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Preview: News from Senate Majority Leader Michael Brennan

News from Senate Majority Leader Michael Brennan



News from Senate Majority Leader Michael Brennan



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Senate Enacts "Opportunity Maine" Legislation

Wed, 20 Jun 2007 23:12:28 EDT

Bill now goes to Governor Baldacci for consideration

AUGUSTA-The Maine Senate Wednesday night voted 27-8 to enact legislation that would provide a tax credit to reimburse educational loan payments for any Maine resident who earns a college degree in Maine. Maine residents who live and work in Maine after earning their degree would be eligible to receive the tax credit.

Senator Peter Bowman, D-York County, who is the Senate Chair of the Legislature's Education Committee said, "The overwhelming support by the legislature for this initiative demonstrates our commitment to higher education in Maine." Senator Bowman added, "I am hopeful this education tax credit will have a powerful impact retaining our highly skilled graduates."

Senator Phil Bartlett, D-Cumberland County, who was a strong proponent of the proposal said, "Expanding access to higher education and encouraging college graduates is vital to our economic success." "The strong support for the bill in both chambers is a testament to the soundness of the proposal. We owe the students doing this bill our gratitude for bringing this issue to the forefront," added Senator Bartlett.

Senate Majority Leader Libby Mitchell, D-Kennebec County, who also serves on the Education Committee said, "I was blown away by the outpouring of support from the 73,000 Maine people who signed the petition to bring this issue forward."

The Opportunity Maine legislation was presented to the legislature as a referendum proposal, but legislators opted to enact the proposal after it became clear there was overwhelming support for the referendum.

The credit for loans payments may be claimed for each year that person lives and works in Maine. The graduate's employer can also choose to make the loan payments for their employee and take advantage of the credit themselves. The credit is limited to what the person actually pays in loan payments or to what would be necessary to pay for an education in the University of Maine System or Maine Community College System, whichever is less.

The bill now goes to Governor Baldacci for consideration.



Bill Would Prevent Deadbeat Parents from Registering ATVs, Snowmobiles, and Secondary Cars

Tue, 10 Apr 2007 10:04:27 EDT

Augusta-The Legislature's Judiciary Committee, Tuesday, will hold a public hearing on a bill by Assistant Senate Majority Leader John Martin, D-Aroostook County, that would prevent a person who defaults on child support payments from registering a snowmobile, ATV, or subsequent motor vehicle registration.

Who: Senator John Martin

What: WORK SESSION: LD 1011, An Act To Enhance Child Support Collections in Maine

When: Tuesday, April 10th @ 1:00 p.m.

Where: Judiciary Committee

More info about this bill can be found online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280023696

Listen the hearing online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/judiciary_cmte.html



Senator Nutting Seeks Reforms to School Funding

Tue, 10 Apr 2007 10:00:47 EDT

Augusta-State Senator John Nutting, Tuesday, will present a bill to the Education Committee that would repeal the Essential Programs and Services Funding Act and related provisions. It establishes a new school funding formula that requires school administrative units to make a local education funding effort equal to .008 times the total valuation of taxable property within the unit. The State is required to fund education expenses that exceed this baseline. A local unit that does not meet this baseline-funding requirement is not eligible for any state subsidy. The bill requires the Department of Education to audit school administrative units' budgets and to compare the expenses of schools of closely similar size.

Senator Nutting says repealing EPS and would take approximately $50 million of school funding from the minimum receivers and put it into a new formula similar to those in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Who: Senator John Nutting

What: Public Hearing: LD 1506, An Act To Reform Maine's School Funding

When: Tuesday, April 10th @ 1:00 p.m.

Where: Education and Cultural Affairs Committee

Listen Online: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/education_cmte.html

More info on the bill is online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280024305



Law Would Protect Public from Dangerous Dogs

Thu, 05 Apr 2007 16:43:58 EDT

Augusta-State Senator John Nutting, D-Androscoggin County, Friday, will present a bill to the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, which would require a dog owner convicted of owning a dangerous dog to confine the animal in a secure enclosure.

