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Rep. Schneck's bill to protect Maine workers advances to full Legislature

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 16:41:31 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee advanced a bill to the full Legislature Tuesday that would make it harder for employers to impose non-compete clauses on their employees.

"Hard-working Mainers are going to work every day trying to make a better life for themselves and their families," said Rep John Schneck, D-Bangor the bill's sponsor. "Forcing them to sign non-compete agreements makes it harder for workers to find new jobs and stay employed in Maine. These agreements stifle fair competition and harm workers. We should be finding ways to help working people stay in Maine, not forcing them to move."

The bill LD 487 would regulate the use of non-compete agreements, a type of contract between a worker and their employer that restricts that worker's ability to take another local job within their profession.

The bill now goes to the full Legislature for further votes.

Schneck is serving his third term in the Maine House. He represents part of Bangor.


Lindsay Crete [Schneck], 231-1442

Cumberland physician serves as State House doctor of the day

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 15:02:09 EDT

State Rep. Dale Denno, D-Cumberland, welcomed Cumberland physician Romeo Lucas to the State House today to serve as doctor of the day. A tradition since 1996, a physician is present for each day of the legislative session to assist in the event of a medical emergency.


Lindsay Crete [Denno], cell: 231-1442

McCrea introduces bill to amend teacher evaluation requirements

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 12:15:57 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. David McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield, has introduced legislation 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 mandate created a one-size-fits-all solution that simply doesn't work for every school district," McCrea said. "This does not undo any work but simply allows individual school districts to make alterations to this component as they find necessary."

">"> LD 633 removes the requirement that student learning and measures of growth and state assessment results be used to measure educator effectiveness.

"As an educator for 48 years, I can tell you the development of teacher evaluation systems as required under state law has been met with enthusiasm among educators," said McCrea. "This bill removes the student performance portion of a school system's evaluation plan as a mandate and instead leaves the matter up to local option. It does not remove the mandate that schools have to implement a robust teacher evaluation system."

The Maine Education Association testified in support of the measure.

The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will hold a work session on the bill in coming weeks, at which point they will offer amendments and vote on a recommendation to the entire Legislature.

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.


Lindsay Crete [McCrea] c. 231-1442

House Democrats champion efforts to lower property taxes

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:57:28 EDT

AUGUSTA- Many Mainers could see a reduced property tax bill thanks to two proposals that seek to expand the Maine Homestead Exemption.

Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, introduced legislation Monday to increase the statewide homestead exemption in 2018.

"Of all the taxes we use to fund state and local government, the property tax has become the most regressive," said McLean. "Homeowners who are trying to make ends meet, particularly the elderly who are on a fixed income, are seeing more and more of their dollars going to pay property taxes. The homestead exemption is a beneficial tool that has alleviated the burden faced by too many Mainers when they pay their property taxes."

Under current law, the homestead exemption is set to increase from $15,000 to $20,000 on or after April 1, 2017. McLean's bill would increase the total exemption to $30,000 for property tax years beginning on or after April 1, 2018.

A second measure, submitted by Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio, D-Sanford, raises the homestead property tax exemption for Maine's seniors.

LD 73 would increase the homestead property tax exemption to $50,000 for persons who are 75 years of age or older.

Mastraccio submitted the bill to enable all Mainers, regardless of income, to stay in Maine or age in place.

"The increase in exemption would kick in at a time when life changes may be impacting a Mainer's income in a negative way," said Mastraccio. "This legislation would reward people who choose to stay in Maine as well as help seniors on fixed incomes remain in their homes."

Both bills will be scheduled for work sessions in the coming days.

Mastraccio is serving her third term in the Maine House and represents part of Sanford. She is the House chair of the Government Oversight Committee and also serves on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

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.


Lindsay Crete [McLean, Mastraccio] c. 231-1442

Rep. Pierce presents bill to make voting easier

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:49:46 EDT

AUGUSTA - On Monday Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, presented LD 979 An Act to Allow Early Voting in Person and testified in its support before the Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

"Early voting provides convenience and ease of access to voters while at the same time alleviating some of the demands on municipal election officials as they struggle to process increasing numbers of absentee ballots," said Pierce. "My primary motivation for putting forward this bill is to streamline the process of voting, to reduce the workload on town clerks both on and leading up to election day and to provide cost savings to our municipalities."

">"> LD 979 would establish a true early voting system in Maine, allowing voters to go to their town office (or other polling place) in the two weeks prior to an election to cast their vote, just as they normally would on election day.
Maine currently allows in-person absentee voting before election day, which requires several additional steps in the voting process and requires more work on the part of town clerks and election officials, several of whom testified in favor of LD 979. Maine conducted a successful nine town early voting pilot program in 2009 that proved popular in the towns that participated.

