Thu, 22 Sep 2016 14:45:10 EDTWe are fortunate to live in what I believe is the most beautiful part of the most beautiful state in the union. As a lifelong fisherman and hunter, I have a strong appreciation for our state's natural gifts. Protecting our natural resources is important to our economy and our way of life, and I am proud to vote in favor of conservation.
Wed, 21 Sep 2016 16:45:01 EDTPeople all over the world know Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo, the beloved star of the hit detective show that aired in so many of ours homes throughout the 1970s and beyond. Fewer know about the struggle of his daughter Catherine to be there for him at the end of his life. When Peter Falk became incapacitated by advanced Alzheimer's disease and could no longer speak for himself, his spouse denied his children's requests to see their ailing father or even learn about his condition.With her father's health in rapid decline, Catherine knew she had to take action in order to see her father. Because the law didn't provide for the situation she found herself in, Catherine filed a petition in California probate court as a way to find out about his health and to be allowed to see him. She fought hard for her right to visit him, but it cost thousands of dollars in legal fees and immeasurable heartache.Even so, members of Falk's immediate family were needlessly prevented from visiting and information about his condition was kept from his loved ones at the end of his life. The legal process Catherine pursued allowed her to see her father before he passed away, but it did not - and was never intended to - fully address the situation her family faced.Catherine started the Catherine Falk Organization, which worked with the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, or NASGA, to draft legislation ensuring individuals can be visited by family members or other loved ones. At present, the guardian has unbridled discretion to stop visitation. Their work together focused on a range of situations in which elders and disabled adults across the country are left vulnerable to the people with legal responsibility over their rights.When Rep. Verow met Catherine Falk and Marcia Southwick of NASGA and learned of their work, he wanted to make sure Maine families are protected from experiencing such heartbreaking situations. Much of Rep. Verow's work as a lawmaker has focused on improving life for aging and disabled Mainers, and he felt that sponsoring the "Peter Falk bill" should be part of that work. He asked legislative leadership to allow lawmakers to consider an after-deadline bill so a solution could be considered as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the Legislative Council did not allow the measure to move forward at that time.Despite the setback, Rep. Verow has resubmitted the measure to be considered during the coming session. He believes the problem is too serious and its impact on families too tragic to continue to remain unaddressed in Maine law. The bill would ensure that close relatives such as children and siblings are informed of their loved one's hospitalization or death. It would also allow legal recourse when immediate family members are wrongfully denied the right to see an ailing loved one. We strongly believe that families should have somewhere to turn when they are needlessly barred from seeing a sick or incapacitated loved one. Just as importantly, those who cannot speak for themselves should not be isolated from the people who care about them. In recent years, the importance of knowing the signs of abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly and incapacitated has become more widely recognized. Preventing their isolation is a crucial step to protecting some of Maine's most vulnerable citizens. There are many devoted guardians who act in the best interest of the person they care for, but in some situations, that isn't the case. Passing the Falk bill here in Maine will help defend those who are falling through the cracks.Catherine's story began with her determination to see the father she loved with all her heart. Her own experience and the stories of other families across the country have inspired us to advocate for measures that protect vulnerable citizens and their right to be surrounded by those they love. We and others in Maine are working hard to ensure that lawmakers pass the Peter Falk bill this upcoming session.Rep. Arthur "Archie" Verow, D-Brewer, is serving his second term in the [...]
Mon, 19 Sep 2016 16:44:39 EDTAUGUSTA - Rep. Mick Devin is encouraging constituents to attend a Sept. 27 screening of "The Hungry Heart," a film that provides an intimate look at the hidden world of drug addiction and the successes and challenges of recovery.
