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A year of unfinished business

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 13:20:47 EST

Earlier this month, the 128th Legislature began its second regular session, where our rules mostly limit us to bills deemed to be emergencies. As is our custom, we also address unfinished measures from 2017 and a small number of new bills. We are scheduled to adjourn by the end of April, but sessions often run longer than what we have on the schedule.
The bills we will be taking up cover a wide range of topics, but one of my top priorities will be making sure Maine properly implements the MaineCare expansion overwhelmingly passed by voters last November. I wrote more extensively about this topic two weeks ago.


The Legislature will also work to implement the recommendations of a task force that studied Maine's opioid crisis, which has been claiming record numbers of Maine lives for the past few years. We must work to improve access to treatment, step up preventative education in schools, make the use of overdose drugs more available and make sure law enforcement has the resources and tools it needs to combat trafficking.
Another priority will be to continue the fight to hold down education costs and property taxes. Last year I worked hard to ensure that the Department of Education would have the ability to intervene on behalf of districts that experience sudden spikes in special education costs, and I hope to continue advocating on behalf of the towns in our district.
. We must also revisit our approach to energy and technology infrastructure in the wake of recent storms, find consensus on the voter-approved citizen initiative legalizing the limited recreational use and sale of marijuana and address any unexpected situations that might arise over the next several months.


With regard to taxes, I will fight hard against any state-level version of the anti-middle-and-working class Trump-Ryan tax bill that passed Congress late last year. Any tax relief we pass in Maine should go directly to families like yours - not those who already have millions and millions of dollars.
More generally, I will also continue to work with anyone with good ideas about how to bring more jobs to Lincoln County, take care of our seniors, support our veterans, improve education and keep people warm this winter.
Just as in previous years, I'll be continuing as co-chair of the bipartisan Veterans Caucus and as a member of the Legislature's Marine Resources Committee.


I have also submitted several bills that I believe are vital to Maine's future. I'm spending extra time on energy policy this year and have been pushing hard to pass my bill to help towns build microgrids - smaller localized power grids that are better suited to withstand weather events and are more likely to keep your lights and furnace going. Microgrids are an especially good fit for areas near a hospital.


As always, I welcome your input on this or any other issue. You can e-mail me at Rep. Mick Devin or give me a call at 975-3132. It's an honor to serve as your state representative.


Devin, a marine biologist, a retired commander in the U.S. Navy and a member of the Legislature's Marine Resources Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House. He represents Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, part of South Bristol, Monhegan Plantation and the unorganized territory of Louds Island.



Rep. Fay to co-sponsor Diamond bill to help Mainers get propane in emergencies

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 15:50:17 EST

AUGUSTA - Rep. Jess Fay, D-Raymond, will be the lead co-sponsor of a bill filed by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, to facilitate the delivery of propane to keep Mainers warm in declared heating emergencies.


The bill responds to current widespread delays in fuel delivery by allowing propane delivery drivers to fill tanks owned by different companies. The law now states that tanks may be filled only by the company that owns them. This bill waives that requirement, provided both companies involved have an agreement and that an emergency has been declared, as has been the case recently due to abnormally cold temperatures throughout the state.


"It is entirely unacceptable that some Mainers are going without heat in this bitter cold," said Sen. Diamond. "This bill applies common sense to the situation and allows propane companies to fill tanks that may belong to another company. My view is, if the product is available, there should be no barriers keeping it from being delivered."


"I have heard from a significant number of folks and want to use the tools I have as a legislator to try to connect people with resources and give them a way to get their fuel in a timely manner," said Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Casco, who supports the legislation and introduced her own similar bill to help Mainers access propane. "It is upsetting to me to hear from so many constituents about this issue, and it is heartening that Sen. Diamond and I are thinking along the same lines."


As the statutory cutoff date for introducing bills has passed, this bill must be approved by a majority of the Legislative Council, the ten members of leadership in the Legislature. Bipartisan support is required for any bill to be accepted.


Fay is serving her first term in the Maine Legislature and represents part of Casco, part of Poland and part of Raymond. She serves on the Legislature's Environment and Natural Resources Committee.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Fay], c. 231-1442; Christine Kirby [Diamond], 294-2468



Public comes out in support of Fecteau's technical education bond

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 15:11:48 EST

AUGUSTA - Maine high schoolers will soon have access to updated equipment and skilled job training resources through Maine's 27 Career and Technical Education centers if a bond proposal from Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, wins legislative approval.


