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Mitchell, Pingree Say Curtailment Order Takes Sensible Approach

Fri, 01 Oct 2010 16:09:08 EDT

AUGUSTA-Maine Senate President Libby Mitchell and House Speaker Hannah Pingree today thanked the Governor for responding to a funding shortfall through his use of a curtailment order. The gap was created when the federal government did not approve as robust of an enhancement of Medicaid funding for states as had been anticipated when the state budget was approved in April.

"I would like to commend Governor Baldacci and his staff for taking a responsible approach to managing this curtailment order. It's clear in this order the Governor worked hard to prioritize spending reductions in a way that has a minimal impact on services and programs," President Mitchell said.

President Mitchell and Speaker Pingree pointed out that although Maine continues to see signs of improvement in our economy as evidenced by recent monthly budget surpluses, it is still important to recognize that the road to economic recovery takes time and that spending reductions to programs and services are still a part of our immediate future.

President Mitchell went on to add that just as state government is working harder to find savings and efficiencies to help the state be more agile as our economy moves forward from the recession, that belt tightening extends to the Legislature. "Just as state agencies and departments are working harder to find spending reductions, the Legislature is too. We have found savings by not refilling open positions, and through other savings measures," President Mitchell added, who also chairs the Legislature's Budget Committee. The Legislature will seek cuts equivalent to the percent of the executive branch's cuts, which would be just shy of $100,000.

Speaker Pingree added, "I appreciate that the Governor avoided curtailments to general purpose aid education funding. With the school year underway, these cuts would have been untenable and would have directly impacted kids. While we are still seeking to understand the impact of some of these reductions, the effort to retain a balanced budget given the economy and the upcoming budget challenges is essential."

At issue is a funding gap that was created when Congress did not approve an anticipated increase in the federal government's share of Medicaid funding for states. At the time the state budget was passed in the spring, measures had passed in each the US Senate and House that would have increased the federal share for Maine, but they had not been "reconciled."

The Legislature enacted the state budget with a place holder, expecting a certain level of increased federal funding based conservatively on the bills that had already passed in each house of congress. In the ensuing months, however, the US Senate reversed course and passed a scaled down version of the Medicaid extension that the President ultimately signed.

In the budget bill passed by the Maine Legislature, the Governor was directed to use his curtailment authority to reduce spending should the state not receive an additional $85 million by October 1, 2010. The scaled down funding package from Congress passed on August 10, 2010 brought roughly $76 million in Medicaid funding, leaving the roughly $8.8 million gap that the Governor addressed in his curtailment order today.

Mitchell Presents Jobs Bond, Would Create Over 3,100 Jobs

Mon, 29 Mar 2010 15:55:05 EDT

Maine Legislature 2 State House Station Augusta, Maine 04333 207-287-1500

For Immediate Release: March 29, 2010

Contact: David Loughran, 287-1558

AUGUSTA-With more than 65,000 Maine people unemployed and the economy slowly recovering from the global recession, Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell testified in support of LD 1816, "An Act to Authorize a Bond Issue For Ratification by the Voters for the June 2010 Election To Create Jobs in the State". The bond provides for $99 million to be spent largely on transportation projects, upgrades to waste and drinking water facilities and improving the energy efficiency of Maine schools. If passed by the Legislature, the jobs bond would have to then be approved by Maine voters.

"If there ever was a time for a jobs bond, now is that time. Experts may say the recession is over, but so far it has been an extremely slow jobless recovery," said President Mitchell. "Unemployment in Maine is around 8%, these infrastructure projects can be the shot in the arm that helps bring that number down."

According to analysis by the Maine Center for Economic Policy and the Maine Association of General Contractors, President Mitchell's proposed jobs bond will create or save between 3,000 and 3,700 jobs. The bond includes:

- $47.5 million for highway construction projects; - $20 million for purchase of the railway known as the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad; - $5 million for the development of passenger rail between Topsham and Lewiston/Auburn; - $7.25 million to address the deficiencies in Maine's waste water and drinking water facilities. This investment will be matched by $31 million in federal money; - $15 million for energy efficiency upgrades at Maine's K-12 public schools; and, - $5 million for energy efficiency upgrades at Maine's higher education institutions.

"From highway construction to the investments in freight and passenger rail, this package will create jobs now and make sure we have a solid infrastructure going forward," Mitchell continued.

