Archive for April 13th, 2013

(UPDATED) With Unanimous Support of Senate, Maine Legislature Passes LD 72 Opening St Croix River to Alewives

Posted on April 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Updating to include a video that Gerald shared over at Dirigo Blue.

    A June 9-10 spiritual run by Passamaquoddy Tribe members and others to recognize the importance of the indigenous sea-run alewife to the St. Croix River watershed. This two-day, 100-mile relay will highlight the Maine Legislature’s 17-year blockage of this fish run and connect with a 4000-year-old tribal fishing site at the top of Spednic Lake. The sacred run is organized by the Schoodic Riverkeepers, a group comprised of Passamaquoddy tribal members focused on restoring their ancestral river, and indigenous populations of fish in the St. Croix River.

alewives riverIn 1995, a great error was made by the 117th Legislature which nearly resulted in elimination of Maine’s alewives, as passage up their native St. Croix River was blocked with strategically places flashboards on the dams’ fishways. Grand Lake Stream area guides claimed that alewives were decimating the small mouth bass fry population they depended on for their 12-week season.

Although efforts were launched in 2001 to repeal the earlier law, blockage was maintained that year with a stronger 2008 lobbying campaign that opened only 1% of spawning St Croix habitat to alewives and blue backed herring.

In 1994, the last year the fish had free passage, 2.6 million alewives ascended the St. Croix waterway, perhaps the most fertile in the state. By the next year, fewer than 1,000 were counted (Source: “Alewives on the St. Croix: a ‘mistake’ fixed”).

fishiesThis year, the 126th Legislature swiftly acted to right what former SAM executive director and veteran writer George Smith labelled “a mistake”. The bill had a contentious hearing on March 25, lasting over three hours, followed by a rapid work session April 1 resulting in the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources unanimously approving LD 72, opening two dams on the lower St. Croix. Co-Chair Senator Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) characterized the work session for the bill thus: “That was the fastest report we’ve dealt with in almost two years.”

As the bill sponsored by freshman Rep. Madonna Soctomah (Passamaquoddy) was an emergency measure, it then required 2/3rds vote in both chambers of the Legislature. It easily passed in the House by a 124-23 margin on Wednesday morning, then flew through the Senate, 33-0, on the same day.

Via Maine House Democrats’ press release:

    soctomah  lincolnThe Maine House gave final approval Wednesday to a historic measure to reopen the St. Croix River to alewives, a species of river herring that is critical to the ecosystem because of its role as a food source for other fish and that is also important as bait for the fishing industry. The proposal would end the state’s 18-year blockade of the sea-run fish at Grand Falls Dam in time for this year’s upriver migration of alewives, allowing them to return to their native spawning habitat. The bill sets a May 1 deadline to open the fishways.

    Passamaquoddy Tribal Rep. Madonna Soctomah, the bill’s sponsor, spoke of the important role alewives play in Maine and how they do not pose a threat to smallmouth bass, as opponents of the measure claim.

    “The restoration of the abundant alewife runs in the St. Croix River watershed should remain a high priority for the people of the state of Maine,” Soctomah said in the House chamber. “The alewives are a native and indigenous species, with their migration history dating back 400 years. The smallmouth bass lives harmoniously with alewives in hundreds of lakes and rivers in Maine.”

    Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, said, “We’ve seen study after study showing that the alewives don’t pose a threat to smallmouth bass.”

    The once-abundant alewife population has fallen sharply since the closure of the fish passages in 1995. Alewives, whose numbers are now estimated at less than 1,000, are a key food source for a number of fish species such as bluefish, cod, haddock, salmon, striped bass and tuna. Alewives also have an important role as bait fish.

    “We’re pleased to have reached this bipartisan vote to restore this vital native fishery,”
    said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “Alewives are important to the ecosystem, to the lobster industry and could also benefit the groundfishing industry.”