LD 979 would still allow for absentee voting.

Rep. Teresa Pierce serves Falmouth in House District 44 Falmouth. She is serving her second term in the Maine House. She serves on the Legislature's Education Committee and chairs the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization and Implementation.

LD 979 will have a work session in the coming weeks.


Lindsay Crete [Pierce], 231-1442

Rep. McCrea supports "Buy American, Build Maine" bill Measure encourages growth of good jobs at home

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:06:12 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. David McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield, is proudly backing a measure to encourage the purchase of American-made products. He attended a press conference today hosted by Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson in support of the bill.
"Maine businesses and workers know how to get the job done and they're the foundation of our economy," said McCrea. "Whenever possible, we should always look to them first."

">"> LD 956, sponsored by Jackson, would require that all public works contracts contain a provision requiring that manufactured goods, including iron and steel, must be manufactured in the United States. It also requires that if two or more substantially similar bids are submitted for a public works contract, preference must be given to a bid submitted by an in-state contractor. If an in-state contractor submits a higher bid than an out-of-state contractor, the bill would require the state to give the Maine contractor an opportunity to match the low bid.

Also in attendance at the press conference were C.B. Smith, CEO of Virtual Managed Solutions LLC in Caribou, who has been passed over by the state in favor of out-of-state companies and Pat Carleton, an employee at the Sappi paper mill in Skowhegan and president of USW Local 9.


Lindsay Crete [McCrea] c. 231-1442

Sylvester proposes stakeholder group to safeguard Maine's water

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 16:47:40 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Maine Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology heard public testimony Wednesday on a bill to create a stakeholder group to study Maine's water supply, determine standards and develop rules for extraction for commercial use. Rep. Mike Sylvester, D-Portland, sponsored the bill.

"As municipality after municipality struggles with the issue of commercial extraction of water, it is time to ask what the state's role is in setting good policy to ensure that we maintain plentiful, clean water that's brought to us through clean pipes," Sylvester said. "The need for sustainable, clean water crosses town, county and party lines."

The Maine Water Trust would address the multiple issues facing Maine's water supply. The trust would be tasked with determining the amount of drinking water available in the state and comparing that with the expected needs of the people of Maine. This process would determine the amount of water that could be extracted through commercial permits. There would be a two-year moratorium on new groundwater extraction permits for commercial use while the work group develops rules. Agricultural and non-commercial extraction would be exempt from the moratorium.

The trust would also inventory existing drinking water pipes to ensure that lead-contaminated pipes are identified and create a plan for their replacement.

"This bill is about our role as state government. It is a commonsense approach to get people, scientists, agency experts and all stakeholders to the table. My bill advances a commonsense approach to the management of what is our most important resource, water," Sylvester said.

Rep. Mike Sylvester is in his first term in the Maine House of Representatives. He serves District 39, which includes the East End of Portland, Upper Bayside and many of the islands of Casco Bay. He serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development.


Lindsay Crete [Sylvester], c. 231-1442

Photo: Rep. Mike Sylvester, D-Portland, presents LD 422, An Act To Facilitate the Creation of the Maine Water Trust To Regulate and Protect Maine's Water Supply and To Ensure the Quantity and Quality of Maine's Drinking Water to the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

Sheats proposes measure to support homeless female veterans and their families

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 16:41:23 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. Bettyann Sheats, D-Auburn, introduced and testified in support of providing one-time funding for the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope.

At a hearing before the Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, Rep. Sheats spoke of the national effort to eliminate homelessness for veterans and the added challenges women veterans face.

"Women, especially women with children, are less likely to be homeless in the traditional sense of living outside on the street or using a homeless shelter," said Sheats. "They are more likely to couch surf between friends and family, live in their car, or stay in a bad relationship, one that could be harmful to themselves and their children because they don't know where else to go."

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.

The Augusta building has been purchased and refurbished with private donations and grants and is designed to house up to 17 women, some with children. It will provide access to services at Togus VA Medical Center, including the new women's veterans' clinic, which provides treatment for PTSD and sexual assault.

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

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

The submitted legislation 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 committee will hold a work session on Sheats' bill in the coming days.

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.


Lindsay Crete [Sheats], c. 231-1442

House Majority Leader pushes fix for unfair law penalizing workers

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 16:37:09 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Maine Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development heard public testimony Wednesday on a bill to change a law that prevents laid off workers from collecting unemployment if they are owed vacation pay. House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, introduced the legislation.

