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  • MPUC's anti-solar rules that would raise rates on solar power users - lawmakers need to take action

     Lawmakers could stop extreme anti-solar rules, save ratepayers money and help grow jobs

    By Ramona du Houx

    The amount of solar power added worldwide soared by over 50 percent in 2016, according to data compiled by Europe’s solar power trade body.

    New solar photovoltaic capacity installed reached more than 76 gigawatts just within 2016.

    Most of the increases took place in the US and China. Globally there is now 305GW of solar power capacity, up from around 50GW in 2010 and virtually nothing at the turn of the millennium.

    The dramatic shift in installment has a lot to do with technological advances in the industry coupled with the urgency the climate change threat poses to the world. Add that to the fact — it makes business sense to install solar power as it save consumers and businesses money — and you have a clear path forward for the solar power industry.

    But there is one hitch in Maine—the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s (MPUC’s) new net metering rules include some of the most extreme anti-solar elements in the nation. They will go into effect at the end of the year if the Legislature fails to put a stop to the onerous rules that would make rate payers with solar installments pay more.

     “Under the PUC’s extreme anti-solar rules, for the first time utilities would charge Maine homes and businesses for solar power they produce and consume themselves on site,” said Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine. “In the wake of the PUC’s decision, it is essential that Maine lawmakers pass an effective bill that overturns these rules and puts Maine on track to increase our production and use of solar power. But, if allowed to take effect, these new rules will threaten existing and potential new jobs and guarantee that we remain in last place in New England for solar jobs and energy production.”

    Rep. Seth Berry in 2008 at work in the Maine House of Representatives. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    In an expensive new requirement, new solar customers will be forced to install, and ratepayers will pay for, an extra meter for their solar panels — forcing them to pay utilities a fee for solar power they generate, power that never will enter the electricity grid.

    “This rulemaking only underscores the need for the legislature to move quickly to protect jobs, ensure market stability and keep Mainers in control of their energy future,” said Rep. Seth Berry, who is the House chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “The finalized rule by the MPUC takes us in the wrong direction by making major and disruptive changes — despite overwhelming public input regarding risks to our energy and jobs markets.”

    Studies show that solar power delivers valuable benefits to society, the environment and all energy users. Solar is pollution-free, has no fuel cost and eliminates the need for dirty power plants and expensive transmission lines.

    “Clean renewable energy sources are the best pathway our state has to lower energy prices, create more good-paying jobs and lesson our carbon footprint,” said Rep. Berry.

    The MPUC failed to conduct any costs and benefits analysis of this new net metering, so they cannot say with any authority whether these rules will help or harm ratepayers. However, previous studies by the MPUC clearly indicate that increased use of distributed solar in Maine leads to lower electric rates.

    "This rulemaking only underscores the need for the Legislature to move quickly to protect jobs, ensure market stability and keep Mainers in control of their energy future. We urge the legislature to act swiftly to restore good solar policy for Maine’s future," said Environment Maine campaigns director Laura Dorle.

    The best and swiftest solution is for the Legislature to enact an effective law to move Maine forward this session, before these extreme rules take effect at the end of 2017.

    “The Legislature should be setting solar policy in Maine, not the MPUC. With others, NRCM is also likely to file a ‘motion for reconsideration’ with the PUC, giving them one last chance to set aside these extreme changes,” said Voorhees.

    The Office of the Public Advocate, which represents ratepayers, testified last year that it had “significant concerns with the rules,” noting they “include provisions that are unclear, unworkable, and potentially unlawful.”

    Public opposition to this policy included more than 4,000 comments received by the MPUC. Polling shows that a strong majority of Mainers from all counties and political affiliations oppose this rollback.

     

  • It’s time to embrace solar and all it can do for Maine

     

    Editorial by Rep. Deane Rykerson- Rykerson from Kittery serves on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

    LePage squanders jobs, environmental benefits, savings for Maine families and businesses

    When it comes to solar, the future is here. There’s so much opportunity for Maine, but we’re missing out because of opposition from our governor, Paul LePage, and his die-hard allies. We’re missing out on jobs, on energy savings for families and businesses and on a cleaner environment.

    In 1963, my solar energy project won first place in my eighth-grade science fair. There was no economical way then to convert the free and abundant power of sunlight into electricity. Solar cells were for satellites or experiments. Their availability for everyday people and businesses seemed far away.

    Governor, it’s now 2016 – not 1963 anymore. Solar technology has advanced and prices are way down. We should be installing more solar and creating jobs. Without a comprehensive policy, we’re not going to be able to seize the opportunities or even catch up to the rest of the country.

    This year, the governor and enough of his House Republican friends killed the bipartisan solar plan supported by the electric utilities that would have finally brought our policies into the 21st century.

    They threw away over 600 new jobs and put our 300 existing homegrown solar jobs at risk. They threw away $58 million to $110 million in savings for ratepayers. They threw away energy savings for Maine families and businesses, including agriculture.

    The governor keeps talking about energy policies that simply aren’t real solutions.  

    There’s hydropower from Quebec for one. The thing he leaves out is that Quebec is never going to sell us power at the subsidized Canadian rate. It’s in their law. And you can’t get that power from there to here without building new transmission lines. Vermont has learned that Canadian hydro is not a money saver. They’re buying power from Quebec and they have consistently higher electric rates than Maine.

    Meanwhile, we know that the value of solar generation in Maine is more than two-and-half times the retail rate of electricity – and that’s not even including the jobs created.

    Solar generation is free after the initial investment. It saves us from paying for transmission power loss or building new dirty generation and power lines. It reduces pollutants and the health costs associated with them.

    And we keep our money in the state.

    As a frugal Yankee, I don’t want to pay overseas conglomerates to burn oil and gas for my electricity when I can make it freely and cleanly on my garage roof – all while supporting Maine workers.

    On these hot summer days, I think about all the money I’m saving. This is when the grid has the most demand and electricity is the most expensive. Solar saves money for everyone using electrical power.

    It’s time to embrace solar and all it can do for Maine. It is the way forward.

  • Maine police chiefs want to expand MaineCare

    Extending health coverage can help mitigate the pain and suffering caused by addiction.

    The numbers are distressing: 272 drug overdose deaths in Maine — a 31 percent increase in 2015.

    We’ve seen the devastating consequences of addiction and unimaginable sadness that comes from telling a family about the unnecessary death of a loved one taken too soon from this world. We know treatment saves lives and health coverage is important in accessing treatment. We see coverage as a vital community-wide benefit that can prevent crime, violence and suffering, saving our criminal justice system resources, time, and money.

    Extending health coverage to people with low income, most who work but often can’t afford coverage, would help them access health care, including mental health and substance abuse services.

    ADDRESSES THE GAP

    The Maine Sheriffs’ and Maine Chiefs of Police Association support accepting the enhanced federal health care funds to provide low income Mainers who suffer from addiction or mental health illness with health care, including treatment. With the federal government picking up most of the costs, it’s the most affordable option we have to promptly address the gap in treatment many face.

    Drug and mental health treatment is necessary, if not critical, to reducing drug related crime in Maine. People are dying of the torrid epidemic of opioid and heroin addiction. Mainers across the state are struggling to rid themselves of this disease. While more are seeking treatment with the goal of living a useful and productive life free of addiction, many face barriers to accessing the treatment they need to turn their lives around. The result is a costly cycle in and out of jail and a drain on our criminal justice system.

    Sixty percent of Maine’s inmates suffer from substance abuse and 40 percent from some degree of mental illness. Jails have become de facto triage treatment centers. It is time to change the way we are doing things.

    Other states are using the federal health care funds to treat addiction and reduce drug related crime. They are seeing savings and success in reducing incarceration and reentry into the criminal justice system.

    State and county corrections departments across the country have launched health coverage enrollment programs as part of the discharge planning process. Over 64 programs were operating in jails, prisons, probation and parole systems last year, enrolling individuals during detention, incarceration, and during the release process. If we are serious about defeating this epidemic, we must use all available resources, including those from the federal government that other states have seen success with.

    Washington State uses the federal funds to provide treatment to people who have been involved in the criminal justice system – services previously funded with state-only tax dollars that helped to reduce arrests by 17-33 percent. Replacing state funds with federal funds has created savings for local law enforcement, jails, courts and state corrections agencies.

    States use the federal funds to pay for treatment provided through mental health and drug courts. Maine’ 2014 Annual Report on Adult Drug Treatment Courts confirms our drug courts offer a successful approach to the challenge of substance abuse and crime but are underutilized.

    COURTS CAN’T DO IT ALL

    Drug court funding is described as being uncertain, in spite of demonstrated cost avoidance and benefits and that without funding for treatment, adult drug courts cannot be sustained. Federal health care funds could help pay for these services.

    States are using the federal funds to pay for inpatient hospital services provided to inmates and seeing savings. Ohio saved $10.3 million in in 2014. Kentucky, Michigan, Colorado, Washington and Arkansas have booked millions in savings. We are struggling to pay for the costs of jails in Maine, while other states are finding solutions.