More via BDN:

Rep. Soctomah testifies before Marine Resources Committee. (photo via WABI-5, Bangor)

Rep. Soctomah testifies before Marine Resources Committee. (photo via WABI-5, Bangor)

    …in 1995 the Maine Legislature voted to close the Woodland and Grand Falls fishways, and the alewife population plunged to 900 fish in 2002, from 2.6 million in 1987. The law was amended in 2008 to open the fishway at Woodland, but alewives still cannot reach 98 percent of their traditional spawning ground.

    Many studies have shown that alewives and bass coexist, and bass even eat alewives. If anything, a 10-year study found, a lake drawdown made the bass’ protective rock habitat disappear and forced the bass to compete for food and habitat with other fish. The Legislature’s vote on Wednesday is a recognition of the science.

    The original closure of the St. Croix was based on “myth and misinformed rhetoric,” John Burrows, director of the New Brunswick Programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, told the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee March 25. “The fact that 98 percent of the river has remained closed when there is substantial scientific support for restoring alewives is simply astounding. To our members, this is the greatest ecological injustice to occur in the state of Maine in generations, and there is no reason to keep the river closed.”

Video link of the unanimous passage by all 33 present Senators (Hill and Flood absent). Senator Johnson spoke to his colleagues, urging their full support, just prior to the vote.

    “The restoration of alewives to the St, Croix River will benefit people all over Maine. Alewives are critical to Maine’s environment and fill an important role as baitfish for the lobster industry,” said Senator Chris Johnson (D-Somerville), the Senate Chair of the Marine Resources Committee. “They also serve as critical prey food for our depleted ground fish stocks. Getting this bill passed now means that the benefits can begin with this year’s run, and they will grow over time. The additional alewives will make a real difference to our struggling ground fish and lobster industries.”

Senator Doug Thomas (R- Somerset)  congratulates Rep. Soctomah after the vote in the Senate.

Senator Doug Thomas (R- Somerset) congratulates Rep. Soctomah after the vote in the Senate.

No word yet as to whether Governor LePage will sign the bill, even with its strong bipartisan support, veto it outright or let it pass into law without his signature. His administration supported LD 548, “An Act To Provide for Passage of River Herring on the St. Croix River in Accordance with an Adaptive Management Plan”.

    A competing measure that reflects the Department of Marine Resources’ position, LD 548, sponsored by Rep. Windol Weaver, R-York, would align alewife restoration strategies with an adaptive management plan approved in 2010. That plan aims to address concerns raised by fishing guides about whether the introduction of alewives would decimate the bass population.

That bill was voted ONTP in committee.

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Democrats McCabe, Millett Urge Support of LD 1185, Enhancing School Efforts To Use Locally Produced Foods

Posted on April 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Maine would take a step toward increasing the use of locally produced foods in schools under a measure sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. McCabe’s bill, LD 1185, “An Act To Enhance Efforts To Use Locally Produced Food in Schools”, would require school districts to include its use of local foods in its existing annual reporting on their school meal programs. The addition of local foods to the report would require only a minor change to the existing reporting website.

jeff full education cmteOther bill details include the following rating of schools:

  • “Gold Medal Eat Local School” = 30% or more locally produced foods usage
  • “Silver Medal Eat Local School” = 20-30%
  • “Bronze Medal Eat Local School” = 10-20%
  • The designations would be included on the state Department of Education website.

    Wiscasset Primary School, which purchases food from eight local farms, has had success in incorporating local foods into its cafeteria offerings, according to Abby Plummer, program director and farms-to-school educator for Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools.

      “The food service staff feels very proud to be able to serve fresh, healthy, local foods to children, and to support our local farmers and the economy,” Plummer said in testimony. “The children are excited every time there is a new local food item on their tray. Students who are exposed to local foods are learning lifelong healthy eating habits and simultaneously gaining a sense of respect, responsibility and appreciation for farming, their state, their community and their environment.”

