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House GOP Blocks Constitutional Amendment for Ranked-Choice Voting

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:29:27 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Maine House on Friday failed to enact legislation to amend Maine's constitution to allow for the implementation of ranked-choice voting in state and federal elections and primaries. As a constitutional amendment, ">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_128th/billtexts/SP057702.asp"> LD 1624 needed approval by two-thirds of the Legislature for final enactment, but was blocked on a party line vote of (78-68) in the House. Had it passed, it would have been sent to the voters for approval or rejection.
House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast and Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, released the following statement:
"Mainers asked for election reform and it is our responsibility to respect their wishes, while upholding our duty as legislators. Today, Democrats and every independent in the House voted to amend Maine's constitution to allow full implementation of ranked-choice voting. While Republicans blocked that effort, the process is ongoing and we still have many votes to take. I urge my colleagues to support implementation of ranked-choice voting and I hope Mainers keep up the fight."
LD 1624, "RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Implement Ranked-choice Voting" - as amended in the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, would have amended Maine's constitution to give authority over the form and structure of elections to the Legislature, to be determined in statute. The effect of that amendment would be to allow current statute, which implements ranked-choice voting, to stand. This bill will now go to the Senate for a final vote, but without a significant shift in votes, it is most likely to fail final passage.
">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?ld=1625&PID=1456&snum=128&sec3"> LD 1625 "An Act To Repeal the Ranked-choice Voting Law" sponsored by Senator Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, has yet to be considered by the House or Senate. The bill was passed through the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee with the end result of three separate amended versions for the legislature to consider. Further votes will be taken next week.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Herbig, Golden] c. 231-1442



House passes Constitutional Amendment for ranked-choice voting

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 16:25:57 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Maine House on Thursday gave initial approval to legislation to amend Maine's constitution to allow for the implementation of Ranked-Choice Voting in 10 state and federal elections and primaries. As a constitutional amendment, LD 1624 must be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature at final enactment. It would then be sent to the voters for approval or rejection.
Speaker Sara Gideon released the following statement: "Mainers asked for election reform and it is our responsibility to respect their wishes, while upholding our duty as legislators. Today, the House took the first steps in amending the constitution to allow full implementation of ranked choice voting. While this process is ongoing and we still have many votes to take, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and send it to voters for approval.
" ">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_128th/billtexts/SP057702.asp"> LD 1624, "RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Implement Ranked-choice Voting" - as amended in the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, would amend Maine's constitution to give authority over the form and structure of elections to the Legislature, to be determined in statute. The effect of that amendment would be to allow current statute, which implements ranked-choice voting, to stand.



House overrides veto of McCrea's bill to amend teacher evaluation requirements

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 16:21:39 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Maine House Wednesday overrode Gov. Paul LePage's veto of a bill by Rep. David McCrea to amend teacher evaluation requirements to provide more autonomy and local control to school districts as they develop and implement their teacher evaluation systems. The vote was 131 to 12.


"A one-size-fits-all approach to teacher evaluations does not work with every school district in the state," said McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield. "Giving local districts control over the teacher evaluation process will help make schools and teachers more effective."


">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0449&item=1&snum=128"> L.D. 633 removes the requirement that student learning and measures of growth and state assessment results must be used to measure educator effectiveness. As ">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0449&item=2&snum=128"> amended, the bill clarifies the use of student learning and growth data be used to inform instruction.

The bill faces a final vote in the Senate.

McCrea is serving his first term in the Legislature. He represents Caswell, Easton, Fort Fairfield, Hamlin, Limestone, part of Presque Isle, Stockholm and Cyr Plantation, plus the unorganized territory of Connor Township.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [McCrea] c. 231-1442



DON'T BE SWAYED BY BIG PHRMA

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 16:16:52 EDT

We are proud of the work done on LD 1280, "An Act Regarding Generic Drug Pricing," by the committee on which we sit, the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development. This important bill passed through our committee by a vote of 11-2. Generic drugs are on average 75 percent less than their brand name counterpart and, when they are available, generic drugs are prescribed 90 percent of the time. In fact, generics saved Maine $954 million in 2015, according to a 2016 study conducted by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.