The bill also allows the court to prohibit a person convicted of violating a court order from possessing or keeping a dog.

Who: Senator John Nutting

What: PUBLIC HEARING: LD 380, An Act To Protect the Public from Dangerous Dogs

When: Friday, April 6th @ 9:30 a.m.

Where: Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee

Listen Online: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/acf_cmte.html

More info on the bill is online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280022790



Legislature Enacts Bond Package

Wed, 04 Apr 2007 19:49:51 EDT

Funding Plan will go to Maine voters in three Elections Augusta-The Maine Senate enacted a $295 million Bond package, Wednesday evening, which completed the legislative process on the two-year spending and investment proposal. Over the next several election cycles, Maine voters will have the opportunity to adopt the carefully negotiated package between Republicans and Democrats.Commenting on the passage of the bond package, Senate President Beth Edmonds, D-Cumberland County, said, "This is a truly thoughtful, balanced package, which generates funding that will benefit all Mainers." President Edmonds added, "The $295 million approved by the Legislature has the potential to leverage over $400 million in matching funds to create a wide scope of investments to help us build for Maine's future." Senate Majority Leader Libby Mitchell, D-Kennebec County, said, "This is a real opportunity to improve our roads and bridges, invest in our economy, and our natural resources. This bond package reflects the recommendations of the Brookings Report, the Governors Jobs and Innovation Council, and others." Senator Mitchell added, "I am proud of the hard work that everyone has contributed to make this investment in our state possible." Senator Peggy Rotundo, D-Androscoggin County, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee, which helped negotiate the final bond package with legislative leadership, added, "I'm very pleased that we worked together so well as a committee in a truly bipartisan fashion. " She concluded, "I look forward to the same positive spirit as we return to our work on the budget."The questions that will be on the ballots are as follows: The June 12, 2007 ballot will ask for a $112,975,000 bond issue for improvements to highways and bridges, airports, public transit facilities, ferry and port facilities including port and harbor structures and bicycle and pedestrian trails that makes the State eligible for over $260,525,000 in federal and other matching funds. In June, voters will also be asked to approve an $18,300,000 bond issue to support drinking water programs and to support the construction of wastewater treatment facilities that will leverage $49,500,000 in other funds.In the November 2007 voters will be given two categories of bond funding to approve. The Education and Culture funding portion will present a $43,500,000 bond issue for interior and exterior building renovations, improvements and additions at all campuses of the Maine Community College System, the Maine Maritime Academy and the University of Maine System; to replenish the School Revolving Renovation Fund for school repairs and renovations; and to support capital improvements for cultural and educational assets such as museums, historical facilities and libraries. The November ballot will also ask voters to approve a bond to stimulate economic development and job creation that would provide $5,000,000 in loans and grant funds and would provide $50,000,000 in research, development and commercialization funds for targeted technology sectors, awarded after a competitive process administered by the Maine Technology Institute, and will leverage at least $50,000,000 in other funds. Finally, Natural Resources will be addressed in the November bond with question for the voters to approve a $35,500,000 bond to invest in land conservation, water access, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, including hunting and fishing, farmland and working waterfront and to invest in state parks, historic sites and riverfront, community and farm infrastructure to be matched by at least $21,875,000 in private and public contributions.There will also be a June 2008 bond ballot. It will ask voters to approve a $29,725,000 bond issue for natural resource, agricultural and transportation infrastructure that will leverage $29,780,000 in other funds. [...]



Martin Bill Seeks Changes to Unemployment Laws

Wed, 04 Apr 2007 17:45:59 EDT

Augusta-State Senator John Martin, D-Aroostook County, Thursday, will urge the Labor Committee to support a bill that allows someone who is a son, daughter or spouse of another family member or an individual under the age of 18 employed by parent to receive unemployment compensation for periods of service that unemployment insurance would otherwise be paid.