    A typical food item in the United States travels 1,500 miles from farm to its final destination, and industrial agriculture is responsible for 20 percent of the nation’s fossil fuel consumption, Alexandra Fields, preservation associate for Environment Maine said in testimony. Locally produced foods reach their destinations in a more efficient manner, are less likely to have been produced with excessive chemicals and do not lose nutrients in a long shipping process, she said.

      “And, when schools buy seasonally, they are serving the freshest and best-tasting fruits and vegetables available, which is exactly what Maine’s kids deserve,” she said.

    The bill, co-sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, also has the support of other supporters including Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and Maine People’s Alliance.

    Here is the testimony of the bills’ lead sponsor, House Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan).

    Rep. McCab answers questions of Rep. Mattie Daughtry (D-Brunswick)

    Rep. McCab answers questions of Rep. Mattie Daughtry (D-Brunswick)

      Good afternoon Senator Millett, Representative MacDonald and distinguished members of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. My name is Jeff McCabe and I serve as State Representative for District 85, the town of Skowhegan. I am pleased to present to you LD 1185, “An Act to Enhance Efforts to Use Locally Produced Food in Schools”.

      I think we can all agree that providing our students with fresh, healthy food sets them up for success in the classroom. Research shows that healthy eating can improve children’s concentration and classroom behavior and help them perform better in school. It also helps to lay the groundwork for healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. One great way to achieve this is to increase the amount of fresh, locally produced food that is available to our students.

      This bill seeks to simply ask schools to add this once-a-year report to the nutrition and pricing reporting that they are already required to submit to the Maine Department of Education. The reporting is designed to be simple and integrated into the system that school nutrition professionals are already using to track and report the meals they serve, utilizing the same website that schools are currently using for this purpose. This minor addition to the current reporting requirements would provide parents, educators and lawmakers with a wealth of information about the food schools are serving our kids.

      I was surprised to learn that even though Maine is a rural state with a proud farming and fishing tradition, we import more of our food than any other state in the continental United States. That sad reality can easily result in serious consequences for our state’s overall health, educational achievement, environment and economy.

      Rather than make guesses or assumptions, based on anecdotal information, this processes would give the Department useful data when making school nutrition choices in the future. I urge the committee to support the bill and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

      Thank you.

    Chair Senator Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland) also testified on behalf of LD 1185:

    rebecca millett

      Good afternoon Representative MacDonald and fellow Members of the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. I am Senator Rebecca Millett, representing District 7, which includes South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and a part of Scarborough. I am pleased to come before you in support of LD 1185, “An Act to Enhance Efforts to Use Locally Produced Food in Schools.”

      We all know eating locally is better for the environment. When the produce and animal products we consume come from our neighbors’ farms, the fossil fuels used to transport these goods is dramatically reduced thus lowering carbon emissions. But it is also better for us. When produce is sourced locally, it is fresher than produce that has been shipped from across the United States or even from other countries. When they are harvested, fruits and vegetables begin losing vitamins such as A, some B, C and E. Eating local produce means eating fresher, more flavorful and more nutritious foods.

      When we increase the percentage of local foods in our school, we increase the nutrients our children consume. When our children consume healthier, nutritious diets, they are better able to focus, learn and strive in schools.

      LD 1185 will encourage schools to source food for our children from local farms within our state. By creating an incentives program, schools will not be forces to make drastic changes but have an interest in improving the percentage of local produce over time. Schools across the state have been working hard in recent years to improve the nutritional content of the meals they serve, but we can make further improvements by increasing local content.

      I ask you for your unanimous support for LD1185. Thank you for your time and I would be happy to answer any questions.

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    Speaker Mark Eves on LD 1230: “No one should have to get their dental care in an emergency room”

    Posted on April 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

      “No one should have to get their dental care in an emergency room.”

      ~Speaker of the House Mark Eves, at 4/10/13 Dental Access for Maine Coalition press conference, held in the Hall of Flags, 4/10/13.

