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  • Greenlight Maine gives greenlight for start-ups TV exposure


    Thirteen startup companies moved on to the semifinals, and will compete in the final stage of the Greenlight Maine competition in June, 2017.

    Greenlight Maine is a   TV competition on WSCH6 on Saturday evenings at 7:30. After various rounds where new businesses pitch their ideas to panels of different experts every week the best pitch is given a $100,000 cash purse. The semi finalists also recieve mentoring as the panel widdles down who should move forward in the competition.

    It's really the first time start ups have recieved media attention on TV in Maine to this extent.

    "In our first two seasons, over 140 prospective companies have been vying for the coveted prize purse as well as received priceless mentoring from some of the most admired corporate and community leaders in our state," Brian Corcoran, a partner in Portland Media Group, which created the show.

    Portland Media comprises Corcoran's company Shamrock Sports & Entertainment; Nat Thompson, former producer/owner of WCSH-6; and Con Fullam, an executive TV producer and music composer.

    The Season 2 semifinalists are:

    • American Unagi, Sara Rademaker, Thomaston
    • McDermott Shapes, Ryan McDermott, Scarborough
    • Tip Whip, Spencer Wood, Bangor
    • Bluet Maine, Michael Terrien, Jefferson
    • Mobility Technologies, Ryan Beaumont, Brunswick
    • Izzy's Cheesecake, Jim Chamoff, Portland
    • Herbal Revolution Farm, Katheryn Langelier, Union
    • Switchdown, Jon Hanson, Durham
    • Foodwise, Leland Stillman, Portland
    • Surge Hydro, David B. Markley, Belfast
    • Springpoint Solutions, Troy Locke, Portland
    • Wag Rags, Chris Voynik, Readfield
    • Truck Task, David E. Grant, Brewer.

    Corcoran noted that more than the winner benefits. Millions have been invested in companies that have appeared on the show. In the first two seasons more than 140 prospective companies signed up to compete for the prize and mentoring. Corcoran's P.R business isn't doing to bad, eaither.

  • All Aboard Sprint Event Kicks Off 25th Season at Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad

    The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum begins its 25th operating season this weekend, April 8th, 2017 in Portland. 

    To celebrate the start of their anniversary year, the museum will be offering a new event called “Spring Aboard”on Saturday and Sunday, April 8th and 9th, and Saturday and Sunday, April 15th and 16th.  Children can decorate an egg inside the museum and all visitors can enjoy tasty treats along with a train ride. The museum will be open weekends in April, April 15-23 for April school vacation week and daily beginning May 6th.

    In addition to the event, the museum is offering a membership special the entire month of April.  All new members can enjoy 10 percent off the regular membership price. 

    “This is a great time of year to become a member of the museum,” said Director of Finance and Marketing, Allison Tevsh Zittel, “Members can enjoy the train ride, museum and many special events during the year free of charge.  It’s an incredible savings.” 

    Individual memberships cost just $40 ($36 during the month of April) and Family memberships are $100 ($90 during the month of April).

    Founded in 1992, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum is a non-profit museum with a mission to educate the public and preserve historic equipment related to Maine’s two-foot gauge railways. 

    Five two-foot gauge railroads operated in Maine from the 1870s through the 1940s, serving as an important part of the economic development of the interior of the state.  

    The museum has become a popular visitor attraction for the greater Portland area drawing over 42,000 visitors annually, including tourists and area residents, to experience a remarkable piece of history unique to the state of Maine. 

    The museum is open daily from early-May through late-October and seasonally for events. The museum is located at 58 Fore Street in Portland, on the waterfront, just a short walk from the Old Port.  Directions and more information can be found on the museum’s website at www.mainenarrowgauge.org or by calling 207-828-0814.

  • Sen. King Opposes Judge Neil Gorsuch and will join Filibuster with Democrats

    Basing his decision on a close study of judicial record, King concludes with no ‘do-overs,’ he cannot support nomination

     U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced his opposition to the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Senator King also announced that he will oppose a procedural motion to end debate to move the nomination forward.

