Currently showing posts tagged Maine Politics

  • Linn not to be on Maine ballot decides Secretary of State Dunlap



    Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, upon reviewing new evidence regarding the candidate petitions of U.S. Senate candidate Max Patrick Linn, has found that Linn has not met the threshold to be eligible for the June 12, 2018 Primary Election ballot.

    Earlier today, Secretary Dunlap re-opened the hearing on a challenge to Linn’s candidate petitions, per order of the Kennebec County Superior Court, to consider new evidence presented by the challenger, David Boyer and the Eric Brakey for Senate campaign, as well as any relevant evidence presented by the candidate.

    After hearing all the evidence presented at the first hearing on Thursday, March 29, as well as the second hearing on Tuesday, April 24, Secretary Dunlap has invalidated 258 of Linn’s original total of 2,248 petition signatures that were initially counted as valid, leaving the candidate with a total of 1,990 valid signatures, which is 10 fewer than the minimum required to qualify for the primary election ballot.

    Due to the ballot printing schedule, the deadline for a candidate to have his or her name removed from the ballot was April 3. Thus, Linn’s name will appear on the ballot, but voters will be provided with notice at the polls informing them that he is no longer a candidate.

    This decision modifies Secretary Dunlap’s previous decision of April 5, when Dunlap found the challenger had presented sufficient evidence to invalidate the signatures of 230 voters but concluded that the petition and consent form still met the legal requirements to allow Linn to appear on the ballot. The Brakey campaign appealed that decision to the Kennebec County Superior Court and subsequently filed a motion to take additional evidence relevant to the challenge. On Friday, April 20, Justice William R. Stokes granted the challenger’s motion and ordered Secretary Dunlap to reopen the challenge hearing to consider new evidence. 

    Justice Stokes is expected to hear oral argument on Wednesday, April 25 at 11 a.m. regarding Secretary Dunlap’s decision.

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Maine officials respond to falsehoods about college student voting rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Your vote will honor the service of veterans

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

     Editorial by Representative John Schneck of Bangor.

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

  • Legalize it? Why not? — Marijuana is not as scary as you think


    Op-ed by Rachel Andreasen

    Every Maine voter will see on the ballot: Question #1, legalize, regulate and tax Marijuana.

    In a recent press release, Maine’s Governor Paul LePage stated that Question one is, ‘not just bad for Maine, but it’s deadly.’ He has made claims that people addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin. He goes on to say that the legalization in Colorado has caused an increase in significant traffic deaths, but according to Drug Policy Alliance marijuana has not had an evident influence on traffic deaths. Mr. Lepage ends his video by encouraging voters to research and educate themselves on this dangerous issue.

    Thank you, Paul LePage I have educated myself on this ‘dangerous issue.’ It’s amazing to me how yet again we have a governor that doesn’t get it. By criminalizing marijuana we are doing far more damage by keeping it illegal.

    Question One is not as dangerous as you think, it reads: ‘Do you want to allow the possession and use of Marijuana under state law by persons who are 21 years of age, allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of Marijuana and marijuana products subject to tax regulation, taxation, and local ordinance?’

    If this passes it means you will be allowed to use marijuana if you are over the age of 21, you will be authorized 2.5 ounces of marijuana. It will also mean the State has power over the regulation and the cultivation. Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry will regulate the industry. They will issue licenses for retail stores.

    In Colorado legalizing Marijuana has produced $500 million in tax revenue. It has led to fewer marijuana arrests, about 46 percent. In Maine we are one of the poorest states in the country, we are third in the nation for being food insecure. We can use this income to fund some of our services, such as detox centers, education, and health services.

    We spend more money on the War on Drugs. According to a 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, there were 2,842 marijuana possession arrests in Maine in 2010 accounting for 47.9 percent of all drug arrests.’ The report further estimates that just in 2010 the State spent 8.8 million on marijuana possession enforcement. Nationally, it was a 3.61 billion enforcing marijuana possession in 2010 alone.

    Not only are we spending a lot of state money on criminalizing marijuana, but many studies have shown and President Obama has said that marijuana is, ‘not more dangerous than alcohol.’

    We are one out of 8 states looking to pass this bill in November. Despite having medical marijuana legalized since 1999, we are still behind on this issue. 

    I encourage you all to do your research on this matter and look over the costs and benefits of legalizing marijuana. I invite you to look at states that have legalized like Colorado, Alaska, D.C, and Washington and see how this has changed their policies. If the State has managed to legalize alcohol, I believe Maine will do an excellent job of regulating marijuana.

  • Maine community and business leaders slam PUC for holding back solar energy jobs

    On October 17, 2016, at a public hearing by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC), a large crowd of Maine residents, business owners, community leaders, and others gathered to oppose the agency’s proposal to roll back solar power rules called “net metering.”

    The hearing addressed the PUC proposal to phase out net metering, the simple mechanism that makes solar affordable for Maine people and businesses by crediting them for excess electricity they provide to the grid.

                                                  The PUC has proposed new fees on the power that solar customers don’t export to the grid but instead use right at their home or business and, over time, to cut the 1-to-1 bill credit for solar production by more than 50 percent. This would make it less affordable to install solar panels and decrease the amount of solar that will be installed in Maine in coming years.

    Those gathered criticized the PUC proposal as extreme, unfair, and likely even illegal.

    “The failure of the Public Utilities Commission to do the right thing means it is more important than ever for the Maine Legislature to step up and pass a solar bill next session,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Maine people, businesses, and municipalities see solar as an opportunity to lower costs, boost our economy, create jobs, and reduce dependence on dirty fuels. But lack of leadership from too many of our decision-makers leaves Maine in last place regionally in taking advantage of this opportunity.”

    Many speakers called on the Legislature to adopt a pro-solar, pro-jobs policy to get Maine of its current last-place standing in the Northeast.                                                                                

     “The PUC failed to do its job, which was to properly review net metering, and ignored evidence from its own study about the benefits and cost-savings solar brings to everyone in Maine who pays an electric bill,” said Vaughan Woodruff, owner of Insource Renewables in Pittsfield. “As a result, the proposed rule change would not only take Maine in the wrong direction on solar, but it would also mean higher electric bills for Maine ratepayers.”

    While solar power is enjoying enormous growth and feeding rapid job creation across the Northeast and beyond, Maine remains in last place regionally on solar installations and jobs, due to the lack of effective state policy.

    “Dairy farming and dairy processing is an energy-intensive business, and managing our energy costs is important to our bottom line,” said Caitlin Frame, co-owner of The Milkhouse in Monmouth. “Because of this, and our commitment to sustainability, this year we began to explore in earnest the possibility of installing solar to substantially reduce our energy costs and give us a more predictable electricity cost for our business to rely on in the long run. Net metering is a critical component of farms like ours going solar.”

    During the PUC’s so-called “review” of net metering this summer, approximately 4,400 Maine people and organizations submitted comments or signed petitions asking the PUC to leave net metering intact (or make changes that expand its availability). Those comments came from 315 Maine towns. About 300 commenters/signers in support of net metering were from Aroostook, Piscataquis, Somerset, and Franklin counties. Only one citizen submitted a comment to weaken net metering, and they were joined by Central Maine Power and the Governor’s Energy Office. 

    A poll conducted by Critical Insights this month shows that a clear majority (62percent) of Mainers oppose a rollback or “phase out” of net metering, compared to 25 percent who support it. Across every demographic and political subgroup, a majority oppose the move by the PUC, including: Republicans (56%), Independents (62 percent, 2nd Congressional District (59 percent), those with household income less than $50,000 (65 percent), age 65+ (59 percent), and others. 

    “The City of Belfast has invested in municipal solar projects to reduce energy costs and provide long-term financial stability to taxpayers,” said Sadie Lloyd, Assistant Planner with the City of Belfast. “Our systems generate up to 20 percent of the City’s electric bill. Net metering is crucial to municipal solar projects. Without net metering, the City of Belfast would not have installed solar. For this reason we urge the PUC to continue the program.”

    According to its own rules, the PUC was required to “review net energy billing to determine whether it should continue or be modified” because solar installations have reached one percent of the power generated in Maine. During this “review” the PUC, a quasi-judicial agency, gathered no evidence and conducted no analysis that was subject to public scrutiny, despite the fact that commenters repeatedly asked the Commission to complete some analysis of net metering before proposing changes.


    “Growing up on a third-generation dairy farm in Albion, I never expected I’d have a job in solar power just down the road in Liberty,” said Holly Noyes, a financial manager at Revision Energy. “I left the state after college so I could pay off my student loans. But I wanted to be back in Maine to get involved with my family’s farm and be a part of the small communities that make Maine a great state. A good job in solar power made that possible. It would be a terrible mistake to risk those jobs instead of taking steps to triple them so other young people like me can live and work here, too.”

    The PUC proposal would make four major changes to existing net metering rules:

    1. Phase out net metering as it currently exists. For new solar customers, this phase-out would reduce what they receive for the solar power they put on the grid by more than half of what they receive today.
    2. Put a new fee on new solar customers for consuming the power they produce right in their own home or business!This new grid tax is hidden behind a new phrase called “nettable energy.” It is analogous to the grocery store charging for food grown in your garden.
    3. Give existing solar customers continued use of traditional net metering for 15 years, after which they would be subject to the two solar rollbacks above, too. No other state has such a short term.
    4. Removes the 10-person limit on community solar farms – however larger solar farms will also be subject to the phase-out of net metering bill credits, so the proposal gives with one hand and takes away with the other.
  • Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership Supporters Join Congresswoman Giffords

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • It’s time for Portland to assume a leadership role on solar energy

    Our officials should forge ahead on a solar plan, starting with the Ocean Avenue landfill project.

    Climate change is the greatest threat to the survival of not just the human species, but all species. It represents the principal challenge facing humanity in our day. No cause is more pressing, Pope Francis said in his 2015 encyclical on the environment and human ecology.

    Burning fossil fuels generates carbon dioxide. Carbon in the atmosphere forms something like a “blanket” over the Earth that traps the sun’s heat rather than allowing it to radiate back out. This build-up has caused the average temperature of the Earth’s surface to rise almost 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since the late 1800s.

    Fifteen of the last 16 hottest years have happened since 2001, and scientists overwhelmingly agree that increasingly wild weather around the world is related to the global temperature rise. That’s climate disruption.

    So much fossil fuel has already been burned that it’s going to take determination and commitment internationally, nationally and locally to avoid shooting past the dangerous 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) warming mark. That’s the commonly recognized boundary for keeping the climate compatible with human life as we know it. This means essentially stopping global CO2 emissions by 2060. That may seem like a long time in the future, but it’s within the lifetime of people under 40.

    Cities are leading the transition to 100 percent clean energy in the United States. Twelve U.S. cities and counting, including San Francisco and San Diego, have already adopted ambitious 100 percent clean energy goals, and four cities in the U.S. – Aspen, Colorado; Burlington, Vermont; Greensburg, Kansas; and Kodiak Island, Alaska – have already hit their targets. These cities now generate 100 percent of the energy used community-wide from non-polluting and renewable sources.

    It’s time for Portland to assume a leadership role in solar energy deployment in Maine. Solar is the best non-carbon source for urban areas: The sun’s energy is constant and plentiful. And the faster we deploy solar power, the more costs will fall, making needed changes more affordable. Mayor Ethan Strimling has said he wants to have 25 percent of Portland’s homes and businesses using solar energy within 10 years.

    At the Paris climate summit, diplomats from 195 countries agreed to set a goal of preventing that 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) rise. Germany is already a model of national solar energy deployment despite getting less sunlight than does Maine.

    In the U.S., political power struggles at the federal and state levels have prevented comprehensive, affordable solar strategies from becoming the norm. Maine, for instance, has a present solar penetration of 1 percent of peak load. This needs to be closer to 10 percent if we intend to meet the U.S. emissions reduction targets.

    Completing the proposed solar installation on the Ocean Avenue Landfil to supply energy for city buildings and operations would be an excellent way to demonstrate leadership. The project, planned for this year yet put in doubt by the solar bill’s defeat, would make an otherwise unusable area vital and productive.

    Installing a solar array at the Ocean Avenue landfill will send a message that’s consistent with Portland’s reputation as a forward-thinking city. Yes, the Maine Legislature's faliure to override the governor's solar bill veto has been a setback. And yes, there’s some uncertainty about how long it will take to pay ourselves back with energy savings.

    But leadership requires proceeding despite setbacks and uncertainties. No energy enterprise is entirely without risk, and the risks of renewable energy inaction are far higher than the risks of forging ahead with determination and hope.

    The project also makes long-term economic sense. Today’s solar arrays last at least 25 years. The reduction in energy costs will allow Portland to recoup its investment and ultimately to save millions of tax dollars.

    We can’t mitigate extreme climate disruption and create a sustainable energy future without a plan. Portland shouldn’t let politics or lack of planning at higher levels stymie our doing the right thing. By moving now, Portland can show the way for others. We call on our elected and appointed officials to forge ahead on a solar plan, starting with the Ocean Avenue landfill project. The Portland Climate Action Team stands ready to assist.

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

    Major results from the June 14, 2016 primary—

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

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

    In the five other Democratic primaries for the Maine Senate:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Opportunity lost as GOP thwarts job-creating solar energy bill

    • Editorial by Sen. Dawn Hill
      It’s not every day that Maine has an opportunity to take the lead in a growing industry, create and sustain jobs for its people, lower energy costs and fight climate change.
      We seized that opportunity in 2008, when the Legislature passed changes to the Wind Energy Act that paved the way for the development of wind farms in our state. The wind industry invested more than half a billion dollars in Maine’s economy since then, and has created more than 1,500 jobs, according to a 2015 report by former state economist Charles Colgan.
      Today, there are more than 200 wind turbines constructed or under contract across Maine. By 2020, they will have cut carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to taking more than 400,000 cars off the road.
      But thanks to Gov. Paul LePage, Maine has lost the opportunity to recreate the success of the Wind Energy Act by renewing our state’s commitment to to clean, renewable solar energy.
      LePage vetoed LD 1649 — a proposal that had the backing of utility companies, industry groups, Maine towns and cities and regular people all over the state. Unfortunately, 50 Republicans in the House and another 16 in the Senate stood by his side to kill the bill.
      LD 1649 would have grown our state’s solar energy portfolio, reduced ratepayers’ electrical costs, and provided jobs for Mainers to build our clean energy future one panel at a time.
      The bill would have led to the creation of roughly 200 megawatts of solar energy in Maine over the next four years, a more than tenfold increase over current levels. That’s enough clean, renewable energy to power more than 32,000 homes.
      It would have ramped up solar development at all levels, from home rooftops to large, grid-scale solar farms. It would have torn down the regulatory barriers that currently block community solar, allowing groups of people to band together to reduce their energy footprint in ways they could never do alone.
      Gov. LePage said he vetoed the bill in part because it would have increased energy costs. In the short term, that may be true. It’s estimated that the average homeowner could see a short-term increase in their electric bill of about 42 cents per month. But in the long term, the bill would have saved ratepayers between $58 million and $110 million.
      This bill made good business sense. Even people who don’t want to put solar panels on their own homes would have reaped the economic benefits of this investment in new technology and jobs. So I’m disappointed that Gov. LePage and his allies in Augusta thwarted Maine’s chance to once again take the lead on renewable energy production and jobs.
      But I can’t say I’m surprised.
      After all, it was just three years ago that political maneuvering and brinksmanship by Gov. LePage scared away StatOil, an international leader in clean energy development that wanted to invest $120 million in our state during the planning and construction of offshore wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine. That investment would have grown by $4 million annually after the turbines were built.
      I don’t need to tell you that would have meant a lot of jobs for hardworking Maine men and women. After LePage pulled the rug out from under StatOil, the company decided to invest overseas instead. Mainers lost out. Big time.
      Mainers overwhelmingly favor policies that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and it’s easy to see why. Our state’s heritage and identity are inexorably linked to our pristine environment and traditional resource-based economy — all of which are threatened by climate change. They also want their elected officials to advocate for jobs in growing industries. And, yes, they want their energy costs to go down.
      The solar bill could have met all those goals. You can bet we’ll be back at this again when the new Legislature begins next year. We can’t let Gov. LePage continue to block progress for the state of Maine.
      District 35 Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, serving York, South Berwick, Ogunquit, Kittery, Eliot and part  of Berwick, is the assistant Democratic leader in the Maine Senate.
  • Last minute overrides of Gov.LePage vetoes give hope for public safety and well being of citizens

    By Ramona du Houx

    While the Solar energy bill that would have created over 600 jobs and helped Mainers save on their electricity bills failed to be overridden. Other important bills did meet the challenge standing up to Gov. LePage's veto pen.