Mon, 19 Sep 2016 12:04:50 EDTOne of my favorite things about being a member of the Maine Legislature is that we're not Congress - with its reputation for inaction and missed opportunities. It's what we've come to expect at the federal level, even if we like our own U.S. senators and representatives. But here in Maine, at the state level, we have a long tradition of working together. Our citizen legislature has always beaten Congress hands down when it comes to staying at the table until something gets done - even if it isn't perfect. And yet, as I've gone door-to-door to meet with constituents, that's not the perception I'm hearing of Augusta anymore. In fact, many have expressed to me their general frustration about gridlock. Some of the things I've heard over the last few months are, "You guys never work together," or "How come they never get anything done up there?" To be honest, there have been moments when I've felt the same way - wondering if we've begun to follow Washington off the partisan cliff. Over the last few years there have been a number of high-profile compromises that either fell apart or didn't survive a veto: the solar reform bill, a deal to honor voter-approved land conservation bonds and protect future bonds from politics, a modest expansion of health care coverage, a compromise on the minimum wage and, of course, multiple tax code overhauls that would have boosted the middle class. I look back on those difficult moments, and I remember that they were the exception and not the rule. Over the past two years, we have passed 621 bills into law, many of them unanimously. We also rejected hundreds of bad bills unanimously, and Republicans and Democrats overrode a record 164 vetoes together. All of this required a thoughtful assessment of facts and talking to one another to achieve consensus. During my term, which started in December of 2014, I co-sponsored nine bills from both Democrats and Republicans that eventually became law. One of those successes expanded access to tax exemptions on student loan debt, making college more affordable for working Mainers. Another banned plastic microbeads, which were putting Maine's fishermen in economic danger and also ending up on our dinner plates. Together we enacted a small sales tax exemption for veterans organizations like the American Legion that actively work with those suffering from PTSD - allowing more of the money they raise to go directly to their community service work. Additionally, we ended the practice of shackling pregnant prisoners, allowed equipment rental businesses to sell insurance for their products and began development of a plan to help those with disabilities save more money in banks. We also passed a senior housing bond that was approved by the voters and could one day help weatherize homes and provide affordable housing all around the state for older Mainers who want to remain in their communities and age with dignity. Most people haven't seen many of these stats before, and the reason why is the same reason you've also never seen a headline reading "State lawmakers mostly get along, do their work." Conflict and the occasional outburst are far more attractive things to cover and usually considered more newsworthy than the routine bipartisan back-and-forth of a committee hearing. That's what the reality is most of the time: slow, steady and imperfect. It's people doing their homework, listening to others and making an honest effort to get it right - just like most families in Maine. If we can bring more of that slow-and-steady to the big-name issues, we will all be a lot better off. If you have questions about anything in this column or anything else related to state government, I hope you will call me at 729-4018 or e-mail me at Rep. Denise Tepler. My service to our community comes before any partisan considerations, and it continues to be a great honor and a true pleasure to serve as your state representative. Rep. Denise Tepler is serving her first term [...]
Mon, 19 Sep 2016 11:59:30 EDTAUGUSTA - The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear appeals at Marshwood High School on October 26 beginning at 9 a.m. and ending by 11:15 a.m. This visit is at the request of Rep. Bobbi Beavers, D-South Berwick.
Wed, 14 Sep 2016 10:10:56 EDTSignificant changes are taking place with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA, to help students and parents apply more easily for college financial aid.
Wed, 14 Sep 2016 09:38:37 EDTAUGUSTA - Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon released the following statement Tuesday on the Public Utilities Commission's proposed net metering rules.