    In his statement, Senator King said that, while he approached this nomination with an open mind, attended Judge Gorsuch’s hearing, and heard from Maine people on all sides of the question, several issues ultimately convinced him to oppose the nomination – from Judge Gorsuch’s glaring refusal to answer questions about his judicial philosophy during the confirmation hearing, to an appellate record that constrains the ability of the government to respond to national priorities and elevates the rights of corporations over their employees, to the unchecked flow of dark money that has gone into pushing his nomination. Given those concerns, and the significance of the lifetime appointment, Senator King said that he will oppose his nomination and vote ‘no’ on cloture.

    Senator King’s statement is as follows:

    +++

    “I am announcing today my opposition to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. This has not been an easy decision; I have read many of Judge Gorsuch’s opinions, met with him personally, attended a portion of his hearing before the Judiciary Committee, watched other parts of the hearing, listened to the people of Maine on both sides of this question, and read all I could find on his background, judicial philosophy, and temperament.

    “I started this process with an open mind and an inclination to support a nominee with this judge’s educational and judicial experience. I know that many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle shared this initial impression. But as I got further into my research, and especially after watching his interactions with the Committee at his hearing, my opinion changed. Here is why –

    “First – While at first coming across as sincere, personable and thoughtful, over time I found that his answers seemed, at best, increasingly evasive, and, at worst, simply not forthright. I fully understand that a nominee in this situation cannot opine on matters likely to come before the Court, but Judge Gorsuch’s steadfast refusal to answer reasonable questions as to his thinking on important legal issues and prior Supreme Court cases went far beyond this ‘future issues’ limitation. I found it particularly striking that he was willing to discuss some precedents (Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer or Brown v. Board or Education, for example), but not others (Citizens UnitedRoe v. Wade). If Youngstown was fair game for discussion and analysis (he likes it), why not Citizens United (does he like it or not)? At the end of the hearing, he left us with no real conclusions about his judicial philosophy and some confusion about where he stood on just about anything. As the hearing wore on, it became clear to me that this was a deliberate strategy to reveal as little as possible about what kind of justice he would be.

    “Second – The nature of any Supreme Court nomination puts it into a different category than any of our other votes in the Senate; most of our votes are in some sense temporary – laws can be amended or repealed at any time, but a Supreme Court Justice is for life (in this case probably at least 30 years). There are no do-overs or second chances on this vote, which makes it all the more important to understand as specifically as possible who or what we are voting for.  

    “Third – From reading his opinions and analyzing his work as an appellate judge, however, a picture does emerge, not of an independent judge, but of a judicial activist well to the right of the current members of the Court, except perhaps Justice Thomas, on fundamental issues of constitutional structure. In short, a careful reading of his decisions and writings over the years has convinced me that he would favor a return to pre-1935 jurisprudence whereby the federal government (including Congress) was severely constrained in its ability to address urgent national priorities. 

    “This is the judicial version of ‘deconstruction’, a term now much in use within the current Administration. Although there are certainly examples of regulatory overreach, few of us would support eliminating laws and regulations which protect Maine air and water, insure safe workplaces, or rein in the excesses of the financial system which brought us to the brink of world-wide depression less than ten years ago.

    “Fourth – Hobby Lobby. In this case which involved whether a corporation was a ‘person’ whose religious principles were abridged by its employees receiving insurance coverage for contraceptive services under the ACA, Judge Gorsuch began his concurring opinion with these astounding words, ‘All of us face the problem of complicity. All of us must answer for ourselves whether and to what degree we are willing to be involved in the wrongdoing of others.’

    “Aside from the dubious proposition that a for-profit corporation can have a religion, consider the implications of the phrase ‘the wrongdoing of others’ – that a woman choosing how to manage her reproductive life is ‘wrongdoing’ which her corporate employer can limit or control, regardless of her religious or moral principles. (Note that we’re not talking about abortion here, but about contraception). I find it very hard to support a judge who would so easily elevate a corporate employer’s values over those of its workers, particularly women, in a case of this importance.