    Notably, An Act To Provide Access to Affordable Naloxone Hydrochloride for First Responders, which was a bill that drew national attention because of Gov. LePage's outrageous comments concerning addicts. LePage basically said if someone overdoses they should die. The bill empowers the police to revive people who suffer from an overdose by using Naloxone Hydrochloride. Without police intervention many people who overdose would die. It's important to say, a lot of these citizens are everyday people caught in the recent up turn of drug addiction because drug companies have been promoting the use of prescription drugs which have often led to heroin addictions.

    “With their votes today, Maine lawmakers declared that we must seize every opportunity to prevent overdose deaths,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, the bill’s sponsor. “The opioid epidemic in our state is claiming the lives of five Mainers every week and inflicting heartache on countless others. We know that putting naloxone in more hands saves lives. Our actions can make all the difference for Mainers struggling with addiction.”

    An Act To Address Employee Recruitment and Retention Issues at State Mental Health Institutions also survived by a large bi-partisan margin. This bill will help Dorethea Dix mental hospital in Bangor and Riverview in Augusta. Both have undergone LePage administration cuts. Riverview failed to meet federal standards and was fined by the US government.

    Also, An Act Regarding the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program survived. The law continues an important transparency program, so that the public can have a watchman-an ombudsman-looking our for long term care in Maine. The list, with unofficial tallies, of April 29th's over-ride session are below:


    LD #








    An Act To Ensure the Safety of Home Birth







    An Act To Improve the Evaluation of Public Schools







    Resolve, To Enhance the Administration of the Child and Adult Care Food Program by Creating Clear Guidelines for Organizations and Streamlining the Application Process






    An Act To Protect Maine's Natural Resources Jobs by Exempting from Sales Tax Petroleum Products Used in Commercial Farming, Fishing and Forestry




    An Act To Clarify Expenditures Regarding Androscoggin County






    An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Study the Public Reserved Lands Management Fund

    Hickman (introducer)





    An Act To Address Employee Recruitment and Retention Issues at State Mental Health Institutions







    An Act To Modernize Maine's Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development

    Dion (introducer)





    Resolve, To Create the Task Force on Public-private Partnerships To Support Public Education

    Kornfield (Introducer)






    An Act To Protect Children in the State from Possible Sexual, Physical and Emotional Abuse by Persons Who Have Been Convicted of Crimes







    An Act To Reduce Morbidity and Mortality Related to Injected Drugs







    An Act To Provide a Tax Reduction for Modifications To Make a Home More Accessible for a Person with a Disability







    An Act To Promote Academic Opportunities for Maine Youth during Summer Months

    Pierce, T





    An Act To Conform Maine Law to the Requirements of the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation







    An Act To Authorize Advance Deposit Wagering for Horse Racing







    An Act To Create Equity among Essential Nonprofit Health Care Providers in Relation to the Sales Tax







    An Act Regarding the Maine Clean Election Fund






    An Act To Require the State To Adequately Pay for Emergency Medical Services







    An Act To Clarify Medicaid Managed Care Ombudsman Services







    Resolve, To Establish a Moratorium on Rate Changes Related to Rule Chapter 101: MaineCare Benefits Manual, Sections 13, 17, 28 and 65

    HHS Committee Majority






    An Act To Provide Tax Fairness and To Lower Medical Expenses for Patients under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act






    Resolve, To Study the Feasibility of a State Firefighter Training Facility






    An Act To Amend and Clarify the Laws Governing the Brunswick Naval Air Station Job Increment Financing Fund







    An Act Regarding the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program







    Resolve, To Provide Funding for the County Jail Operations Fund







    An Act To Amend the Child Protective Services Laws







    An Act To Expand the 1998 Special Retirement Plan To Include Detectives in the Office of the Attorney General






    An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Strengthen the Adequacy and Equity of Certain Cost Components of the School Funding Formula

    Kornfield (Introducer)





    An Act To Reduce Electric Rates for Maine Businesses







    An Act To Improve the Safety of Ferries in the State







    An Act To Protect All Students in Elementary or Secondary Schools from Sexual Assault by School Officials







    An Act To Provide Access to Affordable Naloxone Hydrochloride for First Responders







    An Act To Amend the Finance Authority of Maine Act






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

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

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The state currently has roughly 300 solar jobs.

    Key features of the bill included:


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


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

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

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

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

  • Maine solar power bill sails through legislature, now on way to Gov. LePage for signature

    By Ramona du Houx

    When An Act to Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy becomes law it will sustain 300 jobs that already exist in Maine’s solar industry and create 650 to 800 new jobs. This solar energy bill will also increase the state’s utilization of clean, renewable solar energy, and lower electric rates.

    “LD 1649 has the potential to add an additional 800 new, good-paying jobs across the state,” said Chuck Piper, co-owner of Sundog Solar of Searsport. “One of the many great things about the solar bill is we can create these new jobs without any additional expense to the citizens of Maine.”

    The groundbreaking law has been the result of stakeholders working together over many months, including Maine’s Public Advocate-whose job mandates he looks out for ratepayer interests, and representatives from Maine’s solar industry, utility companies, municipalities, Maine conservation groups, and legislators.

    Maine is currently last in the region in solar development and job creation because of antiquated policies. “This bill will make Maine a leader in solar energy policy and create hundreds of jobs for Maine people, who will build our clean energy future one panel at a time,” said Sen. Dawn Hill, lead Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s Energy Committee.

    LD 1649 modernizes parts of Maine’s utility policy that created unfair barriers to towns, cities, businesses, and communities going solar, and ensures solar producers are reimbursed fairly for the power they produce and sell to the electric grid.

    The law ensures municipalities, neighborhoods and other groups of individuals the right to band together for solar production — allowing regular people to “go green” together, even if they can’t do it alone. 

    “Solar is an opportunity to marry emerging technology with economic development at the local level,” said Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, House chair of the committee. “Solar is going to be an energy technology that will both serve us now and into the 22nd century.” 

    Community solar projects are on the rise across the USA and in Maine. The most recent community project is in Freeport, where ReVison Maine worked with residents and the town to make it happen.

    The bill was amended before it passed the Senate unanimously. 

    As amended by Sen. David Woodsome, R-North Waterboro, the bill adds 196 megawatts of solar power to the state’s energy portfolio over four years. The amendment also introduced additional protections for ratepayers.

    The bill is estimated to create between $58 million and $110 million in ratepayer savings.

    The bill is on it's way to Governor LePage's desk to be approved or vetoed.

  • Maine Senate passes GOP-led Medicaid expansion bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The bill faces additional votes in the House and Senate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Bill to make Maine a primary state gets bipartisan support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The bill now heads to the Senate for initial votes. 

  • 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’s welfare policies, since LePage, have had dire consequences for kids

    Changes in public policy motivated by politics, not facts, have been disastrous for Maine children.

    Since Congress passed “welfare reform” 20 years ago, it has become increasingly clear that many of these so-called reforms have failed, leaving many parents and children in deeper poverty without sustainable employment.

    Many of these policies simply were not based in the realities of people’s lives and ignore the economic environment people are living in. They are unsupported by social science research or evidence and have left far too many families and children behind.

    Today, we see increasing levels of severe poverty — for example, the doubling of the number of people living on less than $2 per day — and thousands of single parents working in low-wage jobs with little hope for the future. They’re working, but they still can’t support their families and often must leave their children with inadequate care.

    For a while, Maine was able to buck this trend and be a national leader. Twenty years ago, with unanimous agreement on both sides of the aisle, policymakers increased opportunity for poor families through innovative programs such as Parents as Scholars, which sent thousands of low-income parents to college. 

    They increased stability for low-income working parents with important transitional services such as health care and child care.

    Today, we are crashing toward the bottom of states, as more children and their parents go without health insurance, a place to live or enough to eat.

    Five years ago, Maine changed direction. Our state took a highly politicized turn in its policy making around poverty and welfare. This change has had dire consequences for some of Maine’s most vulnerable children and families and, ultimately, for the whole state.

    While other parts of the country have shown improvement in fighting poverty and hunger, Maine has seen an increase in deep child poverty, growing numbers of uninsured children and parents, and more and more households facing food insecurity.

    Between 2010 and 2014, Maine had the sharpest increase (50 percent) of any state in the country in the number of children living in extreme poverty — or less than half the federal poverty line, about $10,000 for a family of three. Growing up in extreme poverty has life­long consequences for individuals and their communities, including poor school attendance, increased contact with the criminal justice system and a weaker connection to the labor market.

    Among families with children eligible for TANF, only half as many (31 percent) received the help they needed from that program as did those in 2010 (60 percent). A study we conducted on the consequences of families losing assistance because of the state’s strict five-year time limit revealed harsh consequences for families, including increased hunger and homelessness, often leading to family separation. Maine ranks in the worst third of all states in the country in terms of children living apart from their families.

    Since the 2010 Affordable Care Act, every state in the country except Maine has seen an increase in the percentage of people with health insurance. This is a direct result of Maine refusing federal dollars to expand Medicaid, something that was prescribed in the historic health reform law as a method for increasing health insurance coverage. Maine is the only state that has had a statistically significant increase in the number of children without health insurance between 2010 and 2014.

    Maine families also are experiencing increased hunger. While food insecurity has declined in the rest of the nation as a whole, the percentage of people in Maine who face food insecurity increased from 2009 to 2014. Maine has the third highest ranking in the United States for very low food security and the highest rate of child food insecurity in New England.

    These trends are dire and very troubling. They are a direct consequence of policy decisions based on ideologies that withhold opportunity instead of promoting it. They are creating untold hardships for the poorest children in our state; hardships that will result in lifelong consequences, and as such do not bode well for their or our futures.

    It is imperative that we turn these frightening trends around so we do not ruin the lives of a large segment of the next generation of Mainers.

    If we don’t change course, the damage will seep into every part of our state, undermining our workforce, our schools and our communities.

    Sandy Butler is professor of social work and is the graduate program coordinator in the School of Social Work at the University of Maine. Luisa S. Deprez is professor emerita of sociology and women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine. First appeared in the BDN

  • Former State Rep. Seth Berry runs again for ME House of Representatives

    Seth Berry, a Maine business VP and previously a teacher and State Representative, has filed his papers for reelection to the Maine House of Representatives. Berry is running to represent House District 55, which includes Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, most of Richmond, and the historic nature preserve of Swan Island.

    “I am running because we need more voices for the underdogs,” said Berry. “Our safety nets and ladders of opportunity have been weakened.

    Wages are low. Augusta keeps boosting corporate welfare and income tax breaks that mainly help the rich, while indirectly jacking up property taxes by stiffing schools and towns, which disproportionately hurts the working class, the middle class, and small businesses.

    Maine has huge potential. With a level playing field we will have stronger competition and a stronger economy.”

    Rep. Seth Berry outside the Maine State House during a break between duties in 2012. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Berry has been Majority Leader and Majority Whip of the Maine House, has served on or chaired legislative committees ranging from taxation to workforce to energy and technology issues, and is a former Bowdoinham selectperson and selectboard chair.

    Berry, 47, was first elected to represent the District in 2006 and won each of his four elections to the seat by wide margins. In 2014, he was ineligible to run due to term limits, which limit legislative service to eight consecutive years.

    He grew up in Bowdoinham and taught in public schools for nearly 20 years, first in East Harlem, NY and later back home in M.S.A.D. 75. 

    For his legislative and policy leadership, Berry has won awards from the Maine Children’s Alliance, the Maine Development Foundation, Maine Conservation Voters, the University of Maine, the Youth Leadership Advisory Team, the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse, and the Maine Lung Association. As a teacher, Berry won the Hexter Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Public Education Association in 1999; was a featured classroom in the book “NYC’s Best Middle Schools” (Soho Press, 1999); and won the New York City Schools Chancellor “Caring Community” Award in 1998.

    Rep. Seth Berry at the State House at work in 2011. photo by Ramona du Houx

    Since 2011 Berry has been Vice President at Kennebec River Biosciences in Richmond, a Maine-based, Maine-owned biotechnology firm with an expanding, global presence and a unique focus on aquatic animal health. He lives in Bowdoinham with his wife Adelaida and their two sons, ages 12 and 14.

    Berry’s likely opponent, Rep. Brian Hobart (R-Bowdoinham), ran for the seat in 2006 against Berry. Berry won that election, but says he takes nothing for granted and plans to campaign hard from now until Election Day in November.

    “It was an honor to represent the people of Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Richmond from 2006 to 2014,” said Berry. I can’t wait to visit them again this spring, summer and fall. My best work in Augusta has always started with talking to my neighbors.”

    Seth Berry talking with economic leaders about the future plans for Richmond in 2012, photo by Ramona du Houx

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

    Photos by Chris Cousins of the BDN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Maine Building Trades unanimously endorse Emily Cain for Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Why a Democratic Socialist switched from Bernie to Hillary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This Editorial frist appeared on the DailyKos

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • Prison is no place for innocent, sick Mainers

    Editorial by Senator Anne Haskell from Portland

    The state-run psychiatric hospital in Augusta has many, many problems, and Governor Paul LePage’s plan to fix it is to put sick, innocent Mainers in prison. That’s just wrong.

    This week, Governor LePage proposed a bill to move patients out of the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, and into the Maine State Prison in Warren. The idea, he said, was to take unruly patients and put them in the prison’s mental health unit. He said the move was necessary for security reasons.

    But there’s one big problem with the governor’s plans: These patients, no matter how unruly, have not been convicted of any crime. They aren’t criminals, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. So why would we ever put them in prison? This flies in the face of the very foundation of our justice system.

    Our state has been down this road before. Like most states, we have an embarrassing history of treating our mentally ill neighbors like a problem — and one best hidden from the rest of society. We’ve even traveled the dark path of mixing sick Mainers with criminals before.

    But we decided decades ago that it was wrong to treat sick people like the guilty. We recognized that no matter how severe a mental illness may be, sick Mainers need treatment and care, not to be locked away.

     Hospitals, like Riverview, are designed first and foremost for treatment, with recovery as an outcome. In a correctional setting, the goal is stabilization, so they can be moved back into the general prison population.

     The Intensive Mental Health Unit at the Maine State Prison is a good facility, and the staff there do good work. But it is not designed to meet the needs of non-criminal patients.

     We know that Riverview has been badly mismanaged by this administration. That mismanagement has led to chronic understaffing, numerous security incidents, and the loss of federal accreditation. Things have gotten so bad that a Court Master has been charged with oversight of the hospital.

     We need solutions to fix Riverview and make it a success, but the governor’s answer is to swap one problem for an entirely different one.

     Simply put, criminalizing mental illness is not a solution for the problems at Riverview. The hospital needs more staff, better resources, and a sound turnaround plan.

    A real solution may even include the creation of a new, independent unit designed specifically for patients with behavioral issues or violent behavior. But that facility must be a hospital setting, not a correctional one.       

    As the lead Senate Democrat on the Health and Human Services Committee, I will oppose the governor’s bill with all my might. And I’ll urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to do the same.

  • Bangor City Councilor, Joe Baldacci withdraws from Maine's Second Congressional District race

    Bangor City Councilor, Joe Baldacci has decided to withdraw from Maine's Second Congressional District race, making the Democratic nominee, Emily Cain.

