Archive for June, 2011

GOP Chair Charlie Webster Press Release Contains Outrageous Claims

Posted on June 30, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Here is the press release, via Dirigo Blue. Click here to read the post, including details of a conversation between DB’s Gerald Weinand and Webster.

 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact:
Charlie Webster,
Chairman,
Maine Republican Party
207-622-6247BUYING VOTES AND FLOODING POLLS: LIBERAL COALITION PAYING FOR PETITION SIGNATURES

Group Paying $550 a Week to Workers to Fight Crackdown on Poll-Flooding

AUGUSTA – A coalition of liberal interest groups is paying workers up to $550 a week to gather signatures for a petition to get a ‘people’s veto’ on November’s ballot, according to recent emails. The group, which includes the ultra-liberal Maine People’s Alliance (Maine’s version of ACORN) and the state-funded group Opportunity Maine, is using cold, hard cash to maintain their ability to tilt elections in their favor.

“We all know that these liberal special interest groups have been playing games with Maine elections for a long time,” said Maine Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster. “Now we see they have become so desperate that they’re trying to buy their way onto the ballot.”

Liberal groups are attempting to use the referendum process to end efforts to stabilize Maine’s electoral process through LD1376.  They obviously object to the bill because it would eliminate their ability to flood polling places with same-day registrants, a tactic used by Democrats to reduce the ability of election clerks to ensure the validity of voters’ residence.

“Democrats have made poll-flooding a regular part of their election day gameplan,” continued Webster. “We have all seen the buses pulling up to the polling places, displacing Maine voters with people from who-knows-where. LD 1376 ends this malicious practice by requiring voters to register a mere two days prior to an election. Poll-flooding disenfranchises Maine voters, and it has no place in Maine politics.”

The facts show that Maine is among a very small minority of states that allow same day voting. The reason is simple – poll-flooding results in a higher percentage of voter fraud and abuse. Both New York and Massachusetts require voters to register at least 20 days prior to an election.

“$525 a week is a lot of money to the average working Mainer, ” said Webster. “It’s amazing to me that these groups, some who actually receive taxpayer funding, would honestly believe that Maine people would want to repeal legislation that finally addresses abuses within our election system.

“Maine’s working people expect our politicians to support fair elections. Eliminating the practice of poll-flooding will protect the integrity of our voting process.”

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Videos of Maine State Worker Rally March

Posted on June 27, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

(Originally posted 6/27/11 on SoapBlox CMS version of MPW)

Maine Workers Rally Marching By Blaine House

Rally held 25 June 2011 at the Statehouse in Augusta by Maine state workers and supporters. Afterwards, those assembled marched from the Capitol, past the Governor’s Mansion (the Blaine House), through Augusta with a final destination of the Governor Hill Mansion on State Street.

Maine Workers Rally Conclusion- State Street to Governor Hill Mansion

Rally Arrives at Governor Hill Mansion, Augusta ME

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Maine State Workers’ Rally in Augusta- Speeches and Videos

Posted on June 27, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

(Originally posted 6/27/11 on SoapBlox CMS version of MPW)

From the MSEA-SEIU press release:

Maine Workers Rally At State HouseCall on Governor to Stop Attacks on Workers and Send Home New York City Lawyer

Firefighters, teachers, millworkers, child care providers, snow plow drivers and other workers from across Maine converged on the State House on Suaturday to show their support for state workers currently in contract negotiations with the LePage administration. Despite predictions of bad weather, hundreds turned out for a rally at the capitol.

Jonathan French of MDOT started off the rally:

“What I see when I look out at all of you is the very fabric of our communities. Because of you, Maine is a place where our kids can learn and grow, where our roads are safe, where our communities and naturaql resources are protected, and where we are working together to build our economy. You make Maine a better place for all of us.Once again, workers have stepped up and offered to do our share. But instead of sitting down with us directly and talking about how we can work together, Governor LePage has chosen to create more conflict and pick yet another fight with Maine workers by bringing in a hatchet man from New York City.