Keeping service on the Montreal, Maine and Aroostook Railway will save more than 750 jobs. By extending passenger rail service to the Lewiston-Auburn area, 84% of Maine's population will have access to passenger rail service.

Currently, Maine has the lowest debt levels of all the New England states. Standard and Poor's State Debt Review for 2009 ranks Maine 41st lowest in regard to tax supported debt as a % of personal income, 40th lowest with respect to tax supported debt to gross state product and 42nd lowest in regard to tax supported debt per capita.


Bill to Enhance Investment Tax Credit Gets Public Hearing

Tue, 02 Feb 2010 15:59:50 EST

President Elizabeth H. Mitchell Maine State Senate (207) 287-1500

For Immediate Release

Bill to Enhance Investment Tax Credit Gets Public Hearing

February 2, 2010 Contact: David Loughran, (207) 287-1558

AUGUSTA-Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell told the Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Taxation that she wanted to spur economic activity by rewarding investors who make a bet on Maine businesses. Citing the need to stimulate frozen capital markets, President Mitchell presented LD 1666 "An Act To Improve the Seed Capital Investment Tax Credit Program".

"Attracting investment in Maine's small businesses is difficult in the best of time, during the economic recession it has become all but impossible," said President Mitchell. "Improving the incentives of our Seed Capital Tax Credit program can help get investment flowing again, help create jobs and help get Maine's economy moving again."

LD 1666 would expand the credit from 40% to 60% and make it refundable, increasing the incentive and limiting the risk for venture capitalists and angel investors who put their money behind Maine people. The bill retains the current amount of $30,000,000 as the aggregate amount of credits that the Finance Authority of Maine may issue through the end of calendar year 2011 and then increases the amount to $50,000,000 starting in 2012.

Testifying in support of the bill, Tim Agnew of Masthead Venture Partners stated, "Expanding this credit is a proven way to grow jobs, grow tax revenues and improve the economic climate of the state."

Representatives from a number of Maine businesses spoke in favor of the bill

Full text of the legislation can be found at:

West Gardiner Artist Displays Work in the Senate President's Office

Tue, 02 Feb 2010 15:58:23 EST

Maine State Legislature Augusta, Maine 04333 Senate President: 207-287-1500

West Gardiner Artist Displays Work in the Senate President's Office

For Immediate Release: January 25, 2010

Contact: David Loughran, 287-1558

Today, the Office of the Senate President announced it will display the work of West Gardiner artist Kay Morris. Morris has been painting, studying and displaying art in Maine since 1990. In 1994, 1997 and 2001 her watercolors were selected for the Old Hallowell Days poster. Her painting "Quoddy Head" won second prize at the Kennebec Valley Art Association's Open Jury Show in October, 2007.

Kay studied for two years at the Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts and earned a graduate degree from Plymouth State University. Thomas College, the Department of Environmental Protection, Maine General Hospital, Thayer Hospital, Slates, Maine State Housing and the Public Utilities Commission are among the many central Maine locations that Ms. Morris has displayed her artwork.

"We are fortunate to have such a wealth of talented artists here in the central Maine area," said Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell. "Kay's landscapes show off her talent and really spruce up the office. It is very gracious of her to loan her artwork to the Legislature".

Ms. Morris' artwork will be on display in the Senate President's Office through the end of February. For more information about the artwork on display please contact Kay Morris at

Committee Hears Testimony on Paid Sick Days Legislation

Tue, 02 Feb 2010 15:56:58 EST

President Elizabeth H. Mitchell Maine State Senate (207) 287-1500

For Immediate Release

Committee Hears Testimony on Paid Sick Days Legislation

January, 14, 2010 Contact: David Loughran, (207) 287-1558

AUGUSTA-Citing the more than 200,000 Maine workers who lack paid sick days and the public health threats of H1N1, seasonal flu and domestic violence, Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell presented testimony in support of LD 1665, An Act to Prevent the Spread of H1N1. The bill will guarantee that an employee at a large business could earn up to 52 hours of paid sick time and a worker at a small business could earn up to 26 hours. The paid sick time can be used when an employee is sick, caring for a loved one who is sick, seeking preventive care or dealing with domestic violence related issues.