    "Today we thank Joe Baldacci for his service to the people of Maine. Although his campaign for congress has ended, I know that his work standing up for Maine families will continue," said Phil Bartlett, Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. "We look forward to working with him over the coming months to continue to advocate for the important issues that he has been a champion for on the campaign trail and to make sure we send a Democrat to Washington to represent the second congressional district."
    Joe raised $161,000 for the campaign. 
    “I am excited and ready to work with Joe to take back this seat,” Emily Cain said in a statement that Baldacci’s decision “was selfless and brave” and “in the best interest of the people of Maine.”

    This is Joe Baldacci's statement:

    When I first contemplated running, about a year ago, I spoke with a regional director of the party down in D.C. The very first question he asked me wasn’t about my commitment, credentials, ties to the district etc; the first question he asked me was “Are you married to a Billionaire?”

    This was my first indication that this fight might be an uphill one.

    I continued the fight for the Second Congressional district because I have an abiding commitment to serving the people who live here; our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens. I genuinely bristled at the idea that our Representative in Congress is going to be dictated to us by the Washington, D.C establishment of either party. 

    I have been particularly honored by just having the opportunity to run for Congress. My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with so many of you throughout the entire district and have found great political support for better representation in Congress.

    But the reality is, I’m not married to a billionaire. I am a small business owner. I have 7 people in my employ who count on me for their livelihood. I have a wife and two daughters, whose futures I’m not prepared to mortgage in order to compete with the unlimited amount of out of state money; which is what would be required in this race.

    Over the last 7 months, this campaign has made significant strides considering we literally started from scratch and we are now, according to polls, in contention for the Democratic nomination. 

    I have built friendships and relationships all across the District that I hope to continue to work with in future political endeavors.

    But it is clear that the most important thing we can do now is to come together as Democrats, not divide resources, and build a united front against an incumbent who needs to be replaced with a person who will genuinely represent Maine’s values in Congress.

    I am very glad I got in.

    I am very proud of the message we delivered to party committees: that it was time for Democrats to start running as Democrats and to stand up for our seniors, our veterans and our kids.

    I am particularly proud of winning a yearlong effort to pass a minimum wage increase for working families. That was a genuinely hard won victory. And I look forward to supporting passage of a statewide minimum wage increase.

    I pledge to Emily Cain, who will be the Democratic nominee, my full support in our united effort to elect a Democratic Representative for the Second District.

    Joe Baldacci

  • LePage administration secrecy holds up tax breaks for small businesses, homeowners, students

     Lawmakers on the Taxation Committee on Wednesday tabled Gov. Paul LePage’s $38 million tax conformity package after the administration refused to provide information about how it would pay for the entire plan, which includes a $22 million tax cut to benefit large, out-of-state corporations.

    Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen told committee members that the administration would only share information about funding sources once legislators approve the bill.

    Democrats on the committee support the portions of tax conformity that benefit small businesses, teachers, homeowners and students. Those benefits face unnecessarily delay because the LePage administration will not disclose important details of its plan, which will grant tax breaks to big, out-of-state corporations through a separate section of package.

    Tax conformity will be one of the most consequential pieces of legislation to be considered this session. Meanwhile, the administration has already printed tax forms assuming the Legislature will follow its lead and pass the governor’s conformity plan it its entirety.

    “Only in political la-la-land would a person support politicians who fund $22 million in kickbacks for big corporate filers headquartered out of state without knowing how to pay for it,” said Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, House chair of the Taxation Committee. “It’s particularly frustrating that the LePage administration is holding up tax relief for small businesses, teachers, homeowners and students so it can hide a secret stash of funding.”

    Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, the lead Senate Democrat on the committee, criticized Commissioner Rosen for saying he wouldn’t reveal the governor’s plans to pay for the tax conformity package until after the committee agreed to pass it.

    “The Taxation Committee isn’t a rubber stamp for anyone, including the governor,” said Sen. Libby. “We have to do our due diligence, and that means we need the information required to make good policy decisions for the people of Maine. The administration can’t hold necessary information and expect us to sign a blank check.”


  • More women needed in state government

    Op-ed by Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, the assistant House majority leader in the Maine Legislature.

    When Maine women succeed, their families and communities succeed. And ultimately, Maine succeeds. In the Legislature, we focus every day on building a strong economy where Mainers can prosper. What we need to address in each of these conversations — whether the subject is taxes, welfare reform or workforce training — is how we can best unleash power of women in our economy.

    In the second half of the 20th century, this country saw its greatest economic growth because of women’s increased involvement in the economy. Yet today, for too many women, the challenge of making ends meet for themselves is a day to day struggle.

    Today, in 2016, eight out of 10 women work ,and four of those 10 women are the sole or primary wage earner in their family. Yet our workplace policies are stuck in an era that assumes Mom stays at home while Dad goes to work. They are based on the incorrect premise that minimum-wage jobs are for inexperienced young workers who haven’t yet started their families and who will soon move on and up the ladder of increasing earnings.

    They are based on the memory of an American Dream whose trajectory has drastically changed.

    We can continue to mourn that change or we can start investing in in a future to make Maine prosperous again.

    In Maine, as with every other state in this country, women are paid less than men. Maine women earn 84 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn, for a median income of $36,000. This has drastic consequences for Maine children and our state as a whole.

    Nearly 1 in 4 Maine children under the age of 5 is living in poverty, with almost 60 percent of those kids in a household headed by a single woman. Twenty-four percent of Maine children struggle with hunger. How can we expect our economy to flourish under these circumstances?

    We still talk about the “progress we’ve made” as women. But if we leave progress as winning the right to vote in 1929, our pay increasing from 70 cents to 78 cents to 84 cents for every dollar a male earns, or the fact that some women are actually pushing against the glass ceiling, this state will never regain its competitive edge.

    Unleashing the power of women is the most important thing that we can do to grow Maine’s economy. The approach is straightforward.

    It’s about good-paying jobs that allow full participation in the workforce by women. We need policies that recognize women make up the majority of minimum wage workers.

    We need policies that recognize that workers need predictable schedules to provide stability for their families, and that we all have to take care of someone, whether it’s a sick child or an aging parent.

    It’s about providing the best possible public education for our children no matter where in this state they live or their family’s income level. Great education has to start early because we know it increases children’s chances of success in school, work and elsewhere in life — and that it provides a great return on investment to taxpayers.

    High-quality preschool education for a low-income child, for example, saves taxpayers an average of $125,400 over the child’s lifetime — more than five times the initial investment.

    It’s about the basic right to preventative and reproductive health care. A woman’s ability to control when — and whether — to start a family is key to her economic security and opportunity. And it’s about affordable and excellent childcare when and if we do have a family.

    And it’s also about understanding what true welfare entails. To move forward, we need an understanding that the goal is about moving people from poverty to sustainable employment. “Reform” can never be simply cutting the safety net out from under Mainers who are hungry or need help keeping a roof over their heads while they get back on their feet.

    Because here’s the ugly truth: thousands of Maine families right now face the reality of low wages and disappearing jobs. Their challenges impact entire communities and our shared economy.

    A real plan for Maine’s economic future leaves political games aside to focus on the issues help women, their families and communities reach their full potential. Because when women succeed economically, this state succeeds.

    It’s time to get to work on this part of the 21st century economy. Maine Democrats are ready.

    Rep. Sara Gideon, will likely be a favorite to become House Speaker, if Democrats keep control of the Maine State House.

  • Rep. Gideon’s measure would increase access to overdose reversal drug

    Bill would help put the life-saving overdose antidote naloxone in the hands of first responders

     A measure by Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon would put the life-saving overdose reversal drug naloxone in the hands of more first responders.

    “We are experiencing a public health crisis in our state, which is taking lives at a tragic, alarming and growing rate,” said Gideon, D-Freeport. “Naloxone saves lives. It’s a crucial tool to prevent overdose deaths. This bill is a crucial part of a comprehensive approach to addressing our addiction epidemic.”

    The measure, LD 1547, enables the Maine Attorney General’s Office to facilitate the bulk purchase of naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, in order to make the drug more accessible to municipalities. That will make it easier and more affordable for cities and towns to put naloxone in the hands of first responders who can use it to save lives.

    According to the Attorney General’s office, more than 200 Mainers died of a drug overdose in 2014. In the first nine months of 2015, there were 174 overdose deaths, putting the state on track to reach between 230 and 250 overdose deaths last year.

    Gideon sponsored emergency legislation passed in 2014 that allowed first responders with training to administer naloxone in order to prevent overdose deaths. Maine lawmakers approved an additional measure to expand access to the antidote sponsored by Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, last year. Since 2001, 16 other states have also passed laws making it easier to prescribe, dispense and administer naloxone.

    Also known by its trade name, Narcan, naloxone is not addictive and does not produce euphoria. It has no effect if there are no narcotics in a person’s system.

    The bill was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee, which will schedule a public hearing in the coming weeks.

    Gideon is serving her second term in the Maine House.  She represents Freeport and part of Pownal.

  • Maine State Rep. Charlotte Warren’s speech for action to impeach Gov. LePage

    by Rep. Charlotte Warren.
    Thank you Mr. Speaker.
    Mr. Speaker, Women and Men of the House, I stand today to support this house order to create an investigative committee to study the question of impeachment.
    The Chief Executive through his actions has brought us to this point today. We'd rather be talking about education and economic development and health care.
    But all of us in the House today accepted a duty when we were elected by the Maine people.
    We took an oath and therefore have an obligation to uphold the Maine Constitution.
    Today we are confronted by a Chief Executive who has allegedly used the power of his office to improperly intimidate and coerce Maine citizens serving on the boards of the Acadian Congress, the state Community College System, the Human Rights Commission, the Land for Maine's Future, and - by his own admission - Good Will Hinckley.
    Is this a precedent we want future Chief Executives to follow?
    It is a situation like that which faced first-term Maine Congressman Bill Cohen 40 years ago, in the investigation of Richard Nixon, Cohen described the feelings of legislators in these words:
    "Each of us, by a force of circumstances beyond our desire or control, was placed on a high wire that was strung between disloyalty to party and disloyalty to principle."
    That's where we are today. On a high wire, regardless of our political affiliation, weighing the political advantages of burying our heads in the sand and ignoring these abuses of power, against the political cost of standing up for the powerless.
    A fellow representative of Bill Cohen's on the House Judiciary Committee, William Flowers of Alabama, expressed the choice that they faced in these terms.
    "I felt that if we didn't impeach, we'd just ingrain and stamp in our highest office a standard of conduct that's just unacceptable."
    That's the issue we are voting on today in Maine. Are we going to say to this Chief Executive, and to all future Maine Chief Executives, that such abuses of power constitute acceptable political behavior?
    That the House of Representatives of the state of Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen, Ed Muskie, George Mitchell, and Olympia Snowe, are now afraid to stand up and say enough is enough?
    This isn't an issue of Democrat or Republican.
    It isn't an issue of conservative or liberal.
    It's an issue of whether or not to abide by the letter and spirit of the Maine Constitution.
    You know in your heart that what's been going on around here is not right.
    Today, follow your heart. Stand up for the Maine tradition -- the way Maine politics should be.
    Vote yes to create the House Investigative Committee to study impeachment of Maine’s Chief Executive.
  • Major Democratic debate Sunday, January 17, a must watch

    Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate should be the most closely-watched meeting of the party’s candidates this year. But the Democratic National Committee’s schedule, may not bring in viewers.

    It's a three-day weekend, and at the same time the debate airs so will National Football League playoff games and a new episode of PBS’s popular series, “Downton Abbey.”

    This week, new polls showed former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont statistically tied in Iowa. This means that the next Democratic debate will be the most important, yet.

    It's also, the last debate before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary.

  • 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.”


  • Eighteen Emerge Maine alumnae to run for State House seats

    Eighteen Emerge Maine alumnae announced their candidacy for the House and Senate at a press conference at the State House today. Many at the press conference had gone through Emerge Maine, like District Attorney Meghan Mahoney.

    “Emerge Maine seeks to literally change the face of Maine politics by inspiring and preparing more Democratic women to run for office and win,” said Executive Director Jill Barkley. “With eleven of our alumnae serving in the Maine State House, we’ve been very successful at winning legislative races, but only 29 percent of those currently serving in the legislature overall are women. We know that 29 percent is not enough, which is why we are thrilled to announce our first round of candidates today who will help increase that percentage.”

    Emerge Maine is the state’s premier political training program for Democratic women. It recruits, trains and supports women across the state to run for office each year. The 155 alumnae in the Emerge Maine network span the entire state, with over 30 currently holding elected office at every level, including eleven alumnae who serve in the Maine House.

    Speakers at the press conference included Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, an Emerge Maine alumnae, who is running for re-election.

    “Emerge has played a vital role in preparing me and hundreds of female candidates and lawmakers to be a strong voice for people in our state. Together we have worked to change the conversation about women's issues and the role of women in office,” said Gideon.

    Emerge Maine candidates also recognize the role Maine’s economy will play in this year’s campaigns. Tina Riley, candidate for House District 74, owned and operated Moelco Electric in Jay, and worked as an electrician at Rumford Paper Company. Riley spoke about supporting good-paying jobs and controlling property tax levels for people in her district.

    “The people in my community are concerned about the downturn in the paper industry,” said Riley. “They want a representative in Augusta who will work hard to protect those jobs and keep their property taxes under control, and that is what I am prepared to do.”

    Gideon and Riley were joined at the podium by alumnae Lois Reckitt, running for the House in District 31, and Moira O’Neil, running for the Senate in District 7.

    Barkley also noted that Emerge Maine would have the organization’s first primary in House District 94. Running for the open seat are Kathleen Meil and Betsy Saltonstall, both of Rockport and currently participating in Emerge Maine’s Class of 2016.

    “Primaries within our network means that we are achieving our goal of training and inspiring more women to run,” said Barkley.


    List of Candidates:

    Representative Heidi Brooks, House District 61
    Representative Christine Burstein, House District 96
    Representative Mattie Daughtry, House District 49
    Jessica Fay, House District 66
    Representative Sara Gideon, House District 48
    Kimberly Hammill, House District 102
    Representative Denise Harlow, House District 36
    Representative Erin Herbig, House District 97
    Representative Jay McCreight, House District 51
    Kathleen Meil, House District 94
    Moira O’Neill, Senate District 7
    Lois Reckitt, House District 2
    Kimberly Richards, House District 2
    Christina Riley, House District 74
    Representative Diane Ruseell, Senate District 27
    Betsy Saltonstall, House District 94
    Representative Denise Tepler, House District 54
    Representative Charlotte Warren, House District 84

  • LePage is on the Daily Show, after being featured on Racheal Maddow

    Maine's Gov. Paul LePage was on the Daily Show, after being featured on Racheal Maddow where he cames under fire for his racist remarks.

    See the clip LePage appears in, along with Mein Kampf, and North Korea.

    Click HERE.

    The vast majority of the people of Maine would like the world to know, LePage does not represent who they are or what they believe. The second term governor was in a race with two other candidates who split the vote, and he got in- again.

    Most of Maine's key politicians released statements condeming his remarks. Even author STEPHEN KING said, "One must admit LePage has elevated assholery to a level far past the extraordinary and into a rarified sphere that might be termed divine."

    In fact this Thursday some lawmakers are hoping to get the Governor impeached with a new bill they are introducing.

  • Expanding MaineCare is an immediate way to help young people out of poverty

     Editorial by Karen Heck, a longtime resident and former mayor of Waterville, Maine

    Call me a bleeding heart, but the fact that there are 15,000 children in Maine without health insurance, 1 in 4 children in Maine who are hungry, and 2 in 3 who can’t read at grade level makes me ashamed of my adopted state. Those figures pose a risk to kids’ well-being and to our state’s future economic prosperity.

    A decidedly non-bleeding heart organization, the non-partisan Maine Economic Growth Council, issues a report on 23 Measures of Growth indicating progress toward long-term, sustainable economic growth and a high quality of life for all Maine people future.