    “Striking down an integral part of a major piece of legislation on such questionable grounds, by the way, is the definition of ‘judicial activism’.

    “Fifth – aside from these concerns, my final decision has been driven in part by the expenditure of more than $10 million on behalf of this nominee by people who are purposely concealing their identities (on top of $7 million spent last year by what appear to be the same groups to stall and defeat the nomination of Merrick Garland, a judge of equal distinction and experience). My thinking is that while the hearing may have left many of us uncertain as to Judge Gorsuch’s philosophy and likely conduct on the Court, the sponsors of this campaign are not uncertain at all. They are not spending this huge sum on speculation; they know what they are getting, and that, in itself, raises serious concerns, particularly given the judge’s reluctance to discuss the Citizens United decision.

    “Sixth – Finally is the question of how to vote on the cloture motion which the Majority Leader will file in connection with this nomination. Under current Senate Rules, it takes 60 votes to end debate on the nomination of a Supreme Court justice and proceed to a simple majority up-or-down vote on confirmation, just as it does on substantive legislation. On the one hand, this can be viewed as simply a procedural vote to end debate, but by consistent practice (I’ve had to vote on more than 350 cloture motions during my four years here), the 60 vote threshold is THE operative vote; if sixty votes are not obtained, the bill (or nomination) is dead.

    “Although I came here deeply skeptical of this practice, I have come over time (even when I was a member of the majority caucus) to appreciate its role in forcing a modicum of bi-partisanship in connection with important issues. While I still believe in reform of the institution so that we can stop the logjam in Washington, it seems to me that for major policy decisions, like a lifetime appointment, it is not unreasonable to require 60 votes in order to garner broader, more sustainable bipartisan support, which I think is in the interest of the nation.

    “Although there could be circumstances where it might be appropriate to support cloture and then vote against the nomination, the current status of this procedure does not strike me as such a case. If I am opposed to this nomination, it seems logical to oppose cloture because under the current rules, this would defeat the nomination. To support cloture in the current circumstance would make me guilty of ‘complicity’, to borrow Judge Gorsuch’s memorable term. 

    “If Judge Gorsuch is ultimately confirmed, I sincerely hope my concerns and fears will be proven wrong; I would be delighted if this is the case. But in good conscience, I must vote my convictions and not my hopes – and my convictions in this case tell me ‘no’.”

  • An Innovator of the Year - University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center

    Dr. Habib Dagher, P.E., Executive Director of the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center in a wind/wave testing facility at UMaine. The Center won a Innovator of the Year Award. The award is given to a company or organization in Maine that has accessed international markets through new and innovative processes or products. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine International Trade Center (MITC) announced the winners of the 2017 International Trade and Investment Awards. The awards will be officially presented during Maine International Trade Day on May 25, at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine.

    The UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center was at the top of the list. 

    "It's a great honor for the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center to be recognized for working with more than 500 international and national companies, including more than 150 Maine companies, to develop new products, reach new markets, and expand their international reach," said Dr. Habib Dagher, P.E., Executive Director of the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

    "This award truly goes to our world-leading students, faculty, and staff for their incredible work, as well as the more than 2,000 students who have worked at our lab since opening in 2000," said Dr. Habib Dagher, P.E., Executive Director of the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center."

    Using 3-D printers, robots, and digital tools the newest state of the art lab at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine will officially open this summer. 

    The Alfond Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory for Structural Thermoplastics is a demonstration lab that will test new ways to improve manufacturing. Thermoplastics are recyclable materials that will transform composite materials used in cars, ships, boats, and aerospace applications. Thermoplastic composites are low cost, low weight, recyclable, and corrosion resistant. 

    In partnership with industry, this facility will lead future thermoplastic composites manufacturing research and serve as a test bed for manufacturing solutions and training. This innovative new lab is part of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center that works with entities from around the world to bring advanced materials into construction.