Who: Senator John Martin

What: PUBLIC HEARING: LD 1015, An Act To Amend the Unemployment Laws

When: Thursday, April 5th @ 1:00 p.m.

Where: Labor Committee

Listen Online: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/lab_cmte.html

More info on the bill is online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280023700



Utilities Would Pay Interest to Customers for Overcharges With Bill Change

Wed, 04 Apr 2007 17:43:51 EDT

Augusta-The Utilities and Energy Committee, Thursday, will consider adopting a bill by Senator John Nutting, D-Androscoggin County, that would direct electric companies and their distributors to pay consumers five percent interest on any amount billed for overestimated usage resulting from an estimated electric power bill.

Who: Senator John Nutting What: WORK SESSION: LD 435, An Act To Require Utilities and Competitive Service Providers To Pay Interest on Overestimates of Electric Power Bills

When: Thursday, April 5th @ 1:00 p.m.

Where: Utilities and Energy Committee

Listen Online: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/utilities_cmte.html

More info on the bill is online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280022853



Allagash Wilderness Waterway Advisory Council Proposed

Tue, 03 Apr 2007 17:31:15 EDT

Augusta-Assistant Senate Majority Leader John Martin, D-Aroostook County, Wednesday, will present a bill to the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee that would establish an independent advisory council to represent the public interest in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

The bill elevates the status of the waterway in the Department of Conservation by making it a separate region within the Bureau of Parks and Lands. It creates an endowment fund to support capital acquisitions and improvements, historic, cultural and educational programs and facilities.

Who: Senator John Martin

What: PUBLIC HEARING: LD 1419, An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Working Group

When: Wednesday, April 4th @ 1:00 p.m.

Where: Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee

Listen Online: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/acf_cmte.html

More info on the bill is online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280024197



Senator Nutting Hopes to Shrink State Government with Bill

Tue, 03 Apr 2007 17:21:39 EDT

Augusta-The Legislature's State and Local Government Committee, Wednesday, will hold a work session on a bill sponsored by State Senator John Nutting, D-Androscoggin County, Wednesday, that seeks to establish a bipartisan commission to identify cuts to state government. The commission would investigate and identify major sources of administrative excess, redundancy, inefficiency and program overlap with other state, local or federal programs.

Senator Nutting believes the bill could identify $30 million in annual savings.

Who: Senator John Nutting

What: WORK SESSION: LD 1021, Resolve, To Lower the Cost of State Government

When: Wednesday, April 4th @ 1:00 p.m.

Where: State and Local Government Committee

Listen Online: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/slg_cmte.html

More info on the bill is online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280023706



Wild Turkey Hunting Season Bill Could Increase IFW Funds by $350K

Mon, 02 Apr 2007 16:37:32 EDT

Augusta-The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, Tuesday, will hold a work session on a bill sponsored by Senator John Nutting, D-Androscoggin County, that requires the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to expand the fall wild turkey hunting season.

Senator Nutting said the expanded hunting season could generate an additional $350,000 in new funds to help support additional needs by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Who: Senator John Nutting What: Work Session: LD 379, An Act To Expand the Fall Wild Turkey Hunting Season When: Tuesday, April 3rd @ 1:00 p.m. Where: Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee Listen Online: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/audio/ifw_cmte.html More info on the bill is online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280022789




Public Hearing for School Administration Reform Legislation

Fri, 02 Feb 2007 16:14:10 EST

AUGUSTA ¬¬¬-The Legislature's Appropriations and Financial Services Committee and the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will hold a joint public hearing on the school administration consolidation proposals February 5th at the Augusta Civic Center.

Proposed Legislation will be presented by sponsors beginning at 9:30 a.m. followed by public comment period from 10:30 a.m. to 8 pm. Testimony is on a first come, first serve basis and limited to 3 minutes per person. Those who testify at the public hearing are asked to submit 40 copies of their written comments at the hearing. The public may also submit comments by e-mail at: schooladmin@legislature.maine.gov.