    One Measure of Growth the group tracks is the rate of poverty, because “bringing our poverty rates down is critical to helping create a solid foundation for Mainers so we can improve other outcomes like educational attainment, food insecurity, health status, and employment levels.”

    Another measure tracks Maine students’ level of reading proficiency at fourth grade “because fourth grade is the point at which reading should be established as a skill and students transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

    The Economic Growth Council supports programs like Head Start and quality childcare as critical components in achieving higher levels of reading skills.

    A third measure tracks the rate of health insurance coverage because “health insurance helps people establish a relationship with a provider and access preventive care that can help avoid more costly and disruptive procedures down the road, helping people live healthier, more productive lives.”

    A fourth measure looks at food insecurity, otherwise known as hunger, because “the total annual direct and indirect cost of food insecurity (including poor health, lowered educational outcomes, reduced earnings, and the value of charitable contributions to address hunger) has been estimated at $787 million for Maine.”

    The 2015 Measures of Growth indicate Maine’s poverty rate has risen to 14.2 percent. In addition, 64 percent of Maine children are not proficient at reading by fourth grade — yes, that’s 64 percent — and the rate of Medicaid coverage declined from 23 to 20 percent, leaving 11,000 more children than three years ago without healthcare. Lastly, 24 percent of Maine children are hungry.

    Despite critics’ attempts to deny it, the data is clear about what works in creating a path out of intergenerational poverty. The lives of millions have been improved with an array of services that include Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, education and job training, and food stamps.

    Some of the people needing those services spent Christmas at the Mid Maine Homeless Shelter. Among them were 14 young children, two 18-year-old high school students working and finishing high school, and two students, ages 20 and 21, enrolled in adult education and working. Their wages at 25 hours a week are so low they can’t afford even a tiny efficiency apartment.

    Many policy decisions that would make a difference in helping these and others move out of poverty will not be debated in this short session of the Legislature. However, the expansion of Medicaid will be.

    Two Republican senators, Roger Katz and Tom Saviello, have reintroduced a bill to expand Medicaid to help the state address the current drug epidemic using federal rather than state dollars. The governor and the majority of Republicans are, again, dead set against this bill becoming law.

    Those who understand that the road out of poverty is one the government can make easier by taking a comprehensive approach that works, not by kicking people off programs, which doesn’t work, can stand up now.

    That means engaging in the political process, something many are loathe to do.

    However, government policies need to be in place to support those who are struggling with little or no work, mental illness, drug addiction and over burdening the criminal justice system, and our voices help create those policies.

    We have the opportunity in this Legislative session to make a difference in this one policy decision that will affect our children’s lives. Expanding Medicaid is something that nine Republican governors have joined two independents and 19 Democratic governors in doing because they know it makes economic sense for their states.

    Really, what other species abandons its young? How did we get to a point where we think it’s OK to have children living at the homeless shelter, while their parents work, try to go to school, look for jobs or deal with mental illness?

    While the animal kingdom relies on instinct to care for their young, we actually have research on the kinds of policies that make a difference in people’s lives.

    Our job is to overcome the voices of those who think the answer is punishing people for their situation. It’s in your own self interest to overcome your reluctance to write letters, talk with candidates and legislators, call the governor, and speak out.

    I hope you will join me.

    This piece first appeared in the Morning Sentinal 

  • Rep. Chenette submits bill to establish accountability for elected officials


    Legislation addresses state’s lack of recall process

     Rep. Justin Chenette has submitted an after-deadline bill to establish a recall process for elected officials.

    “I was surprised to learn that the state of Maine has no process to recall an elected official if that person has misused the office or neglected their duties,” said Chenette, D-Saco.

    If allowed in by Legislative Council, the bill would include language to clarify the grounds for a recall petition, including a process for recalling the position of the governor. 

    “Establishing a recall process for any elected official, the governor included, is the best way to get the public to hold government more accountable without disrupting the important work taking place,” Chenette said. 

    During even-numbered years, the Legislature generally limits bill submissions to those that address emergencies and other pressing situations. The Legislative Council, which is made up of each party’s leaders in the Maine House and Senate, decides which bills fit the criteria. A bill must win a majority vote from the 10-member Legislative Council to advance. 

    Chenette, a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and represents part of Saco.

  • Strong safety net should mean no welfare cash for lottery tickets

    Recently, this paper and several others published a story by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that revealed Mainers receiving state assistance had taken home more than $22 million in lottery winnings from 2010-2014.

    We know that for every big jackpot winner, there are countless others who spent an enormous amount of money to play and walked away with nothing. To win that much, those Mainers would have had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on losing lottery tickets.

    The facts here just don’t sit right for most Mainers. We know that while the lottery can be fun, it’s not an appropriate use of welfare money. That’s why Sen. Alfond submitted a bill to ban the use of need-based cash benefits, such as TANF, from being used on the lottery.

    Seems sensible enough to us.

    But the BDN’s Editorial Board argued that proposals such as this “turn attention away from where policymakers should be focused: on public policies that help low-income people beat poverty.” They couldn’t be more wrong.

    It is our commitment to ensuring the social safety net is strong and effective that prompted this legislation. We know that every dollar not wasted on the lottery is a dollar that can be spent to pay for rent, food, heat, medical expenses or other bills that need to be paid.

    Mainers have always supported policies that take care of the vulnerable among us. In today’s uncertain economy, many of us are just one layoff, health emergency, home repair or family tragedy away from needing a hand up ourselves.

    Our support for programs, such as TANF, is why we must be vigilant to ensure the program is set up for success. Allowing taxpayer dollars to be thrown away on the lottery when they are supposed to be helping Mainers pull themselves out of poverty is contrary to our values.

    That’s why every Senate Democrat, and many Democrats in the House, supported a bill in 2014 to ban the use of welfare dollars on the lottery, as well as other gambling activities, bail, alcohol and tobacco. The bill would have notified TANF recipients of the new ban, and punished them if they violated it. Republicans have supported that idea in the past, but they voted lockstep against the bill, and it died. (Your guess as to why is as good as mine, but we suspect it’s because they’d rather continue to use “welfare reform” for political gain than pass sensible reform agreed to by both parties.)

    In its editorial, the BDN also said banning welfare from being spent on the lottery was wrong because it would be “nearly impossible to enforce.”

    While the BDN Editorial Board seems to think we should give up before we’ve even begun, we’re confident that a solution is possible. Maine isn’t the first state to deal with this problem. Several others have developed innovative ways to address the intersection of lottery purchases and public assistance. This bill will kick-start a focused conversation on doing the same.

    While we must find a creative way to stop the misuse of taxpayer-funded cash assistance in the first place, we also have to ensure that those who receive a huge lottery windfall don’t collect a welfare benefit the next week.

    Michigan has enacted a simple solution, which cross-checks the names of lottery winners with those of TANF recipients to ensure cash assistance goes only where it’s needed. The bill would examine Michigan’s rules, and those in other states, to find best practices that can be applied in Maine as well.

    Maine’s Democratic lawmakers are the staunchest defenders of our obligation to help the neediest people in our state, and we’ll continue to defend the right of Mainers to live with dignity regardless of their circumstance.

    But defending the right of people to have food on the table and a roof over their heads doesn’t mean defending programs in the face of inefficiencies. We need to seal up the holes in our safety net if it’s going to protect Mainers from hitting rock bottom.

    Sen. Justin Alfond of Portland and Rep. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan are the Democratic leaders of the Maine Senate and Maine House of Representatives, respectively.


  • Penobscot chief and tribe deciding what action is next over river ruling

    Penobscot Indian Nation members performed before the Veazie Dam removal. The tribe ties the river to their history. There are aprox. 2,300 tribal members.

     By Ramona du Houx

    "Our family names, our language, our creation stories, all aspects of who we are as a people come from our relationship to the river. We could not stand by and let the state sever those ties,” said Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis over the actions the tribe has taken to reclaim their water rights.

    On December 16, 2015 a federal judge ruled that the Penobscot Nation reservation includes the islands on the main stem of the Penobscot River but not the water itself.

    In his ruling, U.S. District Judge George Singal, said that members of the tribe may take fish from the entirety of that section of the river for sustenance.

    “The court’s ruling that the tribe’s reservation boundaries for sustenance fishing are ‘in the entire main stem of the river’ is a significant victory,” said Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis. “It also appears that those boundaries apply to our hunting and trapping rights and authorities.”

     Some in the community are concerned that the reservation is confined to island surfaces. Hence the Penobscot nation might appeal the decision to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston within the next 60 days.

    The rulings came more than three years after the tribe filed a lawsuit against the state as a result of former Attorney General William Schneider sending a letter dated Aug. 8, 2012, to the tribal warden service saying that the state—not the tribe—has the authority to charge people with violating fishing regulations and water safety rules.

    The letter came after a season of elvers fishing was bringing in a bounty and more fishermen wanted to fish in Penobscot territory. Gov. Paul LePage put limits on how many fishermen and how much they could fish. The tribe said he didn’t have a right to do that in their lands so AG. Schneider went to work. At that time the EPA also said Maine was not in complience with water quality.

    In recent years, market demand for elvers has increased dramatically. Elvers are highly valued in the far east (Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea) where they are cultured and reared to adult size for the food fish market. Due to recent intense market demand, elvers have now become the most valuable marine resource in terms of price per pound which varies from $25 to $350.

    The tribe argued that its reservation includes the water in the river because of the tribe’s sustenance fishing rights. There have been many treaties with the Penobscot over hundreds of years, all of which grant the tribe the river water rights as part of their “lands.”

    A year later, most municipalities along the river were granted intervener status in the case to support the state’s contention that the reservation included the islands but not the water. Many of the municipalities that signed on were pressured by corporate businesses along the river, like paper companies. The irony is Verso, Redshield and the Bucksport mill, all “interveners” have all closed since then.  The corporations said a ruling in the tribe’s favor would give the Indians control over water quality on the river. Thus, they might impose stricter rules on discharges into the river.

    In 2014 the state sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over water quality in tribal waters. Because the EPA referred to tribal waters as the standard the state has been put in a bad postion. The battle continues in court. The state claims the EPA created a double standard for water quality — one for tribal waters and another for the rest of the state. 

     The State Representative for the Penobscot nation left the legislature last spring as tensions between the state and his people became too strained. Gov. LePage continues to his attempts to undermine the Indians sovereign rights, on the behalf of the people of Maine. The majority of state citizens reject LePage’s claims.

  • Refugee supporters gather in Augusta in opposition to LePage’s statements

    By Ramona du Houx

    More than 100 people rallied in support of Syrian and other refugees November 25th at the governor's mansion ten days after Maine’s Governor LePage declared he did not want Syrian refugees to settle in the state. In his statement he said he would “take every lawful measure in my power to prevent it from happening.”

    Under Federal law, LePage has no say in the matter.

    However, a group of concerned citizens wanted to make the statement that LePage doesn’t speak for many Mainers.  Portland resident Tom Tracy thinks that it is important that they know they’re welcome

    “We’re a country where most all of us are from somewhere else, and we should be welcoming people.” said Tom Tracy, at the protest.

    Nearly a dozen religious leaders representing Jews, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and the United Church of Christ joined the protest, which was big for the day before Thanksgiving.

    "In our panic subsequently after Pearl Harbor, we put thousands of Japanese into internment camps. Eventually the young men imprisoned there went to fight for our and their country, not in the Pacific but in Europe where the Nisei proved to be among the fiercest and most successful of our fighting units. We were not very proud of what we did to these people just as we will not be very proud in the future of what we seem poised to do in the case of the Syrians or even, if some loudmouths have their way, all Moslem-Americans," wrote Neil Rolde in an editorial for Maine Insights.

    "Admittedly, we do panic and we do make mistakes that we rue afterward and innocent people do suffer. But our history has shown that demagogues come and go over here. We should not, and must not, give the fanatical power-seeking Muslim terrorist killers and those behind them a victory."

  • The Government Oversight Committee exposes more evidence of how LePage lost Eves his job

    The Government Oversight Committee exposed more evidence of how Governor Paul LePage lost Speaker Mark Eves his job at Good Will-Hinckley

    The following is the statement of attorney for Speaker Mark Eves regarding the GOC hearing November 12, 2015:

    The testimony today before the Government Oversight Committee of the Maine Legislature provided even more proof that:

    1.  Governor LePage blackmailed Good Will-Hinckley to fire Speaker Eves without cause as its new President, and
    2. Mark Eves was hired because he was the most qualified candidate for the job.

    Greg Powell testified under oath that on June 8, 2015 the Governor told him that he would no longer support GWH with Speaker Eves as its President. Powell further testified that he quickly realized that this withdrawal of support included the budgeted state funding of about $500,000 in each of the next two years.

    Similarly, the Governor’s own policy advisor, Aaron Chadbourne , testified under oath that on June 8, 2015, the Governor told Chadbourne and Acting Education Commission Tom Desjardins that they would not be giving GWH any more discretionary funding in the budget but only what was required by law.

    The testimony of Rich Abramson, who was the Acting President of GWH, added to the mountain of evidence that the Speaker was chosen solely because he was the most qualified candidate and not because of his party affiliation. Aaron Chadbourne testified that the Governor has admitted that Rich Abramson was highly qualified to run GWH and so his testimony about the Speaker’s excellent qualifications is especially credible.

    It remains clear that after extensive interviews of Mark Eves and the other two top candidates, the seven-member Senior Leadership Team of GWH unanimously recommended that Speaker Eves be selected as the new President because he was the most qualified.

    As the OPEGA report found:

    Following the campus visits, the GWH Senior Leadership Team recommended only the Speaker for the Board’s consideration. The Senior Leadership Team’s memo to the Search Committee was very clear, specific and thoughtful in its assessments of all three of the candidates and the reasons for its recommendation. In making its recommendation, the Senior Leadership Team noted that: the Speaker’s interview was impressive, authentic and believable; his leadership style and polished approach made the entire group feel comfortable and at ease; his extensive clinical experience would put him at an advantage with GWH’s population; his skill set presented the best balance of executive administration and fund raising experience; and he would make a great impression on the constituents of GWH and be an ideal face of GWH. The Senior Leadership Team also noted that the Speaker’s network of connections could bring opportunities to GWH, but he would likely need some guidance with respect to development and advancement. One concern of great significance to the Team, however, was the Speaker’s geographic proximity to GWH and willingness to relocate either on or near campus. The Team noted that the Speaker never really committed to the idea, but did say it was an option for consideration.

    Interviews with other Search Committee and Board members confirmed that the Speaker was seen as very articulate and his answers to questions in interviews were clear and relevant. They noted he had a very good presence and they liked his approach more than the other candidates. He also was seen as having broader, general experience and more of what they were looking for in leadership and fundraising.

    It was the unanimous GWH Board who then made the final decision to hire Mark Eves, and it is especially noteworthy that the Chair of the Board is a Republican, and that many other Board members are not Democrats.

  • Maine's AG files civil rights action to halt interference with the right to safe and effective delivery of Plan Parenthood's healthcare

    The Cross Building in Augusta, Maine where the Attorney General's office is located. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Attorney General Janet Mills announced on November 11, 2015 that she has filed a complaint under the Maine Civil Rights Act against 26-year-old Brian Ingalls of Lisbon, Maine, for violating the rights of patients at a health care facility in Portland, Maine. 

    “All patients have the right to receive medical services free of ‘the cacophony of political protests,’ in the words of the United States Supreme Court,” said Attorney General Mills.  “While protestors have every right to say anything they want in a public area in the vicinity of a medical facility, they are not permitted to disrupt another citizen’s health care services.”

    The Attorney General’s complaint alleges that during a protest outside the Planned Parenthood facility on October 23, 2015, Ingalls was yelling towards the second floor of the facility so loudly that his voice interfered with the delivery of health services.  According to the Complaint, Ingalls was warned by a Portland Police Officer to stop yelling, but he persisted in the behavior.

