Archive for September, 2011
Here is that initial email:
At first, it was reported that “an anonymous fax” sent to his office was what caused him to make the decision to remove the mural.
After some pressure, LePage’s office finally released the supposed “fax”. It was quickly noticed that the “fax” had no date or time stamp nor phone number sent- all of which would normally be on a fax. Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s spokesperson, dismissed this astute observation and revised the document to instead be a letter received by their office.
A CYA story that fooled no one in Maine, including one person who commented the following observation on Dirigo Blue, hinting that the LePage administration created the supposed document themselves quickly, to “hush up” the press:
|In the aftermath of that email and the media attention received, we in Maine found ourselves in what can only be described best as “Mural-Gate”:
WCSH-6 reported that the governor was standing by his decision on the mural got a revealing video of LePage calling Mainers “idiots”:
The outcry against the governor continued and grew:
Indeed, there was a “new mentality”. Hours after that weekly address was released, the mural was secretly and quietly removed from the MDOL reception area, packed away and to date, has not been seen since.
MDOL employees returned to work Monday to find clear damage to the now bare walls, stripped of the 11 panels of artwork.
Both the governor and the artist, Judy Taylor, issued statements about the mural removal.
It was reported on Day 84 (March 29) that despite being on the job for less than 3 months, Governor Paul LePage was taking a full week off for a vacation in Jamaica with wife Ann.
As well as an outcry for a citizen’s recall process.
And news of a death threat against the Governor.
And “Mural-Gate” continued to roll on:
April 5th marked an especially busy day:
A large rally was held in the Statehouse’s Hall of Flags, also on April 5th. Here is Rob Shetterly, President of the Maine Union of Visual Artists addressing those assembled.
Then Mural-Gate went to the courtrooms, Maine politicians weighed in, and protests continued:
One June 15th (Day 162), the case went to court and the court documents were made available (pdf warning).
Among other things learned was that LePage had the mural taken down, sight unseen.
Attorney Jonathan Beal is quoted thus:
So, for a few months more, not much was said about the mural.
No one knew where it was, the Maine Labor Mural Facebook page continued to keep people updated and grow its membership, and we waited to see what happened next with the only recourse left- the legal system.
Then Governor Paul LePage decided to accept an invitation to participate in the NBC EducationNation Governor’s Forum on September 26 in New York.
Host Brian Williams decided to ask an unprepared LePage about the mural and suddenly the Governor had an brand-new, never before reported reason for why the mural was taken down; here is the clip.
(Who is the “they” LePage is referring to, to whom the apparent ransom or shake-down or pay-off money is supposed to be paid and other details are still murky.)
Maine media was quick to jump onto these new statements:
Adrienne Bennett, Gov. LePage’s press spokesman, hastily released the following later the same day:
To this, Maine AFL-CIO Matt Schlobohm released the following statement:
Sep 29 (Day 268) saw the 61%/ Maine’s Majority issue a statement as well. Some clips:
This is still a developing story and as such, will be updated as needed.
Just released; here are a few key pieces:
That’s news to us, and apparently we’re not the only one to miss it: Attorney General William Schneider has filed a content-based defense of LePage’s actions on free speech grounds, arguing that the mural depicted the views of the Baldacci administration and LePage was entitled to express his own by taking it down.The governor should get his story straight. If he has no objection to the mural’s content, he should explain why the state’s lawyers are in court claiming that he does
Here is the text:
September 28, 2011
“The Administration originally removed the mural because of its messaging. The mural portrays only one party that the Department of Labor serves – workers not job creators. In order to change the culture the decision was made to find a more appropriate location for the mural. It was then discovered how the mural was funded and that these funds could have been put into the Unemployment Trust Fund for Mainers to benefit from. When the Governor learned of this it further supported the decision
“The Administration originally removed the mural because of its messaging. The mural portrays only one party that the Department of Labor serves – workers not job creators. In order to change the culture the decision was made to find a more appropriate location for the mural. It was then discovered how the mural was funded and that these funds could have been put into the Unemployment Trust Fund for Mainers to benefit from. When the Governor learned of this it further supported the decision.