Mon, 12 Sep 2016 15:37:18 EDTRecently one of my colleagues submitted a bill to restore the state's revenue sharing commitment - a decades-old promise by the state to return a small portion of sales and income tax revenue to local cities and towns. I strongly support revenue sharing because it helps pay for vital services and education while relieving stress on property taxpayers. Yet revenue sharing is also part of a larger conversation the next Legislature will need to have about the size and shape of our tax burden. People from all sides agree that it needs to change, but to this point there hasn't been universal agreement on how.Unfortunately, doing something about our overdependence on property taxes has seldom attracted the notice of the media, even though it's a major part of people's day-to-day struggles.The truth is that, while property taxes can seem fair on the surface, they can actually be very regressive - meaning it sometimes hits the people who can least afford to pay it the hardest. I'm talking about retirees, people surviving on fixed incomes and even working people just trying to keep the home that has been in their family for generations. I'm willing to bet that most readers know someone who has moved away from the community they grew up in because they couldn't afford to pay the property taxes anymore.So what can Maine do to reduce the property tax burden without undermining critical services? There's no single golden solution, but there are a number of areas that - if we address them all together - we can start to make a real dent in the problem.The rising cost of education has had the biggest effect on the size of our property tax bills. In some cases the increase has been steady, while in other times - like last year in Damariscotta - there are sudden spikes in special education costs. I've already submitted a bill to address those spikes and offer some protection at the state level for local communities. But we also have to address the many factors that drive costs upward and reassess the state's school funding formula.Besides addressing education costs and funding mechanisms, lawmakers also need to go further in exporting more of Maine's tax burden the way other destination states like Florida have done successfully. Visitors would pay a little bit more, and the extra revenue could go directly to property tax relief. Maine's brand as a destination state is one of the strongest in the country - so strong that those who are visiting for a short time will still choose Maine every time even if they have to pay a few dollars more while they are here. Leaders of both parties have voiced support. Maine also has entire book full of loopholes and special breaks called tax expenditures. Some of them are very helpful for small businesses. Others don't do what they are supposed to but stay on the books because of politics. Every time we've tried to go through the book and clean it up, the result has been failure, but we must keep trying if we want to stop wasting people's money on stuff that doesn't work. While we're at it, we can also do something about multi-state corporations who avoid Maine's tax laws by hiding money in offshore tax havens all over the world - putting Maine's homegrown businesses at a disadvantage. We talk a lot about the negative consequences of not solving our property tax problem. But it's even more important to think about the rewards if we do end up tackling this issue the right way. People have more money in their pockets, families have a better chance of keeping their homes and remaining in their communities, economic activity and hiring increase, and Maine becomes a little more attractive for employers and anyone looking to relocate from elsewhere in the U.S. That's the vision we have to keep in our minds when the entrenched interests and the lobbyists inevitably to try to keep things the way they are. I hope when a new [...]
Mon, 12 Sep 2016 15:24:22 EDTThe days are getting shorter and colder, and winter is on its way. The cool fall weather may be a welcome relief, but it signifies the bitterly cold weather to come. It can be expensive to keep our homes warm here in Maine, where winter weather is especially brutal and many houses are old and drafty.
Mon, 12 Sep 2016 10:21:41 EDTAUGUSTA - Reps. Patty Hymanson and Lydia Blume, both D-York, received perfect ratings in the 127th Legislature from Maine Conservation Voters.
Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:37:29 EDTAUGUSTA - Democratic House Leadership released the following statement Friday on Gov. Paul LePage's ">http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/prove-im-a-racist-lepage-challenges-westbrook-legislator-in-obscenity-laced-voice-mail"> threats of violence toward a state lawmaker.
Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:28:35 EDTAUGUSTA - Rep. Heidi Brooks, D-Lewiston, earned a top score for her support of environmental issues in the 127th Legislature from Maine Conservation Voters.
Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:20:30 EDTAUGUSTA - Rep. Michelle Dunphy received a perfect rating in the 127th Legislature from Maine Conservation Voters.
Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:16:11 EDTAUGUSTA - Democratic House leaders released the following statement Tuesday on Gov. Paul LePage's ">http://podcast.wvomfm.com/wvom/4853737.mp3"> remarks on WVOM.
Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:09:51 EDTRep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, joined with Sanford teachers and community volunteers last week to get school supplies to students so they could start the new school year right as part of the annual "Stuff the Bus" project. Wanda Parent is the leader of this extraordinary effort, which collects backpacks, pencils, markers, notebooks and other necessities for students who need them. The event was held at the Curtis Lake Church in Sanford.