Information about the hearings and Legislative proposals is posted as available at http://janus.state.me.us/legis/schreg_feb05/homepage.htm . Audio streams at that web page will be live during the Committee hearing sessions.

Who: Members of the Joint Standing Committees on Appropriations and Education and the Public

What: Proposals for School Administration Consolidation followed by Public Comment

When: 9:00 a.m. Public hearing convenes, welcome, review ground rules 9:30 a.m. Legislative sponsors present bills, 10:30 a.m. Public testimony, 8:00 p.m. Adjourn

Where: Augusta Civic Center



House and Senate Democrats Announce Legislative Priorities for 123rd Legislature

Thu, 08 Feb 2007 14:00:54 EST

AUGUSTA-During a news conference at the State House Thursday, Maine's top democratic leaders in the House and Senate unveiled their legislative agenda for the 123rd Legislature. Calling their priorities, "An Action Plan for Social and Economic Prosperity," legislative democrats said they hoped to use the agenda as a guide over the next two years to help build a better future for Maine.

The legislative plan consists of four main cornerstones: Quality of Life, Education and Opportunity, Innovation and Growth, and Good Government, which provide the building blocks to support the democrats' priorities.

Addressing the Quality of Life cornerstone, Senate President Beth Edmonds, D-Cumberland County, said that recent studies such as the Brookings Report point out "Maine possesses a globally known brand built on images of livable communities, stunning scenery and great recreational opportunities."

President Edmonds continued by saying, "Sustainable growth and conservation of open spaces are critical to maintaining the quality of place that is one of Maine's greatest assets." She added, "We must act to preserve Maine's natural attractions - miles of forest, coastal waters, wild free rivers, and quiet clean lakes."

House Speaker Glenn Cummings, D-Portland, said that Education and Opportunity is an important theme because safe, healthy families, and a vibrant economy rest heavily on our ability to ensure that all of Maine's people have access to a high quality education.

Speaker Cummings added, "We must put college with in the reach of more Maine citizens by increasing the capacity of our schools and making college more affordable. This will help to build our economic strength and ensure that we provide all Maine children with the same opportunity for success."

House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, pointed out in her explanation of the Innovation and Growth cornerstone that the potential for strong, lasting economic prosperity is here, but that it is our job to lay the right foundation today. She said, "Maine's economy is really at a crossroads right now, and we're pointed in the right direction." Pingree added, "We have a real opportunity to build sustainable economic growth and create good jobs for the future by making the right investments now."

Senate Majority Leader Libby Mitchell described the last cornerstone of Good Government as an essential component of the plan. Senator Mitchell explained, "We need to make sure our governmental systems and our employees have the tools and skills they need to provide the services Maine people want and need in the most cost effective way."

Senator Mitchell concluded, "The Democratic Agenda creates pathways for Maine people to succeed. Democratic leaders and our members are committed to working together this session to continue to lay the cornerstones for economic prosperity for all Maine people."



Legislative Committee Chairs Announce School Administration District Reform Public Hearings

Thu, 08 Feb 2007 14:00:58 EST

AUGUSTA- The Maine Legislature's Education Committee will have a public hearing with the Appropriations Committee on a number of school district consolidation plans that have been proposed. The event will be on Monday, February 5th, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center. The co-chairs of the Legislature's Education Committee, Senator Peter Bowman, D-York County, and Representative Jackie Norton, D-Bangor, announced the upcoming public hearing earlier today.

Senator Bowman said: "We encourage the public to come participate in this hearing. Learning the thoughts of Maine people is a highly important part of this process." He concluded: "I am optimistic what we learn will help us shape an efficient administration plan which will improve student outcomes."

Representative Norton added: "Our goal is to ensure that Maine's educational system is effective and efficient, and that whatever consolidation measures we take will not compromise the quality of education for any Maine student.

