Archive for June 18th, 2013

Governor LePage Blames Treasurer Douglass, Dems for Bond Issuance Delays; Treasurer Says Not So Fast…

Posted on June 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Governor LePage’s communication skills, and perhaps that of his office, continue to show need of some serious work.

So, let’s take it from the top.

First, the Governor publicly vetoed LD 1546 on May 24. Here is the letter, dated May 23, sent to the 126th Legislature.

Then last Friday (June 14), the Governor sent out the following press release. It needs to be noted that the stresses within the letter are exactly as released by LePage’s office:

    Governor Signs Hospital Bill, Makes Good on Promise to Maine People

    AUGUSTA – After promising the people of Maine he would pay Maine’s hospitals, Governor Paul R. LePage has made good on that promise. More than 150 days after first introducing his plan to pay Maine’s $484 million in hospital debt, the Governor finally had the opportunity Friday to sign LD 1555 “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals and To Provide for a New Spirits Contract.” He did so with little fanfare citing “it’s simply the right thing to do.”

    “Paying our bills is the right thing to do, it’s just unfortunate that Democrats waited so long to make the right decision for the people of Maine,” Governor LePage said.

    On January 15, Governor LePage announced his plan to pay $484 million in unpaid Medicaid bills – debt dating back to 2009 – to Maine hospitals. In March, Democrats proposed a “new” hospital plan, which was rejected in Committee. Democrats also claimed the Governor’s bill was unconstitutional before holding the bill up in Committee and refusing to allow a vote. Furthermore, Democrats tried tying Medicaid expansion to the hospital bill in late May, a strategy the Governor vetoed on May 23.

    With $484 million debt erased, the Governor said he will issue voter-authorized bonds, including $51.5 million for transportation infrastructure improvements and $53.5 million for conservation, clean water upgrades, and construction and energy efficiency at post-secondary educational institutions.

    In a letter dated May 23, Governor LePage requested the State Treasurer to start preparing those bonds for his signature.

    “Lastly, as I have said all along, once we have our fiscal house in order, we will be in a position to release the authorized bonds. As a measure of good faith, I am hereby directing the State Treasurer to begin to prepare those bonds for my signature on an expedited basis. I will sign them as soon as this new Governor’s Bill is enacted. I hope she will act quickly to ensure our economy can get back to work,” he wrote.

    The Governor has not yet received any information from the Office of the Treasurer.

    Governor LePage has consistently said that it is irresponsible to issue new debt without a credible plan to pay the State’s outstanding debts.

Yesterday morning, Maine State Treasurer Neria Douglass sent out a press release of her own:

    State Treasurer continues ready to prepare General Obligation Bonds; Calls on Governor to sign budget; Calls on Governor to sign TEFRA sign-offs

    AUGUSTA — State Treasurer Neria Douglass stands ready to issue bonds that were authorized by Maine voters in June 2010 and November 2012 as she has been since being sworn in January 7, 2013. The first step in the process is receiving clear financial information on what is planned and ready. “Yesterday we asked agencies what projects are on deck. When we hear back, we can restart the investments that were stopped in June 2012.”

    Yesterday, the Maine Information Statement (IS) on current finances and other fiscal matters was made public on the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) website through the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) service. This information is used in preparing bonds, and is up to date right now.

    “Interest rates are beginning to rise. I hope the Governor will encourage quick turnaround of information. And the construction season began weeks ago. I am ready when he gets us the information we need for sound financial planning,” (said Douglass).

    The more time passes, the more work is required to update the Maine IS that is current through May 16, 2013, supplemented to May 30th, and is required to issue bonds.

    The Maine Governmental Facilities Authority (MGFA) used the Maine IS to successfully issue lease revenue bonds that sold yesterday, June 13, 2013. The money will be used to complete the Augusta Courthouse and to renovate the Machias Courthouse. The Maine Judicial System asked to have the funds for immediate work in June 2013.