The Governor took part in this panel discussion to speak about education; however, it is clear that NBC had an entirely different agenda for Governor LePage. With limited time to answer the question the Governor chose to speak about the most disturbing aspect – that this money could have been put into the Unemployment Trust Fund rather than used on a mural. This information was underreported by media this spring.”
(This is exactly as grabbed from the Maine.gov link- typos, double paragraphs and all.)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(Via Maine Senate, House Democrats)
Legislature passes bipartisan redistricting plan
The State Legislature gave final passage to a bipartisan plan for redrawing Maine’s Congressional district lines today during a Special Session of the Legislature.
“We are pleased to reach a bipartisan resolution after a such highly partisan process,” said Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House Democratic Leader. “It goes to show that compromise is possible when cooler heads prevail.”
The compromise plan moves Waterville and Winslow into the First Congressional District and puts Unity Township, Albion, Sidney, Belgrade, Rome, Vienna, Mount Vernon, Gardiner, West Gardiner, Monmouth and Randolph into the Second Congressional District. It splits only Kennebec County and brings the population difference between the districts to a deviation of one.
“The new plan is consistent with what Democrats have been proposing all along and what Maine people said they wanted,” said Rep. Cain. “It is a simple solution that keeps communities of interest together and disrupts a minimal amount of people and towns.”
The plan is a significant departure from the GOP’s initial radical plan that proposed to move 360,000 people, seven counties, and 139 communities to a new district. Last week, the Republicans announced they would likely ignore the law and force this partisan plan through with a majority vote.
“Maine people expect us to compromise and find common ground,” said Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, the Senate Democratic Leader. “Democrats have always been open to compromising around a moderate plan. We are glad the Republicans joined with us to find a bipartisan solution that we could all support.”
Democrats had offered three moderate proposals, which moved only a few towns within Kennebec County, which is already divided between the two districts. Republicans rejected those proposals during negotiations over the summer.
A federal court ordered the Legislature to redraw the line between the districts based on new census data in response to a lawsuit earlier this year.
“We adopted a plan that is in the best interest of Mainers, while still conforming with the court’s order,” said Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, who was the lead negotiator for the Democrats. “Importantly, in the end, partisanship was put aside in order to get the job done.”
The plan now must be signed into law by the governor.
(Via Maine House Democrats)
Legislature passes bipartisan bill to stiffen Bath Salts penalties
AUGUSTA- The Maine Legislature passed a bill to strengthen the penalties for users and dealers of the illegal synthetic drug bath salts.
“The bath salts epidemic this summer has prompted the legislature to take emergency action on this critical issue,” said Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who is a cosponsor of the new bipartisan bill and was the sponsor of the original bill that made the drug illegal earlier this year.
“We had originally proposed these stiff penalties and now we have stronger support from the governor and the Republican majority. Increasingly, the experts no longer put bath salts near the top of the list. They put it at the top.”
Berry’s bill was scaled back to be a civil violation in the spring due to a lack of funding needed to pay for incarceration, treatment, and indigent legal services.
The abuse of bath salts has ballooned across the state over the summer, according to law enforcement officials. The epidemic prompted the governor and lawmakers to reintroduce Rep. Berry’s original proposal to make the penalties equal to drugs like heroin and methamphetamine.
Nationally, Poison Control Centers recorded 303 poisonings in all of 2010. In the first seven months of 2011, they recorded 4,137.
In Maine, Bangor has seen an increase of Bath Salts cases in the past few months. The Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia told the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Monday that there were 14 bath salts related incidents this weekend alone.
“Our law enforcement officials need these stronger penalties to help them better protect our communities,” said Anne Haskell, D-Portland, who is the lead Democrat on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. “Rep. Berry was right the first time around. It was a mistake to water down the bill in the spring. We’ve heard from police officials, first responders, and families who urged us to strengthen the law and fight back against this dangerous drug.”
During the debate on the bill House lawmakers rejected an attempt by the Senate to amend the bill to scale back the punishment for furnishing versus trafficking of the drug.