"There is too much demand and too few tradespeople. The recent bout of cold weather hammers this point home in a bitterly frigid way," said Fecteau. "Oil delivery companies continue to play catch up, not because they lack supply but because they lack drivers."


LD 47, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Fund Equipment for Career and Technical Education Centers, garnered support from members of the public during its hearing today before the Legislature's Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee.


"Currently, our nation suffers from the largest skilled labor gap ever and the Department of Labor statistics are dire," said Kevin Michaud, Director of the Waldo County Technical Center. "With over one million unfilled positions spanning all of the traditional industries, this ‘skills gap' is only going to widen over the next few years."


Fecteau's bill would provide an additional $40 million for Maine CTE schools that could be used to replace outdated equipment and technology needed for skilled job training.


Mainers overwhelmingly approved a bond proposal to issue upgrades and improvements to Maine's CTE schools nearly 20 years ago.


"A lot has changed for Maine's CTEs since 1998. Equipment at the schools has become obsolete. Buildings have aged. Course offerings and curriculum have adapted to a 21st Century economy. Funds available from the federal government shrunk," said Fecteau. "While much has changed physically and philosophically, one thing remains certain: Maine needs young people well trained to perform a trade in an economy hungry for their employment."


The AFA committee heard public testimony on the bond proposal on Thursday. If the committee approves the bond proposal, it will face votes in the House and Senate. A favorable result would then send the bond to Maine voters, likely in the November 2018 statewide election.


Rep. Ryan Fecteau is a second-term member of the Maine House of Representatives, representing part of Biddeford. He serves as House chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Fecteau], c. 231-1442



Public comes out in broad support of Rep. Berry's bill to send voters rural broadband bond

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 16:17:46 EST

AUGUSTA - Members of the public from a wide variety of professions came out in strong support of legislation by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, to send a major rural broadband development bond to Maine voters. The testimony came during a public hearing today before the Legislature's Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.


Berry's legislation, ">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280063244"> LD 520, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Increase Rural Maine's Access to Broadband Internet Service, would ask voters to pass a $100,000,000 bond that would empower Maine's ConnectME Authority to dramatically increase the amount of broadband internet cables throughout rural Maine.
"Investing in rural broadband will let more Maine businesses access new markets, more Maine seniors access telemedicine and more Maine children access new online learning tools," said Berry, who serves as House chair of the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. "This is a critical step toward closing the high-speed internet access gap between rural Maine and the rest of the state, and it would lead to big improvements in our economy and in our quality of life."


Julie Ann Smith, executive director of the Maine Farm Bureau, said the bond would allow Maine farms to better compete with the rest of the world and grant them greater access to world markets.


"Many of Maine's farmers, rural businesses and residences do not have access to this infrastructure because their physical location is too far from the three ring binder," said Smith. "Farmers must rely on high-speed internet infrastructure, not only for their business operations, but for much of the newer farming equipment."


Maine's chapter of the AARP also came out in strong support of Berry's bill.


"Broadband access is often necessary to use new technologies that improve quality of life for people of all ages and that can allow people to age in place," said AARP State President Rich Livingston. "Many older Mainers live in unserved and underserved broadband areas. All people need to connect with one another and be part of a wider community, but for older Mainers, staying connected is especially important."
Maine's medical community also expressed a desire to see the bill pass.
"[LD 520] will help increase access to health for rural Mainers by removing broadband barriers that are limiting the use of telehealth," said Sarah Calder, Director of Government Affairs for MaineHealth. Calder testified that patients with access to telehealth "demonstrated lower rates of emergent care, improved ability to manage medications and were more likely to remain independent at home following discharge from services."
Calder also testified that telehealth access reduced health care costs by decreasing re-hospitalization rates. Other supporters included municipal officials from Maine's island communities, which have also struggled to gain access to high-speed internet infrastructure.