LD 1280 would stop big PhRMA companies from illegal practices they regularly engage in. Through various tactics, PhRMA companies prevent the sale of their brand name drug samples to generic drug companies. This sale is required so generic drug companies can perform FDA required testing before they are released on the market. Often, PhRMA companies withhold these critical samples to prevent generic manufacturers from even filing an application with the FDA to get approval. This keeps generic versions of PhRMA's products off pharmacy shelves for years - all while Mainers struggle to pay for the medicines they need. We all know someone struggling to make the tough decisions between paying for heating oil and paying for their prescriptions. That's why this bill is so critical. Generic drugs save patients billions of dollars each year. That's right: billions.


To fight this, PhRMA has turned the issue on its head and is putting out information that is simply untrue, trying to confuse Maine legislators.


But we are smarter than you think, PhRMA.


PhRMA alleges that generic drug company laboratories are not as safe as their labs. This is simply false. In fact, generics companies are regulated by the FDA with the same levels of safety standards as brand name companies. They also claim that LD 1280 is preempted by federal law. Federal law clearly prohibits brand name companies from using federal safety standards to block generic competition. LD 1280 is absolutely compatible with federal law and simply creates a penalty for companies who do not comply with laws that already exist.
The misinformation continues. PhRMA also claims that LD 1280 shifts liability to brand companies. The truth is, LD 1280 does nothing to change state civil or criminal liability laws. Perhaps the best of the bunch is that PhRMA claims we Mainers don't understand federal patent law. They go as far as to say that LD 1280 infringes on patents. LD 1280 does absolutely nothing to change federal patent law. Generic drugs can only come to market after a patent has expired. What is the truth? PhRMA companies are abusing the lack of a penalty in federal law to artificially extend their monopolies after the patent has expired.
Maine legislators take pride in the laws that we write and always put the people of Maine as our first priority. PhRMA has their business interests as their first priority. Their well-armed and well-funded massive political reach has protected their illegal monopoly for decades, at the expense of our constituents. Drugs should simply not cost us all as much as they do. We are about to change that by requiring PhRMA companies to play by the rules.
I encourage my colleagues to join this bipartisan effort, supported in both bodies, and vote "Yes" on LD 1280. It's time to tell big PhRMA that Mainers matter more than their illegal profits.


Rep. Karen Vachon is a Republican who represents House District 29 in the Maine Legislature which encompasses part of Scarborough. Rep. Jim Handy is a Democrat who represents House District 58 in the Maine Legislature which encompasses part of Lewiston. Both Representative Vachon and Representative Handy serve on the Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee.



Gardiner teen sings national anthem at State House

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 15:50:53 EDT

Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, welcomed Kristen Pooler of Gardiner to the State House Tuesday. Pooler sang the national anthem on the floor of the Maine House of Representatives during the opening ceremonies.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Grant], c. 231-1442



House Majority Leader Herbig to House Republicans and Governor LePage:

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:51:39 EDT

AUGUSTA | In a video message posted on the Maine House Democrats Facebook page Friday, House Majority Leader Erin Herbig again called on House Republicans, Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Governor LePage to come to the negotiating table to pass a state budget and avoid a devastating state shutdown.
"Every Mainer, every community will feel a state shutdown. So what I have to say right now to Ken Fredette and Governor LePage is please come to the table to work with us, to come to a reasonable compromise so we can keep this state up and running," said Rep. Herbig, D-Belfast. "It is the single most important thing that we are all elected to do and it's the responsibility we took when we ran for office."
You can view the full video ">https://www.facebook.com/MaineHouseDemocrats/videos/10155367562403058/"> here.
While Senate Republicans and House and Senate Democrats have continued to find consensus in the hopes of passing a balanced budget, House Republicans led by Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport and Governor LePage have yet to seriously participate in negotiations. Until the House Republican caucus decides to negotiate in good faith, Committee of Conference work has stalled.
The legislature has until June 30 to pass a budget. However, given Governor LePage's history of waiting the full 10 days to veto a budget, additional time is necessary in order to continue the operations of government.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Herbig], c. 231-1442



Rep. Doore welcomes honorary page to the State House

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:46:17 EDT

Rep. Donna Doore, D-Augusta, welcomed Zuri Voorhees, a student at the Lincoln School, to the State House Wednesday. Zuri served as an honorary page, delivering messages and legislative documents to legislators during a regular session of the Maine Legislature.