    Inmates suffering with substance abuse have a better chance of overcoming addiction and reducing their chances of re-offending if connected to treatment. The federal health care funds could be used to relieve jails of significant health-related expenses.

    Not long ago the legislature passed the anti-heroin/opioid bill that began to address this terrible problem. Many legislators said it was only a down payment on what it would take to effectively deal with the epidemic. We can take another significant step in ridding our state of this problem. By accepting the federal health care funds, we will improve access to treatment and care. In the end, this will save taxpayers money and save lives, for which we cannot measure in dollars and cents.

    Sheriff Joel A. Merry of Sagadahoc County is president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association. Chief Michael W. Field of the Bath Police Department is president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.

  • LePage’s damaging attacks on Maine’s most needy must be stopped

    In his budget proposal last year, Gov. Paul LePage sought sweeping cuts to services for people with mental illness, children with autism and health care for seniors. He fought tooth and nail for his harmful agenda and the Legislature had to override his budget veto to finally stop him.

    This year the governor hasn’t submitted a budget, but that hasn’t stopped his attacks on people with disabilities. Instead of using the budget as a weapon, the governor is using his broad executive powers against vulnerable Mainers. The Maine Legislature needs to stop him again.

    The year started with the governor’s attempt to slash services for adults with intellectual disabilities. These are people who in the past would have lived their entire lives in institutions but now live at home with appropriate support. The governor proposed a new “one size fits all” assessment that would have dramatically reduced care for these people and left them at risk. There was public outcry against these devastating cuts but the governor and Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew refused to listen and stubbornly plowed ahead. Undeterred, over 1,300 affected citizens, their families and their supporters took the extraordinary step of formally petitioning the Legislature to stop the new rules. All seven Democrats on the Health and Human Services Committee, along with two of our Republican colleagues, agreed to intervene. In the face of this public outrage, the governor and Commissioner Mayhew finally retreated from their plan.

    Did the governor and commissioner learn any lessons? Did they get the message that Mainers will not tolerate cuts that put our vulnerable neighbors at risk? Apparently not. Just last week DHHS told over 24,000 Mainers with serious mental illness that they may see their services cut in April. These services support people struggling to stay in their homes and avoid more costly hospitalization and residential services. We heard from people like Alaina, who has major depression and PTSD. Without services, Alaina isolates herself at home and cannot even leave without suffering from panic attacks. And Courtney, whose depression is so severe that she can’t get out to appointments or reliably pay her bills. When these frightened Mainers called DHHS, they received an automated message instructing them to contact their mental health provider. Mental health providers, however, had no warning that thousands of clients would be receiving these upsetting notices.

    DHHS is telling Mainers they might be able to get care in other programs. But DHHS told providers last week that it is planning a huge rate cut for those services. These programs already have waitlists. DHHS must know that providers can’t absorb proposed cuts of 25 to 48 percent. DHHS argues that members might be able to get services through its new “behavioral health home” program. However, this program is so new that access to services provided by the program are limited and some parts of Maine have no behavioral health homes at all. Further, the funding provided to run these services is so low that people will receive a greatly reduced level of services if they can get any at all.

    It doesn’t stop there. Just last week, DHHS also announced that it was moving ahead with a plan that will result in the closure of four out of Maine’s 12 mental health peer centers. Peer centers are a critical community resource for people struggling with mental illness. They are a valuable lifeline that help people avoid isolation and loneliness. Peer centers help people who have worked their whole lives to remain in the community and stay out of institutions.

    It is impossible to understand the reasoning behind the LePage administration’s relentless attacks on Maine’s mental health system. Five years of mismanagement at Riverview Psychiatric Center has left patients and staff at serious risk and put the taxpayers on the hook for $60 million in costs because DHHS can’t meet minimum federal standards. Now the governor has focused his attention on dismantling of outpatient services that are essential to helping people with mental illness achieve wellness and avoid hospitalization.

    Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, is serving his second term in the Maine House of Representatives, representing District 34, which encompasses part of Westbrook. He is House chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

  • 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.

  • LePage skirts Constitution with Department of Education scheme of appointing himself Commissioner

    By Ramona du Houx 

    On February 11th , Gov. Paul LePage announced that he would install himself as Commissioner of the Department of Education in name only, and make Bill Beardsley his deputy commissioner. Perhaps LePage is feeling Donald Trump has trumped his national headlines and is looking for Maine headlines. Perhaps, he's playing his old tricks of distracting the Maine press enough so real issues, that the legislature are dealing with on a daily basis are over looked. Perhaps he knows his tax conformity idea would never win approval so he needs a big distraction. In any case he has tried to appoint himself Commissioner of the Department of Education.

    What's really behind LePage's sudden desire to become Education Commissioner?

    Beardsley was named acting commissioner in October of 2015. However, an acting commissioner may only lead an executive department for up to six months. Gov. LePage’s actions seem designed to continue allowing Beardsley to operate as the de facto commissioner despite having never been confirmed by the Maine Senate. 

    “The governor is making a mockery of both the importance of the commissioner’s role and of educating our children,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett, the lead Senate Democrat on the Education Committee.  “For whatever reason, he doesn’t believe Mr. Beardsley will be confirmed by the Legislature. But instead of letting the confirmation process play out, he’s trying to bend the rules so that he can hand-pick the state’s top education official without bothering with pesky Constitutional requirements like confirmation.”

    As dictated by Maine’s Constitution, the governor may appoint top officials of executive departments, but those appointments must be confirmed by the Maine Senate after confirmation hearings by the legislative committee of jurisdiction. Gov. LePage pulled Beardsley’s nomination out of fear he would not be confirmed.

    "The governor should stop fooling around with this important position. He needs to respect how important this role is to students, educators and the taxpayers of this state,” said Rep. Tori Kornfield, D-Bangor, House chair of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “As I have said before, Education Committee members were ready to have a substantive, transparent discussion on the future of education and the interests of Maine students and their families. We stand prepared to do so for whomever the governor puts forward for this highly important position. We have a process that the governor must not circumvent.” 

    Democrats on the Education Committee have always said that they are willing and ready to hear Mr. Beardsley and consider his nomination for commissioner of the Department of Education.

  • Maine lawmakers unanimously pass law to issue voter-approved bonds for land conservation

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Maine lawmakers unanimously gave their approval to reauthorize $6.5 million in voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future bonds as part of a bipartisan effort to revive the expired bonds.

    “It was great to see how Land for Maine’s Future brought the Legislature together. We did important work today to ensure our state’s most important land conservation effort continues to successfully protect access for all Mainers,” said Rep. Martin Grohman, D-Biddeford.

    An amendment from Grohman stripped the original text of LD 1454 and replaced it with a 5-year reauthorization of bonds approved by voters in 2010. The bonds expired in November of 2015, when Gov. Paul LePage failed to release them.

    “We are delighted that legislators from both sides of the aisle voted unanimously to reinstate the 2010 Land for Maine's Future bonds,” said Beth Ahearn, legislative director for Maine Conservation Voters. “Already promised LMF funding can now be invested in more than 30 projects across Maine to benefit our economy and provide recreational opportunities to all.”

    The Legislature opened the second session by coming together on this issue. The House on the first day of session passed an order to recall LD 1454 from the governor’s desk, and the Senate followed suit. The cooperation prevented a veto of the bill and provided the opportunity to amend it.

    “These valuable conservation projects have waited a long time for funding that was promised, but needlessly delayed,” said Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, the lead Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “This vote will put them back on track, giving them the go-ahead to protect valuable natural resources in my community for generations.”

    Sen. Breen thanked the countless citizens of Maine who demanded the bonds be issued and the conservation projects be allowed to move forward. “They voted more than five years ago to authorize these projects, and they demanded, rightfully, that their decision be respected.”

    The bill — LD 1454, “Resolve, Reauthorizing the Balance of the 2009 Bond Issue for Land Conservation Projects” — will be sent to Gov. Paul LePage. He has 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it, or let it pass into law without his signature.

  • Maine House resolution pledging to honor the duties of public office passes in largely party-line vote

    by Ramona du Houx

    The Maine State House of Representatives on January 14, 2016, passed a resolution that affirms lawmakers’ commitment to the standards the public has the right to expect of its public officials. The 81-65 tally fell largely along party lines. The measure was a direct result of Gov. LePage's recent racial remarks, his contuned negitive attitude towards the people of Maine and the state's lawmaking process. LePage's antics have been on national TV, as the nation laughs at the state.

    “This resolution reaffirms and resets the high bar that elected officials are held to. We take these responsibilities seriously and we assure the people of Maine that we will be vigilant in adhering to and protecting those standards,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who offered the House resolution. “We expect and demand that elected officials act with civility and decency toward one another. We reject the politics of retribution, intolerance and divisiveness and we put ourselves and the governor on notice.”

    The House also took up a measure to impeach the governor, which failed.The Democratic-controlled House voted 96-52 to kill the impeachment measure.

    After the Attorney General, Janet Mills, said there were no grounds for impeachment the fire to proceed was put out.

    Rep. Gideon and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe previously invited all members of the House, regardless of party affiliation, to support the nonpartisan resolution under which members pledge to “honor the responsibilities entrusted to us by the people of the state” and reject all words and actions that undermine commonsense ideas and decency toward one another.

