Eve’s private option ACA healthcare provision moves forward

April 18th, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news, Health Care

In a 19-14 vote, the Senate approved an amended version of a bill to increase access to health care with a private option component modeled after New Hampshire’s program.

“I will support any reasonable compromise that brings health care to more Maine people,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, who sponsored his own expansion bill, LD 1640. “If we can save even one life with this compromise, to me, it’s worth it.”

The amendment to the bill, LD 1578, would require federal funds to purchase private health insurance through the federal health insurance exchange created through the Affordable Care Act. It is modeled after New Hampshire’s bipartisan health protection program proposed by New Hampshire Senate members and passed by their full legislature.

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Maine’s first-in-nation bill to help foster children finish college, heads to governor’s desk

April 18th, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news, Community Maine, Education

 Maine is on its way to becoming the first state in the nation to support foster children with higher education through the age of 26.

The Legislature on Thursday passed LD 1683, Resolve, To Improve Degree and Career Attainment for Former Foster Children, as the Senate gave the measure its final approval. It now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.

Sponsored by House Majority Leader Seth Berry , the bill would allow former foster children to receive guidance and financial help with higher education expenses averaging $5,000 a year until their 27th birthdays. At present, Maine provides no support or guidance beyond age 20. The bill leverages one private foundation dollar for every two public dollars and would support up to 40 young Mainers at a given time.

“Morally and economically, it makes sense to help these young Mainers complete their education,” Berry said. “Even with the best of childhoods, how many of us were fully independent at age 20? How many of us would cut off our own kids once they turn 20?”

Youth in care often have multiple foster care placements that contribute to gaps in their educations. It is not unusual for youth in care to start college after age 18, and only 2 percent to on to receive a four-year degree.

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Maine lawmakers pass $50 million job bond plan

April 18th, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Economy

The Legislature on Thursday passed a $50 million bond plan to boost job creation by small businesses and invest in key sectors of the state’s economy and clean water infrastructure.

“Democrats and Republicans came together to make critical investments in our economy,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “This is a positive step towards boosting jobs by building on the best of Maine.”

The plan is made up of six separate measures. Each received two-thirds approval in both chambers of the Legislature on Thursday.

The largest of the six proposals would invest $12 million to recapitalize the Regional Economic Development Loan Program and the Commercial Loan Insurance Programs — proven financing programs that help promising small business on the cusp of job creation access capital.

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Maine lakes protection bill goes to LePage for signature

April 17th, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news, Environment

A bill that would protect Maine lakes and the local economies that depend on them is on the way to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.

The Legislature on Friday passed LD 1744, An Act to Protect Maine Lakes, as the Senate gave the measure final approval with a vote.

“We hope the governor signs this bill to show how much Maine values its lakes. They support $3.5 billion in annual economic activity and the jobs of 52,000 Mainers,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill will ensure responsible stewardship and protect the water quality that affects property owners, wildlife and local economies.”

The Legislature approved the bill at a time when water quality is declining.

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President Obama announced that the federal government will award over $500 million in job training and apprenticeship grants

April 17th, 2014 · Filed under: Community Maine, Creative Economy, News from Washington

 

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker tour a classroom at the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center in Oakdale, Pa.
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker tour a classroom at the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center in Oakdale, Pa.
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker tour a classroom at the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center in Oakdale, Pa., April 16, 2014. Students Zach Kuzma and Stephanie Womack demonstrate equipment that teaches students how to manipulate gears, pulleys, sprockets, etc. to adjust the speed and/or torque of a motor or system. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced that Vice President Biden would lead a reform of America’s job training programs, making sure that these programs ”train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.”

Yesterday, the President and Vice President visited the Community College of Allegheny County in Oakdale, Pennsylvania to announce progress on that reform.

“CCAC is an outstanding model of the kind of job-driven training we’re trying to encourage all across the country,” said President Obama. “You’re doing something right that is making a difference in people’s lives — and we want to spread the word.”

The President first announced a nearly $500 million competition in which the federal government will award grants to community colleges and employers partnering together to develop job-driven training programs.

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Eves offers final compromise on life-saving Health Care bill

April 17th, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news, Community Maine, Health Care

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Speaker of the House Mark Eves will offer a final compromise on his bill to accept federal funds to provide life-saving health care to 70,000 Maine people, including 2,700 veterans.

“This proposal is dramatically different from the prior effort to expand health care to Maine people,” said The Speaker of the House, Mark Eves. “I propose this in good conscience and in good faith as one last effort to provide critical health care that will both save lives and boost our economy.”

The amendment to the bill, LD 1578, would require federal funds to purchase private health insurance through the federal exchange marketplace. It is modeled after New Hampshire’s bipartisan health protection program proposed by New Hampshire Senate members and passed by the full legislature.