Rep. Donna Doore is serving her second term in the Maine House representing part of Augusta.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Doore], c. 231-1442


Photo: Rep. Donna Doore welcomed Zuri Voorhees, a student at the Lincoln School, to the State House.



McLean featured in June issue of Capitol Ideas

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:24:58 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, was recently selected to be profiled for the ">http://www.csg.org/pubs/capitolideas/2017_may_june/pdf/CI_May_Jun_2017.pdf"> May/June issue of the Council of State Governments' magazine, Capitol Ideas. His interview appeared as the centerfold in the magazine distributed to state governments across the country.
"I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the state of our transportation and infrastructure, both in Maine and nationally," said McLean, who also co-chairs the Council of State Government's National Transportation and Infrastructure Public Policy Committee. "When people think transportation, roads and bridges are first to come to mind. However, our transportation infrastructure encompasses everything from railroads and seaports to sidewalks and traffic lights."
The Council of State Governments, a national organization dedicated to fostering the sharing of ideas and policies between states and policy leaders from each of the three branches of government, selects officials from states who have been leaders on policy areas to appear in their magazine.
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], c. 231-1442



Consumer protections against surprise medical bills now law

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 16:14:56 EDT

AUGUSTA - A measure from Rep. Martin Grohman to protect consumers from unexpected medical bills is now law. "When you're dealing with an illness, an injury or even a routine medical procedure, you shouldn't also have to worry about surprise medical bills," said Grohman, D-Biddeford. "I was pleased to get unanimous committee support for the idea and especially appreciate the efforts of Rep. Bob Foley of Wells."


The measure will ensure that patients are not penalized if, despite their best efforts, they accidentally see an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility, a common reason for unexpected medical bills. It also requires insurance companies to regularly update their online provider directories so consumers can access accurate, up-to-date information when looking for in-network services.


"This can happen even after you've done your homework and made sure you were going to a facility that's covered by your insurance network," said Grohman. "You did everything you were supposed to do, but you're still left on the hook. This measure will protect Mainers who find themselves in such situations."


A number of states, including Connecticut, Florida, New York, California and Illinois, have passed similar measures in recent years.


">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/dockets.asp?ID=280065119"> LD 1557 was given final approval by both the House and Senate "under the hammer," or by unanimous consent, last week. The governor signed it into law Friday. It will take effect Jan. 1, 2018.


Grohman is serving his second term in the Maine House. He represents part of Biddeford and serves on the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Grohman], c. 231-1442



Rep. Fay bill on private roads signed into law

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 15:59:55 EDT

AUGUSTA - A bill sponsored by Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, to require that potential property buyers be notified if the property is on a private road was signed into law by Governor LePage last week.


LD 871 requires that when a property is listed for sale, in addition to disclosures regarding lead paint and underground storage tanks, the seller must provide information regarding maintenance and plowing if known if the property is accessed by a private way.


The idea for this legislation came after a conversation with constituents who had some issues with snowplowing the road to their house.


"If this law had been in place when my constituents had purchased their property several years ago, they may not have ended up in the difficult position they were in this past winter, when it was unclear who was supposed to be plowing their road," said Fay. "When we make decisions about where to live, it's always better to have as much information as possible, especially if there could be extra costs like road maintenance that should be factored into our household budgets."


Rep. Fay credits the members of the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary for their hard work on the bill. The measure had the support of the Maine Municipal Association and various Road Association groups.
The bill will become law 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.