    Three independent members joined Democrats in voting for the resolution. Only one Republican accepted the invitation to support the resolution.

    “We had a chance to come together and rise above partisanship today,” said McCabe, D-Skowhegan.  “We’re saddened that most of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle did not accept our invitation. It would have sent a strong message about our unity as we tackle the state’s challenges this session.”

     

  • Maine House lawmakers unanimously backs land preservation bonds despite Gov. LePage

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine House of Representatives on January 12, 2016, unanimously gave its initial approval to a measure reauthorizing $6.5 million in voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future bonds as part of a bipartisan effort to revive the expired bonds. Some of these voter-approved bonds date back to the Baldacci administration. The vote was 147-0.

    “The fight to fully fund Land for Maine’s Future proved to be a truly bipartisan effort. Legislators on both sides of the aisle who understand the critical importance of preserving Maine’s natural resources and securing our economic future joined together to ensure that our state’s most vital land conservation program will continue to provide access for all Mainers,” said Rep. Martin Grohman, D-Biddeford, an avid hunter and supporter of Land for Maine’s Future.

    An amendment from Grohman stripped the original text of LD 1454 and replaced it with a 5-year reauthorization of bonds approved by voters in 2010. The bonds expired in November, on the first regular day of the deer hunting season, when Gov. Paul LePage did not release them.

    “Today was a win for voters, outdoorsmen and women, outdoor recreation businesses and other Mainers who recognize the importance of Land for Maine’s Future to our economy – particularly for rural Maine. It will be great to see these voter-approved bonds released and preserving land for recreation and waterfront, forestry and farming jobs,” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, a Maine guide and a leading proponent in the effort to free the bonds.

    “We are delighted that legislators voted unanimously today to reinstate the 2010 Land for Maine's Future bond that expired in November,” said Beth Ahearn, legislative director for Maine Conservation Voters.  “Already promised LMF funding can now be invested in more than 30 projects across Maine to benefit our economy and provide recreational opportunities to all.”

     The Legislature opened the second session by coming together on this issue. The House on the first day of session passed an order to recall LD 1454 from the governor’s desk, and the Senate followed suit. The cooperation prevented a veto of the bill and provided the opportunity to amend it.

    LD 1454 faces further votes in the House and Senate.

     

  • New poll finds Maine electorate overwhelmingly supports release of Land for Maine’s Future funds

    91 percent Democrats, 76 percent Independents, 54 percent Republicans from every region of the state support Legislation to Release Voter-Approved Bonds Even When They Hear Other Arguments

    By Ramona du Houx

    Governor Paul LePage has held funds to protect and preserve land in Maine for all Mainers hostage. The program he is strangling is called Land for Maine's Future, LMF. The program expanded areas in Baxter Park, and across the state under the Baldacci administration. But nothing has been done to preserve lands with the LePage administration. In fact, the opposite has happened with more land being opened to loggers. LePage has also tried to stop the board of LMF from functioning. The people of Maine love their state, and the evidence is in with a new poll which shows strong support for LMF.

    “This poll is the latest indication that Maine people, across the state and from all walks of life, are benefitting from and valuing the economic importance of Land for Maine’s Future investments,” shared Maine Coast Heritage Trust President Tim Glidden. “It is time policymakers empower this popular land conservation program, so that it can once again fulfill the wishes of Maine voters.”  

    Headed into the next legislative session, new data from the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates finds that Maine Democrats, Independents and Republicans from every part of the state overwhelmingly support the release of all voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future funds even when they hear a simulation of the debate that has been occurring on the issue. 

    “We have heard months of debate and suggestions that LMF only benefits the wealthy or that voter-approved bond funds can be used as political leverage,” said Tom Abello, Senior Policy Advisor at The Nature Conservancy in Maine.  “What this poll tells us is that voters know better and are not buying any of it.  We hope Legislators are listening.” 

    It's important to note out door sports enthusiasts support LMF.

    “Understanding how valuable LMF investments are to trengthening our economy, especially in rural areas, I am not at all surprised by these numbers”  said Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine Executive Director David Trahan. “Sportsmen and women and outdoor groups know that LMF benefits all Mainers, not the rich.  We again ask the Governor and legislators to listen and release LMF funds now.”  

    Highlights:

    • 74 percent  - Overall support for releasing LMF funds: Given a brief, neutral explanation of the two perspectives on LMF funding (see attached memo), 74 percent of Maine people say the Governor should release voter-approved bond funds. 
    • Only 16 percent side with the idea that the Governor should not release LMF funds.  Those supporting the release of LMF funds include:

    -          91 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans.

    -          More than 70 percent of Mainers in every region of the state: coastal Maine (75 percent), Northeast (76 percent), South (76 percent) and Central (72 percent)

    By a margin of 79 percent to 16 percent Maine voters reject withholding LMF bonds until the Legislature approves an unrelated law to use revenue from timber harvests on state lands to fund a separate government program to help low-income Maine residents upgrade their heating systems.  Seventy-nine percent chose, instead, to support the view that “once the people of Maine have spoken at the ballot box, no one individual – even the Governor – ought to have the right to veto that decision.”

    By a margin of 73 percent to 12 percent of Maine voters believe that LMF funds benefit all Mainers and visitors versus only benefiting “wealthy landowners.” 

    “We are not surprised to see such strong support for LMF regardless of political affiliation or region in Maine,” said Wolfe Tone of The Trust for Public Land.  “Voters have overwhelmingly approved these bonds at the ballot box six times.  With more than 30 projects in limbo across the state, Mainers understand how withholding LMF funds is hurting their own local economy. It is time to release LMF funding and allow these investments to move forward.”

  • LePage must be held accountable for causing Speaker Eves to loose Good Will Hinckley job

    Mainers can speak on the kind of government they want at Oct. 15 public hearing 

    By Representative Ben Chipman of Portland

    The people of Maine deserve to have confidence in the integrity of our political system. But the actions of Governor Paul LePage raise serious questions about the misuse of public office and public funds.

    I’m one of four lawmakers – Republican, Democratic and independent – who requested an investigation into the governor’s threats to withhold state funds from an organization that helps at-risk youths.

    He threatened the non-profit because it had hired one of his political rivals. The governor made it clear that he had to go.

    The bipartisan Government Oversight Committee – six Republicans and six Democratic lawmakers – unanimously approved the request, launching the first such investigation of a sitting governor in Maine.

    The independent Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability – OPEGA – confirmed the shocking allegations: the governor threatened Good Will-Hinckley because it hired Speaker Mark Eves as its president, a state payment which was in process was withheld and restored only after the organization fired Speaker Eves to avert financial crisis.

    If the governor is able to abuse his power to take revenge on a political rival, can any elected official – or any independent organization or any everyday Mainer – be safe?

    Every elected official in Maine must be free to vote his or her conscience. Every independent organization should be free to make decisions in its own best interests. All Maine citizens should be free from the fear that their livelihoods depend on the whims of the governor – or any elected official.

    These are the issues that will be front and center next week – on Thursday, October 15th – as the Government Oversight Committee holds a public hearing on the OPEGA report. It’s a chance for Mainers to weigh in on the kind of government they want.

    While the report was very thorough, some matters need further attention.

    For one, there’s a key meeting of top LePage staffers and Department of Education officials.

    It led to the Department of Education’s extraordinary actions of pulling back more than half a million dollars that was already being processed for Good Will-Hinckley.

    There were differing accounts of what happened at this highly unusual meeting. And other areas also need clarification.

    That’s why the Government Oversight Committee asked some individuals to come talk to them at the public hearing. Two top LePage staffers are refusing to appear.

    It’s just the most recent example of the governor obstructing this investigation. He wrongly claimed that OPEGA had no right to investigate him and even had his lawyer make that argument too. He refused to talk with investigators, and now his taxpayer-funded employees will be no-shows at the public hearing. 

    This from a governor who promised Mainers the most transparent administration in the state’s history!

    People all across the state are calling for impeachment. Editorial pages are speaking about the need for a special prosecutor. We should all be able to agree that it’s an abuse of power to use taxpayer dollars for political retribution.

    OPEGA’s task is a fact-finding one. The OPEGA report is the beginning of a process that should not be considered finished.

    What we need to do now is determine, based on the information in the report, what specific laws, if any, were broken by the governor. All options – such as referral to a special prosecutor and impeachment – remain on the table.

    One thing is clear: Governor LePage is not above the law and must be held accountable like anybody else.

    The people of Maine deserve and should expect nothing less.

    I hope to see you at the Government Oversight Committee’s public hearing this Thursday, October 15th, speaking up for the kind of government you want.

  • Maine has found how to keep the poor in poverty

    A savings account can be a powerful thing, especially for someone struggling to make ends meet. A little extra money on the side—even the tiniest of sums—can be a life-preserving cushion in the case of an unexpected injury, illness, or sudden unemployment. Building a financial base can also be a ticket out of poverty for families long relegated to economic hardship.