    “When evaluating the actual repayment schedule, I saw that Maine would save $1.9M in FY 2014-2015 due to lower costs than originally estimated. I notified all members of the Appropriations committee last week. I love helping Maine and those working for positive change,” said State Treasurer Neria Douglass.

    “I call on the Governor to quickly sign the budget just passed responsibly by two-thirds of the Legislature. The rating agencies and financial markets will not look favorably on his actions if he delays or vetoes it.”

    Ratings on current outstanding bonds are set and will not change, but ratings on new issues could be negatively impacted by conflict between the Governor and the Legislature. “As I said in January, we can fix this by working together.”

    Other projects in Maine are financed by moral obligation bonds that have also been held hostage by the Governor. They need his sign-off. The Maine Health and Higher Education Facilities Authority (MEHEFA), which funds education and hospital projects, and the Maine Housing Authority (MHA), which funds affordable housing projects, are two examples. The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) requires a sign-off, which is performed by the Governor in Maine. This is a ministerial duty he is required to perform just as the Treasurer is required to sign checks for bills that are properly due (In New York City, for instance, bonds of the New York Industrial Development Agency have a sign-off by the Mayor. See Step 6 at http://www.nycedc.com/nycida/application-process).

    “Today I call on the Governor to sign the TEFRA notices that have been waiting since last fall. Let’s work together to get Maine back to work while interest rates are still low.”

    The Governor has not written to the State Treasurer on these topics. In a veto message to the Legislature he mentions the State Treasurer.

    “A veto message to the Legislature is not the right way to communicate with me,”
    said State Treasurer Neria Douglass. “I expect the courtesy of direct, respectful communication on the important financial needs and conditions of the State. Frankly, the ball is in his court, as we asked his people for information yesterday.”

A letter requesting more information from the Governor’s office yesterday morning has not yet (6pm June 18) received a response; the same letter got the following quick reply from Neria Douglass, with additional information.

Her replies:

    “The Governor has not written to me. He sent an email copy of his veto of the first hospital payment bill that included accepting the federal Affordable Care Act MaineCare expansion. We asked what cash is needed to restart the projects he stopped last year.”

    Neria R Douglass JD CIA

She sent a second email, moments later:

    “Someone on his staff sent a copy. I am ready. We, MGFA, sold bonds for the court house renovations in Augusta and Machias Thursday, June 13, 2013. We don’t bond until he has the projects ready to go.”

    Neria R Douglass JD CIA

Among the information attached was a letter dated May 31 from the Treasurer’s office to Democratic leadership, outlining the status of the previously mentioned bonds.

Here are the emails sent back and forth between Treasurer Douglass’ office and that of Governor LePage:

1. Email from the Governor’s office to Treasurer Douglass

    Date: Thu, 23 May 2013 13:51:19 -0400
    From: “Libby, Lance”
    To: “Douglass, Neria R”
    CC: “Cianchette, Michael”
    Subject: LD 1546 Veto Message

    “Dear Treasurer Douglass,

    Per Michael Cianchette, attached please find the veto message for LD 1546. Please feel free to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.

    Thank you,

    Lance Libby”
    Legislative Policy Coordinator
    Office of Governor Paul R. LePage

2. Letter from Acting Deputy State Treasurer to Carlton et al

    From: Carlow, Kristi L.
    Sent: Thursday, June 13, 2013 8:18 PM
    To: Carlton, Aimee M.; Garland, Denise; Johnson, Deborah; Jean, Rosalyn R; Feinstein, Judith A.; Mckenna, Mike; Mohney, Kirk; DeHaan, Dirk; Cusick, Debi; ‘darlab@maine.edu’
    Cc: Rodriguez, Timothy; Douglass, Neria R
    Subject: Requests for Bond Funds
    Importance: High

    “Good evening. In preparation for the continuation of bond projects, please take this opportunity to review your anticipated FY14 cash needs for authorized bond projects. Using the attached spreadsheet, indicate your monthly estimates and forward it back to me as soon as possible, but no later than 6/21/13. You might want to contact your Budget Analyst soon to verify that you will have sufficient allotment when funds are released, as well.