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], cell 231-1442



Neil Rolde honored by Legislature

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 15:48:11 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. Lydia Blume, D-York, welcomed the family of the late Neil Rolde to the State House. Rolde, who passed away last month, was a former legislator from York and a noted author and historian. On Thursday, the Legislature passed a measure honoring him and recognizing his accomplishments.


From left to right: Adrianna Wilford, Rolde's grand-daughter, Jeff Wilford, Rolde's son-in-law, Nicollette Wilford, Rolde's daughter, Carla Rolde, Rolde's widow and Rep. Blume.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Blume], cell: 231-1442



House gives final approval to bill increasing high speed internet access

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:28:04 EDT

AUGUSTA | The Maine House gave final approval to a bill improving high speed internet access for rural Maine Thursday despite a last minute attempt to block its passage by a group of House Republicans who had previously voted for the measure.
"Today's bipartisan vote was a win for jobs, for telemedicine and for education." said Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, House chair of the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology. "In my district, the town of Perkins used to be home to 17 prosperous families in 1900. Within 40 years, it became a ghost town. Young people left because they wanted roads, telephone and electricity. This is the same choice we face today as a state: modernize, or lose our young people."
">https://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280064687"> LD 1399, cosponsored by Rep. Berry, increases funding for public-private grants to increase access to higher-speed internet. The bill passed its final hurdle in the House by a vote of ">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/rollcall.asp?ID=280064687&chamber=House&serialnumber=314"> 104-39, losing several Republican members from its earlier ">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/rollcall.asp?ID=280064687&chamber=House&serialnumber=296"> 116-29 vote. It passed unanimously in the Senate.
Connect ME, the state organization awarding these competitive grants, currently maintains $1.1 million in funding per year, or less than $1 per Mainer per year. Under LD 1399, the annual budget would increase to $7 million, and Connect ME would be changed to create the Maine Broadband Initiative, with higher-speed expectations. Though average at basic broadband speeds, Maine is ranked 49th in truly high-speed rural internet access. The bill awaits further action in the Senate.

Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Berry], c. 231-1442




Protecting our environment

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 13:50:40 EDT

I learned to swim in the clear, cool water of Maine's lakes. When I was a little girl, I could see the bottom so clearly that the logs that sunk on the old log drives were clearly visible. Generations of my family learned to swim by climbing on the rocks and jumping off. The water is still clear, but nutrient runoff and warmer temperatures have changed things. Those rocks now have a thin layer of algae on them that makes them slippery and hard to climb on without a firm grip.Many of us have stories like that, changes that we've seen over something as short as just a generation. We are lucky in Maine, though. We have one of the most beautiful, pristine environments anywhere and we benefit greatly from it. It is part of our Maine "brand" and makes Maine particularly special.People come from all over the world to enjoy Maine. Tourism is one of our biggest industries, with almost 34 million tourist visits in 2015. Visitors spent about $5.5 billion and tourism employs about 90,000 Mainers. If we want to keep and attract new residents, one of our best selling points is our quality of place, our quality of life.Our clean natural surroundings offer other important benefits. Our fisheries and our agriculture, with iconic Maine products like blueberries and lobster, each depend on the purity of our environment.A lot of that is under threat though from outside our borders. Climate change is already impacting things here. Our average temperature has risen 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, and we are seeing fewer shrimp, more ticks and mosquitos, and more severe storms. Continued warming of the Gulf of Maine will pose a greater and greater risk to our lobster industry.These impacts can cause secondary problems, too. More storms bring more erosion of our shoreline, more gullywashers that carry more silt and other runoff into our lakes and rivers. These pose threats to both fish habitat and water quality. More bugs aren't just a nuisance problem, they mean greater risk of contracting Lyme disease, West Nile virus and other serious illnesses.Another threat from outside comes from Washington. Much of our efforts to protect our natural resources here in Maine are funded by grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but the federal budget proposed by the Trump administration calls for cutting EPA funding by 31 percent. While no one at this point knows exactly where these possible federal cuts will end up, the results could be very problematic for Maine. Cuts in funding will impact a wide variety of programs, including funding for the important research that drives good environmental policy. Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord is dangerous, not just for Maine, but for everyone. The actions laid out may well be the last best hope for preventing the earth's temperature from rising to a critical, catastrophic point.Maine has historically recognized the importance of our environment and worked hard to protect it. Concerning combatting climate change, we were early adopters of a "cap and trade" system, which seeks to lower carbon emissions through market forces. The system, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (REGGI), started in 2008. In addition to the carbon reductions that come directly from REGGI, the money it generates goes to fund Efficiency Maine, which further lowers emissions by increasing the energy efficiency of Maine homes and businesses.Maine is also moving towards greater use of cleaner fuels, like natural gas, and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and biomass. All this means, despite changes in Washington, that Maine at least is doing its part to meet the goals of the Paris accord.We need to do more, though. We need to build on structures like REGGI, where we work with other [...]