"The Maine CDC says the best way to stop the spread of disease is for sick people to stay home. That is a cruel piece of advice for the thousands of Maine people who lack paid sick time," said President Mitchell. "Asking someone to choose between following doctor's orders and paying the rent is not the Maine way."

Workers, health care professionals, business owners and advocates testified in support of the bill. Washington DC, Milwaukee and San Francisco currently have guaranteed paid sick time laws, while 12 other states are currently considering the legislation.

Mitchell continued, "This bill is good for public health and good for Maine's economy. Paid sick days lead to more productive employees and dramatically reduce the costs associated with reduced turnover. In the end, Maine businesses will make more money."

Under President Mitchell's bill, employees at small businesses would earn 1 hour of sick time for every 80 hours worked. Employees at large companies would earn one hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked. Nothing in the bill would prohibit an employer from taking disciplinary action against an employee who abuses the sick leave benefit. The legislation also states that an employer who provides paid time off, that can be used for the reasons outlined in the bill, do not have to add any additional benefit.

Full text of the bill can be found at:

Legislative leaders vow thorough review of Governor's budget

Fri, 18 Dec 2009 15:21:14 EST

AUGUSTA-Today, Governor John Baldacci unveiled his proposal to balance the state budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. While the details of the supplemental budget plan are still being examined, President of the Senate Libby Mitchell and Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree are committing to an open and transparent review of the Governor's proposed cuts in the coming weeks.

"The Governor's proposal reflects the difficult economic times that we are facing. As we have in the past, the legislature will review every line and engage the public in a serious discussion about how to best craft a budget that adheres to Maine values," President Mitchell remarked. "It is clear that overcoming this shortfall will be job number one when we return in January."

The supplemental spending plan will be reviewed by the Appropriations Committee, in conjunction with the committees of oversight. Hearings will likely begin after the first of the year.

"Over the coming weeks the Legislature will hold public hearings on the Governor's proposed cuts," said Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree. "The people of Maine will have the opportunity to have their voices heard and share how the Governor's proposals will impact them and our state. I'm hopeful that we will have a constructive dialogue and work together to find solutions that will protect our safety net during these very difficult economic times."

In May the Legislature passed, and the Governor signed into law, a two-year budget plan. Since that time state revenues have come in under projections and a December meeting of the Consensus Economic Forecasting Committee has determined that revenues may be as much as $383 million under their previous forecast for the biennium ending on June 30, 2011. The Governor's mid-fiscal year adjustment is required to end the year with a balanced budget.


Maine Senate Confirms Nominees

Thu, 10 Sep 2009 11:18:47 EDT

President Elizabeth H. Mitchell Maine Senate 2 State House Station Augusta, Maine 04333

For Immediate Release: August 24, 2009 Contact: David Loughran, 287-1500

The Maine Senate met today and confirmed the 34 nominations made by Governor John E. Baldacci to the Judiciary and various state boards and commissions. The nominations included: a new Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the Board of Directors for the newly created Efficiency Maine Trust and the members of the Indigent Legal Services Commission among others.

32 of the nominations received the unanimous support of the Senate. Peter Danton's (Saco) nomination to the Gambling Control Board was approved 20-15 and his nomination to the Liquor and Lottery Commission was approved by a 23-12 vote.

"We offer our thanks to this very capable group of individuals for their willingness to serve the people of Maine," said Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell. "While the duties of these appointees vary greatly, all of the positions are essential to carrying out the central missions of state government."

Prior to a confirmation vote of the whole Senate, nominees must first be recommended by the Joint Standing Committee that oversees the entity they are being appointed to. Prior to today, the committees of jurisdiction had voted to recommend all of the nominees. It takes a two thirds vote by the Senate to overturn the recommendation of a policy committee.

Today's confirmations were for the following positions:

Associate Justice Supreme Court: Hon. Joseph Jabar (Waterville)

District Court Judge: Beth Dobson (Portland) Daniel Driscoll (Kennebunk)

Active Retired District Court Judge: Hon. Ronald Daigle (Fort Kent) Hon. James MacMichael (Skowhegan)

Active-Retired Associate Justice, Supreme Court: Hon. Robert Clifford (Lewiston) Hon. Samuel Collins (Rockland)

Community College Board of Trustees: Doris Belisle-Bonneau (Auburn) Devin Beliveau (Kittery)