The Appropriations Committee will hold a work session on the bill in the coming weeks before sending it on to the full Legislature with its final recommendations. Should the bond be approved, voters would likely weigh in on the measure in the November 2018 general election.
Berry represents House District 55: Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Swan Island, and most of Richmond. He previously served from 2006-2014, the final two years as House Majority Leader.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Berry], 231-1442



Statement of Rep. Seth Berry on the Maine PUC decision to delay Aqua Ventus offshore wind demonstration project

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 08:59:51 EST

AUGUSTA - Rep. Seth Berry, House chair of the Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, issued the following statement on the Maine Public Utilities Commission decision to reopen the public comment period for the Maine Aqua Ventus offshore wind demonstration project off the coast of Monhegan Island:
"This decision seems like another instance of the Public Utilities Commission going backwards and running away from clean, renewable energy projects that will create jobs in our state," said Berry, D-Bowdoinham. "Additionally, the PUC fails to understand that this is a demonstration project. For our state to realize its huge potential as a clean energy exporter, creating hundreds of good paying jobs, we need research and development like this project to go forward."
Berry represents House District 55: Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Swan Island and most of Richmond. He previously served from 2006-2014, the final two years as House Majority Leader.
Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Berry], 231-1442



Public comes out in support of Herbig's rural infrastructure bond

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 15:43:55 EST

AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development will soon be able to help more Maine communities develop and repair vital infrastructure if a bond proposal from House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, wins legislative approval.


"Some say that rural Maine has to reinvent itself to survive. I don't buy that," said Herbig. "After talking with community leaders in Waldo County, it became obvious that the best thing we in the Legislature can do to support rural Maine's redevelopment is to give our towns the resources and, in turn, the ability to make investments in their local infrastructure."


">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280064190"> LD 1118, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support Local Infrastructure, garnered support from members of the public during its public hearing today before the Legislature's Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee. "To a substantial degree, Belfast owes its recent economic development resurgence since the collapse of the poultry processing industry in the 1980's to its sustained investment in business and community development-related infrastructure," said Thomas Kittredge, Belfast's Economic Development Director.


The bill would provide an additional $15 million for DECD's Communities for Maine's Future Program. Maine voters approved the establishment of the $3.5 million Communities for Maine's Future Fund in 2010. In 2011, DECD awarded 11 grants totaling $3.5 million, to be matched with $11,245,325 of local funds for Communities for Maine's Future Program downtown revitalization projects. Those grants went to roughly one third of the communities who applied for funding that year. The communities who received funding in 2011 include Belfast, Bath, Dover-Foxcroft, Eastport, Livermore Falls, Monmouth, Norway, Rockland, Skowhegan, Unity, and Winthrop.


"With the additional $15 million in funds provided through bonding in LD 1118, the department could provide larger grants to more communities in need of a final push over the finish line," said Herbig. "LD 1118 is an important step forward in empowering Maine's communities to adapt to our changing economy and build the independent infrastructure we need to bring back more of the Maine families we've lost."


If the bond proposal is approved by the committee, it will face votes in the House and Senate and its fate will ultimately be decided by Maine voters in the June 2018 statewide election.


House Majority Leader Erin Herbig is currently serving her fourth term in the Maine House of Representatives. She represents House District 97 which includes Belfast, Northport and Waldo.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Herbig], c. 231-1442



Democrats Celebrate Increase in Mainers Paychecks

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 15:41:57 EST

AUGUSTA | Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the effective date of an increase in Maine's minimum wage, less than a week after thousands of Mainers received another pay raise as Maine's minimum wage increased to $10 per hour.


According to the Maine Center on Economic Policy, ">https://www.mecep.org/59000-mainers-get-raises-with-new-years-hike-in-minimum-wage/"> 59,000 Mainers will receive higher pay as a result of this month's increase. Additional analysis shows that ">https://www.mecep.org/minimum-wage-increase-contributes-to-largest-annual-wage-gain-in-10-years/"> total wages in Maine grew by $587 million in the first half of 2017 compared with the first half of 2016 - a 4.7 percent year-over-year increase.


Democrats in the Maine State Legislature beat back efforts by Republicans and Governor LePage during the 128th Legislature to repeal, undermine or replace the successful minimum wage increase passed by Maine voters in a November 2016 referendum.


To mark the anniversary, House Speaker Sara Gideon released the following statement:
"Raising the minimum wage provides hard-working Mainers with income to spend on the basics they need. The fact is that no one working full-time should be living in poverty. This latest increase means that 1 out of every 10 Maine workers is going to see more money in their paychecks to spend in their local community."