    Link here to the Dental Access of Maine Coalition site. Here is the testimony as prepared that Speaker Eves delivered before the LCRED committee on Thursday:

      Chairman Patrick, Chairwoman Herbig, Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Development, good afternoon.

      I am here today to introduce LD 1230, “An Act to Improve Access to Oral Health Care.”

      As we all know dental care is a critical aspect of a person’s overall health. While I have spent my professional life providing care for those with mental health needs, I have become intimately aware of the connection between oral health, mental health, and a person’s overall health.

      I have heard many personal stories in my clinical practice and reviewed the data as a member on the Health and Human Services Committee and the picture is clear- Maine has a significant challenge in accessing dental services-particularly in rural parts of our State.

      Over the past couple of years Senator Chris Rector and I worked with the HHS and your committee to get the dental facts.

      Both our committees had been facing confusion of dueling statistics from advocates from different perspectives and interests. Together we worked to pass LD 1105. The study was directed by stakeholders including dentists, dental hygienists, clinics and advocates for low-income Mainers. Together that group identified and hired the Center for Health Workforce Studies to perform an objective analysis. While the American Dental Association and Maine Dental Association were the major funders of the effort, Maine foundations, Dental Hygienists and others all financially supported the effort. For those of you who have followed this issue, that alone was a major accomplishment.

      Thanks are due to all those who left their turf aside, and agreed that good public policy demands good facts.

      And, the dental facts they found paint a clear picture of enormous challenges for low income and rural Mainers to have access to dental care.

      Speaker Eves at press conference held 4/10/13 discusses need for LD1230. Also in attendence were members of Dental Access for Maine Coalition, legislative co-sponsors, and guest from Alaska.

      Speaker Eves at press conference held 4/10/13 discusses need for LD1230. Also in attendence were members of Dental Access for Maine Coalition, legislative co-sponsors, and guest from Alaska.

      So now the easy part, the facts:

      · Now that we know that more than 55% of kids on MaineCare don’t see a dentist; it is obvious that we have barriers to care.

      · Now that we know that Maine has the 6th highest percentage of Medicaid children without access to care in the United States; we know we have barriers to care.

      · Now that we know that 15 of 16 Maine counties (73 separate dental health shortage areas) have designated dentist shortage areas; we know we have barriers to care.

      · Now that we know one in 5 Mainers live in a dentist shortage area; we know we have barriers to care.

      · Now that we know that nearly 40% of Maine dentists are planning to retire in the next five years or substantially reduce their hours; we know we have barriers to care.

      · Now that we know that there were 11,960 separate MaineCare ER visits for dental care wasting over $6.6 million in 2009; we know we have barriers to dental care.

      Believe it or not, I am being restrained here. The facts are astounding. This extremely thorough report included data distilled from millions of claims files, hundreds of interviews, and dozens of reports. The executive summary alone is 28 pages.

      It paints a bleak picture for enormous challenges to care that demand legislative action. Here’s the good news, there are strategies used in other states and other countries that can help alleviate this crisis.

      Dental Hygiene Therapy has provided excellent care in over 54 countries and Alaska and Minnesota. Started in New Zealand nearly a century ago, it has been extensively researched and found to provide safe, quality care. There are over 1,100 peer reviewed studies confirming this fact.

      We believe this is a proven model that could help address the dental shortage crisis in Maine. Here is what the legislation does:

      1. Establishes Dental Hygiene Therapy in Maine
      2. Practiced only under the supervision of a dentist as part of a dental home
      3. Authorized to perform a very limited number of procedures like drilling and filling surface cavities, removing loose teeth, gluing back a crown that has fallen off, and providing all the cleaning and educational services provided by a hygienist.

      That’s it.