Five or six major proposals will be presented at the public hearing. After the presentations public comment will be will be invited. Governor Baldacci has incorporated a plan in his proposal for the state's two-year budget. Several school administration reform proposals are being written, all of which will be presented at the public hearing on February 5. The other plans were developed by a variety of individuals and groups,

Some of the groups and sponsors of proposals in addition to the Governor's include the following: The State Board of Education -sponsored by Senator Peggy Rotundo, Maine Children's Alliance - sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Libby Mitchell, a Coalition that includes the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Maine Municipal Association and the Maine Education Association - sponsored by Senate President Beth Edmonds. Also proposals have been submitted by Senator Karl Turner and Representative Kim Silsby.



Maine Legislature Passes First-In-The Nation Resolution Urging the Repeal of the Real ID Act

Thu, 08 Feb 2007 14:01:03 EST

Video of today's Senate debate is online at http://www.mainesenate.org/realid

AUGUSTA-The Maine Senate and House today voted nearly unanimously to approve a joint resolution urging Congress and the President to Repeal the Real ID Act of 2005. The passage of the resolution makes Maine the first state in the country to do so. Real ID requires states to turn their driver's licenses into national ID cards that will be part of a 50-state shared database.

During floor debate in both legislative chambers, lawmakers pointed out that Real ID could cost Maine taxpayers approximately $185 million to implement. In addition to the monetary impact Real ID would have, lawmakers were equally concerned about the privacy issues that the Act raises.

Following the resolution's passage, Senate Majority Libby Mitchell, D-Kennebec County, the sponsor of the resolution said, "The federal government may be willing to burden us with the high costs of a program that will do nothing to make us safer, but it is our job as state Legislators to protect the people of Maine from just this sort of dangerous federal mandate." Senator Mitchell added, "I am proud that this state has led the way in taking a stand against Real ID."

"The REAL ID Act is not only a massive unfunded federal mandate, but it also puts Maine people at increased risk," said House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven. "We cannot be spending millions of state dollars on an initiative that does more harm to our state than good."

A copy of the resolution and speeches from senators from today's debate is online at http://www.mainesenate.org/realid

Real ID has gained the ire of privacy advocates, who say linking driver's licenses and state ID cards to a national database will create a goldmine of accessible information for identity thieves. The Real ID Act requires the cards to include a computer-readable zone, which privacy advocates say will allow anyone with a reader to collect the personal identifying information of anyone with a card.



Maine Legislature to Vote on Real ID Resolution Thursday

Thu, 08 Feb 2007 14:01:14 EST

Press conference scheduled for Noon

AUGUSTA-Senate Majority Leader Libby Mitchell, D-Kennebec County, today said that the Maine Senate and House are expected to vote on a Joint Resolution Thursday, which would reject a mandate by Congress requiring Maine to comply with the Real ID Act of 2005. The Act requires states to turn their driver's licenses into national ID cards that will be part of a 50-state shared database.

Real ID could cost Maine taxpayers approximately $185 million to implement.

The resolution, sponsored by Senator Mitchell and co-sponsored by Representative Scott Lansley, R-Sabattus, has bi-partisan support and urges Congress and the President to repeal the Real ID Act.

A copy of the resolution is online at www.mainesenate.org/mitchell

Real ID has gained the ire of privacy advocates, who say linking driver's licenses and state ID cards to a national database will create a goldmine of accessible information for identity thieves. The Real ID Act requires the cards to include a computer-readable zone, which privacy advocates say will allow anyone with a reader to collect the personal identifying information of anyone with a card.

A press conference on the impact of Real ID is planned for Thursday in the State House Welcome Center at Noon. Details are below:

Who: Senate Majority Leader Libby Mitchell, House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, D- North Haven, Representative Scott Lansley, and Maine Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Shenna Bellows

What: Members of the press are invited to hear the results of a vote on a resolution to keep Real ID out of Maine, and what legislators think the decision will mean for the people of Maine. Where: Welcome Center, State House, Augusta, Maine When: Thursday, January 25, 2007, 12:00 p.m.