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Measure to support innovation, entrepreneurship earns committee OK

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:39:56 EDT

AUGUSTA - A bill from Rep. Martin Grohman to support job creation through innovation and entrepreneurship in Maine earned support from a panel of lawmakers Tuesday. The vote was unanimous among those present.


"Supporting innovators and entrepreneurs is key to our economic success. Maine Technology Institute makes targeted investments in Maine companies that pay off, and with our support it can be even more effective," said Grohman, D-Biddeford. "This measure will allow Maine Technology Institute to realize its full potential to support growth in technology-intensive sectors from biotechnology to the forest products industry."


The bill would broaden the scope of Maine Technology Institute's work by allowing it to establish additional programs and collaborate with other organizations to foster small business creation, provide training and mentorship opportunities and protect intellectual property.


Maine Technology Institute, or MTI, was created by the Legislature in 1999 to support and invest in research and development and the commercialization of products and services in targeted technology sectors. Its programs have invested in projects across the state while leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars in private sector matching investment.


At a recent public hearing on the bill, Grohman told the Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee how the composite decking company he founded was able to grow in Biddeford thanks to a grant from the institute. Grohman has since sold the company, but it remains locally owned and employs about 30 people.


Measures of Growth 2017, the annual report from Maine Economic Growth Council and Maine Development Foundation on the state's economic growth, highlighted both increased business creation and additional research and development investment as key factors in creating a sustainable economic future.


The measure, LD 1324, now advances to the House and the Senate for consideration.


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



Local legislators to hold town hall meeting

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:33:19 EDT

CASCO - Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, and Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, will hold a public forum next week in Raymond. On Sat., May 6 they will be at the Raymond Public Safety Building, 1443 Roosevelt Trail, Raymond, from 10:00-11:30 a.m.


Lawmakers will make brief presentations and then answer questions from the audience.
"There is a lot going on in Augusta these days, and I look forward to a productive discussion with the people of Raymond to get their feedback on several issues," said Sen. Diamond. "It is always a pleasure to speak directly with the folks in my community, and it will be an honor to do so with Rep. Fay."
"I always look forward to talking with folks in my district," said Fay. "This will be a good opportunity to meet with them and listen to their concerns."
Sen. Diamond is serving his third term in the Maine Senate, representing Windham, Raymond, Casco, Standish, Baldwin and Frye Island. He serves on the Government Oversight Committee and the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
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, Mario Moretto [Diamond], cell 460-4669



Democratic leaders to host 2 more Town Halls on Opportunity Agenda

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:00:25 EDT

AUGUSTA - With 10 Town Halls from Fort Kent to Biddeford already in the books, Democratic legislative leaders have scheduled two more Town Hall meetings - in Rumford and Thomaston - to discuss the Opportunity Agenda.


">https://opportunityagendamaine.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/opportunity-agenda-long-final.pdf"> The Opportunity Agenda is the Democrat's budget proposal for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. It calls for the largest property tax cut in Maine history; invests in jobs and the economy; fully funds public schools; makes college degrees more affordable and attainable; supports families, seniors, children and veterans; and provides meaningful student debt relief.


And it does it all without unnecessary cuts to current services and without raising new taxes.


The Rumford Town Hall will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 2 at the Rumford Falls Auditorium. The Thomaston Town Hall will take place on Wednesday, May 3 at 6 p.m. at Watts Hall. Speaker of the House Sara Gideon and Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson will be joined by the town's local legislative delegation to the Maine Legislature and other municipal officials.


All members of the public and media are welcome. A brief presentation will be followed by Q&A with the audience. Media availability to follow.


WHAT: Town Hall meeting to discuss the Opportunity Agenda.
WHO: Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson, House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Nate Libby, and the Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, and Reps. Tina Riley of Jay and John Madigan of Rumford.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 2.
WHERE: Rumford Falls Auditorium, 145 Congress St, Rumford, ME


WHAT: Town Hall meeting to discuss the Opportunity Agenda.
WHO: Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson, House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Nate Libby, and the Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, and Sen. Dave Miramant of Camden, Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center and Rep. John Spear of Thomaston.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 3.
WHERE: Watts Hall, 174 Main St., Thomaston, ME.