    AG Janet Mills with her grandaughter, when Mills was a lawmaker in the legislature in by Ramona du Houx

    The Maine Civil Rights Act protects the right of any person to receive any sort of medical services without disruptions caused by loud noises.  Specifically, the statute makes it a civil rights violation to intentionally make noise at such a volume that it can be heard within a building where medical treatment is provided, when the violator has been warned to cease making such noise and when he has the intent to interfere with the safe and effective delivery of health services. 

  • Speaker Eves' leadership has kept Augusta working

    Maine House Speaker Mark Eves in his State House office. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Editorial by Rep. Joan Welsh and Rep. Peggy Rotundo, First appeared in the BDN

    Maine is fortunate to have a citizen Legislature. The lawmakers in Augusta come to the capital city from all walks of life. We are teachers, doctors, farmers, small-business owners, retirees, parents and grandparents.

    We are not career politicians. We ran to help our neighbors and better our state, not launch bombastic fights.

    Strong, collaborative leadership is required to govern and lead. That’s why we write to share our perspective on a Nov. 7 BDN article “Battered by LePage, ‘pushover’ Speaker Mark Eves urged to fight back.”

    As the House chairs of committees charged with protecting our natural resources, balancing the budget, safeguarding the health of our people and holding government accountable, we have had to tackle some of the biggest and most controversial challenges facing our state. We have been very proud to serve under the leadership of Eves.

    The issues we face in our committee rooms are ripe for disagreement and discord — budget gaps, mining laws, health care for our citizens and investigations of abuse of power, to name a few. But Speaker Eves has always encouraged and expected us to lead our committees fairly with civility, respect and, most importantly, to focus on getting results.

    He has led by example, time and again. He has refused to engage in personal attacks and has always chosen the high road, even when faced with worst personal attack and blackmail from the governor.

    He has stood strong against Gov. Paul LePage, refusing to give huge tax breaks to the wealthy and building bipartisan support against the governor’s proposal to cut prescription drug support for the elderly.

    Like most Mainers, we were appalled by the governor’s bullying and threats that led to Eves being fired from his job at the Good Will-Hinckley school for at-risk youth. The abuse of state dollars and power against a political opponent in this case is inexcusable.

    We are impressed with Eves’ strong and purposeful response. He is right to sue the governor personally in state and federal courts. But he has made clear that he will not allow the governor’s actions to distract him from doing the work the people sent all of us elected officials to Augusta to do.

    Eves’ calm fortitude, his kindness, his ability to listen to others and his focus on the issues have kept our government running. These are the character traits in leaders that are sorely lacking in today’s world of political theater.

    While Eves and the Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau disagree on most issues, they have found a way to work together to deliver results for the people of Maine.

    Eves’ collaborative style has served our state well. Last year, we passed a budget that invests $80 million more in our local schools, doubles property tax relief, and provides a middle class tax cut to nearly 600,000 Maine people.

    When mining interests attempted to undercut our natural resources, Eves encouraged a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to reject it. When we needed to come together with our Republican colleagues to address the needs of seniors in our state, Eves led the effort to pass a senior housing bond and to ensure health care workers who care for our seniors could get a much needed raise.

    While many of the governor’s policies harm struggling families working to get back on their feet, Eves has made growing good jobs and strong wages in our state a top priority in the fight against poverty. Under his leadership, we’ve passed legislation to bolster workforce training — and we’ve done it by working with business leaders across the entire state.

    These accomplishments would not have happened if the speaker of the Maine House marched into the governor’s office to pick a fight. They would not have happened if Eves had held press conferences haranguing Republicans.

    Maine people deserve a leader who shows up to get the job done. Eves is that leader.

    Rep. Joan Welsh, D-Rockport, is House chair of the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, is House chair of the Appropriations Committee. They are joined in this message by Rep. Chuck Kruger, D-Thomaston, and Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook. Kruger is House chair of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee

  • Maine lawmakers want to invest in citizens instead of income tax breaks for wealthy with liquor contract funds

    Democratic lawmakers are proposing legislation for the second session that would use some of the revenue from the state’s liquor contract to invest in Maine’s future and assist some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

    Four bills are seeking to use a portion of the liquor contract revenues for transportation, public education, heating assistance and to reduce the waiting lists for non-medical services that help Mainers with disabilities live independently. Gov. Paul LePage and the Maine Republican Party, meanwhile, are proposing to use the funds to lower and eventually eliminate the state income tax.

    “Do Mainers want to use these funds to provide a tax break to the wealthiest Mainers that will mean higher property and sales for the rest of us? How can we justify that when there so many other pressing needs, like the ones addressed by each of these bills?” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “I agree with the governor that heating assistance for needy families is a top priority. Here’s a way to provide that without harming public lands as his unsustainable and possibly unconstitutional timber harvesting plan would do.”

    The bills are:

    • LR2359, An Act To Provide Heating Assistance for Maine Seniors and Families (House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe)
    • LR 2488, An Act To Revitalize Infrastructure Investment To Create Jobs (sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon)
    • LR 2450, An Act To Eliminate the Waiting List for Community-based Services Provided under MaineCare for Individuals with a Brain Injury, an Intellectual Disability or Autism (Rep. Drew Gattine)
    • LR 2553, An Act To Transfer Excess Revenue from the State’s Liquor Contract in Fiscal Year 2016-17 to General Purpose Aid to Local Schools (Rep. John Martin)


    On each of these bills, the Legislative Council voted 5-5 last month to allow it in for the second session that begins in January. For sessions in even-numbered years, bills need a majority vote to advance to the full Legislature.

    The sponsors of these four bills are appealing the decisions. The Legislative Council will consider appeals on Nov. 19.

    “There‘s broad bipartisan consensus that Maine’s economy cannot realize its full potential without a robust transportation system,” said Gideon, D-Freeport. “The liquor contract provides a unique opportunity to improve our roads and bridges, help businesses move their goods more effectively and boost the construction sector. That is a much better investment than tax cuts for the wealthy.”

    Gideon is appealing as a new report underscores Maine’s pressing transportation needs. Fifteen percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient and 18 percent are functionally obsolete, according to thereport by TRIP. Earlier this year, the Maine Department found that current funding levels are at only half the level needed to maintain the safety and integrity of state bridges.

    Maine’s roads also are in dire need of attention. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave a “D” grade to the state’s roads, 83 percent of which are in fair to unacceptable condition.

    Liquor contract revenues could also make a big difference in the lives of Mainers with intellectual disabilities by providing services that help them live independently in their communities.

    “We should all be able to agree that we need to protect Maine’s most vulnerable citizens. We have a wonderful opportunity to help Mainers with disabilities live more independently – without sacrificing seniors’ ability to pay for their medicines as the governor tried to do,” said Gattine, D-Westbrook, the House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “Ask yourself, ‘What’s the priority? A tax giveaway for the state’s highest earners that will blow a hole in future budgets? Or key services for our neighbors with intellectual disabilities, with the feds tripling our investment”     

    Martin’s bill would into put liquor contract revenue into the General Purpose Aid, the state’s baseline share of funding for K-12 public education.

    “The governor and the GOP have hatched a scheme to provide a windfall to the wealthy. The budget hole they would create would be so big that it would swallow up all state funding for local schools, higher education and more,” said Martin, D-Eagle Lake, who is on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and is a board member of School Administrative District 27. “Instead of shifting the tax burden to everyday Mainers and their communities, let’s put money in classrooms so it can benefit our kids and our state’s economy.”

    The new state liquor contracts are yielding higher profits that expected. The first year resulted in $46 million profit, which puts the state on track to exceed the $450 million in profits originally expected over the 10-year life of the contracts. Approximately $9.7 million in revenue from the contracts’ first year is not earmarked for hospital debt bond repayment or other items.

  • Maine's legislative leaders set agenda for upcoming session

    The governing body of the Maine Legislature voted today to accept 33 bills for consideration by lawmakers during the second session of the 127th Legislature, which begins in January.

    The bipartisan Legislative Council, made up of five Democrats and five Republican leaders, must approve any new bill requests from lawmakers for the four-month session, which is by statute reserved for emergency or time-sensitive measures.

    “With only four months to work next session, each and every bill must have bipartisan support and meet the emergency criteria to move forward,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves, who chairs the council. “Our focus next session must be on bills that help improve the lives of Maine people and help boost our lagging economy.”

    Lawmakers approved several key measures to help grow the economy, including Brunswick Senator Stan Gerzofsky’s measure to create and sustain high quality Maine jobs and Harpswell Rep. Jay McCreight’s bill to help ease student loan debts. Democrats and Republicans came together to also approve a measure to ensure Land For Maine’s Future bonds don’t expire.

    “On issues such as economic development and honoring the will of Maine people by supporting voter-approved conservation project, we are laser-focused on the issues that matter for our state.” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland. “We have high expectations for this session. In divided government, we need to come together, not get bogged down in partisan games.”

    Democratic lawmakers shot down several measures targeting Planned Parenthood, which aimed to roll back access to healthcare for women and families.

    Lawmakers submitted nearly 400 new bill requests, in addition to the 176 bills carried over from last session and 20 bills submitted by state agencies.

    A full list of the approved bills will be available on the Legislative web site soon.

    The council will hear appeals on bills that were rejected on Nov. 19.

  • 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.

  • Citizen’s Guide to the 2015 Maine Referendum Election available online

    As Election Day nears on Nov. 3, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is reminding all Maine voters of an informational resource that can help them make informed decisions at the polls: the 2015 Maine Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election.

    The guide, prepared by the Department of the Secretary of State in collaboration with the attorney general, state treasurer and Office of Fiscal and Program review, is an unbiased and non-partisan review of the issues that voters will consider at the polls this November.

    The Citizens Guide provides detailed information about each question on the November ballot, said Dunlap. Voters can see the proposed legislation behind this year’s citizen-initiated question and state bond proposals, as well as analysis of the intent and content of each question. Election law also allows for citizen advocacy statements to be published supporting or opposing questions, which provides voters with those viewpoints to consider.

    The November 2015 ballot will include one citizen’s initiative question and two bond issues: 

    Question 1 is a citizen’s initiative "An Act To Strengthen the Maine Clean Election Act, Improve Disclosure and Make Other Changes to the Campaign Finance Laws."

    Question 2 is “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support the Independence of Maine's Seniors.”

    Question 3 is “An Act To Authorize Two General Fund Bond Issues To Improve Highways, Bridges and Multimodal Facilities.” 

    The Citizens Guide is intended to provide as much information as possible on these complex issues so that voters have the opportunity to educate themselves on the issues. Maine voters are among the most actively engaged in the nation, and were pleased to be able to help them make informed choices, Dunlap said.

    Voters can request absentee ballots online via the Secretary of State’s website, in person, by calling their town clerk, or in writing.

  • LePage and his officials’ refuse to appear before Maine's Government Oversight Committee

    Governor P. LePage administration officials’ refusal to appear before the committee to answer questions as part of its investigation into the governor’s threats to Good Will-Hinckley’s funding related to the hiring, and firing, of House Speaker Mark Eves as its president.

    “We are disappointed that key officials in the governor's office will not appear before the Government Oversight Committee to answer questions,” said State Senator Bill Diamond, who serves on the Government Oversight Committee. “Their cooperation is important to get the complete truth."

    They refused to testify saying the pending court case against Eves' claims wouldn't allow them to do so.

    "Using the pending court action as an excuse to block critical information for the public is unacceptable. The GOC, in a totally bipartisan effort, unanimously requested the investigation by OPEGA. Now, in order to complete that investigation, it is imperative that we talk with those who actually know what happened. The public deserves nothing less,” said Diamond.

    The Government Oversight Committee may exercise subpoena authority to compel government officials to appear to answer questions, as it has done in previous cases. Last year, five LePage officials from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention initially refused to answer the committees questions, but provided sworn testimony after receiving subpoenas.

  • Rep. Short rejoins the Democratic Party, Maine House Democratic caucus

    Rep. Stanley Short Jr. of Pittsfield is rejoining the House Democratic caucus after reenrolling in the Democratic Party on September 24, 2015.

    “Over the last five months, I have had numerous discussions with constituents, fellow members in the House of Representatives as well as family members about my decision in April to unenroll. Those discussions and many hours of thought on my part led me to rejoin the Democratic Party,” Short said. “I had been a member of the Democratic Party for many years and I have now come to believe that my return is in the best interest of my constituents. It is also without a doubt where I need to be to continue my lifelong fight for the working men and women of Maine. I obviously did not and will not agree with every position that another Democrat takes, but as a member of the party I can play a role in the shaping of caucus strategy.”

    Democratic leaders greeted the news with enthusiasm and extended a warm welcome to Short.

    “Rep. Stanley Short Jr. has and always will be an unwavering champion of the workingman and workingwoman both inside and outside the State House. He fights for them at every turn, whether we’re talking about policies that ensure an honest paycheck for an honest day’s work, protect American jobs or promote fairness in the workplace. He is relentless in his advocacy for economic opportunity for all as well as being committed to Maine’s seniors, veterans and outdoor heritage,” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “Although our work and dialogue with Rep. Short never ceased, we are absolutely delighted that he has rejoined our caucus. We look forward to all that we will do together. I am proud to have him not just as a colleague, but as a friend.”


    “I am very pleased to welcome Rep. Stanley Short Jr. back to the Democratic caucus and our party,” said Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “Regardless of political affiliation, Rep. Short has always been a strong voice for his community as well as for Maine workers, families, and seniors.”


    The House Democratic caucus now stands at 78 members. The House of Representatives comprises 151 members.  Two vacant seats will be filled through a special election on Nov. 3. One seat opened up with the death of Rep. Bill Noon, D-Springvale, and the other with the resignation of Rep. Mike Shaw, D-Standish.

  • Maine Democratic Party brings local elected officials together to build stronger communities statewide

    Senate Leader Justin Alfond convened a panel entitled: Ensuring Children Don’t Go Hungry to discuss resources for combating food insecurity. Issues of where Maine could grow jobs-like in the energy sector- also had panel discussions, and trainings took place. 

    By Ramona du Houx

    On September 19th the Maine Democratic Party (MDP) hosted its first-ever Municipal Leaders Conference at the Buker Community Center in Augusta. The day-long conference brought together Democratic local, town and county officials and state lawmakers for a series of trainings, workshops and panel discussions. 

    “Our conference was a great way to connect local municipal leaders from across the state,” said MDP Chairman Phil Bartlett. “Our Party is dedicated to supporting Democrats at every level of government and we believe this training offers new resources and tools for our elected officials. Our work today will help organize and train the next wave of Democratic leaders and help us build strong and vibrant communities statewide.”

    Local leaders were joined by Democratic Party leaders, experts and educators to discuss the unique opportunities and challenges Maine municipal leaders face within their districts.

    Educational presentations ranged from revitalizing town centers and Main Streets to working together for stronger schools and communities. Democratic Senate Leader Justin Alfond convened a panel entitled: Ensuring Children Don’t Go Hungry to discuss resources for combating food insecurity and Rob Ellis of Revision Energy presented at the ‘Energy Efficiency and Sustainability’ panel on ways that towns can integrate alternative energy resources.

    "As a Lewiston City Council member, I often hear from concerned parents about the need for stronger public schools. It was great to attend a workshop on how school committees and council members can work together to achieve that goal," said Kristen Cloutier, who represents Ward 5 on the Lewiston City Council. "Overall, this conference was a great way to bring municipal officials together to address the important issues impacting our communities."

    MDP Chairman Bartlett convened a panel discussion called: Conversation with the Stakeholders, about the importance of championing progressive values on the local level. Participants included Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague, Maeghan Maloney, District Attorney of Kennebec and Somerset Counties, and State Rep. Matt Moonen of Portland.

    Bartlett served in the Maine State Senate and brought his valuable experiences to the discussion.

    Nearly 50 elected officials and speakers participated in the MDP’s first-ever Municipal Leaders Conference, which was free and open to all Democratic municipal leaders in Maine.