"This problem is far more common than you think," Herbig said. "Imagine you are loyal to your employer and don't take any vacations. Meanwhile, your coworker takes every vacation day available to him. Then, you both get laid off. Your co-worker gets to receive his unemployment check immediately. You however are told that the vacation time you have earned and rolled over for years is being taken away from you in exchange for an unemployment check."

In 2011, Maine law was changed so that a person who has vacation pay in excess of 4 weeks' wages is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for the week that payment is due. This bill removes that disqualification and allows them to collect unemployment at the same time as their coworkers who used their vacation days.

"This law puts people who have been most loyal to their employers at a disadvantage during an already trying time. It kicks people when they are down," said Herbig. "This bill is a smart fix to make sure Maine workers' earned pay is protected."

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


Lindsay Crete [Herbig], c. 231-1442

Photo: Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, presents LD 563: An Act to Protect Earned Pay to the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

New Report Highlights $1.9 Billion Loss for State

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 16:29:42 EDT

AUGUSTA - A new report released by the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) finds that in the past 7 years the state has forfeited over $1.9 billion in available federal funds. ">"> Lost Federal Funds: Lost Opportunities for Maine reports these funds would have supported 4,800 jobs each year and injected $700 million dollars into Maine's economy. The declined federal funds include Medicaid expansion, children's health insurance, public works infrastructure, nutrition assistance, domestic violence prevention, and more.

Democratic leaders on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee released the following statements -

House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee Drew Gattine:

"Turning away federal funds doesn't lower your tax burden, it sends your tax dollar to another state. Mainers should be outraged by this report. The LePage administration's approach is causing lasting harm to our economy. By turning down these opportunities over and over again, we are rejecting jobs and investments in our state. That is exactly the opposite of what we were sent to the legislature to do. Democrats will prioritize securing and using available federal resources to invest in public health, education, health care, education, and infrastructure."

Senate Lead of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee Cathy Breen:

"For the executive branch to leave so much money just sitting on the table when it could be used to improve our citizens' lives is unconscionable. The LePage administration would have us believe that by not accepting this money, they're saving taxpayer dollars, but that's just not true. No one in our state is getting a larger tax return because the administration rejected, or never even applied for, these funds. No one's tax rates are being lowered because we turned away opportunities to invest in our state and its people. As elected officials, we should do everything we can to put Maine's financial health first. This report shows just how often that basic principle was ignored."


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

In bipartisan vote, Maine House rejects second effort to convene House Ethics Committee

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 16:22:19 EDT

AUGUSTA | In a bipartisan vote, the Maine House soundly rejected a second effort from House Republicans to convene the House Ethics Committee to investigate Orono lawmaker Ryan Tipping Thursday. The order would have convened the Committee to investigate Tipping's lateness on updating a single income filing form, a common mistake among lawmakers which prompted a promise to strengthen education on the issue by the Maine Ethics Commission earlier this month. The House order failed by a vote of 78 to 65.

"This is an obvious attempt to distract from the many things Republicans in Maine are not doing, like bringing good-paying jobs to rural Maine, fighting our drug crisis and supporting hardworking families," said House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast. "Rep. Tipping's late filing was a common oversight that has already been resolved and, what's more, House Republicans know it."

Legislators are required to file an annual report due in February regarding sources of their personal income for the previous year. In 2012, the Legislature changed the law so that if a member has a change of employer and receives more than $2,000 from that employer, they are required to file a statement for the current year.

In an emailed statement to press on March 9, Maine Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne highlighted the commonness of unintentional late campaign finance report filings stating: "...our office deals with late campaign finance reports all the time," and "Unintentional violations are what we see most often. We rarely see evidence that a Legislator purposefully knew a campaign finance report was due and deliberately decided not to file it."

In a separate email regarding the form again sent on March 9, Wayne said "Our forms do describe that requirement to Legislators, but I suspect that some of them are unaware of the responsibility to file an updated statement for the current year if their employment changes."

Wayne then added "On 2/3/2017, Rep. Tipping did file a statement for 2016 which disclosed the income from Citizens Who Support Maine Public Schools PAC. So, my opinion is that, at this point, Rep. Tipping does not need to file any other statement relating to 2016 to make a correction."

"It's unfortunate that more and more Republican legislators come to Augusta to treat governing like it's a bar room brawl instead of focusing on the job that the people of Maine send us here to do," said Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston. "Rep. Lockman and other Republican members should look carefully at their own reporting errors before throwing stones."


