Today, Congressman Mike Michaud announced that he will help lead an effort to urge President Obama to take action to prohibit workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Michaud and several of his colleagues have begun circulating a letter for signature by members of Congress urging the President to issue an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“In the absence of Congressional action, the President should follow the example of strong anti-discrimination laws in Maine and other states to ensure that no one in the federal workplace is discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.” said Michaud. “Executive action by the President would be a significant first step, but the House still needs to act to ensure workplace protections are available to all Americans. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to push for a vote on the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”
Maine already has strong protections for LGBT citizens. In 2005, Maine voters upheld a law passed by the legislature prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression with regard to employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations.
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Tags: Economy·Government transparency
Shenna Bellows, Maine’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, called on Republican Susan Collins and members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to release a 6,000-page torture report by the Senate Committee on Intelligence. The long-awaited report, which took nearly 4 years to complete, shines a light on the CIA’s controversial torture practices.
“Americans deserve to know the full extent of our country’s use of torture under the Bush administration,” said Bellows. “We need to properly address these mistakes of the past, so that history may never repeat itself. It’s time to end the secrecy and restore the rule of law.”
As the former Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, Bellows strongly advocated against the use of torture by both American intelligence agencies and the military. She has written many pieces on the subject of torture, and she led a successful campaign against solitary confinement, a form of torture, in Maine prisons. Bellows has also been a long-time advocate of the freedom of information, serving on Maine’s Freedom of Information Coalition and the Maine Right to Know Advisory Committee for several years.
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Tags: Civil Rights·Elections·Government transparency·Shenna Bellows
Maine’s capitol at night, photo by Ramona du Houx
In a letter to the state’s top budget officer, Democratic leaders urged the administration to make public a list of shovel-ready projects and jobs that will lose out as result of Governor Paul LePage reneging on statewide jobs bond contracts.
Millions of bond funds voted for by the people of Maine are still waiting to be released. Only $30 million in bonds have been authorized by LePage over the past four years. Maine’s credit rating is high and interest rates low making it the idea time to jump start the economy with already approved bonds.
The letter comes in response to a press conference held by LePage where he doubled down on his threat to hold jobs hostage by reneging on bond investments he gave the go-ahead to last July. He said, “I cannot stand by and watch as Democrats destroy our state’s credit rating and cash reserves.”
“The people of Maine expect a governor who is going to lead–not jump from crisis to crisis. And unfortunately, this time, there are real consequences to the governor’s volatility,” said Senate President Justin Alfond. “Reneging on jobs and projects that are shovel-ready hurts Maine businesses, workers and our economy.”
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President Barack Obama said, “Our budget is about choices… It’s about our values. As a country, we’ve got to make a decision if we’re going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, or if we’re going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy, and expand opportunity for every American.”
It’s a roadmap for creating jobs with good wages and expanding opportunity for all Americans. And at a time when our deficits have been cut in half, it allows us to meet our obligations to future generations without leaving them a mountain of debt.
This budget adheres to the spending levels that both parties in both houses of Congress already agreed to. But it also builds on that progress with what we’re calling an Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative that invests in our economic priorities in a smart way that is fully paid for by making smart spending cuts and closing tax loopholes that right now only benefit the well-off and the well-connected…
The American people have made clear time and again which approach they prefer. That’s the approach that my budget offers. That’s why I’m going to fight for it this year and in the years to come as President.
Tags: President Barack Obama
Today the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future gave strong bipartisan approval with a vote of 12 – 1 for a $73 million bond package supporting jobs in microbiology, marine resources, and technology.
“This is jobs bond encourages, supports, and stimulates Maine’s economy and job growth,” said Democratic Senator Linda Valentino the Senate Chair of the Workforce Committee. “We’ve heard from economic experts that investment in our innovators will lead directly to commercialization, job creation, and can help bolster Maine’s economic recovery.”
The package is the culmination of the committee’s work over the last eight months after hearing from leaders in the business and research and development communities. The focus of the package is to provide funding that small businesses and institutions will use specifically for job creation efforts.
“This bond proposal helps propel business toward near-term job creation. It’s just what the state needs as it continues to shake off the effects of the recession,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry , the House Chair of the Workforce Committee. “Targeted, smart investment by the state can create good-paying jobs in 21st century fields that will keep our bright young people here at home, enlarge the markets for what we provide, and push Maine’s economy forward.”
The package includes:
- $ 5 million for the FAME Loan Guarantee Program, which is expected to create or retain 1,935 jobs and has a performance leverage of 17 to 1, will spur investment and innovation;
- $ 15 million for the FAME Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program, also known as the REDLIP Program, will be used for flexible loans to create jobs, revitalize downtowns, and strengthen Maine’s rural economy;
- $ 10 million for the Maine Technology Asset Fund which will leverage matching funds on at least a one-to-one basis to promote research development, and commercialization for economic development and private sector job creation;
- $ 8 million for a lab at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to assist farmers and foresters improve plant, animal and human health;
- $ 15 million for Jackson Laboratories for a new biometric analysis lab which will be matched by $16 million in private and public contributions. An investment in this area can make the state a global resources for precision medicine;
- $ 5 million for a Mount Desert Island Biological Lab which will be matched by $9.5 million in private and public funds to increase biotechnology workforce training from 350 to 500 students per year
- $ 15 million for a marine economy expansion
Since 2011, Maine has ranked last in terms of private sector job growth and has recovered merely one-third of the jobs lost from the recession and
“As a former FAME board member, I know what a difference this could make for job creation. This type of investment can grow small businesses and our rural economies,” said Representative Joyce Maker of Calais.
