with 65,821 signatures

    The citizens’ initiative petition effort to consider additional requirements for background checks in the sale of firearms has been found valid, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap confirmed on February 18, 2016.

    The petitions for “An Act to Require Background Checks for Gun Sales” had been in circulation since Oct. 13, 2015.  On Jan. 19, 2016, the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions received 19,986 petition forms with 84,602 signatures of those who support the initiative.

    Staff members at the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions have completed the process of certifying all of the petitions and have found 65,821 valid signatures, while 18,781 were not valid. A minimum of 61,123 signatures from registered Maine voters is required in the citizens’ initiative process, thus the petition has been deemed valid by Secretary Dunlap.

    The initiative to institute additional requirements for background checks in firearm sales will now go to the Legislature for consideration, per the provisions of the Maine Constitution. The Legislature can choose to enact the bill as written or to send it forward to a statewide vote in November 2016. 

    The legislation proposes requiring a background check before a firearm sale or transfer between individuals who are not licensed as firearm dealers. The parties would be required to meet at a licensed firearm dealer, who would conduct a background check on the transferee and complete the sale. Exceptions are included in the proposed legislation for transfers between family members, while the parties are hunting or sport shooting, for emergency self-defense and some other circumstances. Visit http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/citizens/index.html to view the proposed legislation in its entirety.

     

  • Potential Maine law to increase scrutiny of state contracts of $1 million or more

    An amended “Buy Maine, Buy American” bill that would boost Maine businesses while bringing increased transparency and fiscal responsibility to state government is advancing after winning support from the majority of the State and Local Government Committee.

    Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, proposed the amendment to create a new procurement review board. The 7-5 vote on this version of LD 1525 fell along party lines, with the independent member joining Democrats to support it.

    “Contracts intended to save money can end up being much more expensive because of unforeseen cost overruns,” Golden said. “It’s not enough to have good intentions. Maine needs this safeguard so taxpayers can be assured that state government is using their dollars wisely and that contracted work results in quality work.”

    The board, with five members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, would review all state government contracts worth $1 million or more. To win board approval, a contract would have to be the most economical way of meeting a demonstrated need, not impair the department or agency’s ability to perform its duties and not impede other state cost-savings initiatives.

    The amendment was added to the original version of LD 1525, which requires state government to purchase Maine-made products and contract services from Maine businesses whenever possible and American goods and businesses when Maine options are unavailable.

    “Taxpayers expect the state to spend their money wisely. That includes spending in ways that support Maine businesses and Maine jobs,” said Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, the ranking Senate Democrat on the committee, who worked with Golden on the procurement board amendment. “This bill, as amended, will support and sustain jobs in our state and create a level of transparency in state contracting that’s been sorely missing under this administration.”

    The majority report also includes a provision for state agencies to have the “Buy Maine” requirement waived if there is a compelling public interest to do so. The bill does not apply to municipalities or school administrative units and includes an exemption for products not available.

    “Maine should reward American companies and Maine companies, not undermine them,” said Rep. Roland “Danny” Martin, D-Sinclair, the House chair of the State and Local Government Committee. “This commonsense measure is about leading by example and making sure state government is supporting our own economy.”

     The minority report supported by Republicans replaces the original bill with language that does not require the executive branch to support Maine businesses and Maine jobs.

  • New accessible voting devices to debut at Maine's June primary

    The State of Maine will be implementing the use of new ballot-marking devices in the upcoming elections that will improve the experience for voters with disabilities.

    Following an in-depth bidding and review process, the Department of the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions has chosen the ExpressVote system, a product of Election Systems and Software, LLC, as its accessible voting platform.

    The ExpressVote consists of a single unit with a video display screen and built-in ballot printer, with a controller attached. It is designed to accommodate any voter by offering both an audio and visual ballot, allowing a voter to make ballot selections by touching the screen or by using a controller that has uniquely shaped and colored buttons, with Braille labels. It also has the capability to accommodate various other assistive devices. When the voter is finished making the selections, the system prints a ballot marked with the voter’s choices.

    “There are few things more sacred in a democracy than the right to vote,” said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. “This system, under the intent of the law, allows people with physical challenges, as much as possible, to vote without assistance –  ensuring not only their right to vote, but also their right to a secret ballot.

    “This is an aspect of the Help America Vote Act that we feel very strongly about, and we are excited by the new developments in technology,” said Dunlap.

    The state’s current method of compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 consists of a phone line that allows voters with disabilities to listen to an audio ballot and select the choices by pressing a button. The ExpressVote units will represent a significant upgrade in the user experience, providing both an audio and a visual ballot, and allowing voters to “move around” on the ballot just as they would with a traditional, printed ballot.

    The decision to choose the ExpressVote was made by an evaluation team that included several Elections Division staff members, municipal clerks and advocates for people with disabilities. Integral to the team’s decision was the feedback from voters with disabilities who volunteered their time to test the technology. 

    The ExpressVote is expected to be debuted at the June primaries. The accessible voting system can be used by any voter and will be available at all voting places.