"Raising the minimum wage is also good for business. Across the state, owners of small and large businesses are recognizing that fair wages and higher profits go hand in hand; it's good for the bottom line. House Democrats will continue to fight for policies that strengthen Maine's economy."


Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden issued the following statement:
"We've been fighting to protect workers and their wages for years, but last year's increase in the minimum wage was more than a political victory, it made a real difference in the lives of everyday people trying to make an honest day's pay across our state."


"That overdue raise went directly into families' pockets and the cash registers of our local businesses, strengthening Maine's economy and our communities. We've made a lot of progress over the last year in ensuring Maine's economy works for everyone, not just a lucky few. The minimum wage increase was a big part of that."


Contact:
Mary Erin Casale (207) 415-4965



Winter in Windham

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 11:05:58 EST

It was great to see so many friends at the Town of Windham's Tree Lighting at the Windham Public Safety Building and at the Sebago Lakes Chamber of Commerce Tree Lighting at the Windham Shopping Plaza. What fun and magical events!As the days get colder and snow starts to fall, there are so many great activities to do in and around Windham. Our parks and trails are available year-round for all sorts of activities. The Parks and Recreation Department grooms cross-country skiing trails and even has snowshoes to lend, free to use, so you and your family can continue being active outdoors. They offer men's, women's and children's sizes.On Saturday, Jan. 6, the Windham Parks and Recreation Department is having its annual Winterfest. The event is beach party themed and will have a photo contest, games, dancing, prizes and so much more. Learn more on their http://www.windhammaine.us/155/Parks-Recreation"> website. The recreation department is also hosting two ice skating nights. On Jan. 19, at the Donnabeth Lippman Park skating rink, and on Feb. 2, at the Manchester School skating rink, enjoy s'mores and skating. Both events are free and open to the community. As always, the Windham Public Library has a number of events and programs open to all ages. Take a look at their http://www.windham.lib.me.us/"> website to find activities for the whole family. If you haven't already cut down your tree, the Maine Christmas Tree Association is a non-profit organization composed of family farms that produce real Christmas trees and wreath products for retail, wholesale, mail order or choose-and-cut during the Christmas season. Check out their http://www.mainechristmastree.com/"> website to find a Christmas tree farm near you.Maine's forty-eight state parks and historic sites offer year-round recreational opportunities. Winter is a great time of year to walk the beaches, trek the woods and observe signs of wildlife - a tracker's paradise. Winter Family Fun Days and the Ski & Snowshoe Trailer offer families and outdoor enthusiasts ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. These events will be released on the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's http://maine.gov/dacf/parks/discover_history_explore_nature/activities/winter_family_fun_days.shtml"> website soon. On New Year's Day, some of America's state parks offer free, guided First Day Hike Programs. These hikes provide a means for individuals and families to welcome the coming year in the outdoors, exercising and connecting with nature. In Maine, there are four locations where you can enjoy guided hikes on Jan. 1, 2018. Learn more at the Department of Agriculture's http://maine.gov/dacf/parks/discover_history_explore_nature/activities/winter_family_fun_days.shtml"> website. With recent weather, it's hard to deny that winter is here. Prepare your family and home for the season with winter safety tips from Maine Emergency Management Agency, including information on preventing hypothermia and staying safe in the event of a power outage. Learn more at http://www.maine.gov/mema/prepare/"> Maine Prepares.Please don't forget to stay safe when snowmobiling and spending time out on the ice. Visit the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife http://www.maine.gov/ifw/atv-snowmobile/safety-information.html"> website for safety tips and how to determine the thickness of ice.It is an honor to continue to serve as your state representative. As always, please feel free to send me a letter at 166 Albion Road in Windham, call me at 892-6591 or email anytime at Rep. Mark Bryant. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. Rep. Mark Bryant serves in the Maine House and represents part of Windham. He serves on the Committee on State and Local Government and the Committee on Transportation.[...]



Rep. Berry introduces emergency measure to reduce electric rates

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 10:38:12 EST

AUGUSTA - With the passage late last year of the largest federal corporate income tax cut in decades, Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, has introduced an emergency measure to make sure ratepayers are not asked to pay for expenses no longer incurred by Maine's for-profit utilities.


