Archive for February 4th, 2014

Boomerang Bills: Medicaid Expansion, Revenue Sharing- Now Right to Work?

Posted on February 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

In 2011, Maine Governor Paul LePage made noises similar to many other tea party colleagues around the country by introducing so-called “right to work” (anti-union) bills LD 309 and LD 788. Both died in committee and never got to a 125th Legislative floor vote.

Paul LePageLast year the 126th legislature took up a variety of highly politicized and much discussed pieces of legislation that ultimately failed to garner enough support to override the ever active veto pen of Governor Paul LePage, including LDs 1546 (the combined hospital payment, liquor contract and Medicaid expansion effort) and 1066 (the stand-alone Medicaid expansion bill).

The governor’s 2013 budget included at its very foundation a complete removal of municipal revenue sharing, which ultimately was decided by lawmakers as LD 1509. LePage had long threatened to veto his own budget if Appropriations amended it, so it came as no surprise when he did so, but had the 126th legislature not come together to override the veto last June (Roll calls here for Senate and House) Maine would have faced its first government shutdown in decades.

LePage then warned legislators that he didn’t intend to change his focus, not one bit:

    Playing politics is easy; governing effectively is hard. As Chief Executive, I take my responsibilities on behalf of the people of Maine seriously.

    Our Administration has worked hard to change the attitude within government and has brought more transparency to government than any recent administration. We work with citizens and businesses to solve problems. We strive to be efficient and responsible with taxpayer dollars. And we only introduce public policy that benefits Mainers and our state.

    I do not form opinions about policy based on party lines. Our Administration identifies the problem, reviews the options, and develops a plan. I stand by my principles and I don’t know any other way than to fight for what I believe in.

    Maine has challenging issues that must be addressed. While we have the lowest unemployment rate in years, we need to become more competitive.

    Electricity prices must be lowered and government spending must be curbed. I want Maine businesses to have the opportunity to thrive and create new jobs, and I want you to keep your hard-earned money not give it to government.

    Furthermore, the taxes the Legislature just raised on you were completely unnecessary.

Fast forward to now the second half of the 126th session- and once again, all three have come flying back into Augusta.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

It started with the reintroduction of a pair of Medicaid expansion bills offered by Speaker of the House Mark Eves (LD 1578) and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (LD 1640).

Then on January 17, there was a public hearing before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on LR 2721,“An Act Related to the Report of the Tax Expenditure Review Task Force”, which would work to restore revenue sharing between the state and local municipalities. More than 80 Maine municipalities and schools originally passed resolutions opposing Paul LePage’s revenue sharing elimination earlier in the session; while the passed budget offset some of the damage and monies lost, millions of dollars are predicted to be further cut from their budgets. The legislative resolution was offered by AFA Co-Chairs Senator Dawn Hill (D-York) and Representative Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston).

Among those speaking in support of the Democratic proposal were mayors, town managers, city employees, school board members and more. Dozens of people came from around the state to speak in the extremely long session; here are links to videos taken of some of the testimonies:

Presque Isle
Oakland (Note: Maine Municipal Association President)
Brewer, second Brewer clip

Other towns that submitted testimony include Auburn, Lewiston, Bangor, Milo, Lincoln, Marshfield, Charlotte, Alfred, Fryeburg, Bridgton, South Berwick, Woolwich, St Agathe, Palmyra, Portland and South Bristol. Members from the Maine State Employees Union, Maine Municipal Association and Aroostook Municipal Association spoke as well.

A work session on the measure scheduled for yesterday abruptly ended when all of the Republican Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee members left the State House last night before the committee chairs had declared the session concluded. Democrats decided to vote the measure forward to the Legislature, 7-0:

    Monday evening was one of those rare occasions when the committee “broke up,” to paraphrase State House parlance. Details are a bit fuzzy, but the dispute centers on L.R. 2721 a proposal that would forestall a $40 million cut in municipal revenue sharing by, at least as originally proposed, reducing or eliminating an identical amount in tax breaks But on Monday, Democrats on the committee voted out a bill that would prevent the revenue sharing cut by tapping the state’s rainy day fund and income tax relief fund.