House advances measure to train educators on youth mental health first aid

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 13:20:37 EDT

AUGUSTA - A bill to ensure health educators in secondary schools receive youth mental health first aid earned initial approval from the Maine House of Representatives Monday.


"I appreciate the bipartisan support this bill has received," said Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, the bill's sponsor. "It makes sense to make sure our secondary school health teachers, who are already teaching a mental health curriculum, have access to training that provides them with the most up-to-date, non-judgmental information about mental health and substance use disorders."


Youth Mental Health First Aid, or YMHFA, is a national, best-practice, evidence-based certification course that empowers people with the information they need to recognize, respond to, and have the information to guide someone with mental health needs to the appropriate help. The standards for the program have been set by the National Council for Behavioral Health and target youth ages 12 to 18.


Providing training in Youth Mental Health First Aid for educators who teach health education to secondary school students would ensure that they have access to accurate, un-stigmatized information about what mental illness is and what resources and supports are available locally.


During the public hearing, McCreight cited data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, the annual, self-report tool used in public schools to track trends in student behaviors and functioning.


"Only 22 percent of Maine youth report having support from an adult," said McCreight. "However, one proven way to help youth who are struggling with mental health issues is a relationship with at least one adult who understands what mental illness really is and who can provide adequate support that connects them with help."


Funding for YMHFA training would be available through Now Is The Time federal grant monies through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration administered by Maine's Public Health Regional System, Project Aware grant. The grant would provide for trainers, materials, payment for substitute teachers and subsidies for teachers who do the training on their own time. National Alliance on Mental Illness, Maine is currently receiving funding through the federal grant until 2018 and has already trained 105 health educators of the estimated 380 health educators statewide.


"The goal of this bill is to make sure that every health educator in our secondary schools, and all of their students, have access to the benefits gained by this training," said McCreight.


The measure, ">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0929&item=1&snum=128"> LD 1335, faces further votes in both the House and Senate.

McCreight, a member of the Legislature's Judiciary and Taxation Committees, is serving her second term in the Maine House and represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick. She is also the House Chair of the Task Force to Address the Opiate Crisis.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [McCreight], c. 231-1442



House sustains veto of Martin's bill providing greater access to state government

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 16:49:22 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Maine House Tuesday sustained the governor's veto of a measure by Rep. Roland "Danny" Martin to require state agencies to participate in the legislative process. The vote of 85-62, largely along party lines, fell short of the two-thirds needed to overturn a veto.


"This is about access to state government," said Martin, D-Sinclair. "In order to do the best work for the people of Maine, legislators and our committees need to be able to work with state departments and agencies. I am extremely disappointed that the governor and House Republicans do not value those critical relationships that help government to function better."


Martin's bill would have required a commissioner or director of a state agency, which includes executive branch departments and quasi-independent agencies, to appear before any joint standing committee of the Legislature or a study commission or work group formed by legislative action at its request and to participate in a hearing or work session of that committee, commission or work group.


The bill would have also required a commissioner or director to respond in a timely manner if contacted by a member of the Legislature regarding a legislative or constituent matter.


Martin is serving his second term in the Maine House. He served as commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for eight years and previously served one term in the House and two in the Senate.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [R. Martin], cell: 231-1442