Berry's legislation would direct the Maine Public Utilities Commission to lower electric rates in proportion to the cut in federal corporate income taxes, which Congress reduced in December from 35 percent to 21 percent. At present, Maine's residential and business energy consumers pay in full for all federal, state and local taxes charged to the state's for-profit monopoly utilities such as Central Maine Power. Ratepayers also pay for the utilities' other expenses, plus a built-in rate of profit.


"It is bad enough that CMP residential transmission rates have tripled in the last ten years," said Berry, who serves as House chair of the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. "Failure to act immediately would leave Maine's grandmothers and paper mills on the hook for expenses our for-profit, monopoly utilities no longer even have."


In some parts of Maine, such as Madison and Kennebunk, electricity is delivered by nonprofit, consumer-owned utilities. Because a double-digit profit to investors is not expected, these areas typically see lower electric delivery rates and greater support for consumer energy savings, as well as generation such as rooftop solar.


Berry's proposal will go before the Legislative Council on Thursday, January 25 at 1:00 p.m. The Council is made up of each party's leaders in the Maine House and Senate. If a majority of the members agree, the bill will get consideration before the full Legislature and will receive a public hearing in the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.


The current makeup of the Legislative Council is five Democrats and five Republicans.
Berry represents House District 55: Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Swan Island, and most of Richmond. He previously served from 2006-2014, the final two years as House Majority Leader.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Berry], 231-1442



Maine Legislature Reconvenes for Second Regular Session

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 10:09:07 EST

AUGUSTA - The 128th Maine Legislature reconvened Wednesday, January 3rd, for their second regular session. This second year is designed to consider emergency bills and bills that were not acted on in the first year. Currently, legislators have upwards of 400 bills to consider before the statutory adjournment date of April 18.


Speaker Sara Gideon released the following statement: "As we start a new year and a new legislative session, it is my hope that all members of the legislature work collaboratively to do right by our citizens. Even in a time of divided government, we must advance policies that will increase prosperity for all Maine families. House Democrats are focused on supporting middle class Mainers, creating good paying jobs across the state, implementing Medicaid expansion and finally making progress on combating the opiate crisis."


House Majority Leader Erin Herbig released the following statement:


"There is no doubt that we have a lot of work ahead of us this short session, but I for one am excited to roll up my sleeves and get back to work. From bills to make sure employees have the skills they need to fill the good paying jobs we already have available to creating a community college center in Waldo County, I'm focused on creating pathways for more of our young people to live and work in Maine."


Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden released the following statement:


"This session is the time for us to address emergencies facing Maine families and our communities. I'm focused on combating dangerous lead poisoning in my hometown which is threatening the safety of kids and families, the stability of small businesses and the growth of our economy. I look forward to the progress we're going to make over the next few months."


Contact:


Mary Erin Casale (207) 415-4965



Task Force on Health Care Coverage for All of Maine Begins Work

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 12:52:27 EST

AUGUSTA - Maine's Task Force on Health Care Coverage for All of Maine began its work Wednesday to study state-based fixes to the healthcare system. While the Task Force was created by the Legislature after a hearing on LD 1274 "Act To Promote Universal Health Care, Including Dental, Vision and Hearing Care" by Rep. Heidi Brooks (D-Lewiston), their scope of work is wide-ranging and will include an all-of-the-above review of cost-savings options.


"We are all in agreement that too many Maine families and too many Maine businesses are struggling with the skyrocketing costs of healthcare," said Rep. Heather Sanborn (D-Portland), co-chair of the Task Force. "It is my intention that this Task Force results in common sense solutions that will improve health, add jobs, and help preserve Maine's community hospitals and health centers that so many of us depend on."


The Task Force is comprised of bipartisan mix of eight lawmakers, and representatives from health care groups, hospitals, the insurance industry, and small and large employers.