Efficiency Maine Trust Board: Michelle Atherton (Orrington) James Atwell (Falmouth) Adam Lee (Cumberland Center) Naomi Mermin (Portland) Glenn Poole (Orrington) John Rohman (Bangor) Thomas Tietenberg (Waterville)

Employees Retirement System: Dimitri Balatsos (Falmouth) Benedetto Viola (Scarborough) Kenneth Williams (Damariscotta)

Gambling Control Board: Peter Danton (Saco) Cushing Samp (Saco)

Governmental Ethics and Election Practices: Andre Duchette (Brunswick)

Human Rights Commission: Mavourneen Thompson (Peaks Island)

Indigent Legal Services Commission: Marvin Glazier (Bangor) Kimberly Moody (Poland) Kenneth Spirer (Portland) Sally Sutton (South Portland) Ron Schneider, Jr.: Chair (Wells)

Labor Relations Board: David Elliott (Whitefield) Carol Gilmore (Charleston) Wayne Whitney (Brunswick)

Liquor and Lottery Commission: Peter Danton (Saco)

Maine Maritime Academy Board of Trustees: Robert Peacock (Eastport) Rodney Rodrigue (Longwood, FL)

Judiciary Committee Asked to Review New Law

Thu, 10 Sep 2009 11:14:15 EDT

President Elizabeth H. Mitchell Maine Senate 3 State House Station Augusta, Maine 04333

Senate President Libby Mitchell and House Speaker Hannah Pingree are asking the Legislature's Judiciary Committee to meet and review questions that have been raised about a law that is set to take effect in September: LD 1183, "An Act to Prevent Predatory Marketing Practices against Minors Regarding Data Concerning Health Care Issues".

LD 1183 is designed to protect the personal information of children from being collected in an illicit manner and used by companies to target advertising. The new law provides for sweeping restrictions that will prevent children from being targeted by unscrupulous marketers.

Senate President Mitchell has also submitted a bill title for the upcoming session which the Committee can use as a vehicle to make changes if necessary.

"Safeguarding the personal information of children is a laudable goal which I will continue to pursue. I thank the sponsors and the Committee for the bold steps they have taken to protect our children from predatory marketers," said President Mitchell. "Questions have been raised about certain provisions that may conflict with the state and federal Constitutions; therefore we have asked the Judiciary Committee to review the bill to see how we can strike a balance between protecting our children and allowing access to legitimate, acceptable information."

The date of the Judiciary Committee's meeting has not been set.

More information about LD 1183 can be found at:


Senate President Urges Fairpoint to Seek Independent Audit

Tue, 28 Jul 2009 12:05:36 EDT

Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell released the following statement on the Public Advocate's July 24, 2009 filing with the Public Utilities Commission which asked that Fairpoint be directed to engage an independent entity with expert knowledge of digital telephone networks and integrated computer systems.

"As Fairpoint continues to struggle to provide consistent, reliable phone and internet service to Maine people and Maine businesses, it is clear that the present course is not sustainable. I applaud the Public Advocate for his efforts and urge Fairpoint to embrace the approach outlined in the filing.

"Since Fairpoint took over operations in February, customers have experienced a myriad issues including: delayed and inaccurate billing, early or unscheduled termination of accounts, untimely responses to service requests and trouble receiving calls after they have migrated to a different provider. Experts indicate that these problems exist because the computer systems used by Fairpoint are incapable of integrating the complex network of data necessary to successfully operate a telephone company.

"As these problems persist, it is only common sense that an expert look at what is causing these problems, identify how these problems can be resolved and how long it is going to take. Over the past few months Fairpoint has made an effort to correct many of these problems but the major problems with their computer system persists, exposing Mainers to service disruptions at much too high a rate.

"Unreliable phone and internet service is more than just a hassle for consumers. The current state of our land line communications service is hurting Maine businesses and potentially putting the safety of Maine families at risk. To be successful, businesses need to communicate with customers, suppliers and other businesses. Families need to be able to call the doctor, fire department or caregiver in the event of an emergency. Having anything less than a first rate communications system in place is unacceptable.