    Both funding mechanisms are likely non-starters for Republicans, which may be why none were there for the vote. Actually, it’s not clear why the Republicans weren’t there.

    According to Democratic press statements and tweets, Republicans “refused” vote on the bill, or they “took a walk.” Democrats also sent out statements that said they “kept their promise” to Maine’s municipalities, while noting that Republicans were absent.

    Meanwhile, according to Republican press statements, the Democrats on the panel told their Republican colleagues that they weren’t voting until Tuesday, but waited until they left and went ahead and did it anyway. The headline in the Maine House GOP release began with “disgrace;” the GOP Senate release said it was a “stunning maneuver.” Republicans also sent out photos and a video of the Democrats voting on the proposal.

NOTE: This is a story still in progress, as both parties continue to level accusations at each other and no doubt, there will be mention of this event in tonight’s State of the State address by Governor LePage. The latest statement by Democratic leaders:

Justin Alfond, Mark Eves

    “Democratic committee members proudly took their vote yesterday; a vote that keeps the state’s 40 year promise and will help prevent massive property tax spikes and cuts to essential services,” said Alfond. “In this business, you have to stand up and be counted. And the Republicans didn’t do that. Worse, they lied. We expect to have policy disagreements but not this: they have disparaged the integrity of many hard working lawmakers and we cannot sit quietly as they attempt to do so. Mainers are counting on us to work together and do better.”

There is also now word that right-to-work legislation is likely to be among the topics LePage will touch upon in tonight’s address. This has been a rumor for a few weeks now, but yesterday there was some discussion at a pair of leadership press conferences of a potential idea being bandied around of swapping right-to-work legislation for Medicaid expansion.
As a reminder: Governor LePage tried to cut a deal with DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebellius regarding expansion earlier and was turned down flat.

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Dems, GOP Leaders Hold Matching Pre-LePage State of the State Press Conferences

Posted on February 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

In a rather unusual move yesterday, legislative leadership from both parties held press conferences before Governor Paul LePage gives his annual State of the State address tonight, with points that contradicted each other’s stands on whether or not the LePage administration has helped or harmed Maine, whether or not the policies of the Governor have been effective, whether or not there has been economic progress made, etc.

One interesting exchange that media picked up on was whether or not there have been quid pro quo discussions between LePage and leadership of both parties regarding right-to-work legislation and Medicaid expansion.

Here are full video clips from each meeting.

First, Democratic leaders Senate Majority Troy Jackson and House Majority Leader Seth Berry:

    “Governor LePage has divided Maine and pitted us against each other. He’s insulted us and turned Maine into a punch line on the nightly talk shows. Instead of offering solutions to poverty and unemployment, his administration has vilified and shamed working people,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “He hasn’t done right by the people, but tomorrow night, he has an opportunity to offer solutions to problems, instead of the same old political rhetoric.”

    “These are complex problems that require the Legislature and the governor to come together to craft meaningful solutions,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “Instead, Governor LePage has offered stale political rhetoric, or remained silent on some of the most pressing issues facing his administration, from the struggles of the middle class to federal investigations to department mismanagement.”

    “There are two federal inquiries looking into the actions of his people at the Department of Labor and the CDC,” added Senator Jackson. “And where does he stand? Who knows? He’s remained silent. Well, he won’t be silent tomorrow night. And he shouldn’t be. It’s time to be accountable.”

Next, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Senator Ron Collins (York):

Although not present, a statement by Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau was distributed to the press as part of a joint release from Fredette’s office:

    “Governor LePage’s reforms have significantly reduced Maine’s unemployment rate and the drop is because the people are finding jobs, not quitting the search,” said Rep. Fredette, referring to the December jobs report showing Maine’s 6.2% employment rate and higher than average employment to population ratio. “With reforms to Maine’s tax, welfare, regulatory, and energy policies, we are finally seeing economic growth after decades of Democratic party rule.”

    “Democrats are proposing to expand the very welfare program that has given us a budget shortfall as is responsible for racking up the massive hospital debt that Gov. Lepage and the Republican lawmakers pushed to pay off,” said Sen. Mike Thibodeau. “Gov. LePage has made it clear that he’s focused on making Medicaid work for the disabled Mainers that it was originally meant to help, not able-bodied adults, and I think we can expect him to make that argument Tuesday night.”