  • Sen. Rodney L. Whittemore - Chair
  • Rep. Heather B. Sanborn - Chair
  • Sen. Geoffrey M. Gratwick
  • Sen. Eric L. Brakey
  • Sen. Brownie Carson
  • Rep. Robert A. Foley
  • Rep. Anne C. Perry
  • Rep. Paul Chace
  • Kristine Ossenfort - Member representing interests of health insurance carriers, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  • Joel Allumbaugh - Member representing interests of consumers, The Allumbaugh Agency
  • Jeffrey A. Austin - Member representing interests of hospitals, Maine Hospital Association
  • Mark Hovey - Member representing interests of employers with greater than 50 employees, Cianbro
  • Daniel Kleban - Member representing interests of employers with fewer than 50 employees, Maine Beer Company
  • Kevin Lewis - Member representing interests of health insurance carriers, Community Health Options
  • Francis McGinty - Member representing interests of health care providers, Maine Health
  • Patricia A. Riley - Member representing interests of consumers, National Academy for State Health Policy


According to the joint order, the task force shall submit a final report that includes its findings and recommendations, including suggested legislation, for introduction to the First Regular Session of the 129th Legislature.


Contact:


Mary Erin Casale [Sanborn] | (207) 415-4965



Herbig Hosts Countywide Business Roundtable

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 12:16:02 EST

BELFAST | To complete her sixty-stop ‘Waldo County Works' business tour held over the last two months across Waldo County, Maine House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, hosted a business roundtable last Tuesday at the Hutchinson Center to foster countywide business collaboration with the goal of rural economic development.


"Over the last two months I've visited sixty Waldo County businesses who, despite coming from diverse industries, share many of the same challenges and opportunities in starting out in rural Maine," said Rep. Herbig. "This was a great opportunity for business owners to meet one another and have those critical conversations about the different challenges rural Maine faces and identify how we can work together to create more good-paying jobs for families for generations to come."


Approximately 40 businesses participated in the forum despite a snowstorm and discussed challenges ranging from finding and keeping qualified workers to strengthening student education pathways to fill existing jobs. Representatives from the Waldo County Technical Center, Adult Education and Hutchinson Center also participated in the roundtable discussions.


"I wish anyone who talks about how terrible things are in rural Maine could have come with me on this tour," Herbig added. "Waldo County has incredibly successful growing businesses. I am more energized than ever to use the conversations I had on this tour and during this roundtable to showcase our local businesses and ensure the rest of the state and country know that Waldo County is a great place to do business and work at a good-paying job."


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Herbig], c. 231-1442



AFA Democrats Recommit to Implementing Medicaid Expansion

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:07:16 EST

AUGUSTA - The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA) met today to begin its review of the cost of implementing Medicaid expansion passed by the voters in November. Maine is the first state in the nation to expand access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act via ballot initiative. The committee also reviewed the latest revenue projection forecast for the state.


The LePage Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services are required by law to begin the process of expanding Medicaid eligibility to Mainers earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit - roughly $17,000 annually. The law includes strict deadlines for DHHS to act. However, despite an invitation from AFA committee co-chairs Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) and Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) to the Department, LePage declined to send representatives from his administration the meeting.


"Thousands of Mainers cannot afford to wait any longer for the health care they need to be and stay well," said Rep. Gattine. "And what we did today was to start the critical work necessary to make this law a reality. While I'm disappointed that Governor LePage chose not to send a representative, I can't say that I'm surprised. Medicaid expansion is now the law of the land and our committee will continue to gather the facts, do our work and appropriate funds when they are necessary."


The AFA committee is tasked with determining the state share of the cost of expansion and appropriating funding. Projections by the Legislature's nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review (OFPR) indicate expansion will inject more than $525 million of federal funding into the state economy every year. OFPR estimated the state's share of expansion costs at $54.5 million once the federal share drops from 93.5 percent in the first year to 90 percent in 2021. There is no accurate cost projection for the current biennium due to a number of unanswered questions from the DHHS.


However, it was made clear to the committee that the state would not need an additional appropriation to fund the state share until May of 2019. In order to determine whether the state will need to make any expansion-related appropriations during the current budget cycle, the committee asked further questions of OFPR and DHHS about the timeline for covering newly eligible Mainers, the additional staffing needs at DHHS to process applications, and projected savings.


"Today, we began the work necessary to fulfill the voters' mandate and expand healthcare coverage to 80,000 Mainers," said Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, the lead Senate Democrat on the AFA Committee. "The law states that by July 2018, the state is required to begin offering Medicaid coverage to those newly eligible Mainers, so there's a lot to be done. I look forward to the work, but am disappointed that no one from Gov. LePage's administration accepted our invitation to participate in the work today. Implementation of this law is his responsibility and obligation as the chief executive of our state, and we expect him to fulfill it."