“We opposed providing different penalties for the crimes because it would be inconsistent with our other laws for this class of drug,” explained Haskell. “While I understand the concerns, we don’t have variation in the law for heroin or cocaine for example, and we shouldn’t set a different, weaker standard for bath salts.”
The bill will now be sent to the governor to be signed into law.
“We took an important first step tonight to meet the immediate challenges of combating this horrible drug,” said Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House Democratic Leader. “In addition to strengthening the criminal penalties, we must also plan for the education and treatment challenges we will face in the future.”
(Cross posted at Dirigo Blue)
|(Huh??) Governor LePage took a trip down to the Big Apple this week to participate in a panel discussion for NBC’s “Education Nation”. He was one of ten governors invited to the event.
LePage said, “We’re looking at 10 countries, the top 10 countries. They all have one common denominator. A teacher not only has teaching skills, but content skills. And that’s what we don’t do in this country.”
|Wow, that just rolled off the tongue with amazing clarity and electrified the audience, huh? But not exactly the soundbite that some of his supporters had anticipated:
“Given the tough economic challenges facing the state, more money – either from the general fund or tuition increases – cannot be the solution,” wrote LePage. “Instead, I suggest reforms related to resource allocation, increased productivity, elimination of duplicative services, specialization, innovation, and perhaps through the selection of a proven agent of change as the next chancellor of the University System.”
LePage suggested a series of reforms, sometimes extolling his views of problems in the system in his signature gruff terms.
“We should strive to have each campus become a true leader in a given area, rather than multiple campuses overextending themselves in a hodgepodge of unfocused endeavors,” wrote LePage, who also called for noninstructional staff positions to be reduced systemwide in favor of hiring more professors and instructors.
LePage also urged the system to require more productivity of employees, such as professors taking on more graduate students and giving cash bonuses for high productivity or securing grant funding.
“Since the system is currently involved in contract negotiations, this may be an ideal time for its leadership to demand more from its employees,” wrote LePage.
LePage also suggested a “top-to-bottom review” of services offered by the university and community college systems and the consolidation of duplicative efforts.
“A comparison of all employees and their functions may reveal significant duplication of efforts,” wrote the governor.
It really is a case of he only knows one business model- that of Marden’s. That, or as he only has a hammer, everything before him looks like a nail.
Republicans set stage to ram through radical new Congressional map
Maine GOP to ignore public, law for national political gainSeptember 23, 2011
AUGUSTA – Republican state lawmakers will likely force through their radical plan to draw Maine’s congressional map during a special session of the Legislature on Tuesday.
The majority party will ignore the current law that requires congressional maps to gain 2/3 support from the Legislature or be drawn by the State Supreme Court. The Republican bill released today, LD 1590, includes a technical “Notwithstanding” clause in Section 2 stating that their proposal can be passed without the two-thirds support required by Maine law.
“I’m very disappointed, especially since we have found compromise on the toughest issues this session like the budget and regulatory reform,” said Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House Democratic Leader. “It is wrong to change the rules in the middle of the game just because you can’t win.”
This year Republican leaders in the legislature championed a Constitutional amendment to prevent this abuse of the process. The Constitutional amendment makes it impossible for the ruling political party to pass a reapportionment plan by majority vote. Voters must approve that amendment in November.
But before that provision can take effect, the Republicans are now planning to push through their radical redistricting plan without any bipartisan support.
“The Republicans support the bipartisan rule as long as it doesn’t apply to them this one time,” said Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, who served on the bipartisan reapportion commission that rejected the radical Republican plan. “They will have to answer to Maine voters.”
Republicans have proposed a radical, partisan plan that would move 360,000 people, seven counties, and nearly 140 communities to a new district.
It breaks up communities that share the same interest. It splits the shipyards, the mill communities, the coastal interests, and puts competing cities like Portland and Lewiston in the same district. This plan worsens the problem of the “two Maines” by creating one district that is mostly urban and another that is almost entirely rural.
The Republican plan has been widely criticized across the state. Four out of five people that came to the State House for the public hearings on the two proposals testified against the radical plan. Five thousand people have signed an online petition against a radical plan.