    Until we can evaluate departmental needs (from your responses), we will not know when it will be necessary to issue the actual bonds, but we anticipate the cash pool will have sufficient capacity to fund your cash needs for now. For those of you that will be requesting 018 Funds, I will send along the Departmental Certificate soon for completion.

    Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you!”

    Kristi L. Carlow

    Acting Deputy State Treasurer
    Office of the State Treasurer
    111 Sewall St., 3rd Floor
    39 State House Station
    Augusta ME 04333-0039

3. Follow up letter by Acting Deputy State Treasurer Carlow to same

Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2013 12:56:59

    “Just to clarify, we are not moving forward at this point. This preliminary step will simply allow us to be slightly more prepared when the Governor allows projects to move forward. Thank you.”

    Kristi L. Carlow

    Acting Deputy State Treasurer

So, it doesn’t look like the delays are the fault of either the Treasurer nor that of Democrats- but rather that of the LePage Administration.

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(UPDATED W/VIDEO) Maine’s First Mass Same Sex Marriage Ceremony Conducted At Southern Maine Pride Festival

Posted on June 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

UPDATE: Here is a rather shaky video of the ceremony.

Rob Hopkins and Michael George from Pennsylvania, before their wedding.

Rob Hopkins and Michael George, visiting from Pennsylvania, decided to get married in Maine. The couple has been together for 18 years.

As the country awaits SCOTUS’s decision regarding DOMA, ten happy couples decided to tie the knot before family, friends, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and thousands of their closest supporters at this past weekend’s 27th Annual Southern Maine Pride Parade and Festival at Deering Oaks.

The theme of this year’s event, “Marry Me”, was in honor of the 2012 marriage equality law that went into effect last December and the first same sex couple married in Maine, Portland’s own Michael Snell and Steven Bridges, were honorary marshals of the parade proceeding the wedding ceremony. The grand marshal for this year’s parade was Bethel resident Richard Blanco, who was the inaugural poet at President Barack Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in last January.

Rob Hopkins of Pennsylvania, who had been in a relationship with his fiance for 18 years, said the couple decided to travel specifically to Maine to exchange vows: “We came to get married because Maine recognizes gay marriage. Maine is a beautiful state.”

More from the happy couples via Portland Press Herald:

    Chris Fleuriel and Chris Andre of Brunswick said the mass wedding was a perfect way to celebrate Maine’s gay marriage law. They said the public ceremony spared them a lot of complicated wedding preparations.

    “We know a lot of our friends will be here so this keeps it real simple. We just emailed our friends,” Fleuriel said.

    Ryan Pearson and Michael Nadeau of Portland

    Ryan Pearson and Michael Nadeau of Portland

    Ivy Gibbs and Courtney Vandermartin of Portland, who got engaged in November, said that when they heard about the mass wedding, they knew they had to take part.

    “It is nice to know everyone is supporting us,” said Vandermartin, who planned to take her new spouse’s last name.

Ryan Pearson, who had been engaged for four years to Michael Nadeau, said the two decided the day before to get married as part of the mass wedding: “It was very last minute.”

After the ceremony, Mayor Brennan read a proclamation, recognizing June 15, 2013 as Southern Maine Pride Day.

proclamation

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Silly Season Continues in Augusta, As Fredette Mansplains and Hamper Croons Hotel California

Posted on June 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATED: Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough)’s “American Pie” speech had some jaws dropping in the House.

Some days, one only needs a camera and popcorn when reporting on the Legislature…

MPA captured this moment from the floor of the House, in which Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) explained in an especially sexist and misogynistic, out-dated and irrelevant way his objections to LD 1066, the Medicaid expansion bill, that later went viral:

    “As I listen to the debate today and earlier debate on this bill, I can’t help but think of a title of a book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And it’s a book about the fact that men sort of think one way in their own brain, in their own world. And women think another way in their own brain and in their own world. And it really talks about the way that men and women can do a better job at communicating.

