President Obama signs bipartisan Veterans Affairs Bill into Law

President thanks Michaud for his continued leadership on veterans’ issues

August 7th, 2014 · Filed under: News from Washington

US. Capitol on the morning of President Barack Obama's Inaugural of 2013. photo by Ramona du Houx

President Obama signed into law today bipartisan legislation that will address many of the immediate systemic problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs. U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud worked with leaders on both sides of the aisle to finalize the legislation late last month. The new law takes steps to ensure veterans receive care in a timely fashion, and also strengthens accountability and transparency within the Department. It includes a number of provisions from Michaud to benefit veterans in Maine and across the nation.

Michaud, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, commented:

“Today represents an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs. The signing of this bipartisan legislation into law is, by no means, the end of this journey. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

“Now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work on implementing a wide range of reforms within the VA. Veterans deserve timely and high-quality benefits and services. We must change the culture at the VA to one where the needs of veterans are met directly and in a timely manner – and where employees are motivated to always do the right thing. A big part of getting there means increasing accountability and transparency across the Department, and having an assessment of whether VA’s current structure allows it to meet the needs of veterans. I look forward to working with Secretary McDonald over the long-term on achieving a stronger, more veteran-focused VA.”

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New Business Insider 47th ranking: Maine’s economic growth lags

August 5th, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation

Mike Michaud helped secure funds for UMaine's first in the Americas floating wind turbine project, VoltunUS. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Mike Michaud helped secure funds for UMaine’s first in the Americas floating wind turbine project, VoltunUS. Photo by Ramona du Houx

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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Request your Maine absentee ballot online

August 5th, 2014 · Filed under: Education

Maine military serving overseas? Traveling or homebound on November 4th? Whatever your reason to vote early, you can request your absentee ballot as of today at this link HERE.

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ReEnergy announces plans to restart operations at biomass-to-energy facility in Ashland, ME

August 5th, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Creative Economy, Energy Issues, Environment

ReEnergy Holdings today announced plans to resume operations at its biomass-to-electricity facility in Ashland, ME.

“We are very pleased to be resuming operations of this critical energy asset,” said ReEnergy Chief Executive Officer Larry D. Richardson. “This will restore jobs, improve forest health, and enhance reliability and stability in the delivery of electricity in northern Maine. This was only possible through the collaboration and support of key stakeholders.”

The 39-megawatt ReEnergy Ashland facility generates renewable energy from responsibly harvested green forest residue biomass and unadulterated wood. It is capable of producing approximately 284,000 MWh of electricity each year — enough to supply nearly 37,000 homes. The facility, which opened in 1993, was acquired by ReEnergy Holdings in December 2011 as part of a multi-facility portfolio purchase from Boralex Industries Inc. It has been idled since March 2011. It is anticipated that the facility will be fully operational by December.

“The reopening of the Ashland biomass facility is welcome news for the important jobs it will restore and the renewable energy it will generate. The forest economy is a tremendous asset in our state and biomass plants like the one in Ashland play a vital role,” said Senator Susan Collins.

The facility has a significant economic impact in northern Maine. The resumption of operations will restore 25 well-paying direct jobs and an estimated 150 indirect jobs associated with the facility, many of them related to the supply of the forest residue fuel supply to the facility and additional jobs tied to local goods and services related to the facility. At full production levels, the facility purchases more than $16 million annually in fuel from local loggers. When considering the payrolls of the direct and indirect jobs along with taxes paid by ReEnergy Ashland, the annual economic impact on the region is well in excess of $20 million.

ReEnergy’s plans to restart the power plant in Ashland is great news for the community,” said Ashland Town Manager Ralph Dwyer. “It will create many well-paying direct jobs at the plant as well as other indirect jobs supplying the facility with biomass fuel. The Town of Ashland appreciates ReEnergy’s commitment to our community and look forward to seeing the plant in operation again.”

