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Local Lawmakers Condemn Downeast Correctional Facility Closure

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:58:22 EDT

AUGUSTA | In response to news that the governor intends to move forward with his plan to close Downeast Correctional Facility in Machias on June 10, local representatives condemned the move which was made despite significant legislative and community opposition.


"I can't believe that, at a time when we have money in the budget, the Administration is still making reckless cuts that directly harm Washington County, which is already suffering economically," said Representative Bob Alley, D-Beals. "What do we tell those workers? We had the money to keep your jobs afloat but chose instead to show you the door?"


"It's incredibly frustrating that this unnecessary hardship was created despite the bipartisan wishes of the Legislature," said Representative Anne Perry, D-Calais. "At a time when rural Maine continues to struggle to create and sustain good paying jobs, this closure will only add to Washington County's challenges."


The Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee hosted a public hearing and heard hours of testimony on the proposal to close the facility and voted unanimously against closure in their budget recommendations to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.


"This is a continuous pattern where Governor LePage has tried to outsource and privatize state run facilities and it's costing Mainers their jobs," said Rep. Charlotte Warren, House chair of the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. "Now fifty workers are without jobs and the fate of 150 inmates is in jeopardy."


Rep. Warren has sponsored a bill, LD 1296 "An Act To Prohibit the Privatization of State Correctional Facilities and the State's Forensic Hospitals" which would block future attempts by the State to privatize state-run institutions. The bill was advanced by the committee on March 17 and will move to the House floor in the coming weeks.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Alley, Perry, Warren ] c. 231-1442



Republicans must do their part to fully fund schools

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:53:23 EDT

AUGUSTA - Students across Maine are counting down the days until their long-awaited summer break. After a school year filled with creative and dedicated instruction, kids are now anxiously looking forward to field trips, summer camp and swimsuits. Our teachers are ready to issue their report cards, wish their students farewell and reflect on how they will make their classroom even stronger next year.At the same time, legislators in Augusta are in the midst of budget negotiations that center on these very students, these same teachers, the future of our classrooms and, indeed, the future of Maine. Now is the time we meet our obligation to fund these schools at 55 percent of their cost, as required by law.As speaker of the House, and the proud parent of three children in our public schools, this negotiation is one of my biggest responsibilities, on both a personal and a public level. We must ensure that all Maine kids receive an education that allows them to compete anywhere in the world.Fifty-five percent is more than a number on a spreadsheet. It means equal opportunity and fair access to education. It is a commitment to excellent learning standards. It represents a dedication to equity, so an 8-year-old kid in Frenchville is getting the same quality education as a third-grader in Freeport.Democrats know that adequately funding our schools is fundamental to building a strong economic future, too. A skilled, well-educated workforce will attract more companies and jobs to our state. We must provide our kids with the skills they need to stay and succeed here in Maine - that's something we all agree on.Beyond education, we also have an opportunity to ease the property tax burden too many Mainers are struggling with. Failing to appropriately fund our schools creates more pressure on local communities who are forced to make up the state's shortfall by increasing property taxes. Ultimately, we all end up suffering.Mainers are in agreement that our students deserve to be a top priority. That's exactly why they voted in 2004 to establish this 55 percent state-funding requirement. When lawmakers still didn't meet that expectation, another referendum was placed on the ballot in 2016, demanding full funding for education. But this time, recognizing that for 14 years the Legislature said there was not enough money, voters endorsed a funding source in the form of a 3 percent surcharge on incomes over $200,000.Democrats have been clear since November. This biennium, we will be meeting our obligation to fully fund the state's share of education. This is what Mainers have undeniably directed us to do, not only because our kids and our teachers deserve our support, but also because we recognize it is the key to a strong economic future for Maine. We have been steadfast in this message, but we also opened the door to considering an alternative funding source if it is both sustainable and progressive.Since November, our Republican colleagues have sounded a different message. They say that the 3 percent surcharge to fund education is unacceptable, but they've been mostly silent on the most important part of this issue, and the real intention of the voters in November. Will they support full education funding, and how do they propose to get there?It is time for a critical conversation. If Republicans are serious about the surcharge being an impediment to negotiations, now is the time to come forward with a plan.Democrats are at the table. We are willing to hear alternative ideas for funding, as long as they are sustainable biennium after biennium. As long as they ask those who can most afford to contribute to do so. As long as they do not put the biggest burden on those least able to pay.But make no mistake: Until those ideas are brought forward, until the idea of full funding of education is embraced, our position is supported by the law that a majority of Maine people passed with their votes at the ballot box.Despite the obstacles along the way, I'm optimistic about the path forward. We're all in agreement that o[...]



