Archive for September 27th, 2011

Legislature passes bipartisan redistricting plan

Posted on September 27, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

(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.

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Legislature passes bipartisan bill to stiffen Bath Salts penalties

Posted on September 27, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

(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.”

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