ReEnergy has achieved certification to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) Standard for the facilities that are currently operating in Maine and New York. ReEnergy will seek similar certification for the Ashland facility, and this certification will provide third-party verification that ReEnergy’s biomass procurement program promotes land stewardship and responsible forestry practices. ReEnergy is the first company solely devoted to electricity production to be certified to the SFI Standard.

ReEnergy’s strategy is to own and operate its facilities in regions capable of supplying raw materials while simultaneously ensuring the long-term sustainability of the forests where those facilities are located. The company owns and operates three other biomass-to-energy facilities in Maine: ReEnergy Stratton (48 MW); ReEnergy Livermore Falls (39 MW); and ReEnergy Fort Fairfield (37 MW). ReEnergy also owns and operates a facility in Lewiston that processes construction and demolition material. With Ashland operating, ReEnergy will employ more than 140 people in Maine and support more than 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“This is great news for the town of Ashland and another sign of the positive things that are happening in Aroostook County’s forest economy,” said Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council.

Biomass-to-energy offers substantial long-term employment and positive rural economic impacts. With in-state equipment manufacturing, fuel harvesting, processing, and jobs from facility construction to ongoing boiler service, the bioenergy industry contributes significantly to the state’s economy. As a rule of thumb, each megawatt of biomass-fueled electricity supports approximately five full-time jobs: one direct job in the biomass facility, and four indirect jobs in surrounding forests and communities.

The Ashland facility has been idled since March 2011 due to market conditions. The restart has been made possible due to a confluence of factors, including an increased need for electric grid stability in northern Maine, availability of transmission capacity, a growing need for a local outlet for mill and forest residues, and energy market changes.

The facility has been maintained in a manner that will allow for a prompt return to its standard of reliability, but several months of preparation will be necessary to hire and re-hire employees, build fuel supply, and assess and re-tune equipment.

About ReEnergy Holdings:

ReEnergy Holdings LLC, a portfolio company of Riverstone Holdings LLC, owns and/or operates facilities that use forest-derived woody biomass and other waste residues to produce renewable energy. It also owns facilities in New England that recycle construction and demolition debris. ReEnergy was formed in 2008 by affiliates of Riverstone Holdings LLC and a senior management/co-investor team comprised of experienced industry professionals. ReEnergy owns and/or operates nine energy generating facilities with 325 MW of installed renewable energy generation capacity and processes for recycling more than 700,000 tons per year of construction and demolition material. ReEnergy operates in six states and employs more than 300 people.

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Maine teachers learn to integrate ocean science in the classroom at Bigelow Laboratory

July 31st, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Science

Nine high school teachers and one junior high school teacher from across Maine spent a week at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in July learning about ocean sciences so they could integrate what was learned into their classrooms this fall. This was the fourth time Bigelow Laboratory invited teachers in for what has become an annual Keller-Bigelow Laboratory Orders Of Magnitude (BLOOM) Teachers workshop.

The four-day summer workshop is led by Bigelow Laboratory researchers, Dr. David Fields and Dr. Nicole Poulton, provides teachers with training, tools, and hands-on research experience so that they are better equipped to teach ocean science in their classrooms. Educators learn how to teach the fundamentals of ocean science in a local and global context and receive curriculum materials, aquatic field sampling and laboratory equipment, and follow-up academic year support.

“Our goal is to enhance teachers understanding of the ocean, how it works, what lives in it, and how it is changing so that they can take this knowledge and share it more effectively with their students, “ explained Fields. “Given that the ocean is so vital to our economy and way of life here in Maine, a greater focus on ocean science is a winning situation for everyone involved.”

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House passes Bipartisan Veterans Affairs Legislation with Michaud Provisions

Michaud worked to finalize a bipartisan deal; includes ARCH renewal for Maine veterans and greater accountability for senior employees across VA

July 30th, 2014 · Filed under: News from Washington

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the bipartisan VA conference report that Rep. Mike Michaud helped finalize over the weekend. Michaud, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, worked with Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to reach the bipartisan deal that addresses the immediate problems plaguing the VA system.