Rep. Parker's bill to help job applicants wins committee approval

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:48:08 EDT

AUGUSTA - On Monday the Legislature's State and Local Government Committee gave overwhelming bipartisan approval to a bill sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Parker, D-South Berwick preventing the state from requiring a credit check of job applicants. The initial committee vote was 9-1 in favor of the measure.


"A person's credit history has little if anything to do with their ability to do a job," said Parker. "Anyone, absolutely anyone, can have a critical illness, an accident or some other misfortune that forces them to run up debt and hurt their credit history. Asking about an applicant's credit history puts those with credit problems at a severe disadvantage and can prevent them from moving up economically."


Parker was approached with the idea by Pamela Fisher of Sabattus. She proposed it as a way of broadening employment opportunities for Maine workers and addressing the workforce shortage.


"Pamela couldn't make it to the hearing today, but I read her testimony and it was very powerful," Parker said.

Currently there are 11 states that have prohibited asking for an applicant's credit history as a requirement for employment. ">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280065403"> Parker's bill would apply only to those seeking jobs in state government.


The committee amended the bill to include some exceptions where a credit check could be required, including law enforcement and certain management positions with major fiduciary responsibilities. The bill now goes on to face votes in the Maine House and the Maine Senate.


Parker is in her first term in the Maine House. She represents part of North Berwick and part of South Berwick and serves on the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Parker], 231-1442



Mt. Ararat singers perform national anthem at State House

Tue, 23 May 2017 13:36:00 EDT

Reps. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, and Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, welcomed the Mt. Ararat High School Choral Ensemble to the State House Tuesday. The students performed the national anthem in the chamber of the House of Representatives at the start of the day's session.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Berry, McCreight, Tepler], c. 231-1442



Local Lawmakers Condemn Downeast Correctional Facility Closure

Fri, 19 May 2017 15:32:43 EDT

AUGUSTA | In response to news that the governor intends to move forward with his plan to close Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport on June 10, local representatives condemned the move which was made despite significant legislative and community opposition.


"I can't believe that, at a time when we have money in the budget, the Administration is still making reckless cuts that directly harm Washington County, which is already suffering economically," said Representative Bob Alley, D-Beals. "What do we tell those workers? We had the money to keep your jobs afloat but chose instead to show you the door?"


"It's incredibly frustrating that this unnecessary hardship was created despite the bipartisan wishes of the Legislature," said Representative Anne Perry, D-Calais. "At a time when rural Maine continues to struggle to create and sustain good paying jobs, this closure will only add to Washington County's challenges."


The Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee hosted a public hearing and heard hours of testimony on the proposal to close the facility and voted unanimously against closure in their budget recommendations to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.


"This is a continuous pattern where Governor LePage has tried to outsource and privatize state run facilities and it's costing Mainers their jobs," said Rep. Charlotte Warren, House chair of the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. "Now fifty workers are without jobs and the fate of 150 inmates is in jeopardy."


Rep. Warren has sponsored a bill,">https://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280064519"> LD 1296 "An Act To Prohibit the Privatization of State Correctional Facilities and the State's Forensic Hospitals" which would block future attempts by the State to privatize state-run institutions. The bill was advanced by the committee on March 17 and will move to the House floor in the coming weeks.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Alley, Perry, Warren ] c. 231-1442



House passes bill to strengthen mining regulations in Maine

Thu, 18 May 2017 15:25:57 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Maine House on Thursday moved to protect Mainers from the hazards of metallic mining by banning the most dangerous kind of mineral extraction and enacting strict regulations on the extraction of metal in the state.


The bill - ">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280063670"> LD 820, "An Act To Protect Maine's Clean Water and Taxpayers from Mining Pollution," sponsored by Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell - was given initial approval by a 126 - 14 vote.


"This legislation safeguards our health and water, and protects our state from the real dangers of metallic mining. If passed, this bill will become one of the toughest mining regulations in the nation," said Rep. Ralph Tucker (D-Brunswick), chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.


A controversial 2012 law, spurred by JD Irving LTD's interest in beginning new mining operations in Aroostook County, required the state to develop new rules to allow metallic mining in Maine. The Legislature has twice rejected rules proposed by Gov. Paul LePage's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), citing inadequate environmental protection.


"This bill was the result of bipartisan collaboration between stakeholders and elected officials with the end result being sound policy that protects the environment," said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. "I am encouraged by the strong support this has received in both the House and the Senate and look forward to finally getting these regulations as law."