  • September 19th was Day of Action for strengthening Maine's Clean Election system

    Hundreds of Mainers from across the state took to the streets September 19, 2015, knocking on doors and talking to friends, neighbors and community members about Question 1, which will appear on the statewide ballot on November 3.

    “Mainers agree that we want a government that works for us, not one that works for lobbyists and wealthy campaign contributors,” said Andrew Bossie of Mainers for Accountable Elections. “Question 1 is about ensuring our elections are focused on everyday people and less dependent on wealthy special interest. This effort of, by, and for the people will increase transparency and accountability by limiting the influence of wealthy special interests in our elections and government.”

    Their work was part of an “Of, By and For the People Day of Action” planned by Mainers for Accountable Elections, the nonpartisan, grassroots coalition formed in support of Question 1. 

    “This is a grassroots, people powered campaign,” said Bossie. “It’s not about the 1 percent or the 99 percent, it’s about the 100 percent. It’s about a government that works for all of us. Question 1 will raise the voices of everyday Mainers in our democracy and that’s why Democrats, Republicans, Greens and independents are working together to vote ‘yes’ on Question 1 on November 3.” 

    For today’s day of action, volunteers gathered at staging locations in Sanford, Biddeford, Portland, Augusta, Belfast, Bangor, Ellsworth and Bar Harbor. They then hit the streets to canvass in support of Question 1, which has developed a strong coalition of support from Democrats, Republicans, Greens, independents and more than 40 grassroots organizations throughout Maine.  

    If passed on November 3, Question 1 will:

    • Increase transparency and disclosure by requiring special interest groups to list their top three donors on all political ads so voters know right away who is trying to influence their vote.

    • Increase accountability by toughening penalties and fines for candidates and special interest groups that break our campaign finance laws so politicians are accountable to the people – not wealthy special interests.

    • Encourage strict spending and contribution limits by strengthening Maine's Clean Election system so candidates aren’t beholden to special interests and big money donors.

  • LePage Administration missed deadline for Riverview federal funds now Appropriations Committee calls for accountability

    Captitol building in Augusta, ME. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Members of the Maine's Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on September 14th questioned DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew about the ongoing controversies at the state-run Riverview Psychiatric Facility.

    Last month, a federal judge ruled the state had missed its chance to appeal the federal government’s decision to decertify Riverview, raising questions about the future of the hospital.

    Decertification in 2013 -- caused by overcrowding, the use of stun guns, pepper spray and handcuffs on patients, failure to actually treat patients, serious paperwork issues and more --  has put at risk $28 million in federal funding so far, leaving Maine taxpayers to fill this ongoing budget gap. But instead of pulling out all the stops to obtain certification and federal funding once again, the administration has challenged the federal government on its own standards.

    “The department’s failure to meet the deadline for appeal makes me wonder how committed this administration is regaining federal certification,” said Sen. Linda Valentino, a Democrat from Saco. “Certification is a critical source of funding and without it Maine taxpayers will have to come up with an additional $20 million in this budget. But instead of solutions, this administration favors legal gymnastics in an effort to absolve themselves of any responsibility.”

    The Legislature has already responded to the crisis at Riverview by passing five emergency funding bills totaling $5 million. While other states manage to run psychiatric facilities that safeguard patient treatment and worker safety, the LePage administration has failed time and again to meet even the most basic standards.

    Riverview is the only hospital in the state that has failed to meet minimum federal standards.

    “For two years now the Legislature has approved request after request from the LePage administration for emergency funding for the hospital with little progress to date,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the House chair of the Appropriations committee. “Instead of taking responsibility, the administration is blaming the federal government, the workers and the Legislature for its failures. Five years ago, when this administration took over we had a hospital that was certified now we don’t.”  

    Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, pressed Mayhew for details on the administration’s plan to offload some patients at Riverview to an undetermined private corporation.

    We must have details on this plan before we can consider such a seismic shift in how the state treats these patients,” said Grant. “So far, we have not been provided nearly the level of information we need to consider such a change.”

    The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will meet again on October 14.

  • Tax-rebate scam costs taxpayers millions for Mainers

    Three-card Monte, Nigerian princes, New Markets Tax Credits — what do they have in common? They promise big returns if you will just put your money up front. But you wind up a lot poorer and, hopefully, a bit wiser from the experience.

    Some out-of-state companies have bilked Maine taxpayers out of millions of dollars — $35.5 million to be exact — with a 21st Century financial con job that promised new hope for shuttered or faltering Maine mills and the men and women with jobs hanging in the balance, but grabbed the money and hit the road.

    The story gets worse: Because some Republicans in the Maine Legislature recently rejected legislation that would have held these companies accountable and prevented further abuses in a state tax-credit program, Maine taxpayers will remain on the financial hook for millions in taxpayer dollars annually to the very same companies that orchestrated complex financial schemes completed in a single day without making any mill upgrades at all.

    The Maine Legislature created the New Markets Capital Investment Program in 2011 to encourage new capital investments in aging mills in economically distressed parts of Maine. The problem is, instead of upgrading old mills to keep them running and Maine people working, companies have claimed $35.5 million in tax rebates for “investments” that were never actually made in Maine mills.

    Instead, these companies used financial maneuvers that the IRS calls “sham transactions” to con Maine taxpayers out of millions. Those abuses were documented in a two-part series in April by Maine Sunday Telegram reporter Whit Richardson.

    I often wonder, when I see the old Wausau Mill here in Chisholm that closed in late 2008 and early 2009 leaving more than 200 Mainers out of work, how many paper makers might still be working there if we had a program back then that actually invested in Maine mills and their workforces.

    How many Maine mill owners might have been able to upgrade their facilities with the $35.5 million we were cheated out of through the New Markets program? How many employers in western Maine and other economically distressed regions might have been able to keep mills operating? How many Maine employers, workers would still have jobs to support their families?

    Many workers in my legislative district (Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls) must now commute to jobs in Lewiston, Augusta, Bath/Brunswick and Portland.

    Through my work as a job service manager for the Maine Department of Labor from 1984 to 2003, we talked regularly with workers and unemployed workers in those communities.

    We helped workers find jobs and get back on their feet after layoffs or mill closures. We also helped unemployed workers, who qualified and chose retraining/education to find a new career or to relocate if they found qualifying work elsewhere.

    While Maine taxpayers are footing the bill for the millions of dollars companies received that benefited from the New Markets tax scam, thousands of Maine workers have lost the ability to work in their own communities.

    Although I retired from the Department of Labor in 2003, my work instilled in me a sense of urgency to make sure the state’s economic-development programs work for Maine people.

    Legislators owe it to all Maine taxpayers to ensure those tax-credit programs accomplish their intended purposes, to fix them if they don’t, and to hold accountable those who benefit by gaming the system.

    That is why I voted with the majority on the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Education Committee to stop further abuse of the $50 million remaining in the New Markets program and to reject a request from the Finance Authority of Maine for an additional $250 million for the program.

    The majority also developed legislation to prevent future payoffs for bogus investments and sham transactions. The Maine House approved this legislation, but Republicans in the Maine Senate killed it. They should be held accountable for millions in taxpayer dollars lost on a scheme worthy of Charles Ponzi or Bernie Madoff. Legislators should invest in Maine businesses and Maine workers, not out-of-state scam artists.

    Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, is a fourth-term member of the Maine House of the Representatives and serves on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

  • Bangor City Councilman Joe Baldacci's official statement declaring his run for Congress

    On 29, July, 2015 Bangor City Councilman Joe Baldacci declared he will be running for Congress. photo by Ramona du Houx
    The former Bangor mayor, Joe Baldacci faces former state senator Emily Cain in the Democratic primary. If he wins he will be debating US Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who defeated Cain in her previous attempted at the House seat.

    According to a Public Policy Polling survey covering more than 1,000 people in the district from April 16 to 19, the baseline question showed him “in a statistical dead heat” with Poliquin.

    This statement is from his website:

    Dear Fellow Mainers,

    Today, I officially filed to be your next Representative to Congress for the 2nd District of Maine. 

    These decisions are never easy. I am not a multi-millionaire, former Wall Street banker. I’m a small business owner and City Councilman who still needs to work to provide for my family as well as honor the commitments I have to the people of the city of Bangor.

    In making this decision I had to ask a lot of questions to myself, my family and the residents of the 2nd District. At the end of the day it came down to these two:

    1. "Are our political leaders truly representing the people and values that I was brought up with here in Maine?"


    2. "Do they know, care or ever lived the issues that all my neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens have been facing all of our lives?"

    Unfortunately the answer was a resounding “NO!"
    Our current leadership is more concerned with ideology, special interest, and Wall Street values than representing the people of the 2nd District. 

    Putting the over 100,000 seniors in our district in peril by trying to Privatize Social Security and Medicare, is not fighting for Maine values.

    Disrespecting the sacrifice of the almost 60,000 veterans of this district by blocking funding of the Veterans Administration, is not fighting for Maine values.

    Votes against fishermen, the environment, health care, and public schools, all of the things that can, and do make our home great, is not fighting for Maine values. 

    There has become a huge and disturbing gap between Maine’s performance in recent years and what I see as Maine’s unlimited potential. A Representative that fights for, recognizes and encourages the very best in all of us, should be a first step in helping turn the mindset of this state around. I will be that Representative for you.
    I am the only candidate who was born and lived his whole life in Maine. I am not a Wall Street Republican or a Washington Democrat. 

    I am a life-long Mainer who wants to go to Washington to make sure that all of us get a fair shake from our government; that people without wealth or power can be heard and helped, and that our government and our country can work for all of us.
  • 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. 

  • Legislature makes its case to defend state Constitution against Gov. LePage’s interpretation of the law

    Top House and Senate leaders to file joint brief before Law Court 

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Speaker of the Maine House and the Senate President will file a joint brief on behalf of the Legislature in the dispute over the fate of 65 new laws before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

    Just because the governor doesn't like these laws he has no right to declare they aren't valid. They passed the Legislature and he did not veto them. Maine is governed by democratic laws.

    The announcement comes in response to news that the Law Court will fast track Gov. Paul LePage’s request for an opinion on the bills, which became law after the governor missed the 10-day deadline to veto the bills.

    “House and Senate leaders will speak with one voice before the court. This is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of the Constitution, history and precedent,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “We urge the court to take quick and decisive action to ensure these laws are enforced.”

    According to the Maine Constitution, 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 adjourned for the year. The Governor missed his own deadline after a pointed promise to veto all Democratic bills.

    The court is requesting written arguments in the case by July 29, and it will hold oral arguments on July 31. The Legislature will be represented by Bangor Attorney Tim Woodcock of Eaton Peabody, who previously served on staff for Republican Senator Bill Cohen.

    LePage and Eves are also preparing for another court case over how LePage got Eves fired. That case could lead to the governor's impeachment.

  • 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.” 





    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.” 






    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 misses his own veto deadline allowing Asylum-seekers to receive General Assistance, and 19 other bills to pass

    A rally was held this spring in favor of the state providing General Assistance for asylum- seekers who legally can’t work because they are waiting for the government to process their papers. Photo by Portland City Councilor Jon Hink

    More than a thousand immigrant asylum-seekers, and their families in Maine, will be able to get General Assistance for the next two years despite Governor Paul LePage’s vehement opposition.

    When the state two-year budget was finalized funding was cut for these immigrants. Most of these people are victims of violence and persecution fleeing to America. Immigrants similar to so many whom have built this country. The city councils in Portland and Lewiston were outraged, and immediately voted to fund assistance for these asylum-seekers as leaving them homeless and hungry would have been an act against humanity.

    The majority of immigrant asylum-seekers have skills and trades that they can assimilate into Maine’s business world, given time. The problem is they have to wait for their papers from the Federal Government and during that waiting period they are not allowed to work. They have no way of supporting themselves or their families during this time.

    It goes against the founding of our nation to persecute immigrants but LePage’s has falsely called these refugees, “illegal aliens.”  His re-election campaign was fueled by his rants about our future citizens.

    How did they manage to get lawmarkers to give them General Assistance with so much opposition from the governor?

    Many lawmakers wanted to help the asslym-seekers but couldn’t do so within the budget process. So, a separate law, LD 369 allows those seeking asylum to receive General Assistance aid for a period of 24 months while their asylum claims are being processed made it through the legislature. It was on its way to being vetoed by the Governor with an override of the veto looking unlikely.

    “LD 369, which clarifies that municipalities may support legally present immigrants, received bipartisan support in both the Maine House and the Maine Senate. It will now become law because the time for a Governor’s veto has expired,” said Representative Drew Gattine, House Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “This is a giant step forward for Maine. We need to continue to attract and retain talented and educated people to our State from around the world in order to replenish our skilled work force. New Mainers will play an important role in Maine’s future and we need to invest in their success.”

     LD 369 and 19 other bills never received a Governor’s veto. Because the legislature is still in session, and hasn’t adjourned, the Governor missed his own veto deadline.

     Although LePage disputes this fact the Maine Constitution is crystal clear.

    "The Constitution and historical precedent make clear that these bills are law, " said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. "The Governor is wrong."

    Article IV of the Constitution states: “If the bill or resolution shall not be returned by the Governor within 10 days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to the Governor, it shall have the same force and effect as if the Governor had signed it unless the Legislature by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall have such force and effect, unless returned within 3 days after the next meeting of the same Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution; if there is no such next meeting of the Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution, the bill or resolution shall not be a law.”

    “The Maine Constitution is clear on this. The governor had 10 days to veto the bills, he did not veto them, and now the bills will become law,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “We do not have a government of one, and the governor cannot make up the rules as he goes along.”

    Asylum seekers escaping persecution including torture, rape and detention are in the United States legally.

    The LePage administration has been in a legal battle for the last year over General Assistance funding for municipalities, holding up payments to cities for legal non-citizens. Several cities, including Portland and Westbrook, sued the state. In a recent ruling, Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren affirmed the state’s right to withhold funding for aid to immigrants who are ineligible under federal law.

    The full list of the 20 bills that made it into law because the governor missed his ten day veto deadline are:

    LD 25 "An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Uses" Sponsored by Representative Diane Russell

    LD 78 "An Act Regarding Limitations on Certain Storm Water Fees" Sponsored by Senator Nathan Libby

    LD 113 "An Act To Reduce the Penalties for Certain Drug Offenses" Sponsored by Senator Roger Katz

    LD 234 "An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015" (Emergency) (Governor's Bill) Sponsored by Representative Margaret Rotundo

    LD 299 "An Act To Protect Children in Municipal and School Facilities by Requiring Boiler Inspections" Sponsored by Senator Dawn Hill

    LD 369 "An Act To Align Municipal General Assistance Programs with the Immigration Status Policies of the Department of Health and Human Services" Sponsored by Senator Eric Brakey

    LD 522 "An Act To Clarify a Recently Enacted Law Designed To Expand the Number of Qualified Educators" Sponsored by Senator David Burns

    LD 722 "An Act To Strengthen Penalties for Abuse of General Assistance" Sponsored by Senator Eric Brakey

    LD 756 "An Act To Enhance the Address Confidentiality Program Regarding Property Records" Sponsored by Representative Michelle Dunphy

    LD 822 "An Act To Allow a Former Spouse of a Member of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System To Begin Collecting Benefits When the Former Spouse Reaches the Member's Retirement Age" Sponsored by Representative Patrick Corey

    LD 870 "An Act To Amend the Maine Spruce Budworm Management Laws" Sponsored by Senator James Dill

    LD 1013 "An Act To Prevent the Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners" Sponsored by Senator Anne Haskell

    LD 1039 "An Act To Amend the Polygraph Examiners Act" Sponsored by Senator Anne Haskell

    LD 1085 "An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Right To Know Advisory Committee Concerning Receipt of a Request for Public Records"

    LD 1108 "An Act To Protect Children and the Public from Electronic Cigarette Vapor" Sponsored by Representative Jeff McCabe

    LD 1134 "An Act To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Distribute Information Regarding Down Syndrome to Providers of Prenatal and Postnatal Care and to Genetic Counselors" Sponsored by Senator Amy Volk

    LD 1185 "An Act To Establish the Municipal Gigabit Broadband Network Access Fund" Sponsored by Representative Norman Higgins

    LD 1303 "An Act To Stabilize and Streamline the Department of Environmental Protection's Ground Water Oil Clean-up Fund and Maine Coastal and Inland Surface Oil Clean-up Fund" Sponsored by Senator Thomas Saviello

    LD 1391 "An Act Regarding the Treatment of Forensic Patients" Sponsored by Representative Richard Malaby

  • Portland, ME's City Council votes 6-3 in favor of a minimum wage increase starting at $10.10

    By Ramona du Houx

    In 2014 Portland’s Mayor, Michael Brennan, proposed a minimum wage of $9.50 an hour starting July 1, 2015 and ending at $10.68 on Jan. 1, 2017 with indexing. After a year of debate on the issue, during which lobbyists from the Portland Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Innkeepers Association and the Maine Restaurant Association tried to prevent a substantial wage increase, eliminate indexing, exclude young workers, and gut enforcement provisions, the city council decided.