    In Maine, though, the governor has fired up a debate about whether an individual can have a bit of money in the bank and still need governmental assistance. Starting as early as Nov. 1, Maine  is going to limit the financial assets of welfare recipients, effectively discouraging them from saving money.

    The state will place a $5,000 cap on the savings and other assets of residents enrolled in the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Those whose bank accounts, secondary vehicles and homes, and other assets considered non-essential by the government, exceed the limit will no longer be eligible to participate in the food stamp program. An individual's primary home and vehicle won't count toward the limit.

    The thinking, according to the Gov. Paul LePage's office, is simple: People shouldn't be allowed to take money from the government if they don't need to. "Most Mainers would agree that before someone receives taxpayer-funded welfare benefits, they should sell non-essential assets and use their savings,” LePage said in a written statement.

    "What people see, what they're concerned about these days, is the abuse of the welfare system," added David Sorensen, who is the director of media relations and policy research for Maine's Department of Health and Human Services. "Well, it's an abuse to enroll in the system when you've got $5,000 in the bank."

    But the unintended consequences of asset tests, like the one soon to be implemented in Maine, can be crippling, according to a growing pool of people who oppose such requirements. They argue that impoverished Americans, hoping to break from the cycle of poverty, are instead further bound by it. Many in Maine, struggling to make ends meet, will no longer put money aside, since doing so could jeopardize their ability to eat.

    "There's a reason most states have moved away from asset tests," said Ezra Levin, who is the associate director of the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit organization that fights poverty. Levin specializes in tax and asset-building policies, and is highly critical of LePage's plan. "The tests are counterproductive. They don't help people become self-sufficient. They actually do just the opposite."

    Up until 1996, federal assistance programs were more preoccupied with providing indefinite income support than lifting families out of poverty. That year, President Clinton signed the 'Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act,' which effectively flipped the goal around. But many quirks about the programs, including their reliance on asset tests, weren't reconsidered along with their central purpose.

    Today, asset tests have become unpopular. Increasingly, they have been viewed as inhibitors to self-sufficiency—people need to build a safety net, in the form of savings or assets, before they can transition away from government aid.

    Only a handful of states, including Michigan, Wyoming, and Virginia, still require that food stamp recipients pass such exams. The rest—36 in all—have chosen to drop them in recent years. Most recently, Pennsylvania shed the practice.

    Levin is not alone in his disapproval of the Maine governor's plan. Amy Fried, who teaches political science at the University of Maine, penned an opinion piece for local newspaper Bangor Daily News on Tuesday, detailing how the policy will hurt low income students hoping to save for college. Rachel Black, who is a senior policy analyst for New America, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, told the Portland Press Herald last month that the legislation is "antithetical to the idea of promoting self-sufficiency."

    Perhaps the most poignant criticism comes from an investigation published in 2013 by the Deseret News. The piece chronicles the struggles of Melissa and Jimmy, a couple living on food stamps. They saved money to ween themselves off of the program, but were forced off too soon, thanks to asset limits. They had no choice but to spend some of their savings so they could afford to eat.

    "It felt like a no-win situation," Melissa told the Deseret News. "We were being forced to choose between what is good for our family in the long term and what our kids need right now."

    Sorensen acknowledges that the forthcoming legislation has met ample disapproval. He says the governor's office expects the criticism to grow louder as the mechanics are implemented. But he believes the governor's plan is more careful than many realize. 

    "We're not penalizing anyone for having an IRA account or a 401K," he said. "We don't include personal items either, as some have people have suggested. The truth is that we're not actually being very strict about this."

    Sorensen points to the fact that the USDA's default limit for bank accounts is $2,250, less than half the cap that will be implemented in Maine, as evidence of the program's leniency (though the default limit is neither binding nor adhered to by many states anymore). He also notes that it only applies to people without dependents (i.e. children).

    But that's less generous than it sounds, says Levin. "Just because someone doesn't have officially registered dependents doesn't mean there aren't people who depend on them," he said.

    Currently, a household of one can earn no more than $1,276 of gross income per month in order to receive food stamps. That same household can qualify for up to $194 dollars a month, or fewer than $7 dollars day, as part of SNAP,according to the Department of Agriculture. It doesn't take much math to figure out that neither that kind of income nor the daily food allowance affords any kind of lavish lifestyle.

    "If someone manages to save money while earning next to nothing, why would we punish them for it?" Levin said. "Why would we discourage sound financial practices?"

    The number of welfare recipients has shot up in Maine in recent years, largely thanks to the recession, but there is little evidence to suggest there is rampant abuse of the system. Studies have, in fact, suggested that the opposite is true. Only a tiny fraction of welfare recipients have enough in their bank accounts to fail the sort of asset test soon to be implemented in Maine.

    Gov. LePage's policy is part of what Levin calls a long history of complicating the plight of the poor in America. The problem, he says, is that there's so much focus on people who don't deserve support that the people who do are made to suffer.

    "Normally it's Republicans who support programs that create incentives for poor people to save," Levin says. "The crux of conservative thinking around welfare is that people shouldn't grow dependent, but this policy does exactly that."

    LePage says asset tests are necessary if his state is going to rein in a system he believes has grown too large for its own good. "What the governor is doing is breaking the cycle of generational dependency," Sorensen said. "Our goal here in Maine is to change the culture, and change the expectations of the system."

    Janet Smith, a grassroots activist in Maine who helps impoverished communities with financial capability and asset building, sees only irony in that statement. "One of the few ways to break out of generational poverty is to build assets, to save money," she says. "The governor is effectively closing that window."

    Poverty involves a complex web of sacrifices that policymakers aren't always privy to, she says. To demonstrate that disconnect, Smith tells the story of a man she once worked with, who couldn't afford to live on a street that was regularly plowed during the winters—which are long in Maine. Each day, he was forced to use a beat-up snowmobile to get from his home to his car, an unconventional but necessary step. From there he drove to work. And at day's end, the process repeated itself, in opposite order.

    "I'm not saying SNAP recipients need snowmobiles," Smith says. "What I'm saying is that we're focusing on the wrong things."

  • LePage wants asset test for federal food stamp recipients in Maine- Alfond responds

    State Senator Justin Alfond photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Governor Paul LePage announced today that his administration would begin enforcing an “asset test” for applicants to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. 

    Mainers with assets topping $5,000 and who don’t have children will be ineligible for food stamps under LePage’s new plan announced September 16th by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The assets to be counted, if the new rule is applied, will include bank account balances, snowmobiles, boats, motorcycles, jet skis, all-terrain vehicles, recreational vehicles, campers and other valuable assets, according to a news release.

    For years, the state has waived the asset test in recognition that Mainers need assistance, not judgment, in their moments of need.

    “Our social safety net is designed to catch people before they fall far enough to hit rock bottom. For many Mainers who are down on their luck, SNAP is the first line of defense against the downward spiral of poverty,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland.

    The average monthly SNAP benefit per person in Maine is below the national average. According to the USDA, the federal agency that administers SNAP to states, among all the states Maine ranks 50th in the average SNAP benefit per household. 

    “Food stamps are meant to temporarily keep people afloat long enough to prevent them from becoming destitute,” said Alfond. “Who are we to judge our most needy neighbors before extending a helping hand? We shouldn’t be building needless barriers between them and the help they need.”

    LePage has often stated that SNAP and other benefits "cost" the state too much. But the truth is SNAP and those other benefits are federally funded.

    “Common sense says that someone with a ton of cash on hand isn’t truly needy,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “But Governor LePage and Commissioner Mayhew are willing to make someone’s ability to eat contingent on whether they’re able to sell their beat-up snowmobile on Uncle Henry’s. What next? Grandma can’t buy groceries until she sells her engagement ring? They need to focus on growing economic opportunity and moving people into sustainable employment rather than adding a layer of bureaucracy to government that does nothing to save taxpayer dollars or help people in real need.”

    A public hearing on the proposed new rule is scheduled for Oct. 6 in Augusta.

    DHHS estimates that the rule change would affect about 8,600 people who are on food stamps. Maine has already reduced the number of Mainers collecting food stamps by over 5,000. A new rule implemented by the LePage administration requires able-bodied 18- to 49-year-old adults to either be working or in an active job search in order to receive food stamps.

  • Call for an end to LePage's divisive behavior and "irresponsible governing”


    Editorial by Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland

    August 7, 2015

    On Thursday, in a unanimous advisory opinion, Maine’s highest court sent a strong message to Governor LePage: no Governor can tell a Legislature what to do. The separation of powers between the two is defined, separate, and clear.

    And to that end, the 65 laws that Governor LePage tried to veto, are in fact law; they cannot be vetoed;--and, they must be enforced by the chief executive.  

    The Supreme Court’s ruling reaffirmed more than four decades of precedent. They confirmed clearly and unambiguously the Constitutional parameters on the veto process--a precedent by which every other Maine governor has faithfully followed.

    Governor LePage has a history of pushing the envelope and bending the rules. But with this decision, the Court shut the door on his attempts to rewrite Maine’s Constitution. And, instead, they confirmed that the good, bipartisan work of the Legislature cannot be sidestepped.

    Before our eyes, a simple civics lesson has played out about the importance of having three separate co-equal branches of government. A democracy does not function with one branch of government that dominates the others.