LD 820 creates strong environmental protections in state laws, guaranteeing that any rules crafted by the DEP would follow specific requirements to safeguard Maine's environment. That includes an outright ban on open pit mining, the most dangerous kind of metallic mineral extraction, and bans on the storage of "wet mine waste" that can seep into local rivers, ponds, lakes and floodplains.


The bill also requires mining companies to provide enough up-front funding to cover the cost, as determined by a third party, of clean-up associated with a "worst case" spill or accident. Lastly, the bill requires that any future changes to Maine's mining rules written to implement the law receive an affirmative vote from both houses of the Legislature before they can be approved.


LD 820 has won the support of the Legislature's Environment and Natural Resources Committee, environmental groups, activists and the Department of Environmental Protection.


It now heads to the Senate for a final vote.


Contact:


Mary Erin Casale (Gideon) | (207) 415-4965
Lindsay Crete (Tucker) | (207) 231-1442



Summer in Maine

Thu, 18 May 2017 15:18:46 EDT

We are extremely fortunate to live in such a beautiful state. We have countless outdoor activities to enjoy during all of Maine's seasons. As the weather begins to warm, it is time to start looking towards all that summer in Maine has to offer.


Maine has nearly 6,000 lakes and ponds over one acre in size and almost 32,000 miles of rivers and streams. These offer an abundance of recreational activities for people of all ages. This is particularly great for anglers. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife keeps many of those bodies of water stocked with catchable fish. You can find an up-to-date report at: ">http://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/reports/stocking/stocking.htm"> Fish Stocking Reports.

The weekend of June 3 and 4 is free fishing weekend across the state. Any person may fish with or without a fishing license, except for those whose license has been suspended or revoked.


The American Red Cross offers general water safety tips for when you are in, on or around the water. They advise you know how to swim and to always swim with a buddy. Also, to watch out for the dangerous "too's." Know if you are too tired, too cold, too far from safety, have had too much sun or too much strenuous activity. Being mindful around the water will ensure your safety.


Across the state, we have 48 state parks and historic sites to visit. Twelve of those sites are places where you can take your family camping and 10 sites offer camping for groups of seven or more. Right nearby, you can camp, swim, fish and boat at Sebago Lake State Park. Find more information on reservations at: ">http://www.maine.gov/DACF/parks/camping/reservations/index.shtml"> Bureau of Parks and Lands.


When camping, please be sure to purchase your firewood at or near your campsite. Untreated firewood from outside Maine has been banned. Even within Maine, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry says not to transport firewood more than 50 miles. This can prevent the spread of invasive insect species.


Many insects go undetected in the wood. Moving infested firewood can spread insects for hundreds of miles throughout Maine which could greatly damage our forests.


Maine also has incredible hiking opportunities. From overnight hikes on the Appalachian Trail to a short walk on Windham's Mountain Division Trail, there are so many places to hike and enjoy Maine's scenery.


While out enjoying all that summer has to offer, please be mindful of ticks. Researchers at Maine Medical Center are warning that there is the possibility of a heavy tick population this summer. Ticks can carry several diseases including Lyme disease and the Powassan virus.


To reduce the risk of a tick bite, tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt into your pants when walking in woods, brush or tall grass, wear protective clothing, use an EPA-approved repellent and perform daily tick checks after any outdoor activity.


I hope you have a safe and enjoyable summer. 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.


Rep. Mark Bryant is serving his sixth non-consecutive term in the Maine House and represents part of Windham. He serves on the Committee on State and Local Government and the Committee on Transportation.



Legislature overrides veto of McLean's measure to build Gorham connector

Thu, 18 May 2017 13:28:19 EDT

AUGUSTA- The Maine Legislature voted this week to override the governor's veto of a measure to reduce congestion in Gorham and the surrounding communities. The vote was 125-18 in the House and 35-0 in the Senate.


"The successful votes to override indicate that this project is important not only to local and regional communities, but also for the entire state's economy," said Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, sponsor of the bill.


McLean introduced the bill to authorize the construction of a connector in Cumberland County from Route 114 in South Gorham to an interchange on the Maine Turnpike.


The bill requires that, prior to the Maine Turnpike Authority green lighting construction, an evaluation of reasonable alternatives must be completed as required by the Sensible Transportation Policy Act. If the evaluation finds no reasonable alternative to the construction of the connector, then the project will move forward.


"This project is an opportunity to grow our downtowns and preserve our village communities," said McLean. "In Gorham, our village is intersected by routes 114 and 25 - for Maine, they are major thoroughfares. To reduce the traffic by 25 or even 50 percent could have a very positive impact on our downtown."