    On July 5th, going against the city’s finance committee, the Portland City Council voted to create a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour that starts on January 1, 2016. The wage will rise to $10.68 an hour in 2017. A year later it will increase on July 1 at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index. The city council is widely expected to place the question on the November ballot.

    Maine People’s Alliance is teaming up with the Maine AFL-CIO to enact a $12 statewide increase by referendum in 2016.

    And the Green Party in Portland will ask citizens to increase the wage to $15 an hour.

    Hillary Clinton and Sanders both are advocating for a minimum wage increase.

  • LePage threatens to withhold voter approved funds for Good Will-Hinckley if Eves is hired by school

    Speaker of the Maine House Mark Eves looks out over Augusta from his office photo: Ramona du Houx

    by Ramona du Houx

    "Gov. LePage is blackmailing a school for at-risk children because I have opposed his policies. He has threatened the Good Will-Hinckley School to either fire me or lose over $500,000 in budgeted state funds and thereby lose another $2,000,000 in private funding. The Governor knows that these financial losses would put the school out of business, but he has refused to back down. This is an abuse of power that jeopardizes Maine children," wrote House Speaker Mark Eves in response to the recent actions by Gov. Paul LePage to block his job at Good Will-Hinckley.

    Today board of directors of Good Will-Hinckley announced that they rescinded its offer to Eves to be the next president of the organization, which includes the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences charter school in Fairfield.

    “The Board of Directors of Good Will-Hinckley, after a great deal of consideration, has voted to seek a new direction for the institution’s leadership,” wrote Good Will-Hinckley Board Chairman Jack Moore said in a statement. “The basis for this decision is grounded in the institution’s desire not to be involved in political controversy that will divert attention away from our core mission of serving children and has the potential to jeopardize the future of our school.”

    Good Will-Hinckley and Eves signed an employment contract in May, prompting an outrage from Republican Governor LePage. Since then, the Harold Alfond Foundation a major contributor to the school, told the board it would withhold $2.75 million in grant funding if state funding didn't happen.

    "The Governor is not above the law and his illegal use of our government money to retaliate against the Speaker of the House must not be allowed to stand," said Civil Rights Attorney for Mark Eves, David Webbert. "Governor LePage has violated our Nation’s highest law by using taxpayer money to retaliate against a top leader of Maine’s Legislature. The Governor threatened to withhold over $500,000 in already approved state funding for the Good Will-Hinckley School for at-risk children unless the School fired Mark Eves from his new job as President."

    Political games should never govern the well being of an insitutition that gives kids futures with solid educations.

    Eves, with his legal counsel, released these full statements in response to the apparent blackmail by LePage:

    "Gov. LePage is blackmailing a school for at-risk children because I have opposed his policies. He has threatened the Good Will-Hinckley School to either fire me or lose over $500,000 in budgeted state funds and thereby lose another $2,000,000 in private funding. The Governor knows that these financial losses would put the school out of business, but he has refused to back down. This is an abuse of power that jeopardizes Maine children. 

    "The Governor’s actions represent the worst kind of vendetta politics Maine has ever seen. If it goes unchecked, no legislator will feel safe in voting his conscience for fear that the Governor will go after the legislator’s family and livelihood. For 15 years, I worked on the frontlines with struggling Maine families across the state as a professional clinical therapist. I’ve helped children, adults, and seniors on the edge facing mental illness and deep poverty. My personal experience with these struggling children, families, and seniors has guided me every day in the Legislature.

    "My father served as a chaplain in the military. My mother was a teacher. They raised me and my six siblings to give back to our communities and to serve the public. These are the values that led me to a career in counseling and behavioral mental health and they guide me each day in the Legislature.

    "The Governor’s actions should deeply trouble every single taxpayer, Maine resident, and member of our citizen legislature. I have strongly disagreed with the Governor on many issues, but I have never gone after his family the way he has gone after me personally, my wife, and my three children."


    Statement of Civil Rights Attorney for Mark Eves, David Webbert:

    "Governor LePage has violated our Nation’s highest law by using taxpayer money to retaliate against a top leader of Maine’s Legislature. The Governor threatened to withhold over $500,000 in already approved state funding for the Good Will-Hinckley School for at-risk children unless the School fired Mark Eves from his new job as President.

    "As was his plan, the Governor left the School with no choice but to terminate Mark Eves without cause. In turn, Mark has been forced to hire legal counsel to protect his ability to provide for his three young children.

    "Under the First Amendment, the Governor is clearly prohibited from using the money of our state government to exact revenge on public officials because they do not vote the way the Governor wants. This is not how Maine’s system of government is supposed to work.

     "The Governor’s tyrannical behavior threatens our democratic institutions. Legislators must be able to freely cast their votes in accordance with their best judgment and good conscience, without fear of political interference and intimidation. If the Governor’s blatant retaliation goes unchecked, it threatens the independence of Maine’s legislature and its ability to serve their critical role as a check on abuse of power by this or any future Governor."

  • GOP gives huge tax breaks to top 1 percent while raising taxes for working Mainers and seniors

    Distributional analysis of Maine Republican and Democratic tax plans

    By Ramona du Houx

    The saga of sorting out the various tax proposals under consideration this year is epic. Yet, simplified, it comes down to two camps with different principles. One wants to strengthen the middleclass, grow jobs, and give a hand up to the working poor. The other wants to give Maine's top 1 percent huge tax breaks. The most recent Republican tax plan increases taxes for working Mainers and seniors while decreasing taxes for the rich. While the Democritic plan lowers property taxes and helps to lower some income taxes.

    When Gov. Paul LePage wrote his extreme tax plan into his budget proposal, he made it harder for lawmakers to sort out the actual two-year budget. LePage’s tax expenditures and breaks projected into the future, which is something a two-year budget is not designed to do.

    Seeing the damaging impact that proposal would have on citizens - as property taxes and sales taxes would certainly rise under LePage’s plan - Democrats revised it making sure middleclass workers and the poor would have “a better deal.”

    In an attempt to sidetrack lawmakers and refocus the media the governor announced his legislation to end income tax. The Tax Committee rejected that.

    Then, after months of work from the Appropriations Committee, the place lawmakers form the budget - the governor gives them a makeover of his original tax plan - at the last minute. Keep in mind adjournment of the legislature is in a matter of weeks. If they don't finish the work, taxpayers will have to pay for their extra time. Something LePage, no doubt, could have had in mind as he tried to ramrod his new plan.

    LePage's tactics are getting old. Even folks in his party are revolting. The following is what the economist Garrett Martin, of the Maine Center of Economic Policy has to say about their proposal:


    Legislative Republicans have released a tax plan that is a bad deal for working Mainers and seniors living on fixed incomes. Based on preliminary analysis the Maine Center for Economic Policy conducted in conjunction with the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Mainers with income less than $57,000 will, on average, receive a tax increase under the Republican plan. That means approximately 60 percent of Maine people will get a tax increase on average if the Republican plan passes.

    The Republican plan is a bad deal. It prioritizes income tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the rest of us. Future impacts will be even worse as the Republican plan shifts more costs to low- and middle-income property taxpayers and it further compromises the state’s capacity to fund our schools, provide for low-income seniors, children, and people with disabilities, and maintain vital public services.

    The Republican plan reflects the discredited theory that income tax cuts will put Maine on the path to prosperity. They won’t. Maintaining public investments in our schools and communities will. And a robust and progressive state income tax is the foundation of such investments. This will not only help secure funding for public investments beneficial to all Maine families and businesses, it will also create a tax system where what the rich and poor pay in state and local taxes as a share of their income is more fair.

    Stay tuned as we release more analysis on the Republican plan. In the meantime, MECEP urges lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to work toward crafting a budget that includes both responsible, fair tax reforms that benefit middle- and low-income families and raises the revenue we need to fund education, health care, and other investments that will improve our economy and create opportunity for all Maine people.

  • Proposed law to end offshore tax haven abuse advances in Maine

    By Ramona du Houx

    A proposed law to prevent multinational corporations from evading Maine taxes by hiding profits in offshore tax havens is advancing in the Legislature after earning support from the Taxation Committee on April 8th.

    LD 341, An Act To Prevent Tax Haven Abuse, moves forward following a 5-4 party line vote of the committee members present.

    “The accounting gimmicks used by these multinational corporations are shorting Maine an estimated $10 million each budget cycle,” said Rep. Ryan Tipping-Spitz, D-Orono, the bill’s sponsor. “These huge corporations make use of Maine’s infrastructure, public services and workforce but avoid paying their fair share. Their practices stick local Maine families and small businesses with the tab.”

    Maine loses $10 million in each two-year budget period, according to an estimate made by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review with help from Maine Revenue Services. This revenue could be used for priorities such as revenue sharing, increased property tax fairness credits and investments in education and the workforce.

    Under Tipping-Spitz’s bill, corporations would have to report income from a list of known offshore tax havens, including Liechtenstein, Bahrain, Luxembourg and Monaco.

    He noted that five states and the District of Columbia already have adopted practices like those in LD 341.

    Maine already has domestic tax evasion checks in place to prevent corporations from hiding money in states like Delaware and Nevada.

    “Let’s do the right thing for Maine businesses and taxpayers,” said Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, the House chair of the Taxation Committee. “We need to close these tax code loopholes and stop this tax dodging that puts our small businesses at a competitive disadvantage.” 

    States lose an estimated $20 billion annually because of corporate use of offshore tax havens. It’s up to the states themselves to close these loopholes.


  • Report finds a "Public College Affordability Crisis" in Maine, especially for working families


    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) today released a new report, Maine's Public College Affordability Crisis: It's Worst for Families Earning the Least, on the rising costs for higher education in Maine. MECEP also testified today in support of LD 627, An Act to Make College More Affordable for Maine Residents, before the Maine legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.

     The MECEP report found that Maine's public university system annual cost jumped from $11,958 in 2000 to $17,820 in 2013, and now consumes 71 percent of the annual earnings of a low-income family.

    "A good education opens the door to a good job for aspiring Maine workers, to future prosperity for them and their families, and to a strong Maine economy that attracts business investment," MECEP policy analyst Christy Daggett testified. "But the rising education costs, shrinking student aid, and crushing student loan debt are closing that door to far too many Mainers, especially those from low income families. College has become less affordable for all Maine students, but college remains least affordable for low-income students and working adults."

    Daggett is the author of MECEP's report which offers three recommendations to improve college affordability for Maine's low-income and working adult students.

     "Maine's average student loan debt of $29,934 places the state 7th when ranking states by student debt load," Daggett said. "Maine has the highest rate in New England of adults who have some college credit, but don't have a degree and are stuck in low-paying jobs. Approximately 206,000 Mainers have some college, but no degree."

    The reports three recommendations are:

    1. Expand the State of Maine Grant program to fund all of Maine's neediest students at a rate of $5,500 per year.


    2. Increase state appropriations for the University of Maine system to reduce the net cost of attending public college in Maine.


    3. Improve funding to Maine Community College System to make the system more responsive to student and workforce demand.


  • Maine House unanimously overturns veto of bill to assist Mainers with disabilities

    The House, on April 2nd, voted unanimously, 146-0, to override the veto of a bill to make it easier for Mainers to get where they need to go. 

    LD 48, An Act to Reduce Registration Fees and Excise Taxes for For-hire Vehicles with Adaptive Equipment Enabling Access by Persons with Disabilities, encourages for-hire vehicles like taxis to invest in adaptive transportation equipment to help people with disabilities travel more easily.

    Rep. Arthur “Archie” Verow, sponsored the bill for the Greater New England Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

    “My bill will increase the availability of adaptive transportation equipment,” said Verow.  “Members of our community are struggling to access transportation options that are cost prohibitive or, in the case of for-hire vehicles, not widely available. Easier travel allows people with disabilities to live more independently, access better health care and otherwise improve their lives.”

    LD 48 passed unanimously in committee and by unanimous consent in both chambers of the Legislature.

    The veto will also be considered by the Senate.

    Last Wednesday, the House failed to overturn the veto LD 64, An Act to Reduce the Time within Which a Challenge to a Tax Lien Foreclosure May be Filed. The vote of 89-57 fell short of the two-thirds needed to override a veto.

    “This bill would have helped local communities address the problem of abandoned property that is vulnerable to vandalism, squatters and fire hazards,” said Verow, the bill’s sponsor. “It would have provided fairness to owners, buyers and the larger community of property taxpayers who benefit when abandoned property is returned to the tax rolls.”


    LD 64 also won unanimous committee support and had been passed by the Legislature with unanimous consent.

  • MDP calls for resignation of Maine State Senator Michael Willette after many racist remarks

    The Maine Democratic Party (MDP) is calling for the resignation of State Senator Michael Willette of Aroostook after recent reports surfaced of the lawmakers’ prolific online history of racist and bigoted remarks, showing a clear pattern of inappropriate conduct.

    “Senator Willette’s extensive history of offensive, bigoted and racist remarks suggests that they represent his core beliefs, which have no place in the State House and damage the integrity of the office he holds,” said Phil Bartlett, chair of MDP. “His statements cross the line of being simply offensive and are in line with the type of hate speech that is known to perpetuate violence and further divide our communities. We cannot accept this discriminatory behavior from anyone, especially our elected leaders, who are charged with creating and overseeing laws that impact our children and families. For that reason, we are calling for Senator Willette to immediately resign his seat.”

    The Maine Democratic Party is joining the Maine Democratic Senate Caucus in urging Republican leadership, including state lawmakers and leaders of the Maine Republican Party, to condemn racist and offensive remarks made by Sen. Willette.

    “By turning a blind eye to this matter, Republican leaders are condoning this indefensible behavior,” continued Bartlett. “This sends the wrong message to the people of our state--our lawmakers must not tolerate racism and bigotry. We urge Republican leaders and lawmakers to stand up against this hate speech and to denounce this behavior. The integrity of our public institutions is at stake.”

    Senate Democratic leadership sent the following letter to Senate President Michael Thibodeau urging him to rebuke Sen. Willette’s comments. Here is a portion of text from their letter:

    “In the wake of our country’s recent tribute to the brave Americans who stood up to injustice, we find ourselves in the position of being unable to look the other way and ignore the unacceptable and less than statesman-like comments made by one of our own.”

    “This goes beyond a difference in political party or priorities. This member’s social media comments are racist and un-American. We find it repugnant that he is perpetuating stereotypes and fear-mongering. As elected officials, we are--and should be--held to a higher standard. And to that end, we should hold each other accountable."

    Meanwhile, Rachel Talbot Ross, president of the NAACP’s Portland chapter, said that Senate President Michael Thibodeau should consider additional sanctions against Sen. Michael Willette, R-Presque Isle, including temporarily removing him as chairman of a legislative committee or ratifying a joint sentiment by the Senate condemning his remarks.