Contact:


Mario Moretto [Jackson], 460-4669 | Mary-Erin Casale [Gideon], 415-4965



Rep. Parker's bill to help job applicants approved by Legislative Council

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 10:56:07 EDT

AUGUSTA - On Thursday the Legislative Council gave its approval for a bill proposed by Rep. Jennifer Parker, D-South Berwick, to be considered by the full Legislature. The bill would prevent the state from requiring a credit check of job applicants.


"Asking about an applicant's credit history puts those with credit problems at a severe disadvantage and can prevent them from moving up economically," said Parker. "This will help those with credit problems, which may exist through no fault of their own, better their own financial security and be less dependent on assistant programs."


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


Currently there are 11 states that have prohibited asking for an applicant's credit history as a requirement for employment. Parker's bill would apply only to those seeking jobs with the state.


"Sometimes the best solutions come from the residents of Maine, who are living and experiencing real-life situations," Parker said. "It is an important part of our job to listen and use their good ideas to initiate positive change."


Since the bill was filed late in the session, it required the approval of the Legislative Council to be considered. The Legislative Council consists of the leadership of both parties from both the Maine House and the Maine Senate.


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


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Parker], 231-1442



Rep. Devin to host state budget forum at Skidompha

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 10:40:58 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, will host a public forum on the Opportunity Agenda, an alternative budget proposal for 2018 and 2019.


The forum will take place on Thursday, May 11 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta.


Devin will make a brief presentation and then take questions from the audience.


"I know many people in our district have told me they are very concerned about school funding and property taxes, and our budget proposal has taken those concerns to heart," said Devin. "I'm looking forward to listening to the people of Lincoln County and having this important discussion on what it will take to make Maine more prosperous."


The Opportunity Agenda calls for the largest property tax cut in Maine history, invests in jobs and the economy, fully funds public schools, makes college degrees more affordable and attainable, supports families, seniors, children and veterans and provides meaningful student debt relief. It does all of those things without unnecessary cuts and without raising new taxes.


The Opportunity Agenda builds on the current budget established in 2015, leaving current services intact while leveraging new revenue to invest in Maine's future.


Devin, a marine biologist and a retired commander in the U.S. Navy, is serving his third term in the Maine House. He represents Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, part of South Bristol, Monhegan Plantation and the unorganized territory of Louds Island. He serves on the Legislature's Marine Resources Committee and co-chairs the Veterans Caucus.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Devin], 231-1442



Rep. Sheats introduces measure to recognize Gold Star Families

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 09:57:23 EDT

AUGUSTA- Rep. Bettyann Sheats, D-Auburn, has introduced a bill to honor Maine's Gold Star Families.


"We in Maine, especially in recent years, have done a noble job of honoring and rewarding our veterans for their service and our Gold Star Families for their sacrifice," said Sheats. "This bill is another way to acknowledge these families."


Sheats' measure would allow occupants of a vehicle displaying a Maine Gold Star Family license plate to enter a state-owned park, camping area or beach at no cost. The bill would mirror a similar statute which exempts occupants of a vehicle displaying a Maine Disabled Veteran license plate from paying the same fees listed above. Like the statute it mirrors, the bill would require proof of status by the Secretary of State.


"I hope the committee will see this as an opportunity to make Maine's great outdoors even more accessible and inviting to the families of those who gave their all in protecting this land," said Sheats.


The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee will hold a work session on Sheats' bill, ">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0790&item=1&snum=128"> LD 1127, 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.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Sheats], c. 231-1442



The Opportunity Agenda

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:08:42 EDT

Another month has come and gone in Augusta. In my last update, I outlined why I don't believe the governor's proposed budget reflects Maine values. His big idea is more tax cuts for people who can afford to pay their fair share and cuts to education and health care. Under his plan, 80 percent of Mainers would see their taxes go up, while the top 1 percent would see five-digit tax cuts.


This month, I am happy to report that my colleagues and I are standing behind a budget alternative that focuses on working-class Mainers and communities. With the Opportunity Agenda, we are putting our money where our values are. We can provide the largest property tax relief program in Maine history. We can make college more affordable for Maine students. And we can support Maine's entrepreneurs as they put Mainers back to work.
And we do it all without raising taxes.
Year after year, homeowners in Gorham and across the state have seen our property taxes balloon to cover the cost of education and services we rely on. Our plan would provide direct relief to property tax payers by increasing the homestead exemption to $25,000 next year and $30,000 in 2019, expanding the property tax fairness credit, and increasing revenue sharing to 3 percent.