The measure,">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0633&item=1&snum=128"> LD 905, earned unanimous support from the Legislature's Transportation Committee and passed in both the House and Senate with unanimous consent.


McLean is serving his third term in the Maine House and is the House chair of the Transportation Committee. He represents parts of Gorham and Scarborough.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [McLean], cell 231-1442



Measure to force release of senior housing bond advances

Wed, 17 May 2017 16:43:47 EDT

AUGUSTA | Lawmakers in the Maine House voted Tuesday to advance a bill releasing $15 million in voter-approved senior housing bonds despite Governor Paul LePage's opposition.


"Voters overwhelmingly supported investments in affordable senior housing to help more Mainers age independently in their homes and communities," said Rep. Erin Herbig, House Majority leader and co-chair of the Legislature's Aging Caucus. "No elected official should be able to single-handedly block that mandate. This bill will finally honor the clear will of Mainers and I'm pleased to see it advance."
">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?ld=832&PID=1456&snum=128"> LD 832, An Act To Carry Out the Will of the People of the State of Maine by Ensuring the Issuance of Bonds To Support the Independence of Maine's Seniors, sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta and co-sponsored by House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport passed by a vote of 85-57. The bill, which mirrors past efforts lead by Democrats including former Speaker of the House Mark Eves, passed in the Senate last week.


Despite the increasing need for affordable housing and the 70 percent voter approval on the bond which passed in 2015, Gov. LePage has refused to release it. It's estimated that upwards of nine thousand Mainers are currently waiting for safe, affordable housing in their own communities.


LD 832 will face final votes in the House and Senate and move to Gov. LePage's desk.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete c. 231-1442



House advances Rep. Sheats' bill to support homeless female veterans and their families

Wed, 17 May 2017 11:25:08 EDT

AUGUSTA- The Maine House of Representatives voted Tuesday to provide one-time funding to the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope, Maine's only shelter for homeless female veterans. The bipartisan vote was 93-50.


"I'm very appreciative of the support that this bill received," said Rep. Bettyann Sheats, D-Auburn, sponsor of the bill. "We do a good job here in Maine of recognizing and honoring our veterans, and I'm proud that we want to ensure that that includes our female veterans."


Until recently, there was no shelter in Maine specifically for female veterans and none that placed female veterans with their children. The Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope has been established to fill that gap.


Sheats submitted the legislation after finding out that the organization is currently not receiving any federal or state funding.


"They aren't receiving funding because they don't have any clients yet," said Sheats. "They can't take on clients until they have funding in place to provide the needed services. It's a catch-22."


">http://legislature.maine.gov/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0572&item=1&snum=128"> LD 792 would allow for a one-time funding of $150,000 to allow the housing facility to begin to provide services to Maine's homeless female veterans and those with children.


The bill now advances to the Senate for a final vote.


Sheats, a member of the Legislature's Committee on Transportation, is serving her first term in the Maine House. She represents Minot and part of Auburn.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Sheats], c. 231-1442



Rep. Alley welcomes local physician to the State House

Wed, 17 May 2017 11:19:45 EDT

Rep. Robert W. Alley Sr., D-Beals, welcomed Dr. Cathleen London of Milbridge to the State House Tuesday. Dr. London is a family practice physician and she served as the "Doctor of the Day" in the Maine House of Representatives.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Alley], cell: 231-1442



Proposed Health Care Cuts Unnecessary and Reckless

Wed, 17 May 2017 11:07:57 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), under the direction of Commissioner Mary Mayhew, are planning to submit a request to the Trump Administration to fundamentally change Maine's Medicaid program, commonly known as MaineCare. The proposed changes include new asset tests for children and pregnant women, penalties for seniors, time limits on access and instituting monthly premiums for some recipients. DHHS seeks to go ahead with these changes with no input from elected officials, but will be hosting public hearings in Portland and Augusta.


Rep. Patty Hymanson, MD (D-York) released the following statement:


"Everything contained in this proposal is directly contrary to the purposes of the Medicaid Act. It creates unnecessary barriers that will ultimately restrict access, at a time when affordable and accessible health care should be expanding. This is not reform - true reform means improving people's lives, not making it more difficult to see a doctor. Mainers understand the consequences these destructive cuts would have on both our economy and our health. I strongly urge Commissioner Mayhew to rethink this harmful and unnecessary proposal."