      Here are the big concerns I have heard:

      1. They only get 500 hours of education. That is not true.

      All Dental Hygiene Therapist’s would have a hygiene degree. That is 3-4 years in the two Maine programs, and a minimum of two nationally. In addition, they would receive 1 ½ to 2 years of additional education using a curriculum developed by the American Association of Public Health Dentistry. After successful completion of what is typically 4-6 years of education, Dental; Hygiene Therapist’s would receive an additional 500 hours of clinical training under the direct supervision of a dentist. After completion of that, the supervising dentist could issue standing orders to further limit the procedures performed by a Dental Hygiene Therapist. In all, Dental Hygiene Therapist’s would be trained to the exact same standard of care for a very limited number of procedures as a dentist would receive for hundreds, and would have more clinical and class room time than a dentist on those same procedures.

      2. Dental Hygiene Therapists will not reduce barriers to care. That is not true.

      This legislation specifically limits the care settings for Dental Hygiene Therapist’s to dental clinics, hospitals and private practices serving 25% or more MaineCare patients. The study also finds that Maine’s diverse dental workforce (Independent practice dental hygienists and public health supervision dental hygienists) increases access to care for low-income people and those living in rural Maine. This legislation will increase access to care.

      3. 95% of Maine dentists are open to seeing new patients. That is misleading and only partially true.

      The question is: are 95% of Maine dentists accepting new MaineCare patients and the answer is no. Only 22% of Maine dentists saw a “significant number of MaineCare patients in 2010” (defined as billing over $100,000 or more annually) and only a quarter of practicing dentists are accepting new MaineCare patients.

      4. If dentists received higher MaineCare reimbursement this problem would go away. This is not true.

      Between 2008 and 2011 the reimbursement rate went up 26% for routine dental services, but the percentage of MaineCare kids who received care remained basically the same. While I support increased reimbursement, the claim that it will increase access has not proven to be true in Maine, or in most states.

      Of course there are many more claims and counter-claims about what is going on, but let me bring you back to the essential problem: too many Maine kids are not getting dental care. These kids have a higher rate of dental disease, which leads to poorer overall health. Dental disease is the most prevalent unmet health need in Maine and in our country, 5x higher than childhood asthma. This leads to a lifetime of tremendous challenges including impacts to cognitive development, self-esteem, missed school days, and economic performance.

      There is no one answer to this significant problem. Often we struggle to implement multiple strategies to make a difference. The legislation before you today is a critical strategy to meet a pressing need. I hope that you will join me, Representative Sirocki, Senator Burns and over 45 of your colleagues in supporting this step to improve access to dental care for Maine.

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    Democratic Weekly Radio Address by Sen. Rebecca Millett (Cumberland): We should not brandish our schools with a “scarlet letter”

    Posted on April 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

    Audio link here.

    rebecca millettSchool pride.

    For many of us, regardless of how long ago it may have been since we graduated, we still hold on to the memories of high school pep rallies, athletic events, and school field trips. There were school mascots, school fight songs, and school colors–how many of us wore our school colors even when we weren’t at school?

    Perhaps it is through our school pride that we learn, as young adults, that we belong to something, we identify with something, a symbol of what and who is important to us.

    As the years pass, we now know that school is much more than the bricks and mortar. We may no longer remember the words to the school fight song, but we do remember the teacher who urged us to study a little longer; the principal who remembered our name as we passed in the hall; or the guidance counselor who gave us the courage to take a class that pushed our limits.

    Good Morning. This is State Senator Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth.

    As the Senate Chair of the Education and Cultural Affairs committee, it is my job to think about what is important for education today as well as for the students of our future. And for a variety of reasons, we, as a state are at a crossroads.

    Just this week, the LePage Administration presented its newest school “reform” plan to our committee. The plan assigns a letter grade of “A” through “F” to Maine’s public schools.

    Democrats on the state’s education committee are deeply concerned by this approach. This sends the wrong signal to our schools, teachers, students, parents, and community.