So while Maine workers have proposed no cost increases, the Governor is paying a New York City lawyer at least $295 an hour to dismantle workers’ rights and core protections. This is not only irresponsible; it’s not how we treat each other in Maine.”

Emery Deabay, Vice President of Eastern Maine Labor Council, member of United Steelworkers Local #1188 and employed at the Versco paper Mill in Bucksport, spoke next, but his address to those assembled will be posted separately as his remarks expanded onto LD 309 (which is being held over until next year) and a general overview of what we have witnessed from the LePage administration thus far.

“Whether you’re from Caribour or Kittery, or somewhere in between, no matter where you live, Maine DOT workers work for everyone. We keep Maine moving. If a tree goes down, or if there’s a washout, 2 feet of snow, freezing rain, anything that gets in the way of safe passage of a Maine highway or bridge, Maine DOP workers are there in a moment’s notice to fix things and make them right.When a DOT plow truck goes by during a nor’easter, everyone knows they’ll be back to their normal routine in no time at all. Everyone knows that the hardworking men and women at the Maine DOT amd out brothers and sisters at the Maine Turnpike Authority are the best at what they do. And it’s a good thing we are the best- living in a state like Maine, right?

With the Maine DOT. every inch of Maine highway is maintained to the same specifications. In my DOT region, which covers a quarter of the state, over the years we’ve gone from 400 people taking care of the roads to 168 workers. That’s a pretty tight crew to cover such a huge part of our state. We’re efficient. We’re accountable..

And we’re working at hourly wages much lower than what the private sector pays for the same work. That’s just a plain fact. It was documented in a labor market survey that the State of Maine recently paid over $50,000 to conduct. You know, they could have saved that money just by talking to a DOT worker.”
MDOT Milo Crew Leader Tony Gonzales

“My coworkers at Maine DHHS and I work hand in hand with Maine families, community leaders, and community organizations to help keep all Maine families safe, all Maine families together, and all of our communties strong. This is critically important work, because with a strong family foundation and community support, all Maine children will have the opportunity to make the most of their abilities as they pursue their dreams and help make this world a better place for all of us.Our ability to have a voice in determining issues like our working conditions is central to our ability to work as public servants with the highest levels of accountability. So I am here today to thank you for the support for the work that we do. I am also here to show my support for the work that all of you do. I’m showing my support because all Maine workers make our communities strong. All Maine workers make our economy strong. And all Maine workers deserve to be treated with respect for the work that they do.

Maine DHHS case worker, MSEA-SEIU Local #1989 member Dean Staffieri

“I understand the very tough financial challenges so many Maine people are facing. We are all making sacrifices and I know our local leaders sre struggling to maintain staffing levels that will keep our schools and public safety systems strong. And I think I can speak for every parent here when I say how important it is to be part of a community where we work together and suppoer each other- where our kids can get a good education and where our families are supported and safe. That is what this country, and especially Maine, are all about.So what I don’t understand is why the Governor has made it his personal mission to undercut hard-working Maine families like mine. This isn’t the Maine I grew up in. This isn’t the Maine where we use common sense and fairness to solve problems. This isn’t the Maine where everyone gets a shot at living the American dream.

The Governor’s attacks on working people are taking this state in the wrong direction. It’s time to re-knit the tears in our community fabric and start working together again.”

Maine Department of Corrections’ Kelly Carr

Conclusion by Jonathan French:

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Emery Deabay,VP of Eastern ME Labor Council to Paul LePage: “Turn This Ship Around!”

Posted on June 27, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

(Originally posted 6/27/11 on SoapBlox version of MPW)


From his prepared remarks:

My name is Emery Deabay, vice president of the Eastern Maine Labor Council and a member of the United Steelworkers Local #1188. I work at the Versco mill in Bucksport. I’m proud to be part of Maine’s economic engine- working in an industry that has brought so much prosperity to our state for so many generations.We know that success builds on success. When businesses and families in the community do well, we all do better. And when workers and employers cane sit together and negotiate fairly, it’s good for the whole economy. That means it’s for good businesses of all sizes, including small businesses, which are in many ways the heart of Maine’s economy.