    To date, Governor LePage’s legacy has been one of overreaching tactics that pushes the limits of his executive power. His vision is one of conflict and disagreement with the Legislature--even if that means wasting taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit instead of just abiding by the Constitution. Thankfully, the Supreme Court’s ruling firmly honors the separation of powers for this governor or any other.

    An unfortunate footnote to all of this drama, is that this dispute is one in a series of efforts by the Governor to delay and distract from the Legislature’s good, bipartisan work. The Governor’s antics may grab headlines but meanwhile, the Legislature continues to do its job. In spite of his attempts to make government dysfunctional, Democrats and Republicans passed bills together--and also overrode his veto objections--together; and, even went into this Court ruling--together. This is what the people of Maine expect us to do--it’s what the business community relies on us to do, and it’s a hallmark of the Maine political brand.

    Democrats--and even many Republican lawmakers--are calling for an end to such divisive behavior and irresponsible governing. In January, the Legislature will reconvene--and when we do so, we’ll have a hefty agenda. I hope that the Governor will see this as a time to renew his relationship with the Legislature, lay to rest his antagonistic relationship, and open a new chapter that includes a healthy and collaborative environment.

  • Maine Supreme Court’s upheld 65 new laws Governor Paul LePage failed to act on

    On August, 6, 2015 the Maine Supreme Court’s upheld 65 new laws Governor Paul LePage failed to act on within the 10-day window granted him by the Maine Constitution. It was an unanimous opinion.

    Attorney General Janet T. Mills said this in her statement, “The Office of the Attorney General is pleased with the full and complete responses to the Governor's questions elucidated in the unanimous 47 page opinion today. The Opinion of the Justices is on all fours with all the research conducted by our Office and with the Opinion of the Attorney General of July 10, 2015. We are also pleased that the Court ruled expeditiously so as to avoid any further unnecessary debate and confusion. The answers to the Governor's questions are clear, unambiguous and completely consistent with his own past practice and with that of every other Governor in recent memory. Except when the Legislature has adjourned sine die, the Chief Executive has ten days (excluding Sundays) within which to return any bills with his objections. By his failure to do so, he has forfeited the right to veto any of the bills at issue.” 

    Ironically LePage said, “This was not about winning or losing; it was about doing things right.” 

    “The court has rightly rejected Gov. Paul LePage’s legal gymnastics. The decision affirms these bills are law. The governor must enforce them,” said Speaker Eves. “The ruling also reaffirms the Constitution, historical precedent, and honors the separation of powers in our Democracy that protects against partisanship and abuse of power. The decision is a victory a huge win for Maine women, families, seniors, and veterans, who will see great benefits from the laws we passed.”

    Among the 65 laws are critical measures to expand access to health care for 13,000 Maine women, temporary assistance for asylum seekers and a much needed investment bond to build affordable senior housing.

     In its 47-page response, which weighed heavily on history and precedent, the justices wrote: 

    “Our unanimous Opinion is as follows: A solemn occasion has been, Having considered the filings, the factual background and legislative record, the constitutional context of the language at issue, long-held traditions and practices of Maine Governors and Legislatures, and the analysis and precedents of other jurisdictions, each of us is of the opinion that a temporary legislative adjournment does not prevent the return of the bills with the Governor’s objections to the Legislature. During such a temporary adjournment, the Governor may return the bills and his objections to the officers and agents of the originating House...” 

    “We understand the hope expressed by the three Republican Members of the House that a method of compromise could be found by which the Chief Executive and the Legislature would have an opportunity to revisit decisions and timeframes that have already passed. The Maine Constitution, and nearly four decades of practice and precedent, do not, however, provide for such a process. We have been asked for our opinions regarding the language of the Maine Constitution, and we have endeavored faithfully to provide those opinions. In so doing, we are acutely aware that our conclusions will render ineffective the Governor’s objections to sixty-five bills—a result that we do not take lightly. Nonetheless, in exercising the authority of the Judicial Branch to respond to an inquiry from the Executive Branch, we are guided by the need for certainty in, and confirmation of, the constitutionally-identified process that has been employed in Maine for so many years.”

  • Maine lawmakers request probe into allegations of abuse of power by LePage

    World Acadian Congress leader reportedly ousted because LePage threatened to withhold state funds

    Reps. Roland “Danny” Martin and Robert Saucier are asking the state’s Government Oversight Committee to launch an investigation into allegations that Gov. Paul LePage threatened to withhold state funds from the World Acadian Congress if its then-president for Maine continued to hold the post. 

    “I, and many other residents of Aroostook County, know Jason Parent. We know him as an effective civic leader who cares deeply about his community. We know him as a man of integrity,” said Martin, D-Sinclair, House chair of the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee. “The allegations around Mr. Parent’s departure from the World Acadian Congress are very serious and speak to a possible pattern of abuse of power by the governor. The public needs to know whether Governor LePage forced Mr. Parent out of the position and threatened to misuse state funds because of a perceived political slight.”

    On Tuesday, Martin and Saucier sent a letter requesting the probe to the Government Oversight Committee. The bipartisan, bicameral committee, made up of six Republicans and six Democrats, is the state’s watchdog panel. It has the ability to direct the nonpartisan Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to conduct a fact-finding investigation.

    “Jason Parent is someone who has served Aroostook County faithfully for many years,” said Saucier, D-Presque Isle. “The questions raised about his departure from the World Acadian Congress are very serious, and I think the people of our region and our state deserve to know what happened and what the facts are.”

    Recent media reports describe LePage as overstepping his executive authority by threatening to withhold $500,000 from the 2014 World Acadian Congress if Parent was not removed from his position as Maine international president and board member for the international governing organization.

    Parent, who stepped down in April 2013, has confirmed the media account.

    The World Acadian Congress is an international event that takes place every five years. In 2014, it took place in northern Maine, northwestern New Brunswick and Quebec.

    LePage reportedly demanded Parent’s removal because then-Congressmen Mike Michaud was presented with a World Acadian Congress license plate, a fundraising and marketing tool, before the governor received his. Michaud at the time was considered a likely challenger to LePage in the 2014 gubernatorial race.

    LePage’s alleged actions against Parent may be part of a larger pattern of abuse of power by the governor. OPEGA is in the midst of an investigation into whether LePage improperly interfered with Good Will-Hinckley’s employment of House Speaker Mark Eves and threatened to withhold state funding for the organization’s school for at-risk children.

    The governor has also interfered with a Maine Human Rights Commission case and in February withheld funding for the agency after it denied his request for a postponement of the case. The governor successfully forced the resignation of John Fitzsimmons as the president of the Maine Community College System in January by making financial threats to the system. 

  • An additional 51 bills are now law because LePage fails to act

    by Ramona du Houx 

     Fifty-one bills passed by the Legislature will became law without Gov. Paul LePage’s signature Sunday because he did not sign or veto them during the allotted 10-day window. The legislature never adjourned, so according to the Constitution the Governor had to veto these bills- with his signature-if he didn't want them to become law.

    He seems to be trying to win an argument against the Maine Constitution. On 7/7/15 twenty bills became law, when the Legislature was in recess because LePage failed to put his veto signature on them. He claims lawmakers were adjourned when the historic record of the Legislature shows they were only in recess as they have work to finish July 16th.

    “Today another 51 bills passed by the Legislature are now law. Today we celebrate bipartisan committee work, good policy and the Legislature getting the people’s work done despite the governor’s antics. We made it clear all week what options the governor had, but instead he ignored the process, the Constitution and defied logic,” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “The governor has been twisting himself into knots trying to push an argument that doesn’t pass the straight-face test. The Constitution is clear: these bills are law because the governor failed to act.”

    These fifty-one bills have been on the governor’s desk since they were passed by the Legislature on June 30. By law the governor had 10 days, not including Sundays, to sign or veto a bill. If he does not take either of those actions, the bill becomes law if the Legislature has not finally adjourned. For these bills, the window closed Saturday. The Office of the Revisor will chapter them Monday.

    Typically, the governor’s office delivers vetoes to the Legislature by the close of business Friday for bills that would become law over a weekend. The Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate made themselves available to receive any vetoes Saturday, but the governor did not return any bills to them.

    “Legislators can be proud of these new laws. They are the result of bipartisanship, hard work and concern for the constituents who sent us to Augusta to get things done,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. “These measures were crafted to improve the lives of Maine people in terms of public safety, health, education, the economy and a host of other areas. They reflect our commitment to good governance.”

    The new laws address matters ranging from jail consolidation to domestic violence to health care access for women and “revenge porn.” A number address Maine’s aging population through a bond for affordable housing, a much-needed boost for direct-care workers, tax credits for adult day care, hospice are and respite care and protections from financial exploitation. One law provides Vietnam veterans the same property tax exemptions that veterans of other conflicts already receive. Another increases access to the overdose reversal medication naloxone. Public education, first responders, entrepreneurship, conservation and downtown revitalization are among the other topics addressed by some of the other measures.

    The governor incorrectly asserted that the bills will not become law, despite the clarity provided by the Maine Constitution, precedent and an opinion issued by Attorney General Jane Mills on July 10th.