"In order to get back to business as usual we need to move beyond finger pointing and identify what the problems are and how Fairpoint can go about fixing them. Engaging an outside auditor is the first step, but I am also asking that the Joint Standing Committee on Utilities and Energy to invite the Public Advocate to a public hearing to discuss what the impact on Maine consumers has been and what needs to be done to ensure that Maine consumers have access to a world class land line and broadband communications system. It is my hope that this public hearing will help shed light on the problems with Fairpoint's computer system and highlight the solutions that will take us where we need to go"

Senate Enacts Budget, Goes to Governor for Signature

Wed, 27 May 2009 15:02:55 EDT

With a strong bipartisan vote, the Maine Senate approved the $5.8 billion spending plan for state government for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. The bill also included appropriations for the remainder of 2009. The 33-2 vote in the Senate represents the highest number of affirmative votes recorded on a roll call vote for a biennial budget in more than 20 years. The budget includes a $500 million reduction from the budget for the tow previous fiscal years. The national economic recession caused state revenues to decline by $1.4 billion in just six months. The budget for the next two years reduces state spending to 2006/2007 levels, it is the first budget in 30 years to be smaller than the previous fiscal years."The members of both the House and Senate should be commended for the extraordinary bipartisan manner in which they worked to pass this very difficult budget," Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell said. "In spite of the hard work of so many we take little pleasure in its passage. The reality of the economic downturn is that government will be less able to positively impact the lives of Maine people. This budget represents what we have to do, certainly not what we want to do."Much of the Senate debate focused on the impact the cuts would have on the people of Maine and how well the process of writing the budget worked. "We have been forced to make cuts to every area of state government," said Senate Majority Leader Phil Bartlett. "We have remained true to the principles of shared pain, shared sacrifice, and shared opportunity. While no one likes it, we can be proud of the product we produced by working together in a bipartisan way to get through this very difficult time."Roughly 50% of the budget is spending for K-12 and higher education. The state will provide more than $1 billion to school districts in 2010 and $947 million in 2011. It also includes $535 million in spending for Maine's colleges and universities over the biennium.The Legislature included $26 million in debt service to be used for multi year bonding of research and development, transportation, and conservation. The details of the bond package will be developed in the coming weeks.The Department of Health and Human Services will receive $1.6 billion in funding over the next two years. In addition, the state will reform its system of paying hospitals and providers of health services. The MaineCare reimbursement rate to Critical Access Hospitals will be reduced from 117% to 109% of cost and the MaineCare reimbursement to private physicians will be increased from 53% to 70% of Medicare.Other health related items include a $96.7 million payment to Maine hospitals for past services to MaineCare recipients, a policy shift that will reduce the cost of prescription drugs by purchasing medication through preferred providers, tuition stipends for Maine medical school students, and the implementation of a wellness program for state employees. There is approximately $270 million in the budget for property tax relief through municipal revenue sharing, the Homestead, BETR, Tree Growth and Circuit Breaker programs. The following changes to these programs results in a collective reduction of $24.3 million. A 5% reduction to the Tree Growth Program, a reduction to Revenue Sharing, a 20% across the board cut to the Circuit Breaker, and a reduction of the Homestead Exemption to $10,000 in FY 2011, leaving it as-is in FY 2010.The state employee piece of the budget includes 10 shutdown days in each year of the biennium, the elimination of merit increases and longevity payments and the addition of employee contributions towards health care premiums. Other provisions of the budget include: - Makes use of $116 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund and the Working Capital Reserve Fund - $55 million in funding for the Legislative Branch[...]