    Because if you listen to the debate today, in my mind — a man’s mind — I hear two fundamental issues. From the other side of the aisle, I hear the conversation being about: free. ‘This is free, we need to take it, and it’s free. And we need to do it now.’ And that’s the fundamental message that my brain receives. Now, my brain, being a man’s brain, sort of thinks differently, because I say, well, it’s not — if it’s free, is it really free? Because I say, in my brain, there’s a cost to this.”

MPA, who shared the above clip, had this response from organizer Jennie Pirkl:

    “This isn’t about women and men; it’s about life and death. Rep. Fredette would probably say that I only think this way because of my ‘woman’s brain’, but I find it incredibly distasteful for him to use offensive, gender-based stereotypes to advance his anti-health care agenda,” said Maine People’s Alliance Health Care Organizer Jennie Pirkl.

    “What’s more, he’s lying about the bill. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation admits that accepting federal health care funding will save the state $690 million over the next decade while providing health care coverage for 70,000 more Maine people.”

To say that Fredett’e choice in tone and language in delivering his floor speech got some national attention would be an understatement… Think Progress picked it up immediately and from there, well… Jezebel had a bunch of fun with it!

Democratic Underground was next… and then Rachel Maddow:

    For the record, Fredette, the leader of Maine Republicans in the state House, did not appear to be kidding.

    After having watched it a couple of times, I’m still not sure what this state lawmaker is trying to say. Does he believe women are confused by federal-state partnerships in providing health care benefits? Does he think men necessarily oppose Medicaid expansion because of their male brains? Fredette certainly seems to be under the impression that he — with his “man’s mind” — is better able to understand health care costs that women apparently can’t see.

    And if that is what Fredette believes, there may be something wrong with his brain.

    As for the politics of this, I’m beginning to wonder if some kind of secret memo went out to Republican policymakers, telling them to be as offensive as possible so that women vote Democratic in even larger numbers. Just consider the recent evidence.

    For what it’s worth, later in the day, Fredette apologized for his “inartful” remarks. His man’s brain apparently came to realize he’d made an embarrassing mistake.

Rep. Diane Rusell, wearing her  "FIGHT LIKE A GIRL" pin on her lapel.

Rep. Diane Rusell, wearing her “FIGHT LIKE A GIRL” pin on her lapel.

Then we have Slate. And Huffington Post. And Glamour.

Political Wire. National Memo.

This list goes on and on…

As Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) said, blasting Fredette’s remarks:

    “I thought it was 2013, not 1813. Apparently, I was wrong.”

Word to the wise: Do NOT click on the Jezebel link and read that while recording video live on the floor of the House, like I did- think I bit right through my lip, trying to keep quiet!

Onward to the Senate…

This has got to be one of the strangest moments I personally have witnessed, bar none, in the Senate. Not sure if Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) was denouncing Medicaid expansion or if he thought it was Karaoke Night!

Who would have thought that an Eagles song, released in 1976, was in actuality penned as a take-down argument against Medicaid expansion…

The quoted lyrics:

    “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
    Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
    Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
    My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
    I had to stop for the night”

    “There she stood in the doorway;
    I heard the mission bell
    And I was thinking to myself,
    “This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”

    “Mirrors on the ceiling,
    The pink champagne on ice
    And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”

    “And in the master’s chambers,
    They gathered for the feast
    They stab it with their steely knives,
    But they just can’t kill the beast”

    “Last thing I remember, I was
    Running for the door
    I had to find the passage back
    To the place I was before
    “Relax, ” said the night man,
    “We are programmed to receive.
    You can check-out any time you like,
    But you can never leave! ”

Oh, to have one of the Democratic Senators stand and deliver the line: “You can’t hide your lying eyes”… or even better, this.

A reminder: Session supposedly ends this week. Stay tuned!

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