The Opportunity Agenda also places an emphasis on education. It finally meets the state's obligation to fund 55 percent of education costs. But we also recognize that K-12 education is not enough to move our state forward. Our plan invests in early childhood education through public Pre-K and Head Start programs and it makes college more affordable by helping students refinance their college debt.


We also understand that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. That's why our budget proposal funds programs that connect Maine businesses to the trained workers they're looking for and the grant funding they need to grow. It also includes infrastructure investments in roads, bridges and high-speed internet.


Mainers know how to roll up their sleeves and get the job done. This budget is a blueprint for how we can harness that determination to build a better future for our state.
You can take a look at how the Opportunity Agenda stacks up against the governor's proposal and against current tax law for you and your family at ">http://www.mecep.org/calculator/"> Tax Calculator.


Rep. Maureen "Mo" Terry is serving her first term in the Maine House of Representatives. She is a chef and small business owner. She is a volunteer for a number of community organizations, including the Gorham Cooperative Preschool, the Gorham Education Foundation and the Gorham Swim Boosters. Rep. Terry lives in Gorham with her husband and three daughters.



Rep. Schneck's bill to protect Maine workers passes initial vote in the House.

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:31:30 EDT

AUGUSTA - On Wednesday the Maine House gave initial approval for a bill that would make it harder for employers to impose non-compete clauses on their employees in a bipartisan vote of 76-67. The bill had previously been voted out of the Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.


"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, ">https://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280063206"> 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 moves to the Senate.


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


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Schneck], 231-1442



Rep. Bailey introduces bill to lower property tax burden

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:19:45 EDT

AUGUSTA- The Legislature's Taxation Committee gave initial approval Wednesday of a bill sponsored by Rep. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, to help seniors and persons with disabilities pay their property taxes.


Bailey submitted the legislation after hearing the story of Richard and Leonette Sukeforth of Albion who, at 80 years of age, were evicted from their home for unpaid taxes.


"What struck me the most about their story was that they had contacted the Governor's office for help, and there was nothing the governor or his office could to do help them," said Bailey. "This bill is meant to address that oversight and ensure no couple in the Sukeforth's situation will ever be evicted from their homes again."


Bailey's measure would reinstate the state's property tax deferral program, which was in place from 1989-1991. The bill would allow the state to pay property taxes for those who qualify and obtain a lien on the real estate for reimbursement after the property owner(s) passes away. In order to qualify, households must have a combined income of less than $40,000 and have at least one individual who is 65 years of age or older or is retired due to a disability.


In 1992, at the height of enrollment in the program, there were 158 homesteads participating with an average property tax bill of $835.72.


"While this bill is not a total solution to the continued increase in property taxes, it does serve as a tool to help Maine seniors to be able to remain in their homes and afford the basic necessities they need," said Bailey.


The bill, ">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0833&item=1&snum=128"> LD 1196, will come to a vote before the full Legislature in the coming days.


Rep. Bailey, a member of the Legislature's Judiciary committee, is serving her first term in the Maine House and represents part of Saco.


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Bailey] c. 231-1442



House advances measure to support homeless female veterans and their families

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:22:21 EDT

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


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


"Maine has always supported our veterans," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Bettyann Sheats, D-Auburn. "This shows we're committed to support our growing female veteran population as well."


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


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


The 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 measure, ">http://legislature.maine.gov/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0572&item=1&snum=128"> LD 792, will face a final vote in the State Senate.


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


Lindsay Crete [Sheats], c. 231-1442



Martin's bill to encourage intragovernmental communication earns committee support

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:15:47 EDT

AUGUSTA - A bill by Rep. Roland "Danny" Martin to require state agencies to participate in the legislative process when asked by a committee earned support from the State and Local Government Committee Monday. The vote was 7-6.


"This is about access to state government," said Martin, D-Sinclair. "In order to do the best work for the people of Maine, we need to be able to work with state departments and agencies. It is my hope that this will help create better policy by ensuring all parties are involved."