Contact:


Mary Erin Casale | (207) 415-4965 - Hymanson



Members of the Health and Human Services Committee Respond to Secretary Price's Visit to Maine

Mon, 15 May 2017 12:39:04 EDT

AUGUSTA - United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price visited Maine today to participate in a round-table discussion about the opioid crisis. Democrats from the Health and Human Services Committee, who were not invited to participate in the discussion, released the following statements:


"The solutions to this crisis are not partisan. The federal and state government, healthcare and law enforcement communities must work together. Unfortunately, the directives issued by both Governor LePage and President Trump in the past week run counter to evidence based research that provide the tools necessary to treat this epidemic. At the time of this photo op, we were in committee - doing the real work and crafting policy solutions. We work with experts in the substance use disorder, prevention and enforcement communities daily to try to solve these problems. Despite not being invited to meet with Secretary Price, all members of our committee will continue to be on the front lines of policy making " - Chair Patricia Hymanson, MD (D-York)


"Drug addiction strikes without prejudice and is affecting every community in our state. Overdose deaths are happening in our cities, our small towns, and our rural communities. We on the committee take this issue very seriously. It's concerning to think the governor and US Department of Health and Human Services don't value the input of legislators on the front lines of this crisis." - Rep. Anne Perry, FNP (D-Calais)


Last week, the Trump Administration pledged to defund the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, the lead agency in charge of combating the opioid crisis. Governor LePage has consistently created roadblocks by restricting access to life-saving treatment and medication, along with routinely vetoing bipartisan legislation to expand Medicaid in Maine.


Contact:


Mary Erin Casale | (207) 415-4965 - Hymanson



Rep Heidi Brooks' healthcare bill receives unanimous committee approval

Fri, 12 May 2017 11:50:31 EDT

AUGUSTA - A bill sponsored by Rep. Heidi Brooks, D-Lewiston, to take the first step towards establishing single payer healthcare in Maine received a unanimous vote in the Legislature's Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee Tuesday.


"We have long struggled to provide basic healthcare in the United States. Somewhere along the line, we turned medicine into a business," said Brooks, who holds a medical degree. "There are competing arguments of healthcare as a human right versus a market-based approach. This bill directs the state to study Maine's healthcare system, including the possible implementation of single payer healthcare in Maine."


">http://legislature.maine.gov/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0887&item=1&snum=128"> LD 1274 would create a legislative study group to look at Maine's health care payment systems from the ground up and consider a number of options including single payer. Under a single payer system, often referred to as "Medicare for all," residents of Maine would be covered for all medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.


An overwhelming majority of the nearly one hundred people who testified spoke in support of the bill, including numerous legislators.


"I welcome this chance to begin a thorough and comprehensive review of the many ways we all pay for health care here in Maine," said Rep. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland. "Far too many Mainers either cannot afford insurance or struggle with inadequate coverage or impossible deductibles. It's time for that to end."


Brooks is serving her second term in the Maine House of Representatives and serves on the Legislature's Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Brooks], 231-1442



Kumiega's bill to strengthen Protection from Abuse Orders draws public support

Fri, 12 May 2017 11:37:35 EDT

AUGUSTA - Victims of sexual assault and related crimes may soon be empowered to seek permanent Protection from Abuse Orders if a bill heard Tuesday by the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee becomes law.


Under current law, Protection from Abuse Orders last for a maximum of two years and can be renewed through a court proceeding before they expire. LD 1305, An Act to Protect Victims of Sexual Assault, sponsored by Rep. Walter Kumiega, would allow victims of sexual assault to petition a court for a Protection from Abuse Order that could be longer than two years or even permanent.


"This bill would provide some comfort to individuals who do not want to go through the potentially traumatic experience of having to face their attackers in court every two years," said Kumiega, D-Deer Isle. "It's a way to strengthen legal tools available to survivors while also making sure they do not have to relive what they went through."


According to a 2015 report from the Maine Statistical Analysis Center at the Muskie School, approximately 14,000 Mainers experience sexual assault every year. One in five adult Maine residents report they have been the victim of rape or attempted rape.


The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a court advocate and members of the public who wanted to share their stories all testified in favor of Kumiega's bill.


"The potential danger posed by facing the perpetrator in court as well as the significant emotional toll, creates a disincentive for victims or survivors to seek the protections they need," said Elizabeth Ward Saxl, MECASA's executive director. "[The bill] would increase victim safety and potentially decrease strains on judicial resources if judges were given the discretion to grant lifetime orders."


No one testified in opposition to the bill.


The committee will hold a work session on Kumiega's bill in the coming days. Stakeholders have proposed an amendment to the bill expanding access to stronger Protection from Abuse Orders to victims of other types of violence.


Kumiega is serving his fourth term in the Maine House and represents the Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, North Haven, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Swan's Island, Tremont, Vinalhaven and Marshall Island Township.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Kumiega], c. 231-1442