  • The Appropriations Committee’s Public Hearing Schedule for LePage’s Proposed State Budget that hits the middle class hard

    By Ramona du Houx

    The overall outcome of Governor LePage’s tax portion of his proposed two-year state budget, if passed as it is, would place an unfair burden on the middle class, while the top 2 percent of wealthy Maine taxpayers would see a dramatic tax cut. At the same time towns accross Maine will most likely have to increase property taxes to make up for the state cutting off revenue sharing. Small towns don't have large non-profits to levy a property tax on, as LePage wants, so they most likely will be forced to cut services or increase property taxes.

    The centerpiece ofs his so called "tax reform" proposal includes: 

    •Eliminating municipal revenue sharing- (no more funding from the state to towns)
    •Doubling the Homestead property tax exemption for homeowners at least 65 years of age
    •But eliminating the Homestead property tax exemption for all other homeowners
    •Imposing a property tax on non-profit institutions over $500,000 in value
    •Transferring two-way telecommunications property from state to municipal taxing jurisdiction
    •Shifting all taxable property in the BETR program to tax exempt status in the BETE program
    •Reducing personal and corporate income tax rates and phasing out the estate tax
    •Expanding the state’s sales tax base to include a wide ranges of services 
    •Increasing the general sales tax rate to 6.5 percent

    The Appropriations Committee has scheduled the public hearings on many of the municipally-related taxation-related proposals for next week.

    The proposal to eliminate municipal revenue sharing is scheduled for public hearing on Wednesday next week (February 18th). The public hearings on the proposals related to the homestead property tax exemption, taxing exempt institutions, the BETR-to-BETE conversion, and the tax jurisdiction of telecommunications property are scheduled for Thursday next week (February 19th).

    Municipal officials are urged to attend these public hearings for the purpose of providing information to our lawmakers about the impacts of the Governor’s proposals on your community.

  • Ramona du Houx: No more tax shifts

    Ramona du Houx
    Columns & Analysis | 
    Sunday, February 1, 2015

    Cutting taxes, most everyone would agree, could be a great idea. But how do you go about it without placing more of burden on the middle class?

    Not with Gov. Paul LePage’s plan.

    While LePage is trying to tackle the issue, his plan is focused on benefiting the top 2 percent. With his proposal those earning $50,000 to $175,000 will be taxed at the highest tax rate. And those earning about $10,000 to $50,000 would pay the same tax rate as the top 2 percent.

    So a schoolteacher earning $26,000 will pay the same rate as a successful investment banker who would get a 2.2 percentage-point cut to his tax rate. With the elimination of the estate tax, the top 2 percent will see a boon.

    LePage already cut the tax rate for the wealthiest. This is the second round and, again, the middle class will carry the burden. But then he plans to stop sending funding to municipalities for essential services. This cost-shifting will end up, as it has been, in property tax increases.

    When LePage was Waterville’s mayor, he ranted against any mention of cutting revenue sharing. Oh, the costs that shifting circumstances have on some politicians.

    What will hurt people daily is the sales tax increase to 6.5 percent. While I love going to the movies, I do not relish paying an expanded sales tax for my ticket. People will have to pay sales tax to have their hair done, go to a concert or visit a museum. Just to get the snow removed, hire an accountant or lawyer, or get a tow to the mechanic will cost people that sales tax increase.

    That tax plan is backward.

    Back in 2009, then-Gov. John Baldacci and Democratic lawmakers came up with a similar plan. The big difference was that the plan did not stop revenue sharing, increase property taxes or cut back on essential services. Yet it cut taxes for all tax-paying citizens, eliminating them for the less fortunate.

    But real tax relief for all never happened, as the right wing ad factory led the public to believe they would be paying a lot more because of sales taxes.

    A recent analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy evaluated the local tax burden in every state. According to the study, in 2015, the poorest fifth of Americans will pay on average 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes; the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent; and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent.

    From the report: “States and localities have regressive systems because they tend to rely more on sales and excise taxes, which are the same rate for rich and poor alike. Even property taxes, which account for much of local tax revenue, hit working- and middle-class families harder than the wealthy because their homes often represent their largest asset.”

    This ideological battle is being waged across the nation and involves the right wing promoting the economics of austerity over investing in people and programs in innovation that can grow the economy.

    Baldacci had it right. He consolidated administrations from school districts to branches of state government. He got the prison system to work together, and stopped agencies from duplicating work, all while getting bond initiatives passed that would go on to help research and development — the type of research that led to the University of Maine’s breakthroughs in bio-fuels and composite technologies.

    Maine’s innovative technologies began to really take off after 2007 with voter-approved bonds. The $50 million investment became known as the Maine Technology Asset Fund and nourished growing sectors of high-wage jobs.

    The funds were rewarded on a competitive basis. The recipients of the fund’s grants secured more than $80 million in matching funds. A 2011 evaluation of Maine’s research and development investments found that those 29 projects, that were granted funding by mid-2011, had directly created 289.5 jobs and preserved 303 in traditionally higher-paying sectors. Nineteen of those projects led to the creation of a new product or service.

    It is interesting to note that the MTAF hasn’t received any new funding since 2010.

    Maine's community colleges also received bond funding for their expansions, which has enabled thousands to get good-paying jobs

    Cutting taxes for the top 2 percent has not yielded jobs for Maine, or the nation. Meanwhile, America has experienced job growth for more than four years with Obama’s policies.

    Maine has been held back because of the trickle-down economic mantra LePage follows.

    Ramona du Houx is a published author and has written about Maine politics for 10 years. She is co-owner of Polar Bear & Company publishing and owns the news magazine Maine Insights. She lives in Solon.

  • Maine to receive $21.5 million in Standard & Poor's settlement concerning their bad credit rating parctices

    $1.375 billion multi-state settlement with Standard & Poor’s over credit rating practices leading up to 2008 financial crisis includes millions for Maine

    By Ramona du Houx

     Attorney General Janet Mills has announced the largest ever one-time settlement in Maine history.  The State of Maine filed papers Wednesday with the Superior Court settling the state’s complex lawsuit against Standard & Poor’s (S&P).  The lawsuit, originally filed two years ago in Kennebec Superior Court, alleged that the credit ratings giant engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in connection with its ratings during the time leading up to the financial crisis of 2008. The settlement was negotiated in conjunction with the federal Department of Justice and 19 states and the District of Columbia.  Maine will receive $21.5 million dollars for consumer protection efforts. 

    “Holding S&P accountable for these practices tells Wall Street we will not tolerate acts that deceive investors and devastate our economy,” said Attorney General Mills.  “As Attorney General I will continue to work to promote transparency and protect the integrity of our financial system.  This settlement shows that banks did not act alone and that the Attorneys General of the states and of the United States together will pursue any entity that violates the public trust and stacks the deck against consumers and homeowners.”  

    The lawsuit alleged that S&P did not fully disclose to the investing public the fact that it had a financial interest in giving some investments high ratings. While touting its ratings to investors as “independent and objective,” S&P was actually being paid for those ratings by the issuers (typically investment banks) of those complex investments such as residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) and credit default options (CDOs).  

    A credit rating is an attempt to predict how likely it is that an entity that has borrowed money will pay it back. Without high ratings from credit rating agencies like S&P, investment opportunities like RMBS and CDOs could not have been sold because institutional investors will buy only highly rated investments.  The lawsuit alleged that S&P allowed its ratings to be influenced by its desire to earn lucrative fees from investment bank clients.

    RMBS were created by securitizing subprime mortgage loans. CDOs were created by repackaging and securitizing the already securitized RMBS. Because of S&P’s high ratings, investors eagerly purchased these RMBS and CDOs.  This in turn led to the proliferation of low quality mortgages and a dramatic rise and fall in the housing market, with massive losses to the investors who purchased these products. 

    Attorney General Mills said her office has aggressively litigated and negotiated the case for two years. Initially S&P removed the case from Kennebec County to federal court in Maine.  The case was then consolidated with cases in other states and transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  The Attorneys General then litigated the case in New York for eight months until the federal court remanded Maine’s lawsuit back to Kennebec County, where S&P then tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. 

    Attorney General Mills stated, “The Maine Attorney General’s Office is not afraid to take on big business and big cases, to litigate and to win.  This case provides a significant financial disincentive to financial players who might be tempted to skirt the law and it provides ongoing oversight by the Department of Justice and the Attorneys General.”

    In addition to the financial settlement, S&P has agreed to facts acknowledging conduct related to its analysis of structured finance securities. S&P also agrees to cooperate with any request for information from any state expressing concern over a possible violation of state law for the next five years. The states retain authority to enforce their unfair trade practices laws if S&P engages in similar conduct in the future. The states and federal government are filing stipulated judgments, consent judgments or similar pleadings in their lawsuits in order to implement the terms of the settlement agreement and resolve all pending proceedings.

    In August 2014 the United States Securities and Exchange Commission adopted new requirements for credit rating agencies that address conflicts of interest and procedures to protect the integrity and transparency of rating methodologies and that provide for certifications to accompany credit ratings attesting that the ratings were not influenced by other business activities.

    The total settlement amount is $1.375 Billion. One half of the amount was paid the United States Department of Justice to settle its case. The other half was divided among the states that sued S&P.  S&P is paying the Maine Office of the Attorney General $21,535,714.00, an amount commensurate with the economic harm caused by the company’s behavior and an amount which exceeds the profits from its activities, amounting to essentially a disgorgement of S&P’s ill-gotten gains. The state’s share will be directed toward consumer protection and education efforts.    

    Attorney General Mills praised the work of Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti, head of the Consumer Protection Division, who traveled to New York City a number of times and who spent hundreds of hours litigating the case in state and federal courts on behalf of the State of Maine.

  • In States Refusing Federal Coverage Funds, like Maine, Rural Hospitals Pay the Price

     by  of the Maine Center for Economic Policy

    Fifteen hundred hospital beds have vanished in rural America since 2010. The cause of the disappearing beds is no mystery:  rural hospitals are closing – and at a quickening pace.  Federal sequestration cuts and lower reimbursements from public and private insurers have hit U.S. hospitals’ bottom lines with a one-two punch.  But rural hospitals are hit particularly hard, because they are caught in a vise where they serve higher rates of uninsured patients,  but are more likely to be located in states that have rejected health reform and the funds to cover the uninsured that come with it. Most of the shuttered hospitals are in states not expanding healthcare coverage – including Maine.

    This phenomenon likely will get worse.  Forty-three rural hospitals have closed in the past three years, but almost a third of the closures have occurred since January.  Georgia, a state where leaders remain resolutely opposed to accepting federal health reform dollars, has lost five hospitals in just two years, and more are verging on collapse.  And for rural Americans, a hospital closure isn’t just an inconvenience.  A closed hospital means that some rural residents must travel hours for care – and when it comes to trauma or other emergencies, minutes count.   Hospital closures can devastate  a small-town American economy.  In Maine, hospitals are the largest employers in seven counties – including Aroostook, Penobscot, Knox, and Lincoln (where one hospital- St. Andrews in Boothbay Harbor -recently closed).

    Health reform will benefit rural Americans significantly–  if some of their leaders cease blocking its full implementation.  Rural Americans are more likely to be low- to moderate-income, and less likely to have health insurance. Half of all rural workers are in fields like forestry or farming, where employer-based coverage is less common.  In an uneven economic recovery that has primarily benefited city dwellers, rural residents are more likely to live in households where no one has full-time workFifteen percent of rural Americans fall into the “coverage gap” – where they are not eligible for Medicaid coverage, but earn too little to afford health insurance in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace.  About 25,000 Mainers fit this profile.

    Arkansas-  another rural state where accepting federal healthcare dollars was contentious – ultimately  hammered out a compromise that used the federal funds to purchase private insurance coverage through the ACA marketplace.  No rural hospitals have closed in Arkansas since 2010.  Insuring thousands of Arkansans, and cutting down uninsured hospital visits, cut the amount that Arkansas hospitals spent on free care by more than half.

    This looming wave of rural hospital closures is relevant to Maine, where sixteen hospitals are rural critical access hospitals, and the percentage of uninsured Mainers has ticked up.  Two-thirds of Maine hospitals are in the red – an all-time high.  If Maine does not accept federal healthcare dollars, Maine’s hospitals are slated to lose $900,000,000 over the next ten years.  This is unsustainable, unnecessary, and bad for both Maine’s economy and the health care of thousands of Mainers, especially in our rural communities.

  • 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.

  • Democrats Hold Majority in Maine House

    By Ramona du Houx

    Democrats won 79 seats in the Maine House on Tuesday, according to preliminary election results. The victory gives Democrats control of the legislative body for the upcoming 127th Legislature.

     Democrats won 79 seats in the Maine House on Tuesday, according to preliminary election results. The victory gives Democrats control of the legislative body for the upcoming 127th Legislature.

    The finally tally of 151 House members, includes 68 Republicans and four unenrolled members who are expected to caucus with Democrats.

    “The election is over. Now is the time to govern,” said House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick. “We are ready to work with the Governor and our Republican colleagues and remain strongly committed to standing up for seniors and middle class families.”

    The Democratic majority in the House was won by the hard work of candidates, who fanned out across the state and whose positive message of economic opportunity resonated with voters.

    “Our candidates won their campaigns one conversation at a time,” added Eves. “They listened and learned from their neighbors and committed themselves to making their voices heard in Augusta.”

    The members of the 127th Legislature will convene for and be sworn in at 10 a.m. on Dec. 3.

  • Maine’s economic growth ranks 47th with LePage

    Maine’s economic growth ranks 47th in a new study by a leading business publication, Business Insider.

    The ranking is among the latest evidence showing Maine’s job and economic growth behind other states in the country. According to national labor statistics, the country has recovered 106 percent of the nonfarm payroll jobs lost during the recession.

    Regionally, New England has recovered 116 percent of jobs. Maine lags behind, recovering only 63 percent of the jobs lost in the recession.

    Top legislative leaders said the latest ranking is yet another indicator of LePage’s failed management.

    Governor LePage reneged on a deal the state had made with Statoil by manipulating the legislature. The company was going to invest $120 million in their project when LePage pushed his bill through the legislature taking away rights given Statoil under the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

    Statoil--an international clean energy innovator was ready to make Maine's name as the world's leader in floating offshore wind platforms. International sales in the technology, jointly created with the University of Maine, would have highlighted this cutting edge industry while creating hundreds of jobs and pumping millions of dollars in to Maine's economy. Statoil has since invested $2.5 billion in the U.K.

    “Maine people deserve leaders who will put economic opportunity and jobs ahead of ideology,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Governor LePage billed himself as a businessman who would turn around Maine’s economy yet he has chosen Tea Party politics over jobs and what’s best for the people of Maine at every turn.”

    LePage also pushed his agenda through the legislature. By doing so Maine's 1 percent got a huge tax break while most every citizen saw an increase in their property tax bill. What happened was simply: By giving the rich a tax break LePage took funds that normally would have gone to local towns away from them. These local municipalities had to keep emergency services and their schools running so property taxes went up and some services were cut. Jobs were lost, and incomes slashed with LePage's policies.

    Additionally, LePage is the only Governor in the country who vetoed five bills to increase access to life-saving health care under the Affordable Care Act, turning down nearly $1 million per day in economic investment in the state.

    According the Maine Center on Economic Policy, the federal investment in life-saving health care would have created and saved 4,400 jobs in the state.

    “Gov. LePage may want to tell folks that he’s done right by Maine’s economy but once again, I don’t think he should be bragging about these bottom-of-the-pack numbers,” said Senate President Justin Alfond. “After almost for years, it’s clear his strategies are not effective. Governor LePage and his allies in the legislature are not what Maine needs or can afford.”

    Under Paul LePage’s economic leadership, Maine has experienced, a job creation record among the worst in the U.S. since the bottom of the recession, ranking 42nd out of 50 states in the latest report (June 2014). Additionally, Maine has the 5th highest rate in the country of people who work only part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs.

    The state has had the second worst personal income growth record in the U.S., ranking 49th from 2009 through 2013. Plus, median household income is down $1,600 and $4,600 below the U.S. median.

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