    The Legislature’s first regular session remains under way, as evidenced by its plans to return July 16 to take up the remainder of its work, including vetoes issued in accordance with the Maine Constitution.

    Emergency bills go into effect when the Legislature overrides a veto, when it is signed by the governor or when the 10-day window closes without action from the governor. Non-emergency bills go into effect 90 days after the Legislature finally adjourns, or adjourns “sine die.” 

      

    ###

    BILLS ENACTED IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE

    BUT NOT YET ASSIGNED CHAPTER NUMBERS

    LD 63  6/30/2015        Resolve, To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Provide Supplemental Reimbursement to Adult Family Care Homes and Residential Care Facilities in Remote Island Locations (Rep. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle)

     

    LD 86  6/30/2015        An Act To Improve Retirement Security for Retired Public Employees (Rep. Roger Sherman, R-Hodgdon)

     

    LD 93  6/30/2015        An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Pine Tree Development Zone Benefits for the Town of Berwick and the City of Sanford (Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick)

     

    LD 140            6/30/2015        An Act To Expand Access To Lifesaving Opioid Overdose Medication (Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville)

     

    LD 155            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Study Difficult-to-place Patients (Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock)

     

    LD 164            6/30/2015        An Act To Establish the Maine Length of Service Award Program (Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, U-Friendship)

     

    LD 170            6/30/2015        An Act To Remove the 180-day Active Duty Requirement for the Property Tax Exemption for Vietnam Veterans (Rep. Catherine Nadeau, D-Winslow)

     

    LD 186            6/30/2015        An Act To Reverse Jail Consolidation (Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville)

     

    LD 210            6/30/2015        An Act To Provide for Special Restrictions on Dissemination and Use of Criminal History Record Information for Class E Crimes Committed by an Adult under 21 Years of Age (Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco)

     

    LD 222            6/30/2015        An Act To Reduce Commercial Shellfish License Fees for Persons under 18 Years of Age (Rep. William Tuell, R-East Machias)

     

    LD 231            6/30/2015        An Act To Ensure That Schoolchildren with Dyslexia Receive the Assistance Needed (Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland)

     

    LD 261            6/30/2015        Resolve, Directing the Maine Arts Commission, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and the Maine State Museum Commission To Study the Replacement of Statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection (Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls)

     

    LD 319            6/30/2015        An Act To Strengthen the Economic Stability of Qualified Maine Citizens by Expanding Coverage of Reproductive Health Care and Family Services (Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell)

     

    LD 418            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Study the Use of Social Impact Bonds as a Funding Mechanism for Public Education Programs in Maine (Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta)

     

    LD 431            6/30/2015        An Act To Strengthen the Laws Prohibiting Stalking (Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting)

     

    LD 500            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Create a Working Group To Develop Solutions To Meet the Needs for Municipal Volunteer Personnel (Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick)

     

    LD 512            6/30/2015        An Act To Implement Certain Recommendations of the Criminal Law Advisory Commission Relative to the Maine Criminal Code  (Introducer: Rep. Lori Fowle)

     

    LD 582            6/30/2015        An Act To Establish a State Educational Medicaid Officer (Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford)

     

    LD 651            6/30/2015        An Act To Amend Maine's Sex Trafficking and Child Welfare Laws (Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough)

     

    LD 679            6/30/2015        An Act To Prohibit the Unauthorized Dissemination of Certain Private Images (Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport)

     

    LD 721            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine's Veterans (Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston)

     

    LD 727            6/30/2015        An Act To Allow the Retrofit of Underground Oil Storage Tanks (Sen. David Woodsome, R-North Waterboro)

     

    LD 729            6/30/2015        An Act To Add Acetylfentanyl and Methylfentanyl Derivatives to the List of Schedule W Drugs (Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting)

     

    LD 767            6/30/2015        An Act To Create Jobs in Aroostook and Washington Counties (Rep. Carol McElwee, R-Caribou)

     

    LD 787            6/30/2015        An Act To Provide Tax Credits for Adult Day Care and Respite and Hospice Care (Rep. Denise Harlow, D-Portland)

     

    LD 831            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Reduce MaineCare Spending through Targeted Prevention Services (Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham)

     

    LD 839            6/30/2015        An Act To Increase Conservation District Funding (Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton)

     

    LD 840            6/30/2015        An Act To Collect and Report Data on the Implementation of Proficiency-based Diplomas and Standards-based Student Learning (Rep. Brian Hubbell, D-Bar Harbor)

     

    LD 853            6/30/2015        An Act To Allow Secondary Schools To Grant Certificates of Academic Proficiency (Rep. Brian Hubbell, D-Bar Harbor)

     

       LD 905         6/30/2015        Resolve, To Study Allocations of the Fund for a Healthy Maine (Rep. Roberta Beavers, D-South Berwick)

     

    LD 921            6/30/2015        An Act To Strengthen the Right of a Victim of Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence To Take Necessary Leave from Employment and To Promote Employee Social Media Privacy (Rep. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick)

     

    LD 941            6/30/2015        An Act To Improve Tax Expenditure Transparency and Accountability (Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville)

     

    LD 983            6/30/2015        An Act To Clarify Wine Auction Licenses (Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford)

     

    LD 1040          6/30/2015        An Act To Enhance Funding Opportunities for the Youth Conservation Corps  (Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton)

     

    LD 1042          6/30/2015        Resolve, To Create the Task Force on School Leadership (Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth)

     

    LD 1044          6/30/2015        An Act To Ensure That Collection Facilities Can Participate in the Architectural Paint Stewardship Program (Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton)

     

    LD 1160          6/30/2015        An Act To Make Possession of a Firearm with an Altered or Obscured Serial Number a Class C Crime (Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland)

     

    LD 1166          6/30/2015        An Act To Protect Taxpayers by Regulating Personal Services Contracts (Rep. Roland “Danny” Martin, D-Sinclair)

     

    LD 1202          6/30/2015        Resolve, To Ensure the Stocking of Inland Waters in the State (Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville

     

    LD 1205          6/30/2015        An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support the Independence of Maine's Seniors (Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick)

     

    LD 1246          6/30/2015        An Act To Strengthen Laws Regarding the Manufacture and Sale of Methamphetamine and Other Drugs (Sen. Kim Rosen, R-Bucksport)

     

    LD 1277          6/30/2015        An Act To Establish a Magnet School for Marine Science, Technology, Transportation and Engineering (Rep. James Gilway, R-Searsport)

     

    LD 1291          6/30/2015        An Act To Promote Food Self-sufficiency for the People of the State (Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop)

     

    LD 1332          6/30/2015        An Act To Attract Entrepreneurs to the State (Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland)

     

    LD 1337          6/30/2015        An Act To Fund the Family Caregiver Support Program (Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock)

     

    LD 1348          6/30/2015        An Act To Protect Older Adults from Financial Exploitation (Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook)

     

    LD 1350          6/30/2015        Resolve, To Increase the Reimbursement Rate for Direct-care Workers Serving Adults with Long-term Care Needs  (Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick)

     

    LD 1372          6/30/2015        An Act To Encourage the Redevelopment of Upper Floors of Buildings in Downtowns and on Main Streets Program (Rep. Richard Campbell, R-Orrington)

     

    LD 1381          6/30/2015        An Act To Correct Errors and Inconsistencies in the Laws of Maine (Introducer: Rep. Barry Hobbins)

     

    LD 1449          6/30/2015        An Act To Amend the State Election Laws (Introducer: Sen. Cyrway)

     

    LD 1451          6/30/2015        An Act To Fund the Agreement with Certain Judicial Department Employees (Sen. James Hamper, R-Oxford)

  • LePage poised to allow 51 more bills become law without his signature

    By Ramona du Houx

    Fifty-one bills passed by the Legislature will become law if Gov. Paul LePage does not sign or veto them before Saturday draws to a close. July 11th is his Constitutional deadline but to try and prove his point, that they don't need his signature to become law, they will become law. The legislature never adjourned, so according to the Constitution the Governor has to veto these bills- with his signature-if he doesn't want them to become law.

    He is trying to win an argument against the Maine Constitution. On 7/7/15 twenty bills became law, when the Legislature was in recess because LePage failed to put his veto signature on them. He claims lawmakers were adjourned when the historic record of the Legislature shows they were only in recess as they have work to finish July 16th.

    “The governor has already allowed a number of bills to become law without his signature, whether it was inadvertently or through a serious misunderstanding of the Maine Constitution. We’re looking forward to seeing even more of the good policy passed by the Legislature become law this weekend,” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “The governor has been twisting himself into knots trying to push an argument that doesn’t pass the straight-face test. The Constitution is clear: these bills will be law if the governor fails to act.” 

    Fifty-one bills passed by the Legislature on June 30th are on the governor’s desk. The governor has 10 days, not including Sundays, to sign or veto a bill. If he does not take either of those actions, the bill becomes law if the Legislature has not finally adjourned. For these bills, the window closes at midnight Saturday. The Office of the Revisor will chapter them Monday.

