Archive for February 23rd, 2013

Weekly Democratic Address by Rep. Lori Fowle (Vassalboro): Budget and Other Challenges Require Bipartisan Coorperation

Posted on February 23, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Audio link here.

lori fowleGood morning. I am Representative Lori Fowle. I’m honored to represent Vassalboro, Windsor and part of Augusta in the Maine House of Representatives.

I am excited to be part of a large group of first-term legislators in the House. I am new to the State House, but I’ve been active in local government for years. I served on the Vassalboro School Board for nine years and I’m currently on the town’s budget committee.

Running for state representative was the logical next step. I’ve seen the kind of budget hits that our towns and schools have taken over the years. I realized that I needed to be in the place where the laws were made – not just on the receiving end.

During my campaign, the people of my district told me that they wanted their lawmakers to come together to find commonsense solutions. I imagine that’s what Maine people all around the state expect and want from us.

I’m happy I’ve seen lots of cooperation at the State House. I’d like to think that the large group of first-term members in the House has something to do with that. New members are finding common ground as we learn and work together.

We’ve been sharing experiences about our bills. I hadn’t anticipated how a bill could have a life of its own – in a good way. Each needs nurturing and care. In my case, I’ve sponsored a bill to help police locate stolen items sold to pawn shops and another bill to provide disabled veterans with transportation to needed medical appointments. I’m guiding my bills through the process and getting input from stakeholders because I want them to become effective laws.

This week, the Legislature overwhelmingly approved a supplemental budget for current fiscal year. The budget-writing committee had the daunting task of dealing with a $153 million shortfall.

The committee worked hard and reached a unanimous decision on a budget that removed much of the potential harm contained in Governor LePage’s proposal — including cuts to important social service and health programs. Still, the supplemental budget underscores the need for efficiencies, a fair tax system and a balanced approach.

Moving forward, the two-year budget will become an increasing focus at the State House. I know that both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about it.

The governor’s proposal relies on a $425 million dollar tax shift to local communities. I’ve seen how difficult it is for local communities to deal with cutbacks, even before they faced the burden of the governor’s proposed tax shift.
Last year, Vassalboro property taxes went up an entire mil and the school district seriously considered significantly cutting back the hours of its sole librarian. Thankfully, that did not happen.

The budget has the potential to hurt every district, regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. We need a budget that will strengthen our economy and our middle class.

I’m hopeful about cooperation between lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. I’m working with other members of the Augusta delegation and look forward to addressing the city’s concerns about the upcoming budget.

You have to work together. It’s that simple.

This is Representative Lori Fowle of Vassalboro. Thank you for tuning in this morning.

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Rep Diane Russell (Portland): Maine must lead marijuana regulation (Video, Text, Pix)

Posted on February 23, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Link to full press conference conducted 21 Feb 2013. Speakers included: Rep. Russell, Shenna Bellows of ACLU of Maine, Denny Gallaudet (retired bank president and retired superintendent), David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project and Rep. Aaron Libby (R- Waterboro).

Representative Russell’s full address, as prepared:

“Maine is a remarkable case study in how a state can regulate marijuana in a controlled, responsible manner that balances the broad interests of public safety, substance abuse and parents. We have retail establishments that grow and supply marijuana to responsible customers.

We have proven that this can be done for medical purposes, and now it is time to institute that same strict regulatory infrastructure for responsible adult recreational consumers.

IMG_2464When was the last time you heard of a drug dealer carding a kid? It doesn’t happen. Responsible Maine business owners who sell alcohol do it all the time. It is time we let business owners who card their consumers earn the profits and not the drug dealers or drug cartels.

Two years ago, I introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana. I introduced it because I realized that the trends were shifting and public policy was going to have to shift to meet this new culture shift. What I did not realize was just how quickly that change would come.

Historically, the end of alcohol Prohibition began the day New York decriminalized its production. In our generation’s prohibition, Washington and Colorado were the tipping points. The question of whether to legalize or not was answered for history in November when voters in two states voted to allow marijuana to be taxed and regulated.

Over 1200 online viewers of the press conference, live streamed by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland)

Over 1200 online viewers of the press conference, live streamed by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland)

Most people have been remarkably supportive of my efforts and many share my concern about preventing young people from having access to marijuana. 85% of high school seniors are telling us that they have easy access to it. That number has not dipped below 82% since 1975. The War on Drugs began in 1971. If the metric by which we measure this program is the success we have had in getting it out of the hands of young people, then we have failed. Prohibition did not work with alcohol and it has not worked with marijuana, either.

Today, I join my colleagues in asking the legislature to do the responsible thing and to set up a regulatory infrastructure that takes into account the broad spectrum of interests: from law enforcement, from substance abuse counselors and especially from parents and teachers. Let us not bury our heads in the sands, hoping this issue will simply go away. We have been doing that for far too long as it is, and now we can see the trend is coming.

My bill would set up a strong regulatory infrastructure for the in-state cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21 by licensed retailers. It gives preference to Maine-based business owners, dispensaries and caregivers in the application process to do what we can to ensure we are creating Maine jobs.

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  • The bill taxes it at $50 per ounce, bringing in an estimated- and probably conservative- $13 million new dollars to the state.
  • 75% of that will go to the General Fund to offset education costs.
  • 10% will go to help law enforcement.
  • 10% will go toward substance abuse and prevention.
  • 5% would be set aside for research grants so that we can study the effects of marijuana use as well as THC potency.
  • This bill provides lawmakers an opportunity to have an open and transparent process to refine the regulatory framework of the current bill to ensure Mainers can be confident in the end result. If approves by the Legislature and Governor, the bill would go to the people for ratification by referendum.

    Maine has been a model state in how we regulate medical marijuana. We have been smart, conservative and responsible, proving that our state has the knowledge and ability to regulate properly. Our state motto, Dirigo, reminds us that we must lead. I’m asking my colleagues to do just that.

    Thank you.”

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