Rep. Timberlake voted against the measure and Rep. Grant and Rep. Bennett were both absent for today’s vote.
A letter along with the bond measure will now be sent to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee for review. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Tags: Bonds for jobs in Maine
The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee advanced a measure to accept the federal government’s offer to expand health coverage to 70,000 Mainers including nearly 3,000 veterans, today.
Governor LePage had vetoed the Affodable Care Act funds for Maine last year even though it would cost the state $0 for three years. And only less than 10 percent after that. LePage’s action put the lives and livelihoods of 70,000 people at risk. Now lawmakers are trying to compromise to make sure they have a 2/3 rds majority vote to override LePage.
A proposal by Senate Republican Leader Roger Katz would accept the federal funds with a sunset provision after three years, while also putting in place a managed care plan to reduce program costs. It would also reduce the waitlist for homecare services for Mainers with intellectual disabilities, addressing a key talking point for Republican opponents.
“We’ve come so far with a compromise bill that will provide health care to tens of thousands of Maine people,” said Rep. Dick Farnsworth, the House Chair of the Committee. “Despite political pressure from the Governor and his allies, we have a Republican-sponsored health care bill that will save lives, save state dollars, and boost jobs at a time when Maine has the worst job growth in the country. ”
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Tags: Need the ACA in Maine
Maine’s capitol at night, photo by Ramona du Houx
Citizens suffering from mental illness in Maine will lose out on access to health care if Governor Paul LePage and his allies in the Legislature refuse to accept a Republican-led proposal to cover 70,000 Maine people, including nearly 3,000 veterans.
“The struggle of mental illness is hard enough without having to worry about how you’ll pay for your medicine or hold down a job,” said Senator Troy Jackson. “We have an opportunity to do right by our citizens and we shouldn’t pass it up because of politics.”
If the compromise measure does not pass, 21,000 Maine people with mental illness and substance abuse conditions will lose out on health coverage, according to a new report from the American Health Counselors Association.
“As a mental health care professional, I’ve seen first hand how damaging a lack of health care can be for those suffering from mental illness,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves, a marriage and family therapist by training. “Simply being able to afford your medicine and therapy is vital to maintaining a job and playing a productive role in your community.”
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Tags: LePage's refusal to help mental illness in Maine·Need the ACA in Maine
March 3rd, 2014 · Filed under: World News
The North Atlantic Council, which includes the ambassadors of all 28 NATO Allies, will meet on Tuesday 4 March, following a request by Poland under article 4 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty.
Under article 4 of the Treaty, any Ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.
The developments in and around Ukraine are seen to constitute a threat to neighboring Allied countries and having direct and serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area.
Secretary of State, John Kerry will be traveling to Europe to discuss America’s position. It’s more than likely that the United States will issue crippling sanctions against Russia if they invade Ukraine completely.
March 2nd, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news
Congressman Mike Michaud and Shenna Bellows, candidate for U.S. Senate from Maine, attended many caucuses in Maine today.
Thousands of Democrats, activists and volunteers gathered today at statewide caucuses to kick off the 2014 campaign season. Nearly 3,500 Democrats caucused in more than 300 Maine towns, joining Democratic candidates who crisscrossed the state to meet and talk with voters. Gubernatorial candidate Congressman Mike Michaud, US Senate candidate Shenna Bellows, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and candidates from the second Congressional District were all in attendance.
“Democrats are fired up and ready to win in 2014,” said Ben Grant, Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. “We have one of the strongest tickets in our party’s history with Mike, Chellie, and Shenna on the ballot and we’re going to use today’s momentum to propel us to victory in November. In order to move the state forward, we need to elect strong democratic candidates who will fight for the middle class. And we can’t win without the grassroots support of volunteers and activists across the state, which is why our caucus today is so important.”
The caucuses are the front lines of grassroots politics. Attendees gathered to select delegates to the Democratic State Convention, elect Municipal Officers and County Committee members, and discuss national and local policy issues impacting all Maine people. Attendees had the chance to meet with other democrats to discuss their viewpoints, ideas and questions.
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Tags: Elections in Maine
On March 3rd, Portland’s celebration of Read Across America Day will become the first community in Northern New England to join the nationwide Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
The Campaign is a nationwide network of more than 140 communities working to improve reading proficiency for all children by the end of third grade, a crucial benchmark for future academic success. As a network member,Portland will receive access to experts and policymakers, strategic and technical assistance, and opportunities to share and learn from similar communities.
“Portland is now at the vanguard in working to ensure that all of our children reach this critical threshold,” said Portland Mayor Michael F. Brennan.
Portland’s public elementary schools are celebrating Read Across America Day, which coincides with Dr. Seuss’ birthday, by inviting guest readers to visit classes and planning other special activities. Portland’s police chief, fire chief, several television reporters and anchors and other local celebrities will read at Hall Elementary School.
“We know how important it is for all of our children to read at grade level by third grade,” said Portland Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. “That is why our district made it a priority goal to increase by 20 percent the number of students reaching that goal by 2017.”
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