I’m so glad to be standing here with workers from all over Maine in support of today’s contract negotiations. We don’t need $295 an hour New York City lawyers; we need common sense and respect. Those are the Maine ideals we were brought us with. They’re free and that’s what gets the job done!

As we gather here today, Maine is at a crossroads.

We have endured six months of unprecedented attacks on the working people of Maine by Governor Paul LePage. The same person who onJanuary 5th promised to put people first. Instead we get a divisive approach that has put our children and families in danger, our natural resources, and our public safety systems at risk. He’s gone after all of us- tearing holes in the very fabric of our communities.

From child labor law rollbacks, to the mural embarrassment, to the sharp cuts exacted on retiree pensions just to fund tax breaks for the wealthy, Governor LePage has been out of step with Maine people and Maine values.

The Governor should have been creating jobs, but instead he has spent his time creating conflict and attacking the working people of Maine. You cannot attack workers with consequences and we are here so that we are sure he can hear all of our voices. We come as a coalition of workers who understand that our way of life is under attack and we plan to stop it. As a matter of fact we are stronger, more focused, and more energized than we have ever been.

What about the future? Will this unproductive attack on workers continue, or will we see a course correction that will get us on track and back working together as a state to address our challenges and take advantage of our opportunities?

Unfortunately, there are more threats on the horizon.

Several pieces of dangerous legislation were carried over, including LD 309, a so-called right-to-work bill that would undermine basic worker rights, including the right of public workers to collectively bargain. This bill would make it harder for firefighters, nurses, snow plow drivers, state troopers, law enforcement and other hard-working employees to establish safer working conditions for themselves, and safer communities for all of us.

This makes no sense and just takes us in the wrong direction.

We’re also facing proposals to dismantle the workers compensation system, as well as undermine the ability of workers at Decosters to negotiate together for safer conditions and fair wages.

Governor LePage’s all-out assault on Maine workers has started us down a road to nowhere. Nothing good will come of attacking workers. It won’t lead to more productivity, it won’t create jobs, and it won’t jump start our economy. We need to get our priorities in order.

There is a better road where all workers are respected, where Maine families, businesses and communities have a productive and bright future.

To Governor LePage, we say: Turn this ship around!” Stop lashing out at the hard working men and women who teach our kids, make our communities strong and keep us all safer. Start focusing on Maine priorities.

We are willing to work together to create more good jobs and more opportunities for our kids so they can stay in Maine after their education is completed.

Are you?

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LePage Signs Budget, Slams Lawmakers; Promises to Seek Changes in January

Posted on June 20, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Last week (June 2011) when the budget passed in the Senate, Seth Goodall was quoted as saying:

“The budget is certainly not perfect. But negotiation is what happens when no one walks away happy.”

Apparently, Governor Paul LePage doesn’t know what “negotiation” is-although he’s certainly got the unhappy part down-pat.

From Bangor Daily News:

“They did cut taxes and they fixed the pension,” LePage said in a brief interview. “But they did not do their job in welfare. They really fell short; they significantly fell short.”

He said he signed the budget because of the tax cuts but that they are not enough in the long run and that further spending cuts will be needed to make sure the state can recover from the recession.

“I didn’t like the fact that they cut taxes and they kept spending the same,” LePage said. “If you’re going to cut taxes, you got to cut spending or you are going to have a gap.”

He said the failure of the budget to curb welfare spending will have a serious impact on the state’s ability to make an economic recovery and must be addressed. When asked if he would propose changes in the state’s welfare programs in January, he replied “yes, sir, you can bet on it.”

LePage said during the summer and fall his administration will work on proposals for the January session to consider. He said he is not sure what changes he will propose until his staff and the Department of Health and Human Services work on the options available to cut costs.

“We will look at what we can do to fix it next time,” he said.

Yet the Governor’s press release reads FAR differently than those BDN quotes:


Governor LePage Signs Budget with Largest Tax Cut in Maine History, Pension Reform, Spending Realignments and a Major Down Payment on Welfare Reform

Augusta, Maine – Monday afternoon after a careful, businesslike approach examining the details; Governor Paul LePage put his signature on the biennial budget that reduces taxes for Mainers and businesses, reforms the State pension system and makes changes to welfare programs.