Legislative Panel Approves Biennial Budget

Wed, 27 May 2009 14:59:44 EDT

AUGUSTA- After months of public hearings, work sessions and revenue reforecasting, the Legislature's Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs unanimously approved a supplemental budget for the remainder of 2009 and the biennial budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. The $5.8 billion spending bill meets the state's Constitutional requirement to balance the budget and does so without raising broad based taxes. It will now go to the full Senate and House for consideration."I applaud the efforts of the Appropriations Committee. They worked together in an open manner to craft this budget under very difficult financial circumstances. By involving the public to such a great extent it is clear to me that the committee looked beyond sheer dollars to gauge the impact that hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts will have on the people of Maine," said Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell. The economic crisis has resulted in a decline of $1.4 billion in revenues since November, 2008, forcing the Legislature to reduce the budget for the coming fiscal years to 2004/2005 levels. While the cuts are broad and deep, the spending bill maintains services at a level that ensures a safety net is in place and makes smart investments that will create jobs now and continue to pay dividends in years to come. "The steep and sudden decline in revenues put us in a very difficult situation," said Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree. "This budget is austere and reflects the difficult times we face. I want to thank the members of the Appropriations Committee for keeping focused throughout this long process and for bringing it to a conclusion without acrimony - it was not an easy task."Governor Baldacci released his initial budget in January which aimed to close an $838 million structural gap. As the recession worsened and state revenues continued to decline, the Governor proposed a change package to close an additional gap of $569 million. Major provisions of the budget include:$1 billion in 2010 (up from $983 million in 2009) and $947 million in 2011 for K-12 education. This maintains funding levels in 2010 and gives school districts time to plan for reduced state aid in 2011$26.5 million for debt service that allows for investments in transportation, conservation, research and development and more through a multi year bond package$1.6 billion for the Department of Health and Human ServicesReduces Medicaid spending for high-cost specialty drugs by purchasing them through preferred providers, reducing the cost of prescription drugs while continuing to give patients access to life saving medicines$96.7 million in state funds and $276.3 million in federal funds (total $373 million) payment to Maine hospitals to settle disputed payments Changes the MaineCare reimbursement rate to Critical Access Hospitals from 117% to 109% of costIncreases MaineCare reimbursement rates to private physicians from 53% of Medicare to 70% of MedicareApproximately $270 million for property tax relief through municipal revenue sharing, the Homestead, BETR, Tree Growth and Circuit Breaker programsThe following changes to the above mentioned property tax relief programs result in a savings to the state of $24.3 million: a 5% reduction to the Tree Growth Program, a reduction to Revenue Sharing, a 20% across the board cut to the Circuit Breaker, and a reduction of the Homestead Exemption to $10,000 in FY 2011, leaving it as-is in FY 2010A two year savings of $16 million through suspension of the Net Operating Loss Carry Forward10 state government shutdown days in both 2010 and 2011 and a provision that requires state employees to pay a portion of their health insurance commensurate with their salary. Employees can earn back a portion of their premium by successfully participating in a state wellness prog[...]

President and Speaker applaud enactment, signing of Marriage Equality Act

Wed, 06 May 2009 14:18:15 EDT

Contact: David Loughran, 287-1500

AUGUSTA- President of the Senate Libby Mitchell and Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree, the lead House co-sponsor of Sen. Damon's marriage equality legislation, are applauding the final enactment and the signing by the Governor of LD 1020.

"From the beginning, this debate was about the civil rights of Maine people. By passing this historic legislation we have removed a major piece of discrimination from the laws of our state and ensured that all Maine people are free to enjoy the rights and privileges conferred on them by civil marriage," said President Mitchell.

On Wednesday morning the Senate enacted LD 1020 by a vote of 21 to 13 with one absent. The House had previously voted on enactment on Tuesday with a vote of 89 to 57 with 5 absent.

"I want to recognize Governor Baldacci for the courage he has shown today in signing this important legislation to extend civil rights to all of Maine's committed couples," said Speaker Pingree. "This issue was a personal one for many in the Legislature and I know it was no different for him. Our nation is founded upon the belief that all our citizens will be provided equal protection under the law. Current laws do not meet this test. As this day passes into history and generations to come look back at these deliberations, I believe they will not ask why we did this; they will only ask why we didn't act sooner."


Legislature Takes Up Governor's Change Package

Fri, 01 May 2009 15:19:22 EDT

AUGUSTA- In response to a $569 million downward revision in state revenue, Governor John Baldacci today outlined the details of his change package designed to balance the budgets for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, as well as close a $129 million shortfall for the remainder of fiscal year 2009.

On April 28, 2009 the Maine Revenue Forecasting Committee announced that the global recession will further reduce revenue to the state of Maine by $440 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Overall, state revenues have fallen by more than $1.4 billion since November.

"There is no denying that the cuts necessary to balance the budget will be felt across our state," said President Mitchell. "The Legislature will review this proposal and assess the impact of each cut on the people of Maine. While there is not much in here that anyone will like, we are committed working in a bipartisan way to balance the budget in a way that does not harm the long term economic health of our state or the vulnerable people who rely on state services the most."

"These will not be easy decisions, but they reflect the magnitude of the economic challenges our state and our country are facing," said Speaker Pingree. "We have some very tough choices to make in a very short amount of time. Democratic and Republican leadership and the members of the Appropriations Committee have been working well together to this point and we'll continue to move forward on this effort together."