The GOP press release concluded by reminding that the State of the State Address can be watched on MPBN, without mention of the efforts the LePage administration made to slash funding for MPBN years ago.

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(UPDATED) Bellows Scores Huge Progressive Change Campaign Committee Endorsement In Senate Upset Race

Posted on February 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

UPDATED: Nationally acclaimed Washington DC based newspaper The Hill has picked up on this endorsement and run a story on it. Locally, mid-coast Maine’s The TimesRecord ran an editorial, Collins Vs. Bellows. It’s A Race.

The Bellows campaign issued this statement upon hearing about the endorsement:

    “I will be a champion of civil liberties, and I am honored to receive the endorsement of a group that helped propel Elizabeth Warren to victory. Today’s endorsement builds on the grassroots momentum that we are seeing on the ground here in Maine,” said Shenna Bellows, Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. “Like the PCCC, our campaign is supported by thousands of real Mainers who think it’s time for change in Washington. We are building a movement for positive change to restore constitutional freedoms, advance economic fairness, and protect the environment.”

Shenna Bellows and senior staff members at new Augusta campaign office.

Shenna Bellows and senior staff members at new Augusta campaign office.

Big news this morning of an important national endorsement for Maine Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows– via press release:

    Progressive Change Campaign Committee Endorses Shenna Bellows In Key Senate Upset Race

      Shenna Bellows Outraises Susan Collins In Latest Fundraising Quarter.

      PCCC Calls Bellows “The Elizabeth Warren Of Civil Liberties.”

      Vows To “Expand the Map.”

    Today, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) is endorsing Shenna Bellows for the U.S. Senate in a key Senate upset race against Republican incumbent Susan Collins. In the latest fundraising quarter, Shenna Bellows outraised Susan Collins. Collins reported $314,921 for the quarter while Bellows raised $331,454. Over 80% of Bellows’ contributions were $100 or less.

    “We call Shenna Bellows the ‘Elizabeth Warren of civil liberties’ because she’s campaigning boldly on constitutional freedom and economic populism,” said PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor. “Like Elizabeth Warren’s challenge to former Sen. Scott Brown, many insiders thought Susan Collins was unbeatable. Until now.”

    Today’s national endorsement and fundraising email to PCCC members is copied below. The PCCC is fundraising for Shenna Bellows’ campaign from it’s membership base of over 5,700 members in Maine and nearly 1 million members across the country.

    During the 2012 election cycle, the PCCC members raised over 2.7 million dollars for candidates through 250,000 small-dollar donations including hundreds of thousands of dollars for multiple House campaigns. PCCC members made over 2 million calls to voters for progressive candidates. Over 30 PCCC-endorsed campaigns won, including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for U.S. Senate and Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Keith Ellison (D-MN) for Congress. See the full record of PCCC victories here.

Here is the email fundraiser being circulated by PCCC:


HUFFINGTON POST REPORTS: Democrat Shenna Bellows Raised More Money Than Republican Sen. Susan Collins Last Quarter!

Collins helped block the public option, strong Wall Street reform, and protections for seniors and veterans.

Control of the U.S. Senate is at stake in 2014, and this insurgent progressive could defeat Maine’s Republican senator!

donate 3We’re proud to endorse Shenna Bellows for Senate. Help “expand the map” and win this key race — donate $3 to Shenna today!

Shenna is former Executive Director of the Maine ACLU.

We call Shenna Bellows the “Elizabeth Warren of civil liberties” because she’s campaigning boldly on constitutional freedom and economic populism.

Shenna believes in repealing the Patriot Act, expanding Social Security, and holding Wall Street accountable.

She raised a whopping $331,454, and over 80% of contributions were $100 or less!

bellowslogotransShenna is running a grassroots campaign, fueled by lots of people. “One of the biggest threats to our democracy is big money in politics, so it is refreshing to see that grassroots giving from real people can triumph over corporate interests,” Bellows told the Huffington Post.

Can you donate $3 to elect Shenna Bellows to the U.S. Senate? Click here.

Thanks for being a bold progressive.

— Stephanie Taylor, PCCC co-founder

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