    Issuing letter grades for schools is akin to brandishing them with a “scarlet letter.” It is shaming and stigmatizing–and, it seeks to embarrass students, teachers, and schools rather than motivate, incentivize, and actually help underperforming schools do better.

    Additionally, this simplistic and superficial grading system aimed at evaluating school performance cannot provide an accurate picture of what is taking place at a school. It could give a false sense that all is going well at a school, or it could wrongly shame a once-struggling school that is improving.

    Currently, the Department of Education has only provided raw data to struggling districts and expects them to devise and deploy improvement efforts with no additional funds. If this administration is truly interested in helping underperforming schools, they would provide the funds in addition to the data necessary for proper evaluation; they would support the efforts of our public school teachers and school principals.

    Right now, our state’s budget writing committee is working on crafting a budget for the next two years. The task ahead of them is daunting. Earlier this year, Governor LePage presented his proposed budget to them. And his budget continues to fall short of the state’s promise to fully fund education and places a heavier burden on local property taxes.

    Budgets are a reflection of our priorities and at a time when schools and teachers are already being asked to do more with less, we need to put our dollars behind our rhetoric. If we all agree that we are putting students first, then fund the classroom–don’t shame them for their performance.

    If a student doesn’t have a pencil, they can’t possibly pass the test. If a teacher lacks the tools needed to do their job, they can’t possibly improve classroom performance.

    We shouldn’t demand more of our teachers, more from our students, and not back them up. The mere threat of a failing grade, won’t magically eliminate the hurdles schools and teachers face: textbooks will still be scarce, school buildings will still be crumbling, and classroom sizes will still grow.

    We believe that our teachers and principals want to succeed and are eager to do the best job possible for our students. Now it’s up to us, as lawmakers, to encourage them as we all strive for innovation in our classrooms and the strengthening of our public schools.

    Thank you for listening. This is State Senator Rebecca Millett. Have a good weekend.

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    Weekly Message of Governor Paul LePage: It’s Time for Democrats to Present a Plan

    Posted on April 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

    Audio link here.

    lepage officeMy fellow Mainers, you are hearing a lot of sound and fury from Augusta these days. But on one issue—the most important issue facing our state’s future—all we hear are crickets.

    Hello, this is Governor LePage. I submitted a balanced budget proposal three months ago that sets priorities and lays out a fiscally responsible plan to right-size our government. The Democrats have been attacking my proposal every day. Even a former governor is on the attack. But these critics have yet to submit their own budget proposal.

    Folks, it has been three months. Beyond the sound of their petty criticism, all we hear is crickets. If they don’t like my common-sense approach to managing our finances and our future, that’s fine. But where are their budget proposals? Where are their solutions?

    My agenda focuses on long-term fiscal responsibility; paying our hospitals; putting students first; reforming our welfare system; and lowering energy costs for all Mainers. My proposal creates jobs; pays off old welfare debt; invests in infrastructure; and confronts the high cost of local control. This is not an easy budget proposal to make, and I take no pleasure in it.

    But, my fellow Mainers, we are in challenging and difficult times. Our state—and our nation—is facing an economic crisis. We must examine our all of our spending. We must scrutinize how we deliver services, and we must reform our overly generous welfare system. We must reduce the tax burden on Maine families, and we must pay our bills.

    These are difficult problems that demand tough choices, but we cannot keep ducking them. As a mayor, I faced these kinds of tough decisions. But I was still able to reduce taxes and to right-size local government without the loss of services to our citizens. It is very difficult, and it takes courage. But it can be done.

    Unfortunately, the majority of Democrats don’t want to make these tough decisions. They want to continue business as usual. It is much easier to say “yes” to everyone than “no” to someone.

    They want to raise your taxes to keep growing government, and they want to believe empty promises from Washington, D.C. to keep expanding welfare. They want to take money out of the classroom to benefit the adults in our educational system. Even worse, they want to keep stacking debt on your children’s shoulders to pay for this government expansion.

