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Dems stand firm on transparency for Riverview plan

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 12:48:20 EST

AUGUSTA - Democrats on the Legislative Council on Wednesday pressed for greater transparency around the LePage administration's proposal to build a secure forensic facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center.
"This is a fundamental change in how Maine cares for forensic patients that demands proper legislative oversight and public input." said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. "DHHS has never brought this proposal to the Legislature, but is essentially threatening to build the project elsewhere and at greater cost if they don't get their way. We must provide proper care to Mainers with serious mental illness, and we are committed to making this happen with the proper oversight that protects this vulnerable population."


The Democrats present at the Legislative Council meeting - Gideon, Speaker Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe - sought to table the proposal so it could be fully vetted as soon as the 128the Legislature convenes in January.
House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, however, forced a vote to simply approve the project. His motion failed by a vote of 3-3.


"Let's remember what got us here in the first place. Three years ago, the feds came in and found that Riverview patients were severely abused - sometimes even with pepper spray and Tasers," said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. "As lawmakers, we have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the patients in the state's care. We can't simply hand a blank check over to the administration."


Contact:


Ann Kim at 233-1838



Rep. Herbig will co-chair Caucus on Aging

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 10:44:57 EST

AUGUSTA -Incoming House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, will co-chair the bipartisan Caucus on Aging with Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough.


The Caucus on Aging was previously led by outgoing Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Sen. David Burns, R-Cutler. The caucus focuses on meeting the challenges faced by Maine's senior citizens, such as staying in their homes and communities in their later years.


"Maine people understand the importance of looking out for our elderly neighbors who have given so much to our state," said Herbig. "Maine seniors have worked hard all their lives for what they have and their needs are simple. They want to continue to live in the homes, to contribute to their communities and not to be driven out by the challenges and rising costs of aging in Maine."


The Caucus on Aging will continue its work throughout the 128th Legislature which will be sworn-in on December 7, 2016.


Contact:


Ann Kim [Herbig], 287-1430



Rep. Hymanson to hold local legislative forum

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:16:42 EST

AUGUSTA - Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, will hold a public forum on state government and advising people on how they can have an impact at the Legislature.


"Most people don't realize how open and accessible the state government is," said Hymanson. I'd like to help show they can make sure their opinions and concerns are listened to in Augusta."


The forum will be held at the Dunaway Center at 23 School St. in Ogunquit on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


"I would be particularly interested in hearing from people from my district, which consists of the town of York west of I-95, western Wells, south Sanford and all of Ogunquit, but anyone is welcome to attend," Hymanson said.


The forum will address ways of becoming involved in our democracy, how an idea becomes law and what the legislative calendar looks like. Members of the public will then have the opportunity to ask questions. Please email Rep. Hymanson at patty.hymanson@aol.com with any questions about the event.


Contact


Ann Kim [Hymanson], 287-1488, cell 233-1838



Belfast state representative Erin Herbig elected Maine House Majority Leader

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 14:43:40 EST

AUGUSTA -- House Democrats on Friday chose Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, as their next House Majority Leader. She will officially begin her duties on Wednesday, Dec. 7, after members of the 128th Legislature are sworn in.
Herbig was raised and educated in Belfast and first ran for office in 2010 because she saw too many young people leaving Maine to find better opportunities elsewhere. She wanted to give Mainers a real fighting chance to build a life here in Maine.
"I have a lot of pride in where I come from," said Herbig. "And it has been difficult to see members of my family and friends leave the state. Rural Maine is being left behind. I ran for majority leader because I knew it was time to take a stand for Maine's working families and make sure more of us had a chance to get ahead."
Prior to being elected to House leadership, Herbig served as House chair of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee for the past four years.
"Mainers need to know that in Augusta we are fighting for them. Too many Maine families feel uncertainty about the future. That needs to end," said Herbig. "Can I afford my child's education? Will I be able to stay in my home after I retire? Is it going to be OK? The next two years have to be about more people being able to answer yes to all those questions."
Herbig replaces outgoing majority leader Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, who is term limited.
"I am honored to have been elected to this position and am excited about what this can mean for Waldo County," said Herbig. "We have to fight hard for the more rural areas of our state. I am going to do everything I can to bring more jobs with strong wages and good benefits to our part of the state."
Herbig, now entering her fourth term, lives in Belfast with her husband, Joseph Baiungo, and two children, Anna and Charles. Her House district includes Belfast, Northport and Waldo.
Contact:


Dan Ankeles [Herbig] 756-3793



Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership holds mini-symposium at State House

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 08:51:58 EST

AUGUSTA - The Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership held a mini-symposium on ocean acidification remediation projects and policy directions on November 15 in the Maine State House. The meeting drew over 50 participants including legislators, regulators from three state departments, scientists, municipal workers, commercial fishermen, representatives of NGOs and interested citizens.