Contact:


Mary Erin Casale [Gattine] | (207) 415-4965 Mario Moretto [Breen] | (207) 460-4669



AFA Committee Meeting December 13

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 10:44:47 EST

AUGUSTA - The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA) will meet on December 13 to begin its review of the cost of implementing Medicaid expansion passed by the voters in November. Maine is the first state in the nation to expand access to health care under the Affordable Care Act via ballot initiative. The committee will also review the latest revenue projection forecast for the state.


The LePage Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services are required by law to begin the process of expanding Medicaid eligibility to Mainers earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit - roughly $17,000 annually. The law includes strict deadlines for DHHS to act.


"Maine voters resoundingly approved the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. As a result over 70,000 hardworking Mainers will have access to the care they need when they need it." said Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), chair of the AFA committee. "It is now the duty of every member of this committee, Democrats and Republicans, to work together to make sure that we understand the cost of expansion and that funds are there when they are needed. Maine people have waited too long for Medicaid expansion and the administration needs to move quickly so that people get the health care they deserve."


The AFA committee is tasked with determining the state share of the cost of expansion. The Legislature's nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review projects that the expansion will bring over $525 million into the state every year from the federal government and provided an estimate of up to $54.5 million for the state's share of expansion costs once the federal share drops to 90% in 2020. In order to determine the state cost for the current state budget, the committee needs to review and understand the timeline for onboarding new recipients and all associated costs.


"Health care is a human right and Medicaid expansion will save lives," said Sen. Cathy Breen of Falmouth, the lead Senate Democrat on the AFA committee. "I look forward to doing the work to make coverage a reality for those Mainers, and will do everything in my power to make sure Gov. LePage and his administration do the same."


The meeting will be held at 1 pm in room 228 in the State House.


Contact


Mary Erin Casale [Gattine] | (207) 415-4965
Mario Moretto [Breen] | (207) 460-4669



State Opioid Task Force Completes Work

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 15:29:53 EST

AUGUSTA- Maine's Task Force to Address the Opioid Crisis in the State concluded its work Tuesday, preparing to deliver its recommendations for combating the drug crisis by December 12, 2017 to the full Legislature for action.


"Every day we hesitate literally means the death of another Mainer," said House chair of the Task Force Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell. "From infants born drug-affected to jail cells filled with our neighbors in need of treatment, the statewide epidemic requires that we take action. Every aspect of Maine's economy, community safety and family stability will continue to suffer if we do not make progress on increasing prevention efforts, expanding access to effective, affordable treatment, and addressing the underlying poverty and inequality that have delivered this crisis."


The objective of the 19-member Task Force is for lawmakers and community experts to report back to the Legislature any recommendations, including legislation, that would assist with statewide efforts to combat the opioid crisis.


The Task Force will be compiling its recommendations, which have not yet been released, for legislation in the areas of law enforcement, prevention and harm reduction, and treatment and recovery. As a Legislative Task Force, any recommendations in the form of legislation are required to be referred to committees for additional action prior to appearing before the House and Senate.


"The legislature has the opportunity to act decisively to combat this emergency. We cannot ignore its impact or disregard the underlying causes or the lack of access to needed treatment. Expecting people to pull themselves up by their boot straps just isn't working. This is a complex problem requiring broad-based solutions," added Rep. McCreight. "It's time to recognize the extreme cost of this crisis, which can be measured in lives lost, families torn apart, a workforce gutted and an economy held back. It's time to take action to help our neighbors get the help they need."


In a revised interim report delivered May 15, 2017, the Task Force identified the current state of the drug crisis in Maine and analyzed treatment options, law enforcement challenges and other topics directly related to the opiate epidemic.

According to the Maine Attorney General's office, 185 Mainers died of a drug overdose in the first six months of this year. In 2016, the total number of deaths was 376.


McCreight, a member of the Legislature's Judiciary and Health and Human Services Committees, is serving her second term in the Maine House. She represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick. Contact:


Lindsay Crete [McCreight], c. 231-1442