  • Why a Democratic Socialist switched from Bernie to Hillary

    Hillary Clinton campainged in Maine, September 18, 2015, energizing supporters. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the presidential race. As a democratic socialist it seemed obvious to me that I would support Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race. I have followed his career, and supported him, since I first moved to Vermont in 1972. I was a member of the Liberty Union Party, for Pete's sake, and Bernie's success in Vermont politics coincided with the political and cultural changes we wanted to make as part of the "back to the land" movement that brought so many war-weary and politically alienated young people to Vermont as a place to learn and help create changes on a workable scale.  


    But I have had an increasingly uncomfortable feeling as I watched the campaign unfold. Bernie is talking about a political revolution in ways that make no sense to me. The American system dampens the possibility of radical change through the ballot box. There is no third party/proportional representation. I can't imagine him leading as much as a change in the majority party in the House and there is no way any of his more dramatic proposals have any chance of passing given the composition of Congress--which is very unlikely to change radically in the near/medium future. Hope and Change struck me as utopian vagueness in 2008 and Bernie is doubling down. 

    I'm tired of idealistic campaign rhetoric. When Trump talks about we're just gonna win, win, win, big wall, smack China, we know it's all bluster. Bernie talks about single payer and free college tuition for all but that is no more realistic with this Congress than a magic wall.  I don't even WANT free college tuition for affluent young people. In some countries they can do it because relatively few go to universities--not so here. It's completely unbelievable.

    And then I watched the debates. I have a lot of reservations about Hillary Clinton. There are things she has done and votes, e.g., Iraq, she has cast that I can't accept. But I watched the debates. She is intelligent, composed, knowledgeable across the board. We can argue about labels but Clinton is a liberal with a liberal voting record. Is she too hawkish? I think so. I think she is too pro-Israel. But I don't think she's reckless.  She had positions and rhetoric on criminal justice twenty years ago that I didn’t like but I think she has learned and grown as progressive people do. 

    And unlike Obama, whom I respect greatly, she would not make the mistake of thinking her personal charisma will create a kumbaya wave in Washington. She knows the Republicans well enough to call them "my enemy." She will go after them rather than try to convert them.

    Finally, I am sick of the Hillary-bashing. I can't think of another politician in my conscious lifetime who has caught more shit than she, from people making the White House travel office a cause celebre to accusing her of killing her friend, Vince Foster, to Whitewater, to being (gasp!) a lesbian, or shrew, or thick-legged (gasp, again) to Benghazi, to ... fill in the blank. And it is misogynistic.  I know people who consider her laughably dishonest and I ask them, what exactly, has she lied about? Oh, they say, everyone knows--because they have been exposed to relentless bashing of her that has not been refuted strongly enough by people on the left.


    I am a socialist feminist. I believe there is no true socialism without feminism and no true feminism without socialism. I have worked in various ways to further both causes. As a citizen of the country I have a more particular responsibility to vote for the person I think is best qualified at this particular moment for what can well be considered the most important position in the world. I have decided that is Hillary Clinton.

    This Editorial frist appeared on the DailyKos

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not just a single issue candidate

    By Ramona du Houx

    While Sen. Sanders has declared many times he would, "break up the banks."  He's never answered exactly would that do to our economy? Dot-Frank is a legal way to keep banks in check (no pun intended). And if the banks get out of hand again the USA can legally break them up. In addition Hillary wishes to put simlar restrictions on the insurance industry, shadow banking, and other players that created the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

    What would happen to main street if Wall Street was broken up?

    The big banks, as we've witnessed, transfer their problems to the consumer when they are checkmated. It's more than likely we could suffer another recession at the hands of the banks, because Sanders wants to break them up - now. This is Sen. Sanders' big platform-his issue.

    On February 11th in Wisconsin, Former Secretaryof State Hillary Clinton closed a Democratic debate against Sen. Sanders with these remarks:

    We agree that we've got to get unaccountable money out of politics. We agree that Wall Street should never be allowed to wreck Main Street again. But here's the point I want to make tonight. I am not a single issue candidate, and I do not believe we live in a single issue country.

    I think that a lot of what we have to overcome to break down the barriers that are holding people back, whether it's poison in the water of the children of Flint, or whether it's the poor miners who are being left out and left behind in coal country, or whether it is any other American today who feels somehow put down and oppressed by racism, by sexism, by discrimination against the LGBT community, against the kind of efforts that need to be made to root out all of these barriers, that is what I want to take on.

    And here in Wisconsin I want to reiterate, we've got to stand up for unions and working people who have been at the core of the American middle class and who are being attacked by ideologues, by demagogues. Yes, does Wall Street and big financial interests along with drug companies, insurance companies, big oil, all of it, have too much influence? You're right.

    But if we were to stop that tomorrow, we would still have the indifference, the negligence that we saw in Flint. We would still have racism holding people back. We would still have sexism preventing women from getting equal pay.We would still have LGBT people who get married on Saturday and get fired on Monday. And we would still have governors like Scott Walker and others trying to rip out the heart of the middle class by making it impossible to organize and stand up for better wages and working conditions.

    So I'm going to keep talking about tearing down all the barriers that stand in the way of Americans fulfilling their potential because I don't think our country can live up to its potential unless we give a chance to every single American to live up to theirs.