With the end of the 2009 fiscal year approaching, the Legislature will work through the weekend to review the details of the Governor's proposal.

For more details on the Governor's budget proposal go to:


Text of Kennedec County Senator's Letter to OPEGA

Wed, 29 Apr 2009 15:42:44 EDT

Dear Sen. Simpson and Rep. Hill:As Senators of the Kennebec County Delegation, we are requesting that OPEGA conduct a program evaluation of the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) and the emergency dispatch services.In the 122nd session, the Utilities Committee required the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to consolidate PSAP activities into 26 regional centers. The result has been successful in some parts of the state, but not as successful in others. Kennebec County is a prime example of problems with implementation. Last year, there was a bill to remove Waterville from the Kennebec County PSAP because the cost of the consolidated services was higher than Waterville's cost for running their own PSAP. While the bill ultimately failed, it did reveal several inconsistencies in cost and structure across the state. At the end of last session, L.D. 2279 required the PUC to investigate and set the rates of the Kennebec County PSAP. The PUC accomplished this over the summer. However, there still remain many questions by the communities that are part of the Central Maine Communications Center (CMCC), the PSAP for Kennebec County, about cost, effectiveness and efficiency. This past weekend, the Kennebec Journal reported that E-911 calls to the CMCC were apparently not sent to a dispatch center. The first call was for an inebriated person on the side of the road. They did not respond. One hour later, a second call came in; the person had been hit and killed. In addition, the Kennebec County Sheriff indicated there were other complaints about the poor quality of service from the CMMC PSAP in relation to dispatch and other services.This past summer, there were several other issues in Cumberland and Penobscot County further demonstrating the seriousness and urgency of this issue, which is endangering public safety statewide. These lapses in public safety are simply unacceptable and demand an immediate evaluation.There are 26 PSAPs in Maine set up by the Emergency Service Communications Bureau which is an agency within the Public Utilities Commission. The County or a municipal government operates twenty-two of them and the Department of Public Safety operates four. We are seeking an in-depth program evaluation of the consolidated PSAP systems and dispatch services. The issues that should be addressed include:• Cost structures for PSAP and dispatch • Coverage for rural communities, especially in Kennebec County • Connection between dispatch services and PSAPs • Efficiency and effectiveness of multiple, unconnected dispatch centers to the consolidated PSAPs • Original projected cost savings compared to actual savings • Dropped calls and missed dispatch connections, resulting in potential serious public safety issues • An assessment of the impact of consolidation on Kennebec County, and other counties where towns elected not to participate in the regional PSAPThe legislature has attempted to deal with this conflict in expectations, costs and reality with legislation, studies, committee hearings, and a rate investigation by the PUC. Because of the intergovernmental nature of this service involving state government, county government and local government, OPEGA is ideally suited to investigate this intergovernmental service. As an independent agency charged by the legislature with evaluation of cost and effectiveness of government services, OPEGA is probably the only program within state government that can resolve the multiple issues that cross committee jurisdictions of public safety, utilities and state and local government. The bottom line is people's lives are at stake. We cannot wait for additional errors to occur before taking action. Thank you for your co[...]

Kennebec County Senators Ask for Review of the Statewide 911 Answering Services

Wed, 29 Apr 2009 15:38:39 EDT

For Immediate Release

April 28, 2009 Contact: David Loughran, (207) 287-1500

Augusta- Repeated problems with the regional 911 answering centers, known as Public Safety Answering Points or PSAPs, have prompted a bipartisan group of Kennebec Senators including: Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell (Vassalboro), Assistant Senate Majority Leader Lisa Marrache (Waterville) and Senator Earl McCormick (West Gardiner) to ask the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to conduct an in depth evaluation of consolidated PSAP systems and dispatch services.

The issues the Senators have asked OPEGA to look into include:

• Cost structures for PSAP and dispatch • Coverage for rural communities, especially in Kennebec County • Connection between dispatch services and PSAPs. • Efficiency and effectiveness of multiple, unconnected dispatch centers to the consolidated PSAPs • Original projected cost savings compared to actual savings. • Dropped calls and missed dispatch connections, resulting in potential serious public safety issues. • An assessment of the impact of consolidation on Kennebec County, and other counties where towns elected not to participate in the regional PSAP.

Full text of the letter is attached.