“In February legislators were given a plan which was very different from previous budgets with a focus on creating jobs, lowering taxes, reforming welfare and realigning spending to better reflect today’s realities. The budget I signed today reflects a step toward fiscal responsibility and a change in the way we must operate as a State,” said Governor LePage.

I am encouraged by some of the work done and the thoughtful debates that were involved during this budgetary process. The State will now move toward a more sustainable pension system that Maine can afford and current and future retirees will benefit from.”

The two-year budget includes tax reform which provides $150 million in tax relief – including new tax code changes which conform to federal guidelines and a reduction in Maine’s top income tax rate from 8.5 percent to 7.95 percent that is expected eliminate tax payments for 70,000 low-income Mainers. This represents the largest tax cut in Maine history.

Welfare reform is also a part of the 2012-2013 budget which emphasizes Maine will no longer be considered a welfare destination state. A new 5 year limit on welfare benefits which aligns Maine with other states, and conforms to federal law will go into effect. The limit does allow for certain exemptions for hardship cases – including those involving the elderly and disabled.

Drug testing will also be implemented for welfare recipients convicted of drug crimes and those who violate welfare rules will face stricter sanctions. A first offense will result in the loss of adult benefits and a second offense may lead to termination of full family benefits.

In addition, Dirigo Health will be phased out with an end date of January 1, 2014 and legal noncitizens will no longer be eligible for MaineCare benefits as of July 1, 2011. However, the Governor has made it clear that more work needs to be done. “We must continue make these types of changes to the system, not only to achieve significant savings, but to encourage Mainers to become self-sufficient. This is a down payment on welfare reform and, after implementing these changes and gauging the results, I look forward to doing more,” added the Governor.

Many give credit to the Governor for maintaining a message that pushed for fiscal change that hasn’t been seen in decades.

Both leadership in the House and Senate lauded Governor LePage for endorsing the budget Monday.

House Speaker Robert Nutting offered, “I am delighted that Governor Paul LePage today signed the biennial budget. This plan mirrors the reforms the Governor called for shortly after taking office. Among the highlights are $150 million in tax cuts, the largest in Maine history, and pension reform that will save taxpayers billions in the years to come. This budget also includes no cuts to education or programs that protect Maine’s most vulnerable. It’s also free of gimmicks like state shutdown days.”

“It is a validation of the outstanding work done by the Appropriations Committee and of the decision by Republican legislative leaders to pursue a bipartisan two-thirds budget,” said Senate President Kevin Raye. “By affording the minority party the respect of inclusion in the budget process we were able to work through our differences and secure a thoughtful budget that honors the core principles advanced by Governor LePage,” Raye added.

Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney echoed his colleagues’ sentiments. “In just 40 days the Governor gave us a document that included substantial reforms to taxes, pension and our welfare system, and this vision survived the legislative process. It helps us take a major step in moving Maine forward,” Courtney said.

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LD309: Dan Billings v. Jeff Young

Posted on June 4, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

At the public hearing on LD309 on Thursday, presentations were given to the Labor CRED Comittee by Dan Billings, Chief Counsel to Gov. Paul LePage (in support of the bill), and Jeff Young, a labor lawyer with McTeague Higbee (in opposition). Young provides legal counsel to the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA).

Below find the first part of each of their opening remarks, with the remainder and questions that followed below the fold. I apologize in that my recording of Mr. Young’s Q&A time somehow did not make it from my camera to my computer, and so is lost.








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LIVE BLOGGING public hearing on LD309 “right to work” bill

Posted on June 2, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

“A public hearing will be held today on LD309, the so-called “right to work” bill. The hearing will be held by the Labor CRED Committee, and begins at 2:30 p.m.

You can live stream the hearing here.

Use the comments section of this diary to let us know what you think about what you have heard.”

A few of Gerald’s early observations:

1. “Labor CRED still on. Winglass nomination with three more to follow. LD309 hearing not likely likely to begin until 3:30.”