“Our neighboring state of New Hampshire has recently successfully passed a version of Medicaid expansion that puts the vast majority of people on the private health insurance exchange. Arkansas has also been able to do this,” said Eves. “Both states successfully negotiated an agreement while having a divided government. I have to believe, and hold out hope, that if New Hampshire can do this in a divided government, we can do it.”

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Love, leadership & landing gear: 10 new books for the military mindset

April 17th, 2014 · Filed under: Books

By J. Ford Huffman

  Spring reading? Here’s Military Times’ guide to some nonfiction (and a book of short stories) that takes you from Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam to Georgia, Nevada and beyond – with stops in Annapolis and at West Point.

  “Redeployment” by Phil Klay, Penguin Press, 292 pages, $26.95

   Don’t let the image of a soldier on the front of the book jacket mislead you. The writer was a Marine public-affairs officer in Iraq, and 10 of these dozen short stories are about Marines.

The title story is first and was in last year’s “Fire and Forget,” the outstanding fiction collection by former service members and a spouse. The first six words do the job of 60:

“We shot dogs. Not by accident.”

None of Klay’s words is accidental, and his ear for grunt vernacular can make his sentences seem unstudied. The dialogue evokes character and conveys exposition whether the theme is horror or humor. On the latter side, a Marine is “dumber than Fabio on two bottles of NyQuil.”

  “In Vietnam They Had Whores” puts two wars and two generations into perspective. In “Prayer in the Furnace” a chaplain’s sense of inadequacy – “that I’m worthless is well established” – personifies organized religion and organized responses.

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Maine parents protest by returning products containing toxic chemicals to Walgreens in Portland, Bangor

April 17th, 2014 · Filed under: Civil Rights, Community Maine, Health Care, Healthy Lifestyles

Two dozen parents, pregnant women, and medical professionals showed up at Walgreens drug stores in Portland and Bangor, April 16th, to return a variety of products that contain high levels of the chemical phthalates, according to new testing results released today by HealthyStuff.org. Participants called on the national pharmacy chain to do more to keep these dangerous chemicals off store shelves.

“Walgreens and other giant retailers have an important role to play in making everyday products safer,” stated Emma Halas O’Connor, Coordinator for the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. “We need lawmakers to set science-based standards and we also need large companies like Walgreens to mind the store and use their market power to increase demand for safer alternatives. No child should be exposed to the hormone havoc of phthalates while they play with their favorite toy or get ready for their next day at school.”

Phthalates are known to cause serious health effects, including abnormal development of male sex organs; learning and behavior problems; diabetes; increased rates of asthma and allergies; and greater risk of prostate and testicular cancer. They are commonly used to soften vinyl plastic and are routinely added to hundreds of everyday products and building materials found in the home, including lunch boxes, kids’ backpacks, school supplies, rain coats and boots, shower curtains, tablecloths, floor tiles and wall covering. Phthalates are also a common ingredient of “fragrance” found in many cosmetics, lotions and other personal care products.

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LePage urged to sign new law to stop multinationals from evading taxes and level field for Maine businesses

April 17th, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Taxes

Maine's capitol at night, photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine’s capitol at night, photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine’s lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill to stop multinational corporations from dodging Maine taxes through accounting tricks. The bill now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his John Hancock. LD 1120, An Act To Improve Maine’s Tax Laws, would level the playing field for Maine-based businesses by preventing tax evasion by multinational corporations that use tax code loopholes to make it seem as though the income was generated elsewhere.

“Democrats are calling on the governor to do the right thing for Maine businesses and taxpayers,” said Rep. Adam Goode, the bill’s sponsor. “Sign this bill, close loopholes exploited by huge multinational corporations and stop tax evasion that puts our small businesses at a competitive disadvantage.”

Under the measure, corporations would have to report income from a list of 38 known offshore tax havens.

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 like revenue sharing, increased property tax fairness credits, early education, Clean Elections or helping seniors afford prescriptions.

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Lawmakers tell DEP to strengthen mining rules, protect waters and taxpayers

April 17th, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news, Economy, Environment

Western Mountains of Maine photo by Ramona du Hoxu

Western Mountains of Maine photo by Ramona du Hoxu

The Legislature voted to reject inadequate proposed mining rules and gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that directs the Department of Environmental Protection to draft rules that will protect Maine’s environment and taxpayers.

The Senate voted unanimously on a resolve, which requires new rules to be rewritten and submitted to the Legislature by Feb. 1, 2016. It now goes to Gov. Paul LePage for his signature.

“We must make sure we protect the waters of Maine. If we are to have mining in Maine, we must make sure it protects our groundwater, lakes and other waterways. If we are to have mining in Maine, we must make sure that taxpayers are not saddled with clean-up costs as they have been in the past,” said Rep. Joan Welsh, the House chair of the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee.

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