Experts presented an overview of what causes ocean and coastal acidification and how the process unfolds. Other topics included stormwater management in Maine, bioextraction by growing kelp outside of waste water outflows and the phytoremediation potential of kelp and eelgrass.


Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, spoke about setting the legislative agenda for the 128th Legislature and how ocean acidification can be a priority. He also noted that the Coastal Caucus's initial meeting of the session will be held on January 17th and will include identifying marine policy priorities for 2017 along with several experts presenting short talks on ocean and coastal acidification.


Dr. Aaron Strong of the University of Maine spoke about the options available to Maine for connecting monitoring to policy, including the current and potential applications of the Clean Water Act. The Casco Baykeeper, Ivy Frignoca, discussed the possibility of reducing nutrient load through regulatory tools.


Going forward, the top area of focus for the Partnership will be creating a comprehensive monitoring plan for ocean and coastal acidification in Maine's waters, determining hotspots of vulnerability from estuarine to offshore areas.


Devin was recently elected to a third term in the Maine House and represents Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, part of South Bristol, Monhegan Plantation and the unorganized territory of Louds Island.


Contact:


Dan Ankeles [Devin], cell 207-756-3793


Photo: Members of the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership gathered at the State House to help develop a plan to address ocean acidification.



McCabe statement on the announced layoff of 49 FairPoint workers

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 16:06:38 EST

AUGUSTA - House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe released the following statement in response to the announced layoff of 153 FairPoint workers in northern New England, 49 of whom are from Maine:


"House Democrats stand in solidarity with the FairPoint workers and their families who are receiving this terrible news just days before Thanksgiving," said McCabe, D-Skowhegan. "We will do everything we can to make sure they are able to access all available state resources as they work to get back on their feet. When working people get left behind, we all lose. Over the years, FairPoint employees have repeatedly been asked to do more with less, and I'm worried about how this latest round of cuts will affect the workers who remain and all the customers who depend on FairPoint to communicate with their neighbors and families."


Contact:


Dan Ankeles [McCabe] 756-3793



House Dems choose Reps. Gideon, Herbig & Golden for leadership

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 16:02:22 EST

AUGUSTA -- House Democrats on Friday chose Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon as their nominee for Speaker of the House and Reps. Erin Herbig and Jared Golden as House majority leader and assistant House majority leader.


"Maine people spoke loud and clear. They want government that is working together and working for them. They are demanding a fair economy that works for everyone, from Madawaska to Kittery," said Gideon, D-Freeport. "It's now time for Maine's leaders to come together to work on smart policies that can move our state forward."


Gideon is known for her work to lower energy costs, promote renewable energy and grow Maine's clean-energy economy as well as increasing access to naloxone, a lifesaving opiate overdose reversal medication also known as Narcan. Gideon, who is entering her third term, served on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee in her first term and as the House Democratic caucus' assistant majority leader in her second.


"Economic stability for working Maine families will be our priority," said Herbig, D-Belfast. "We will achieve that by growing jobs with strong wages and good benefits. We will promote smart economic development and policies that are best for Maine families. Mainers are going to know that House Democrats are fighting for what is important to them."


Herbig has served as House chair of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee for the past four years. She is entering her fourth term.


"I'm honored to be selected by my colleagues to be part of the House Democrats' leadership team," said Golden, D-Lewiston. "I look forward to working with the entire Legislature in a bipartisan way to improve Maine's economy and provide opportunities for all Mainers."


Golden is heading into his second term. A Marine Corps veteran, he co-chaired the Commission to Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine Veterans and was a member of the Veteran and Legal Affairs Committee and the Transportation Committee.


The House Democratic caucus selected Gideon, Herbig and Golden by secret ballot. The tallies were not disclosed.


The full House of Representatives will elect the speaker on Wednesday, Dec. 7, after members of the 128th Legislature are sworn in.


Contact:


House Democratic Office at 287-1430



Challenges

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 10:12:36 EST

With the election behind us, it's time to roll up our sleeves and continue the work of addressing Maine's challenges and helping our state live up to the ideal of "the way life should be." We may have different opinions about what that should look like, but I know there are many things we can agree on. One of them is that everyone who works full-time should earn a decent wage - enough to keep the roof over their heads, pay their bills and put food on the table for their families, and maybe even have a little extra to set aside for retirement.


On Tuesday, Mainers voted to increase the minimum wage. There is work to do to ensure that this new law works for both employers and workers, but I am confident that this is a positive step for the people of Windham and for Maine's economy overall. It means that people will have more money in their pockets to spend at local businesses and help boost the economy. And it means that people who contribute to the future of our state by going to work every day, from EMTs to firefighters, teachers and health care workers, will earn enough to get by.