    Typically, the governor’s office delivers vetoes to the Legislature by the close of business Friday for bills that would become law over a weekend. The Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate are making themselves available to receive any vetoes this Saturday.

    “The governor, just like any other elected official, is bound by our constitution. It’s time that he acts in accordance with it instead of twisting it for some questionable purpose,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. “It’s time for him to stop playing these political games – to stop trying to rewrite the rules when they don’t suit him – so the people of Maine can have some faith in the office of the governor.” 

    The bills address matters ranging from jail consolidation to domestic violence to health care access for women and “revenge porn.” A number address Maine’s aging population through a bond for affordable housing, a much-needed boost for direct-care workers, tax credits for adult day care, hospice are and respite care and protections from financial exploitation. One bill provides Vietnam veterans the same property tax exemptions that veterans of other conflicts already receive. Another increases access to the overdose reversal medication naloxone. Public education, first responders, entrepreneurship, conservation and downtown revitalization are among the other topics addressed by some of the other measures.

    The governor has indicated the he will not act before the 10-day window closes and incorrectly asserts that the bills will not become law, despite the clarity provided by the Maine Constitution and precedent. The governor’s argument is based on an illogical claim that the Legislature is finally adjourned, which would mean that the clock for the 10-day window has stopped.

    The Legislature’s first regular session remains under way, as evidenced by its plans to return July 16th  to take up the remainder of its work, including any vetoes issued in accordance with the Maine Constitution.

    Emergency bills go into effect when the Legislature overrides a veto, when it is signed by the governor or when the 10-day window closes without action from the governor. Non-emergency bills go into effect 90 days after the Legislature finally adjourns, or adjourns “sine die.” 

     

     

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    BILLS ENACTED IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE

    BUT NOT YET ASSIGNED CHAPTER NUMBERS

    LD 63  6/30/2015        Resolve, To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Provide Supplemental Reimbursement to Adult Family Care Homes and Residential Care Facilities in Remote Island Locations (Rep. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle)

     

    LD 86  6/30/2015        An Act To Improve Retirement Security for Retired Public Employees (Rep. Roger Sherman, R-Hodgdon)

     

    LD 93  6/30/2015        An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Pine Tree Development Zone Benefits for the Town of Berwick and the City of Sanford (Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick)

     

    LD 140            6/30/2015        An Act To Expand Access To Lifesaving Opioid Overdose Medication (Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville)

     

    LD 155            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Study Difficult-to-place Patients (Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock)

     

    LD 164            6/30/2015        An Act To Establish the Maine Length of Service Award Program (Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, U-Friendship)

     

    LD 170            6/30/2015        An Act To Remove the 180-day Active Duty Requirement for the Property Tax Exemption for Vietnam Veterans (Rep. Catherine Nadeau, D-Winslow)

     

    LD 186            6/30/2015        An Act To Reverse Jail Consolidation (Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville)

     

    LD 210            6/30/2015        An Act To Provide for Special Restrictions on Dissemination and Use of Criminal History Record Information for Class E Crimes Committed by an Adult under 21 Years of Age (Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco)

     

    LD 222            6/30/2015        An Act To Reduce Commercial Shellfish License Fees for Persons under 18 Years of Age (Rep. William Tuell, R-East Machias)

     

    LD 231            6/30/2015        An Act To Ensure That Schoolchildren with Dyslexia Receive the Assistance Needed (Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland)

     

    LD 261            6/30/2015        Resolve, Directing the Maine Arts Commission, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and the Maine State Museum Commission To Study the Replacement of Statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection (Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls)

     

    LD 319            6/30/2015        An Act To Strengthen the Economic Stability of Qualified Maine Citizens by Expanding Coverage of Reproductive Health Care and Family Services (Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell)

     

    LD 418            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Study the Use of Social Impact Bonds as a Funding Mechanism for Public Education Programs in Maine (Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta)

     

    LD 431            6/30/2015        An Act To Strengthen the Laws Prohibiting Stalking (Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting)

     

    LD 500            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Create a Working Group To Develop Solutions To Meet the Needs for Municipal Volunteer Personnel (Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick)

     

    LD 512            6/30/2015        An Act To Implement Certain Recommendations of the Criminal Law Advisory Commission Relative to the Maine Criminal Code  (Introducer: Rep. Lori Fowle)

     

    LD 582            6/30/2015        An Act To Establish a State Educational Medicaid Officer (Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford)

     

    LD 651            6/30/2015        An Act To Amend Maine's Sex Trafficking and Child Welfare Laws (Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough)

     

    LD 679            6/30/2015        An Act To Prohibit the Unauthorized Dissemination of Certain Private Images (Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport)

     

    LD 721            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine's Veterans (Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston)

     

    LD 727            6/30/2015        An Act To Allow the Retrofit of Underground Oil Storage Tanks (Sen. David Woodsome, R-North Waterboro)

     

    LD 729            6/30/2015        An Act To Add Acetylfentanyl and Methylfentanyl Derivatives to the List of Schedule W Drugs (Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting)

     

    LD 767            6/30/2015        An Act To Create Jobs in Aroostook and Washington Counties (Rep. Carol McElwee, R-Caribou)

     

    LD 787            6/30/2015        An Act To Provide Tax Credits for Adult Day Care and Respite and Hospice Care (Rep. Denise Harlow, D-Portland)

     

    LD 831            6/30/2015        Resolve, To Reduce MaineCare Spending through Targeted Prevention Services (Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham)

     

    LD 839            6/30/2015        An Act To Increase Conservation District Funding (Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton)

     

    LD 840            6/30/2015        An Act To Collect and Report Data on the Implementation of Proficiency-based Diplomas and Standards-based Student Learning (Rep. Brian Hubbell, D-Bar Harbor)

     

    LD 853            6/30/2015        An Act To Allow Secondary Schools To Grant Certificates of Academic Proficiency (Rep. Brian Hubbell, D-Bar Harbor)

     

       LD 905         6/30/2015        Resolve, To Study Allocations of the Fund for a Healthy Maine (Rep. Roberta Beavers, D-South Berwick)

     

    LD 921            6/30/2015        An Act To Strengthen the Right of a Victim of Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence To Take Necessary Leave from Employment and To Promote Employee Social Media Privacy (Rep. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick)

     

    LD 941            6/30/2015        An Act To Improve Tax Expenditure Transparency and Accountability (Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville)

     

    LD 983            6/30/2015        An Act To Clarify Wine Auction Licenses (Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford)

     

    LD 1040          6/30/2015        An Act To Enhance Funding Opportunities for the Youth Conservation Corps  (Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton)

     

    LD 1042          6/30/2015        Resolve, To Create the Task Force on School Leadership (Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth)

     

    LD 1044          6/30/2015        An Act To Ensure That Collection Facilities Can Participate in the Architectural Paint Stewardship Program (Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton)

     

    LD 1160          6/30/2015        An Act To Make Possession of a Firearm with an Altered or Obscured Serial Number a Class C Crime (Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland)

     

    LD 1166          6/30/2015        An Act To Protect Taxpayers by Regulating Personal Services Contracts (Rep. Roland “Danny” Martin, D-Sinclair)

     

    LD 1202          6/30/2015        Resolve, To Ensure the Stocking of Inland Waters in the State (Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville

     

    LD 1205          6/30/2015        An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support the Independence of Maine's Seniors (Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick)

     

    LD 1246          6/30/2015        An Act To Strengthen Laws Regarding the Manufacture and Sale of Methamphetamine and Other Drugs (Sen. Kim Rosen, R-Bucksport)

     

    LD 1277          6/30/2015        An Act To Establish a Magnet School for Marine Science, Technology, Transportation and Engineering (Rep. James Gilway, R-Searsport)

     

    LD 1291          6/30/2015        An Act To Promote Food Self-sufficiency for the People of the State (Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop)

     

    LD 1332          6/30/2015        An Act To Attract Entrepreneurs to the State (Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland)

     

    LD 1337          6/30/2015        An Act To Fund the Family Caregiver Support Program (Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock)

     

    LD 1348          6/30/2015        An Act To Protect Older Adults from Financial Exploitation (Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook)

     

    LD 1350          6/30/2015        Resolve, To Increase the Reimbursement Rate for Direct-care Workers Serving Adults with Long-term Care Needs  (Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick)

     

    LD 1372          6/30/2015        An Act To Encourage the Redevelopment of Upper Floors of Buildings in Downtowns and on Main Streets Program (Rep. Richard Campbell, R-Orrington)

     

    LD 1381          6/30/2015        An Act To Correct Errors and Inconsistencies in the Laws of Maine (Introducer: Rep. Barry Hobbins)

     

    LD 1449          6/30/2015        An Act To Amend the State Election Laws (Introducer: Sen. Cyrway)

     

    LD 1451          6/30/2015        An Act To Fund the Agreement with Certain Judicial Department Employees (Sen. James Hamper, R-Oxford)

  • Maine's Government Oversight Committee launches investigation into LePage's actions

     Watchdog panel unanimously approves probe into Good Will-Hinckley funding controversy

      By Ramona du Houx

    The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee on July 1, 2015 unanimously approved an investigation into allegations that Gov. Paul LePage improperly interfered with Good Will-Hinckley’s employment of House Speaker Mark Eves.