    The Center has 180 full and part-time employees and is housed in a 100,000 ft. world-leading laboratory at the University of Maine.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ##

    The Text of the Letter:

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

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

    Dear Senators Collins and King:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Maine Rangers deserve pay raise that would create parity for law enforcement

    Measure will bring pay in line with salaries raised by lawmakers last year

    A measure from Rep. Catherine Nadeau to provide wage parity among state law enforcement is necessary to recruit and retain talent, law enforcement officers told a legislative panel March 31, 2017

    “Last session, we passed into law a measure that provided certain law enforcement with pay raises necessary for successful recruitment and retention,” said Nadeau, D-Winslow. “That was an important first step. Let’s finish the job and pay the men and women included in this measure a fair, appropriate salary for the work they do to keep our communities safe.” 

    Maine Rangers deserve a pay raise that would create parity for law enforcement, they patrol the state's vast forestlands and seaside. 

    Lawmakers voted last year to provide some state law enforcement officers with pay raises necessary for successful recruitment and retention. Nadeau’s bill would provide similar increases to law enforcement officers who were not included in the previous measure, including forest rangers, investigators with several state agencies and probation officers. 

    Lincoln Mazzei, a forest ranger pilot with the Maine Forest Service, told the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee that the agency has struggled to attract and retain qualified pilots during his decade as a forest ranger. The relatively low pay, he said, is part of the reason would-be rangers look for work elsewhere. 

    “This job is important,” Mazzei testified. “I realize I could leave and find better compensation elsewhere, but I don’t want to leave. This is my home, my children’s home and I know that the work I do makes a difference.”

    The committee is scheduled to hold a work session on the measure, LD 861, April, 7, 2017. At that time, committee members will have the opportunity to offer amendments and make a recommendation to the full Legislature. 

    Nadeau is serving her third term in the Maine House. She represents Winslow and part of Benton. She is a member of both the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

     

    -30-

  • Support rural Maine by investing in schools, broadband

    Editorial by Representative Dave McCrea from Fort Fairfield in Aroostook County

    It’s easy for an elected official to promise the world during a campaign. It’s another thing entirely to deliver on your promises and honor your word in a divided government.

    You may have heard Democrats promising a lot this past election. We told voters we’d fight to lower taxes for every Maine family, create better schools by finally ensuring the state pays its fair share,

    invest in safer infrastructure and the workers of Maine who build it, and bring high-speed internet access to rural areas to help our families and businesses compete.

    I’m proud that since day one of this session we’ve been pushing to do just that, because we know that Maine’s success depends on investing in our families and communities.

    Two examples of the ways we put our money where our mouth is happened this month in fact.

    Believing that the zip code you grow up in shouldn’t dictate the type of education you receive, voters supported Question 2 last fall, which created a funding stream that would make the state’s contribution to public education the full 55 percent as is current law. That referendum identified a 3 percent tax increase on the wealthiest in Maine as the source of funding.

    Despite the governor’s budget proposal, which seeks to ignore the new law, and a handful of other bills seeking to roll back Question 2, Democrats have stood strong, refusing to defund our schools to give yet another tax break to the wealthy. 

    The other example that makes me proud this week is the widespread support of my bill to expand rural access to high-speed internet. 

    Much has been said about the need to improve Maine’s business climate. If passed, LD 421 will spur Maine’s rural economy by supporting existing businesses as well as attracting new businesses that need high-speed internet to compete. 

    For those that don’t understand how important high speed internet access is to our communities, I suggest you try to complete a task using slow, or non-existent internet.

    For example, I am a recently-retired school teacher. At my school, due to dependable high-speed broadband internet, I could post a set of twenty Human Anatomy and Physiology grades into a  large program used by my school system in about a minute.

    If I were to attempt that same task at my residence in a more rural area of Fort Fairfield, it would often take me fiveminutes or more before I could upload one grade for one student.   