    Instead of making the tough decisions over the past three months, the Democrats told parents that their teens can’t get a tan. They attacked education reform, and they worked to allow drinking on a Sunday morning. They conspired to steal my pension, and they tried to sell the historic Blaine House. They want to repeal your tax cuts and raise your health-insurance costs. They want to deny Mainers right-to-work protections, and they want to force job-killing wage increases on our struggling businesses.

    It’s been three months, folks. I’m still waiting for their budget proposals. I’m still waiting to hear their solutions. It’s easy to criticize, and they are very good at it. But when it comes to their budget solutions, all I hear is crickets.

    My balanced budget proposal tackles the long-standing problems facing our state. We are one of the highest-taxed states, and our welfare system is too big and too expensive. Our energy costs are some of the highest in the nation, and we pay significantly more for education than the national average.

    Our local property taxes have increased 123% since 1992, while state government spending has increased by 89% since then. Mainers like home rule, but it is expensive. The state cannot continue to subsidize the costly duplication and redundancy of services in our largest communities.

    Democrats don’t like my proposed revenue sharing cuts, and that’s okay with me. But it is not okay for them to stonewall the Maine people. They hope to spring their budget on Mainers at the last minute without any public discussion, and they will demand an enormous tax increase to pay for it.

    If they have proposals, they should share them with me and with Mainers. We all want to know how they will pay for more government expansion. But where will the money come from?

    I hear crickets again.

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    Weekly Address of President Obama: Sandy Hook Victim’s Mother Calls for Commonsense Gun Responsibility Reforms

    Posted on April 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

      Weekly Address: Sandy Hook Victim’s Mother Calls for Commonsense Gun Responsibility Reforms

      The White House

      Remarks of Francine Wheeler
      The President’s Weekly Address

    Hi. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not the President. I’m just a citizen. And as a citizen, I’m here at the White House today because I want to make a difference and I hope you will join me.

    My name is Francine Wheeler. My husband David is with me. We live in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

    David and I have two sons. Our older son Nate, soon to be 10 years old, is a fourth grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our younger son, Ben, age six, was murdered in his first-grade classroom on December 14th, exactly 4 months ago this weekend.

    David and I lost our beloved son, but Nate lost his best friend. On what turned out to be the last morning of his life, Ben told me, quite out of the blue, “ I still want to be an architect, Mama, but I also want to be a paleontologist, because that’s what Nate is going to be and I want to do everything Nate does.”

    Ben’s love of fun and his excitement at the wonders of life were unmatched His boundless energy kept him running across the soccer field long after the game was over. He couldn’t wait to get to school every morning. He sang with perfect pitch and had just played at his third piano recital. Irrepressibly bright and spirited, Ben experienced life at full tilt.

    Until that morning. 20 of our children, and 6 of our educators – gone. Out of the blue.

    I’ve heard people say that the tidal wave of anguish our country felt on 12/14 has receded. But not for us. To us, it feels as if it happened just yesterday. And in the four months since we lost our loved ones, thousands of other Americans have died at the end of a gun. Thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief.

    Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy.

    Sometimes, I close my eyes and all I can remember is that awful day waiting at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Firehouse for the boy who would never come home – the same firehouse that was home to Ben’s Tiger Scout Den 6. But other times, I feel Ben’s presence filling me with courage for what I have to do – for him and all the others taken from us so violently and too soon.

    We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass commonsense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us.

    When I packed for Washington on Monday, it looked like the Senate might not act at all. Then, after the President spoke in Hartford, and a dozen of us met with Senators to share our stories, more than two-thirds of the Senate voted to move forward.

    But that’s only the start. They haven’t yet passed any bills that will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never do.

    Now is the time to act. Please join us. You can talk to your Senator, too. Or visit to find out how you can join the President and get involved.

    Help this be the moment when real change begins. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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