“Today’s House vote is an important step toward reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs into an organization that is focused on meeting the individual needs of every single veteran, and meeting them in a timely and responsive manner,” said Michaud. “I am confident that the bipartisan spirit we saw throughout our many oversight hearings on this crisis, throughout the Conference Committee, and on the floor of the House today will carry us forward over the coming years as we dig into the real work of reform. I’m proud that we all came together, worked across the aisle for the best interests of our veterans, and put together a path forward for VA.”

A number of Michaud’s provisions were included in the final conference report. Most notably, Michaud secured the extension of Project ARCH – a program he first worked to bring to Maine in a 2008 bill he helped pass. ARCH serves approximately 1,400 Maine veterans and allows them to receive quality care close to their homes and support networks, at Cary Medical Center in Caribou. Without the ARCH program, many Northern Maine veterans would face a nearly 600 mile round-trip journey to and from Togus to receive care. Prior to Michaud’s work on the Conference Committee to secure a renewal, the program was set to expire at the end of September.

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Issue 41: Maine’s Creative Economy moves forward without LePage

July 25th, 2014 · Filed under: Issue 41

Summer Issue 4. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Summer Issue 4. Photo by Ramona du Houx


POLITICS:

Exclusive Interview: Congressman Mike Michaud: His passion to help people and his economic policies -

OP-ED, by State Senator Colleen Lachowicz: While Maine is the only state in New England without Medicaid expansion the Legislature enacted significant other healthcare laws

Editorial: Hope is on the horizon for Maine’s small businesses and healthcare- with Michaud

CREATIVE ECONOMY AND COMMUNITY:

Nouveau Cirque Theater/ New Circus comes to Maine setting the stage for a transformation in New England shows

Waterville’s potential as Maine’s art hub grows with Common Street Arts

Maine’s Old Port Festival has become a huge success

Portland’s non-profit art collective needs a new home

Neil Rolde’s new book: Real Political Tales- Short Stories by a Veteran Politician

SCIENCE:

Maine becomes first east coast state to study, plan, and prepare for ocean acidification

Maine is leading the way with RGGI- makes it easier to work with new EPA carbon standards –

BUSINESS:

Report shows Maine leading the way in farming revival

$100 thousand grant award supports environmental sustainable economic development strategy for Maine

Statoil pumps $2.5 billion in UK offshore floating wind project instead of Maine

DeepWater Buoyancy to add 15 new jobs now they have Pine Tree Zone tax exemptions

The largest microbrewer of Japanese Sake is in Kittery, Maine

Bakery specializing in old world artisan bread

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Hope is on the horizon for Maine’s small businesses and healthcare

July 25th, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Creative Economy, Editorials, Issue 41

Front Street Shipyard has enhanced Belfast's creative economy. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Front Street Shipyard has enhanced Belfast’s creative economy. Photo by Ramona du Houx


EDITORIAL

Artists, artisans, farmers, engineers, designers, IT computer professionals, inventors, microbrewers, and unique retailers can be found in every corner of our state. More café’s and restaurants are opening daily. Maine’s creative economy, embracing technology, talent and tolerance, is in full swing. These, more than 143,000 small businesses, entrepreneurs are our mainstay.

Two out of every three jobs are created by a small business—and more than 280,000 Mainers are employed by a small business.

They are forging ahead, despite a bad business climate created by Gov. LePage’s administration. But small businesses hurt when their taxes go up because the state has cut back funds to municipalities forcing towns to increase property taxes. They hurt when there is a new law that doesn’t allow a business, where you live and work, to deduct part of their property expenses on the Maine tax return. They hurt when people’s incomes stagnate.

Under Governor LePage’s watch, Maine ranks forty-sixth in the nation for jobs recovered since the recession. While the rest of the country has recovered 101 percent of lost jobs, Maine has only recovered 48 percent, and most of them are in the Portland area.