    When the weather is warm and when school is out for the day or for the summer, you can’t drive by our public library without seeing kids on the steps doing their homework I’m sure. There are also adults parked in their cars along the street, taking advantage of the dependable, high-speed internet access available at this location.

    My bill will go to the committee work session, likely pass through committee and then face a vote in the full Legislature. 

    Investing in our communities by protecting the quality of our public education and the tools our families need to succeed like high speed internet will strengthen Maine’s rural economy, its families and its businesses. 

    That’s a fight Democrats will lead and it’s fight we can proud of.

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

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

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

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

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

    Legislative Candidate’s Pledge

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

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

    Judicial Branch Action Regarding Dismissed Cases

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

    Terrence E. Pinkham v. Dept. of Transportation

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

    Conservatorship of Emma

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

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

  • Climate change is bad news for Maine’s lobster fishery — Trump made it worse

    Maine lobster ready to be eaten, with pleasure. photo by Ramona du Houx

    Editorial by David Cousens, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association 

    On the day President Donald Trump was sworn in, all references to climate change disappeared from the White House website. The Trump administration’s proposed budget would reduce funding for NOAA’s science and weather satellites and eliminate the Sea Grant program. Why does this matter? Sea Grant is to the fishing industry what the Cooperative Extension is to the farming industry.

    In 2015, the lobster fishery was the most valuable wild-caught fishery in the U.S. Yet we receive very little help from Maine or the U.S. government to support research, marketing or enforcement. Fortunately, we receive some research assistance from Maine Sea Grant. Maine Sea Grant has supported many lobster research projects over the years, including funding to monitor newly settled lobsters, a program to predict future landings and the impacts of warmer ocean temperatures on the fishery. This information is vitally important to lobstermen. 

    Cutting funding for NOAA is very short-sighted, considering the volatility of the weather and severity of recent storms. Fishermen depend on the agency, which oversees the National Weather Service, for accurate forecasts. This is a matter of safety for the thousands of people who work on the ocean for their livelihoods. 

    The NOAA satellite program also is important for our understanding of environmental trends. Satellite imagery tells us many important things, such as surface water temperatures over time, areas of cool or warm water and how freshwater runoff from major rivers affects the marine ecosystem. Satellites also have shown how fast the Gulf of Maine is warming, which is at an alarming rate.

    One might wonder why anyone would propose to cut funding for such valuable scientific programs. The answer might be that if the current administration doesn’t want to admit that climate change is real — and what better way to do that than to make the science that points out that it is real go away. If the federal government doesn’t pay for the satellites that show how fast the environment is changing, then the data are not available to scientists or to anyone else. 

    It is clear that the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, does not believe in climate change. He rejects the science behind climate change research, and he said earlier this month that “ there’s tremendous disagreement [on the science] about the degree of [human] impact” on the warming climate. We cannot allow the personal views of government leaders to set our country back by blocking funding for good programs and good science.

    There seems to be a disconnect between what is science and what is a belief. Science is based on facts and evidence gathered in an unbiased fashion. Beliefs are based on what you hear or want to believe. When I was growing up, science was king. It was based on facts, and it was not debatable. Now if you don’t like the science, you hire a so-called “expert” to argue about its validity and cast doubt on the facts. 

    Climate change has been the poster child for this practice. When nearly every country concurs that human actions have changed our climate and that those actions are having negative effects on the planet’s future, we are still debating whether that’s true, despite the fact that a strong consensus exists among the scientific community that human activities have made the planet warmer.

    Who are the doubters? For the most part, it is the fossil fuel industry that has spent millions of dollars to question the role of carbon emissions in climate change. Carbon dioxide is the byproduct of burning fossil fuels. So if the world starts turning to renewable energy, then the fossil fuel industry will no longer have a monopoly on the world’s energy needs.

    I’m not impressed with the total disregard for proven science and lack of respect for our environment shown by the new administration. As someone who depends on a clean environment to make a living, I’m worried we are trading the long-term health of our planet for short-term economic gains.

     

     

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



    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

    LePage's Draconian measure will:

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

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

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