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Protecting Maine's natural resources

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 14:45:10 EDT

We 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.

That is why I am so gratified to be given a perfect score by the Maine Conservation Voters. I am proud of the votes I take on behalf of the environment and I am glad to see my record recognized.

Maine Conservation Voters is a statewide organization that publishes a scorecard on legislator's vote on natural resource issues. This time they looked at how we voted on a number of bills that dealt with energy conservation and protecting our lands as well as keeping our environment clean.

Unlike the gridlock in Washington, it was good to see the Legislature work together across party lines on some of these bills. A bill to restore millions of dollars to the Efficiency Maine Fund, which pays for businesses and homes across the state to lower their energy costs, got a unanimous vote in the House to override a veto from the governor.

We were also able to unanimously reauthorize a $6.5 million bond for Land for Maine's Future. This bond had already been overwhelmingly approved by Maine's voters, but had been allowed to lapse. The reauthorization will allow the money to be used in the future to preserve Maine's working waterfronts, farms and woodlands.

Other votes that succeeded involved preventing money raised from timber harvesting on state lands from being used by unrelated programs and a bill to improve the management of public lands.
Unfortunately, there was some bad news on the MCV scorecard as well. We failed to pass a bill that would have ensured that voter-approved bonds, like those that would protect our working waterfront, would be used as Maine people expect.
We also failed to override the veto of a comprehensive solar energy bill. This measure would have provided a real boost to our native solar energy industry, creating hundreds of good paying jobs in Maine. It also had the backing of environmental groups and energy companies and had the potential to lower our electricity costs. It only failed by a small margin, and I hope it is back again next year.

I love our state, and I feel strongly that it is important to do all we can to preserve and protect our natural resources. I want my kids and grandchildren to be able to enjoy the woods and the waters as much as I have.

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

Named for Columbo star, bill protects ailing Mainers and their families

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 16:45:01 EDT

People 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 [...]

Rep. Devin and Healthy Lincoln County to host screening of film on drug addiction

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 16:44:39 EDT

AUGUSTA - 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.

The screening will take place in the Porter Meeting Hall at the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta at 5:30 p.m. and will be followed a community discussion with experts on substance use.

"The Hungary Heart is a very powerful movie that has been screened in other parts of Maine to great acclaim," said Devin, D-Newcastle. "It is important for all of us to see our addiction crisis up close so that we can learn as much as we can and come up with the best plan to tackle it, start breaking the cycle of addiction and prevent more Maine families from being torn apart by heroin."

The free event is co-sponsored by Healthy Lincoln County.

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


Ann Kim [Devin], c. 233-1838

Even with 2016's tough politics, bipartisanship still thrives in Maine

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 12:04:50 EDT

One 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 [...]

Maine Supreme Judicial Court to hear arguments at Marshwood High School at invitation of local lawmaker

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 11:59:30 EDT

AUGUSTA - 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.

Since 2005, the court has heard 99 appeals in ">"> 33 schools throughout the state at the invitation of local legislators. At each of these schools, a cafeteria, gymnasium or auditorium is converted to a temporary courtroom for the students to observe the appellate process. Students are provided with copies of legal briefs for the appeals in advance. While decisions on the appeals are not made on the day of the school visit, schools are notified of the court's decision so that students are able to follow the appeals.

"I'm so pleased that students at Marshwood will have the opportunity to witness Maine's judicial system in action," said Beavers. "This is a valuable experience for any student who wants to learn more about how our courts operate."

Beavers is serving her third term in the Maine House and is a member of the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.


Ann Kim [Beavers], cell 233-1838

FASFA changes

Wed, 14 Sep 2016 10:10:56 EDT

Significant 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.

Instead of waiting until the new year to file, families can now file the FAFSA beginning on Oct. 1, 2016. In addition, students and parents will file using an earlier year's tax information and will no longer have to estimate their income information and then update it later.

These changes are permanent and are designed to make the FAFSA more convenient and ensure that students receive their financial aid in a timely manner. Often, students get their financial aid package too late in the decision-making process which can cause students to make rushed choices about which college to attend or they take on too much student debt.

I hope that these changes will help make applying for college easier for my constituents. Students and parents can find out more information by visiting the Finance Authority of Maine's ">"> website.