Lindsay Crete c. 231-1442

McCreight's marine flare bill advances

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:46:24 EDT

AUGUSTA- The Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted to move forward with amended legislation submitted by Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, regarding the safe disposal of expired marine flares.

"Last spring, I was asked a seemingly simple question by a Harpswell lobsterman: ‘What am I supposed to do with my expired flares?' He told me that he and other lobstermen have sheds, garages, and basements full of these explosive devices," McCreight said.

">"> LD 252 establishes a program within the Department of Public Safety to collect and dispose of expired marine flares. The bill also contains an educational component, which would assist with making the collection and disposal programs known to the public.

The bill will come to a vote before the full Legislature in the coming days.

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.


Lindsay Crete [McCreight], cell 231-1442

Rep. McLean introduces bill to construct Gorham connector

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:23:10 EDT

AUGUSTA- The Maine Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Transportation heard public testimony Thursday on a bill to reduce congestion in Gorham and surrounding communities.

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

In researching the congestion problem, McLean found that growth in Portland's western suburbs is significant. In looking at census data, from 1970 to 2010 the population of Gorham increased from 7,800 to 16,300. For the surrounding communities, including Hollis, Buxton, Scarborough, Windham and Standing, the total population went from 22,200 in 1970 to 58,100 in 2010. The population of Gorham and the surrounding communities continues to grow and with that comes an increase in traffic.

McLean also found that the traffic congestion was negatively impacting the ability of businesses to thrive and pedestrians to move about within downtown Gorham. Citing an upwards travel time of 30 minutes to travel through the village during the evening commute, cars and trucks idling for significant periods of time does not make for a friendly downtown.

"In Maine, our downtowns are the heart of our communities," said McLean. "It is important for their longevity that this traffic be moved to a limited access highway."

The bill does require that, prior to the Maine Turnpike Authority greenlighting 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 Transportation Committee will schedule a work session on the bill in the coming days.

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.


Lindsay Crete [McLean], cell 231-1442

Tipping introduces measure to allow corrections officers to administer lifesaving medication to prisoners

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:16:15 EDT

AUGUSTA - The Maine Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services heard public testimony on a bill to allow corrections officers to administer naloxone to prisoners who could die without the opioid overdose reversal drug. Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, sponsored the bill.

In 2016, there were 378 drug-related overdose deaths compared to 160 motor vehicle-related fatalities. The death toll in 2016 exceeded Maine's 2015 record, making 2016 the third consecutive record-breaking year for overdose-related deaths in Maine.

"Naloxone saves lives at a time when hundreds of Mainers are dying of drug overdoses every year," Tipping said. "Reversing an overdose can be the first step on the road to recovery. Access to naloxone needs to be part of a comprehensive network of education, prevention, enforcement and treatment."

In 2015, Maine paramedics responded to 2,194 overdoses and administered 1,475 doses of naloxone. More than 10 percent of those doses administered were in Penobscot County.

The 126th and 127th Legislatures expanded the availability of naloxone kits to emergency first responders, pharmacists and members of the public with family or friends who are at risk for an opioid overdose.

The 128th Legislature has created the Task Force to Address the Opiate Crisis in the State, which will develop recommendations to address Maine's opioid crisis.

"Allowing trained correctional officers to administer naloxone might be the difference between life and death," said Penobscot County Sherriff Troy Morton in written testimony to the committee.

Ryan Tipping is serving his third term in the Maine Legislature. He serves as the house chair of the Taxation Committee.


Lindsay Crete [Tipping], c. 231-1442

Rep. Perry speaks out against health care repeal

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:35:54 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. Anne Perry, D-Calais, spoke at a press conference today against the federal Republican-backed bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

"I fear for what will happen to people if the ACA is repealed," said Perry, who also works as a Nurse Practitioner. "If the proposed replacement bill passes, I will see my patients hurt as a direct result."
The press conference was coordinated by Organize For Action, a non-partisan advocacy group opposed to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Other speakers included Dr. Connie Adler, a family physician from Farmington, Julie Schirmer, a clinical social worker from Portland and Ed and Jill Saxby, who are beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act.
Nearly 80,000 Mainers receive their care through the Affordable Care Act. According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, if the proposed replacement bill passes into law, a 60-year old resident of Washington County making $40,000 per year would see premiums rise while their taxes go up.

Perry represents nine communities in Washington County and is serving her fifth nonconsecutive term in the Maine House. She serves on the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee.


Lindsay Crete [Perry], 231-1442