Another critical issue for the economic security of Maine families and the state's overall economic health is equal pay for women. The equal pay law has been on the books for decades, but the reality is that women continue to earn less than men, about 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. Even when women and men are performing the same job functions, women tend to make less.


The pay gap begins early in women's careers and can stay with them for their entire lifetime, even as they steadily rise up the career ladder. That's why I've already submitted a bill for the upcoming session to help combat wage discrimination. The bill would prevent employers from demanding a job applicant's salary history before making an offer of employment so that women's compensation will be based on their qualifications.


The practice of employers asking for previous salary information can perpetuate the pay gap by starting these employees off at lower wages they may have earned in the past. A new employee's salary should be based on the value they bring to the company, not how much they earned in past jobs.


I believe that everyone who works hard should be given the opportunity to move ahead. Your first job should not dictate what you will be earning for the rest of your life.


As a grandfather to three girls with a grandson on the way, I am determined to do everything I can to help ensure that each of their futures is full of possibilities and that they can do anything they set out to achieve. I am also determined to put the health of our economy here in Windham and throughout our state first. That means ensuring that all workers earn a living wage for the work they do. Then we will be a few steps closer to "the way life should be."



McCabe statement on layoffs at Verso mill in Jay

Tue, 01 Nov 2016 13:09:01 EDT

AUGUSTA -- House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe released the following statement Tuesday on the upcoming layoffs at Verso Corp.'s Jay mill.


"Manufacturing continues to be a crucial part of our state's economy, especially for rural Mainers. Some politicians have given up on these jobs, throwing up their hands and calling these jobs a dead horse," said McCabe, D-Skowhegan. "That's disrespectful to these working families. Policymakers can promote the health of manufacturing, but we've seen too many of them turn their backs on policies like the 'Buy Maine, Buy American' legislation last session as well as investments in research and development that will keep us competitive and on the cutting edge."


McCabe is the chair of the Legislature's Pulp and Paper Caucus and co-chair of the Commission to Study the Economic, Environmental and Energy Benefits of the Maine Biomass Industry.


Contact:


Ann Kim [McCabe] cell: 233-1838



McCabe honors Skowhegan field hockey coach for 500th win

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 10:49:33 EDT

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, presented Paula Doughty with a legislative sentiment for her 500th win as coach of the Skowhegan Field Hockey team.


Doughty is the first coach in state history to reach this milestone for field hockey. She has coached for 36 seasons and led the team to victory in 16 state championships.


Contact: Ann Kim [McCabe] cell: 233-1838


From left to right: Rep. Jeff McCabe, Coach Paula Doughty and Skowhegan Athletic Director Jon Christopher.



Rep. Bryant proposes bill to prevent wage discrimination, promote fair pay

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 09:39:23 EDT

AUGUSTA - A bill proposed by Rep. Mark Bryant, D-Windham, would combat wage discrimination by preventing employers from demanding a job applicant's salary history before making an offer of employment.


"Everyone who works hard should be given the opportunity to move ahead," said Bryant. "Your first job should not dictate what you will be earning for years to come."


Earlier this year, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a similar law. The bipartisan Massachusetts law aims to address the wage gap between men and women. Nationally, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar that their male colleagues earn. Even when women and men are performing the same job functions, women tend to make less. The practice of employers asking for previous salary information can perpetuate the pay gap by starting these employees off at lower wages they may have earned in the past.


"A new employee's salary should be based on the value they bring to the company, not how much they earned in past jobs," continued Bryant. "This bill will help ensure that workers earn the income they deserve for the work they do, and that women will not be burdened by lower salaries throughout their careers."


Bryant is serving his fifth nonconsecutive term in the Maine House of Representatives. Sitting legislators can submit bills now for consideration by the next Legislature, which will be sworn in during December.


Contact:


Ann Kim [Bryant] 233-1838



Short shares his experiences as a legislator with Cub Scouts

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 12:26:57 EDT

Rep. Stanley Short Jr. shared his experiences as a legislator with Cub Scouts of Pack 428 in Pittsfield. The Cub Scouts visited Short to ask him questions about being a state representative.


"It was an honor to welcome these three Cub Scouts to my home to discuss my work in the Legislature," said Short, D-Pittsfield. "They asked a number of intelligent questions and were very respectful throughout the visit. They made me feel good about the future of our state. It will be in good hands."


Andrew Ross, Wyatt Robinson and Aiden Kelley interviewed Short to fulfill a requirement to become Boy Scouts.