Bob Saucier
State Representative

Gideon on proposed net metering rules

Wed, 14 Sep 2016 09:38:37 EDT

AUGUSTA - Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon released the following statement Tuesday on the Public Utilities Commission's proposed net metering rules.
"Maine needs a comprehensive solar policy. Unfortunately, the PUC's narrow focus on a single part of the broader solar policy doesn't help our state's ability to open new markets that create jobs and lower costs for homeowners, businesses and communities. The changes proposed to net metering here do not necessarily benefit all ratepayers. In fact, they leave the monetary value of solar's attributes on the table," said Gideon, D-Freeport. "This past session's solar bill did not simply look at net metering in isolation, but was crafted to help our constituents who are clamoring for access to community, commercial and municipal solar. That responsiveness and broad view is why policymaking should be left to lawmakers."

Gideon led negotiations on LD 1649, which would have created 650 new jobs by growing new solar markets, protected 300 existing jobs, increased installation tenfold and created between $58 million and $110 million in ratepayer savings. The bipartisan measure, based on the work of a broad stakeholders group created by a separate bill of Gideon's last year, fell three votes short of overriding the governor's veto in the House.
LD 1649 would have created stability for homes, businesses and the state's solar industry by revising net-metering to "next-metering," which, in addition to serving residential solar growth would also spur grid-scale growth.


Ann Kim at 233-1838

Maine Can Do More To Reduce Dependence on Property Tax

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 15:37:18 EDT

Recently 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 [...]

Winter is on its way

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 15:24:22 EDT

The 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.

There are several resources out there to help Mainers afford to heat their homes. One of them, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, is a nonprofit that provides fuel assistance to Windham residents. I was proud to be part of the group that founded this organization in 2007, along with Sen. Bill Diamond and former Sen. Gary Plummer. The goal is to provide emergency one-time heating fuel assistance to any Windham citizen in need. Over the years, this program has had a strong record of success, helping hundreds of our Windham neighbors stay safe and comfortable during the harshest months of the year.

On September 30, the Sixth Annual Charity Gala and Auction will take place to benefit Neighbors Helping Neighbors. The event will be held in the St. Joseph's College Cafeteria, beginning with a silent auction and cocktail hour at 6:30 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m., followed by a live auction. We already have an impressive list of auction items! Please visit the website at ">"> Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors or call me at 892-6591 to learn more about the event and other ways to contribute to the organization.

Another important resource is the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, which helps with a portion of heating costs and is available to all Maine homeowners and renters who have a family income that falls below 150 percent of the poverty level. For example, a family of four with an annual income of $36,450 will qualify. The income guidelines are adjusted for families that include individuals who are especially vulnerable to cold weather, such as the elderly, a young child or those with certain medical conditions. The Opportunity Alliance overseas LIHEAP in our community, and they can be reached at 553-5900 or through email at Opportunity Alliance.

We can all save money on heating and energy costs by finding ways to keep the warm air in and cold air out of our homes. Efficiency Maine offers energy audits to help identify air leaks and suggest heating system upgrades and weatherization improvements. These small steps can save homeowners hundreds of dollars per year. Visit ">"> Efficiency Maine or call 1-866-376-2463 to schedule an audit.

We cannot forget the other needs of our neighbors that become increasingly critical during the winter months. The Windham Clothes Closet is always accepting donations of hats, gloves, jackets and other winter clothes for those in need. They can be reached at 892-1906. Donations to the Windham Food Pantry are accepted Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 377 Gray Road.

Wishing everyone an enjoyable fall season and best of luck preparing for the winter ahead.

As always, please feel free to send me a letter at 166 Albion Road in Windham, call me at 892-6591 or email anytime at Rep. Mark Bryant.

York representatives earn perfect ratings on environmental scorecard

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 10:21:41 EDT

AUGUSTA - Reps. Patty Hymanson and Lydia Blume, both D-York, received perfect ratings in the 127th Legislature from Maine Conservation Voters.

"Our beaches, walking trails and natural beauty attract people from near and far who eat, sleep and play here, driving our economy forward," said Hymanson. "We, who are so fortunate to live here, have a duty to protect our environment."

The statewide environmental advocacy group took into account nine key bills from the 127th Legislature. The bills included measures to protect water from metallic mining pollution and taxpayers from cleanup costs; establish a comprehensive solar policy to create jobs, reduce energy costs and mitigate climate change; require the governor to release millions of dollars in voter-approved Land for Maine's Future Program bonds; restore energy efficiency funding to the Efficiency Maine Trust; prevent unsustainable timber harvesting on public lands; and prioritize stewardship and recreational uses of public lands.