Martin's bill would require 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.


As amended, the bill would also require a commissioner or director to respond in a timely manner if contacted by a member of the Legislature regarding a legislative or constituent matter.


">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280062655"> LD 152 now advances to the full Legislature for consideration.


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



House advances McCreight's marine flare bill

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 15:38:53 EDT

AUGUSTA- The Maine House of Representatives on Tuesday approved legislation submitted by Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, regarding the safe disposal of expired marine flares. The vote was 85 to 58.


"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.


">http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP0185&item=1&snum=128"> 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.


"I'm pleased that the majority of the House understood that this was an important issue for the entire state," said McCreight. "Commercial fishermen and boaters alike need to have a safe, legal way to dispose of expired flares. This remains a common sense bill and I will continue to work to bring more people on board."


The measure faces further votes in 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], cell 231-1442



House Majority Leader Herbig proposes Maine Family First Award to recognize family-friendly businesses

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:56:06 EDT

AUGUSTA -The Maine State Workforce Board would create an award to recognize businesses with policies that support working families if a bill proposed by House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, is successful.


"Maine is one of the best places to raise a family. It's time we were known for supporting working families and the businesses that have their backs," said Herbig.


">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280064656"> LD 1378 both incentivizes and celebrates businesses that operate with family-friendly practices. As amended, the bill does this by requiring the State workforce board to create and administer the Maine Family First Employer Program to officially recognize businesses whose policies and practices address the unique needs of working families in the state.


The Board will have its own freedom to adopt the criteria for evaluating businesses like flexible scheduling, child care options and family leave. The Board already runs a Silver Collar Award to reward aging-friendly businesses and the Department of Labor maintains a Safety First Award to recognize safe business environments.


"My hope is if LD 1378 passes, a young parent in another state looking for a place to relocate and raise their family would be further encouraged and enticed to move here if they saw a job listing by a Maine employer with a Maine Family First Award."


The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee will hold a work session on the bill in the coming days.


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


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Herbig], c. 231-1442



House Majority Leader Herbig proposes tax credits for families and businesses to make child care more accessible and affordable

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 12:54:40 EDT

AUGUSTA - Maine families will have better access to affordable child care if a pair of bills proposed by House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, are successful.


"Now more than ever, both parents have to work to get by," said Herbig. "The strength of Maine's economy depends on parents being able to work and provide for their families, and right now we're not doing enough to make that possible."


Young Maine families face significant and various challenges in accessing child care. The average annual cost of center-based child care for a Maine family with two children is 13 percent higher than their mortgage, and the average cost of one infant's care is higher than tuition at UMaine.


Beyond cost, accessibility of care is a serious concern. According to ">http://www.usa.childcareaware.org"> Child Care Aware, a national advocacy group, there are only 28,000 center-based child care workers in Maine, while there are roughly 120,000 Maine kids under 13 who need some level of care while their parents are at work.


">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280064235"> LD 1144, "An Act To Support Maine Families by Increasing the Dependent Care Credit," increases the income tax credit for child care expenses from 25 to 50 percent of the federal tax credit allowable for child and dependent care expenses and increases the refundable amount from $500 to $750. This change would impact more than 27,000 Maine families who qualify for the Dependent Care Credit.


">http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280064544"> LD 1317, "An Act To Encourage Family-friendly Businesses through a Tax Credit for Child Care," aims to address accessibility by incentivizing employer-provided day care services, either on-site or through payments to a child care center. It revives the tax credit allowed for employer-assisted day care, which expired at the end of 2015.


"We need to address barriers to work for Maine families by supporting businesses that care about more than just their bottom line. In my opinion, it's a win-win," said Herbig.


The Taxation Committee will hold work sessions on the bills in the coming days.


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


Contact:


Lindsay Crete [Herbig], c. 231-1442



Rep. Fay to hold local office hours

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 12:17:29 EDT

CASCO - Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, will hold in-district "constituent hours" in Casco next week. On Tues., May 2 she will be at the Casco Town Office, 635 Meadow Road in Casco, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.


These office hours will provide residents with an opportunity to hear updates from Augusta, ask questions about policy making and share opinions on state matters. Office hours also serve as an opportunity for residents navigating state agencies to voice their concerns.


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