The bipartisan commission charged by the Legislature to draw Congressional district lines narrowly endorsed the Democratic plan. Democrats have presented a plan that shifts fewer than 20,000 people. It follows the current lines, which were drawn by the Maine Supreme Court nearly 10 years ago.
“Once again Maine Republicans have shown that they are puppets of special interests from away,” added Rep. Martin. “Make no mistake this is a gift to Kevin Raye and the National GOP, who want to put the Second Congressional district in play and potentially gain an additional electoral vote for the presidential race.”
The Republican plan adds approximately 10,000 Republican voters to the Second Congressional District.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Here is Senator Debra Plowman (R-Hampden) presenting the GOP redistricting plan during the August 23 public hearing. Ultimately this plan was rejected by the committee.
Republicans are putting forward their plan for redistricting, and may use the power of the majority to vote it through next week if talks fail to produce a compromise this weekend, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, said today.The Republican plan to change the line between the 1st and 2nd congressional districts is based on an east/west divide that puts Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford, York and part of Franklin County in the 1st District.
The bill contains language that allows Republicans to approve the plan with a simple majority, rather than the two-thirds vote called for by current state law.
Plowman said she hopes they don’t have to resort to the majority vote, but will if they have to.
“Not using this technique is an abdication of our duty,” she said. “Is it what we want to do? Absolutely not.”
The question still remains whether or not this will go to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(Originally posted 9/13/11 on SoapBlox version of Maine Progressives Warehouse)
Bangor Daily reporting that the U.S. Census Bureau today will be releasing the latest uninsured figures today. But as it is based upon the 2010 census numbers, one wonders how accurate the numbers for Maine will be.
Especially in light of news that the insurance industry is already raising premiums beyond reach of many small rural Maine companies.
One company that left Maine but has now returned, Assurant, is now sending out expensive lil recruiting literature to all life and health (L&H) insurance agents in the state. Previously they did business under than name of Fortis, and had landed themselves in hot water with the State of Maine Bureau of Insurance, as did the company John Alden.
Expect to see a LOT of these formerly disgraced companies coming back home to roost in Maine, thanks to LD 1333.There are many reasons they left Maine markets in the first place, and one would be wise to be skeptical of them as they return, as well as do their own research into the companies before they sign anything.
In addition to Senator Plowman’s opinion piece today where she failed repeatedly and predictably to mention her (and others) many questionable connections to ALEC and MHPC, the Bangor Daily News ran one from Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle).
One of those laws is the major health insurance overhaul Republicans pushed through a few months ago.We are already seeing the negative effects of this health insurance overhaul. The Ellsworth American reported recently that some small businesses in rural Maine will be seeing their health insurance costs go up more than 60 percent as early as October.
According to the report, small businesses in Hancock, Washington and Aroostook counties will seeinsurance premiums rise more than 60 or 70 percent. One company in Presque Isle may see an increase of 90 percent.
Premium hikes like these will put the companies at their breaking points. A recent survey of Maine people by Market Decisions found that 21 percent fear losing health insurance coverage in the next 12 months. Nearly 40 percent of those individuals said the top reason for their fear was the new health care law passed by Republicans in Augusta.
It’s no wonder they are afraid. The insurance overhaul will allow insurance companies selling individual policies to set rates based on age at up to five times higher than the lowest rate. And, most troubling, there will be no limits on rate changes depending on where you live, or what kind of job you have.
The new law expands that ratio to 1 to 5; that is, if the lowest premium is $500 a month, the highest an insurer can now charge is $2,500. The thought is that that insurers would increase the premiums for their more costly customers while – don’t laugh at this – lowering the costs for the young and healthy.
Raise your hand if you can afford $2500 a month for health insurance. Yeah, me neither.
This caught my eye, as I was in the House gallery on May 5th during the first reading of LD 1333:
During the floor debate, I asked this question to all the lawmakers in the House: “What effect will this have on premiums for a 50-year-old, self-employed fisherman living on an offshore island?” No one answered, either because they did not know or did not like the answer.
In fact, Reps. Kumiega, Webster and Russell all had questions of their colleagues that went completely unanswered. Have a look:
This is just getting started and it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Fox guarding the hen house? Here is the official press release from the governor’s office:
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