    The Speaker had been hired but the Charter School backed out of their agreement because LePage said he would pull state funding from the non-profit, which in turn put other donors donations at risk.

    “The strong bipartisan vote in support of this investigation shows how serious these questions are,” said Rep. Chuck Kruger, D-Thomaston, the House chair of the committee. “We must address any questions about the integrity of our government. We need to shine a light on this matter so Maine people can have confidence in our political system and the officials who should be working on their behalf.” 

    All 12 members of the committee voted to direct OPEGA to begin its fact-finding investigation into alleged proposed changes in funding for Good Will-Hinckley and their impacts.

    The bipartisan, bicameral committee is made up of six Republicans and six Democrats.

    Lawmakers in the House agreed.

    "The demand for an investigation is intensifying. We speak for our entire caucus when we say we owe it to the people of Maine to do everything we can to restore their trust in our political system. Governor LePage is putting that at risk,” said Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. “The bottom line is that this isn't the government that Mainers want or deserve. They want honest elected officials who are not only fighting every day to improve the lives of Maine people but also protecting our constitution and the rights we hold dear as Mainers and Americans. It’s the responsibility of all of us in this Legislature to stand together to preserve the integrity of our government and the offices we hold.”

    Yesterday, over a hundred protesters showed up at the Capitol in favor of impeaching LePage.

  • LePage refuses to swear in Maine Secretary of State and Attorney General in front of the media

    Photo of Gov. LePage swearing in Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap in a swearing-in ceramony that was not public. LePage went against tradition for no apparent reason. Photo manieprogressive warehouse.

    Governor Paul LePage would not swear Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap or Maine's Attorney General Janet Mills publicly in front of the media. They were forced to hold an event afterwards.

    Why the governor simply didn't follow tradition is in question. Was it because the attorney general and secretary of state are Democrats? Both have stood up for all the people of Maine with integrity, honsety, and courage in a nonpartisian fashion.

    The following are the remarks of Dunlap, which should have been made public and open to the press. Click here to find out more of what Mills said.

    Remarks of Matthew Dunlap, 49th Maine Secretary of State
    January 8th 2015

    Thank you for coming today — and especially, thank you to my wife and family, without whom I would be helpless to ever amount to anything. Also, special thanks, again, to Senator Anne Haskell of Cumberland and Representative Aaron Frey of Bangor for nominating me for another term as Secretary of State.

    I’m sorry you missed the actual act of my taking the oath. The Executive had reserved a custodian’s closet for the act, but we had to use it while the good fellow was taking his break, so the schedule didn’t mesh with this event.

    We’re nearing the end of the sesquicentennial observation of the Civil War. One of the most famous letters to come out of that war was written by a Rhode Island officer to his wife just days before he was killed in the first Battle of Bull Run. In it, he writes of the noble purpose of the war:

    “If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.”

    Sullivan Ballou understood that the fight to support the government was really the fight to support freedom — which is our right, as citizens, to govern ourselves, and not, in fear, stand subject to petty actions by some despot. I am grateful that brave, conscientious Americans stand at this hour in harm’s way to protect that same idea. So, empty efforts that attempt to portray false power are just games, and don’t really get under my skin. My work goes on, as does yours, as we all stride forward for a better future.

    We live in dangerous times. In any direction that we cast our eyes, we see turmoil. The civil war raging in Syria; tension in Ukraine; distrust in North Korea; piracy in the Gulf of Aden; and our soldiers, sailors and airmen deployed and on high alert in many very, very dangerous places around the world keep us lighting candles and tying yellow ribbons as a show of hope for their safe return.

    Even the happy circumstance of falling oil prices contributes to a disturbing sense of global entropy. Cheap oil isn’t good for everyone, and as nations face crippling deflation of their currencies, unrest may well follow.

    My instincts, at one time, would have been to turn off the television, close up the front door, and go out back and plant a garden.

    While it’s always more comfortable to pretend that all is well and that our problems will go away by themselves, the reality is they don’t, and superheroes only live in comic books. I learned from the examples of so many around me — especially my parents, Bob and Sue Dunlap, that no one will come rescue you when things go wrong; (well, the Maine Warden Service will rescue you, but you know what I mean, generally) you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

    My late father, an energetic and creative man, never knew quite what to make of me. I wasn’t like everyone else in my family — they were always making something. I was content to lay around in bed long into a summer’s day, reading and daydreaming. It was a source of tremendous frustration for him, even causing him to exclaim one time that I had no shame, and was the laziest kid he had ever seen.

    He would have been stunned at what’s transpired in me since those carefree days.

    I believe strongly in what I do; and am grateful for the opportunity to continue in this role bestowed on me by the Legislature. Being able to help people access their government is one of the great blessings of my life, and the calling is strong enough to keep me coming back.

    We engage in no small tasks. Nothing I am asked is a bother to me, nor do I ever have anything more important to do, despite the protestations of those who come to me, hat in hand, with what to them is a great issue indeed. We have, in the office of the Secretary of State, very simple rules of engagement.

    1. We always tell it like it is; never hedge, blame others, or dissemble. 
    2. The world stops for kids. Young people are our future leaders, and taking time to listen to them, answer their questions, and show them the respect of any citizen pays long dividends.
    3. Do it now. Post-it notes and reminders are the urns of forgotten tasks, and appear to mean that we consider something important to a citizen unworthy of our immediate attention.

    We’ve been through a lot since I first stood here. At the time, still fresh from my service in the House, I meant it when I said that my goal for the Legislature was for people to see their representatives and senators as highly effective—because they had a good experience with my office. We’ve had a lot of success there, which was at many times uncertain. There was the long turmoil of the Motor Vehicles computer upgrades—deftly executed by our great people there. Now, we are nearing completion of upgrades to all of our service facilities, and are working towards keeping pace with the expectations and opportunities of the 21st Century.

    We’ll have a lot to talk about this session as we consider how Maine will respond to the latest feints by the Federal government towards getting the several states to conjure up for them — at no cost to the Feds — for a national ID and citizen tracking system called REAL ID. Still fraught with problems and sold with fantasy, we’ll want to engage the Legislature for guidance.

    We built the Central Voter Registration system, and provided expedited service to military and overseas voters as well as people with disabilities. But the help the Federal government lent us to do that is gone — and they expect us to continue, without the benefit of additional Federal dollars. So we’ll be chatting with you about that, too.

    We’ll be working on rebuilding our Corporations databases as well, and at NASS, we’ll continue to grapple with Congress over corporate formation issues that, if they get their way, will be an incredible burden on business and not achieve any of the goals Congress has in mind. We call that process REAL ID Business Class.

    At the Archives, we’re putting the resources the last Legislature asked us to use for securing our electronic history to work and are beginning to implement what will be the underpinning of a digital archiving policy. We’re going to keep working on that, and with a largely new and highly energized staff, we’re planning on getting a lot done over the next two years.

    We have a lot to do. I could tell you plenty more, and I will; you’ll see me every day, in the halls and in your committee rooms, and I’ll strive to answer your questions and help you craft solutions to the problems that Hector our shared goals of building a stronger, more prosperous Maine for our children.

    But let us, as we bend to that work, never forget those who handed off the promise of freedom to us and entrusted us with the promise of the better tomorrow that we live in. Honoring those who have stood, fearless, in times of danger, casts forward the blessing of freedom to the next generation.

    Last year, we took the opportunity of better promoting the Vote in Honor of a Veteran program to profile a different veteran every day on our department Facebook page. It was enormously popular, and I still receive thanks from people for highlighting the service of someone they care about.

    I thought about how best I could convey the spirit of my passion for this work today. The Executive stated yesterday that actions speak louder than words; and he’s right. But words are important too, so let me conclude with a bit of a mix.

    In the fall of 2013, I participated in the somber, yet glorious interment of the remains of Corporal Robert Tait of my hometown of Bar Harbor. Corporal Tait died of starvation in a North Korean prisoner of war camp. Bringing home his remains to rest in our hometown was one of the most meaningful events I’ve been a part of in my professional life.

    In my actions, I will never forget. In my actions, I will always strive to serve. And when I serve, I will serve my country with my entire soul.

    To honor what I strive to be, let me leave you with a poem written by Herman Melville in 1864 called In the Prison-pen, about the sad plight of prisoners of war. He could have written it about Robert Tait.

    Listless he eyes the palisades
    And sentries in the glare;
    'Tis barren as a pelican-beach —
    But his world is ended there.
    Nothing to do; and vacant hands
    Bring on the idiot-pain;
    He tries to think — to recollect,
    But the blur is on his brain.
    Around him swarm the plaining ghosts
    Like those on Virgil's shore —
    A wilderness of faces dim,
    And pale ones gashed and hoar.
    A smiting sun. No shed, no tree;
    He totters to his lair —
    A den that sick hands dug in earth
    Ere famine wasted there,
    Or, dropping in his place, he swoons,
    Walled in by throngs that press,
    Till forth from the throngs they bear him dead —
    Dead in his meagreness.

    In my actions, let their sacrifice be not in vain.

    Thank you for your trust in me.

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