According to CNBC, Maine is ranked 45th on its list of America’s Top States for Business– including specific rankings as 46th in infrastructure and 48th in overall economy.

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Congressman Mike Michaud: His passion to help people and his economic policies

July 25th, 2014 · Filed under: Community Maine, Creative Economy, Economy, Exclusive Interviews, Issue 41

Mike Michaud helped secure funds for UMaine's first in the Americas floating wind turbine project, VoltunUS. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Mike Michaud helped secure funds for UMaine’s first in the Americas floating wind turbine project, VoltunUS. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Back in 2005 the Federal Government’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission announced that there would be closures of military bases across the country. Maine was targeted at three major facilities: Kittery-Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS) and Defense Finance and Accounting Services Center (DFAS) in Limestone.

The State’s Congressional Delegation swung into action along with Gov. John Baldacci, and the communities effected. Press conferences and meetings were held at each threatened facility, sometimes one a day at each location, and Congressman Mike Michaud was at the majority of them, from promoting the attributes of workers in Limestone to rallying shipyard employees in Portsmouth. He fought for the workers and their communities in Portsmouth and BNAS in Maine and D.C., even though those bases were not in his congressional district.

After ten years of reporting on the Congressman’s activities, I’ve learned that there is nothing more important to him that making sure the people of Maine are treated fairly and have good paying jobs with healthcare benefits.

Congressman Mike Michaud gives a shipyard union leader a congratulatory hug for helping to Save the Shipyard from BRAC closure in 2003. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Congressman Mike Michaud gives a shipyard union leader a congratulatory hug for helping to Save the Shipyard from BRAC closure in 2003. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Recently we talked about his economic development plans for Maine.

Q: What is your highest priority?

A:

My biggest priority is building a Maine economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthiest among us. That starts with job creation, but it also means an intense focus on education, starting with early childhood, and continuing through college; it means a higher minimum wage and expanded access to health care for nearly 70,000 Mainers, and 3,000 veterans; and it means empowering business to grow and expand.

Under Gov. LePage and his failed policies, Maine has lagged behind the rest of New England in private-sector job growth. His “open for business” policy is nothing but rhetoric. He’s actually driven hundreds of millions of dollars of private-sector investment out of the state.

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Nouveau Cirque Theater/New circus comes to Maine setting the stage for a transformation in New England shows

July 25th, 2014 · Filed under: Arts & Entertainment, Creative Economy, Issue 41

A narrative dance theatre performance in Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo performed at Bowdoin College. Photo by Ramona du Houx

A narrative dance theatre performance in Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo performed at Bowdoin College. Photo by Ramona du Houx

In May, at Bowdoin College, audiences were in awe watching aerial dancers twirl high overhead on “silks” that wrapped round their arms as they completed dare devil acts. It was hard to imagine these performers were not professionals—but they were students in Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva’s course, Interdisciplinary Devising. And it wasn’t just a circus act; they were part of a narrative dance theatre performance in Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo the second Circus-Theatre-Cabarets ever performed in Maine.

Amazingly no student had ever performed aerial stunts— many had majors in areas unrelated to theater. The staging – on four levels (floor, two balconies, a catwalk, and aerial silk) was remarkably complex, yet the constant dance-like motion of the performers made everything flow.

“Harrison Bergeron was a wonderful opportunity to stage an amalgam of dance, drama, circus and live music – with a strong social narrative. The Bowdoin production was an experiment in trans-disciplinary theatre,” said Syssoyeva, who was a visiting Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance. “And it was an exploration of the power of live performance – of what makes theatre fundamentally different from film: intense, physical immediacy. With the rise of collectively devised performance, theatre is becoming ever more multi-disciplinary. Despite eternal funding difficulties, despite ever more sophisticated technologies of mediated performance, live theatre is experiencing a revival – especially physical theatre. At the same time, the New Circus movement (nouveau cirque) is surging in North America and Europe. Our production of Harrison Bergeron is a cross over from devised physical theatre into New Circus.”

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