2. “One more nomination to go, and then on to LD309. Looks like 4:00 start.”

3. “It is becoming apparent that Republicans are dragging these nominations out for as long as possible.”

Chris Quint from MSEA-SEIU shared a press release, which read:

In a press release dated today, June 2 2011, Senate Republicans state that ‘Right-to-Work’ is dead. This is a blatantly deceptive statement that comes the same day that nearly 1,000 working Mainers, community, business and religious leaders gathered at the state house to oppose LD 309, a so-called ‘right to work’ bill.

LD 309, which is being presented in a public hearing today, would undermine Maine workers’ ability to negotiate with their employers over wages and working conditions. This reckless proposal to end public sector collective bargaining addresses no identified problem in our state. Public sector bargaining in Maine is a proven and nationally regarded system that has provided stability in the public service, and dignity and protection for public workers.

The statement released refers to LD 788, a separate bill directed towards private sector workers that lost traction due to outrage from the community and lack of support in the statehouse. Referring to LD 788 as “the right to work bill” is deceptive and wrong. This is yet another political tactic meant to confuse constituents and distract from the issue at hand.

Although the factual content in the release is incorrect, we are pleased to read the statement from Senate Majority Leader Johnathan Courtney (R-Sanford) , “The vote to postpone LD 788 is a simple matter of setting priorities,” he says, “Our first priorities this year include regulatory reform, health insurance reform, energy cost reform, and passage of a biennial State Budget that puts Maine on the road to fiscal responsibility.”

We agree with Senator Courtney in that the legislature should prioritize, but this begs the question of why? If LD 788 is not a priority because it does nothing to further the legislatures agenda of regulation, health care, energy and the budget – why is LD 309? With the Governor currently in contract negotiations it is obvious this attack on public workers is a direct attempt by the Governor to circumvent the negotiation process with self serving legislation.

Not only is the message in the release incorrect and deceptive, it is a slap in the face to the nearly 1,000 workers here at the state house and the thousands more that LD 309 would effect. Our elected officials should prioritize, and put people before politics.

Some observations by Quint, once the public hearing finally began:

1. “Sen. Rector opens by saying LD 309 not RTW. Repeating R talking point from news release that Right to Work is dead for this session. We wish. All teachers, nurses, and fire fighters impacted by LD 309 wish that were so.”

2. “Gov LePage’s Rep Kicks Off Hearings With More Misinformation. Misinformation Soundbite #1: He claims some state employees are “paying a tax to a private organization” and he is protecting their rights. FALSE. State employees are only paying a service fee for covering a fair share of costs for negotiating and servicing a contract agreement that sets the wages, benefits and work conditions for all state workers, even those who freely chose not to join a union.”

GW noted some discourse in the hearing: “Cushing challenges Driscoll- If he has a question – shouting at him. Where are the chairs? Is Cushing running this hearing?”

CQ followed up: “Reps Gilbert and Driscoll Question Delays on Debate Over Contentious Bills. Two committee members ask:
Why did the legislature delayed discussion of workers’ rights bill (now LD 309) for months and are only taking it up in the legislature’s last days? Why did committee members delayed discussion for hours this afternoon? Four hours ago a crowd of 1,000 concerned Maine citizens — fire fighters, nurses, teachers, clergy, small business owners — were here at Capitol to speak out against this bill.”

“Bill Co-Sponsor Offers More Misinformation. Where to begin? She claims she respects the Maine State Education Association but supports stopping the union’s ability to have the state deduct dues from its members’ paychecks. This is a tradition that has been upheld by Republican and Democratic administrations alike over the years until this one, as longtime MSEA member Bob Ruelhlin will point out in his testimony … which could come hours from now at this rate.

She also is echoing a claim that services fees were imposed “in the middle of the night,” and when a previous person made that wild claim Rep. Gilbert admonished him by saying, “stick to the facts.” The fact is these fair share fees are fair enough that they’ve been upheld in debates that have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

There is plenty more; please click on this link to read the rest.

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