"I am thankful for this recognition from Maine Conservation Voters," said Blume. "Protecting Maine's natural resources makes sense for Maine's future and is one of my top priorities."

The full scorecard can be found at ">"> Maine Conservation Voters.

Blume is serving her first term in the Maine House and represents part of York. Hymanson is also serving her first term in the House and represents Ogunquit and parts of Sanford, Wells and York.


Ann Kim [Hymanson, Blume] 233-1838

Democratic House Leadership on LePage's threats

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:37:29 EDT

AUGUSTA - Democratic House Leadership released the following statement Friday on Gov. Paul LePage's ">"> threats of violence toward a state lawmaker.

"Paul LePage is not mentally or emotionally fit to hold office. His words and actions have crossed a line. Threats of violence are never acceptable and cannot be tolerated in civilized society." - Democratic House Leadership


Ann Kim [for Speaker Mark Eves, House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon] 233-1838

Lewiston representative earns high score on environmental record

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:28:35 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. Heidi Brooks, D-Lewiston, earned a top score for her support of environmental issues in the 127th Legislature from Maine Conservation Voters.

The statewide environmental advocacy group took into account nine key bills from the 127th Legislature. The bills included measures to protect Maine's natural resources from metallic mining pollution; establish a comprehensive solar policy to create jobs, reduce energy costs and mitigate climate change; require the governor to release millions of dollars in voter-approved Land for Maine's Future Program bonds; restore energy efficiency funding to the Efficiency Maine Trust; prevent unsustainable timber harvesting on public lands; and prioritize stewardship and recreational uses of public lands.

Other Lewiston representatives who earned high scores include Reps. Mike Lajoie, Peggy Rotundo, Jared Golden, all D-Lewiston. The full scorecard can be found at ">"> Maine Conservation Voters.

Brooks is serving her first term in the Maine House and represents part of Lewiston.


Ann Kim [Brooks] 233-1838

Dunphy earns perfect rating on conservation scorecard

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:20:30 EDT

AUGUSTA - Rep. Michelle Dunphy received a perfect rating in the 127th Legislature from Maine Conservation Voters.

"In my district and across the state, the strength of our economy has long been closely tied to conservation and good stewardship of our natural resources," said Dunphy, D-Old Town. "I'm proud of my votes to protect the woods and waters where so many Mainers make their living and that make our state such a special place to live and work."

The statewide environmental advocacy group took into account nine key bills from the 127th Legislature. The bills included measures to protect water from metallic mining pollution and taxpayers from clean-up costs; establish a comprehensive solar policy to create jobs, reduce energy costs and mitigate climate change; require the governor to release millions of dollars in voter-approved Land for Maine's Future Program bonds; restore energy efficiency funding to the Efficiency Maine Trust; prevent unsustainable timber harvesting on public lands; and prioritize stewardship and recreational uses of public lands.

The full scorecard can be found at ">"> Maine Conservation Voters.

Dunphy is serving her first term in the Maine House. She represents Old Town and Penobscot Indian Island.


Ann Kim [Dunphy] 233-1838

Democratic House leaders on LePage's interview

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:16:11 EDT

AUGUSTA - Democratic House leaders released the following statement Tuesday on Gov. Paul LePage's ">"> remarks on WVOM.

"Today Maine finds itself in a situation where leaders and legislators of both parties agree that the Governor is preventing the people's business from getting done. A half-hearted, partial apology on a radio show does not get remotely close to addressing the core issue: Maine faces serious issues and its government is not functioning.
"This is not a partisan issue. People of good faith on both sides of the aisle as well as newspapers across the state are demanding the real action required to have a functioning government. The Governor this morning said ‘some of the things I am being asked to do are beyond my ability' and added ‘maybe it is time to move on.'

"Our elected officials need to be accountable and on the record today. Leadership from both parties needs to get in the same room and discuss these very serious issues. The Legislature has a constitutional responsibility to ensure the people of Maine have a functioning state government."


Ann Kim [Speaker Mark Eves, House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon] 233-1838

Rep. Hymanson helps out at "Stuff the Bus" project

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:09:51 EDT

Rep. 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.

Last year "Stuff the Bus" provided an estimated 2,600 York County students with school supplies.

Rep. Hymanson is third from the left in the photo and Wanda Parent is sixth from the right.


Ann Kim [Hymanson], c. 233-1838