Contact:


Ann Kim [Short], c. 233-1838


From left to right: Rep. Stanley Short Jr., Andrew Ross, Wyatt Robinson and Aiden Kelley



Towns need protection from sudden spikes in special education costs

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 11:03:11 EDT

When the Maine Legislature goes back into session in January, one of my top priorities will be to pass my bill that improves how towns are reimbursed for sudden spikes in special education costs. As many Lincoln County News readers know, special education costs were a major story in Damariscotta over the past two years. The town experienced a sudden and unexpected increase of $208,000 in annual special education costs, and local officials scrambled to adjust. Voters even needed a second budget referendum to agree on a way forward. Towns and school districts do get reimbursed for a significant portion of these costs - first in late spring of the school year in question, and then again through a small payment within the state education subsidy the next year. In Damariscotta's case, the town would eventually get back all but $45,000. There are two problems with this. First, because the reimbursement isn't immediate, towns are stuck paying the initial costs up front. That leaves town budgets vulnerable to sudden, unexpected spikes. This is particularly difficult when you consider that towns are much more limited than the state when it comes to finding extra money to deal with the unexpected. It's usually just higher property taxes or nothing. When you have senior citizens and families on fixed incomes struggling to pay their heating bills or even just stay in their homes, that's especially painful. Do you pass the costs on to them? Do you cut the snow removal budget? Do you get rid of a beloved teacher? A second, similar problem is that if these costs are for just a single year of schooling, then the bills for the town and property taxpayers will begin to snowball if the student continues to incur these costs year after year. If more students requiring high cost special education services come into the system, costs will balloon even faster. In 2003, voters approved a referendum requiring the state to fund 55 percent of public education costs, and, to my great frustration, Maine has fallen short of its obligations through two governors and several legislatures. And, when it comes to special education, the state once promised to fund 100 percent of costs for minimum receiver towns, but they have since reduced that reimbursement to 30 percent for Damariscotta and several other towns with far more limited resources. It is important that every student have access to a quality education, but the way we pay for it is a big deal. We can't be filling budget gaps on the backs of those who can least afford it. That's why my bill does two things. First, it puts more of the special education price tag on the shoulders of the state, which can do a better job spreading costs and making the impact of cost spikes less painful for working families and those on fixed incomes. It also creates a small, targeted stabilization fund for towns that would be most harmed by sudden increases. It would be used to stabilize those towns' budgets so they can weather the long reimbursement process without hiking the mill rate. That's a double win for property taxpayers. The Department of Education has also been thinking about special education costs, and I'm eager to work with them to find a solution everyone can agree on. I'm also looking forward to educating my colleagues on this issue because many of them live in school districts that have not yet faced this issue. As always, I would also welcome your input on this issue or any other matter. You can e-mail me at mick@mickdevin.org or give me a call at 975-3132. It's an honor to serve as your state representative, and I'm eager to continue helping our community. Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, is serving his second term in the Maine House and represent[...]



Reps. Hymanson, Mastraccio help Waban celebrate 50th anniversary

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 10:57:01 EDT

Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, and Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio, D-Sanford, were on hand to help Waban Projects celebrate its 50th anniversary last Sunday. Sanford-based Waban was founded in 1966 and provides services to children and adults with developmental disabilities.


Contact:


Ann Kim [Hymanson, Mastraccio], c. 233-1838



Rep. Alley introduces bill to provide internet access in rural Maine

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 08:33:36 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. Robert Alley, D-Beals, has sponsored a bill to extend a grant that allows rural Mainers to check out mobile wi-fi devices from their local libraries.


"People can check these devices out of the local library, then have wireless internet service in their homes," Alley said. "This has made a big difference in people's lives around here, whether they are students or business people. When I found out that the grant was going to expire in a few months, I knew I needed to try to keep these machines available."


Currently, rural libraries in Washington County can loan portable devices that act as wi-fi hotpots. People can check them out, just like a book, and then have wireless internet service in their homes. This is possible because in 2015, the Maine State Library partnered with the New York City Public Library to provide 80 of the devices to libraries in Maine to see how they would work in rural areas. They have been very popular, with waiting lists for the devices.


The grant runs out in January 2017. Alley's bill would make the devices available for another two years.


"It is unfair to make the internet available to people and then cut them off," said Alley. "Hopefully local availability of internet service will be better here in two years, but if not, then maybe we can extend it again."


The bill will be considered by the new Legislature when it meets in January 2017.


Alley is serving his first term in the Maine House and represents Addison, Beals, Cherryfield, Columbia, Columbia Falls, Harrington, Jonesboro, Jonesport, Marshfield, Milbridge and Whitneyville.


Contact:


Ann Kim [Alley], cell 233-1838