Archive for April, 2014

(UPDATED x3) Maine Gov Paul LePage To Reintroduce LD 1811, War on Drugs Bill, as Emergency Measure on Veto Day (May 1)

Posted on April 30, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

(UPDATED x3) Governor LePage has just announced that he plans to reintroduce LD 1811, “An Act To Appropriate and Allocate Funds To Strengthen the State’s Efforts To Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes”, tomorrow as an emergency bill. Here is the press release:

      Governor Finds Funding to Pay For New Drug Enforcement Agents, Judges, Prosecutors
      Bill will go to Legislature on Thursday

    AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage will propose emergency legislation to fund his initiative to fight drug crime by adding Maine Drug Enforcement Agents, judges and prosecutors, which was a major initiative he outlined in his State of the State Address.

    Governor LePage takes media questions on LD 1811 during March 2014 press conference.

    Governor LePage takes media questions on LD 1811 during March 2014 press conference.

    “Although my proposal was widely supported, it died when the Appropriations Committee failed to fund it,” said the Governor. “But this issue is much too important to let die. I am pleased that we have found the funding to help combat the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. We cannot wait any longer. We must act now to crack down on drug dealers and make our streets safe for Maine families.”

    The Governor will propose using revenue in the Unclaimed Property Fund account to pay for LD 1811, “An Act to Appropriate and Allocate Funds to Strengthen the State’s Efforts to Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes.” LD 1811 would add 10 new MDEA agents, two new District Court judges, deputy marshals and assistant clerks, and two prosecutors in the Attorney General’s office.

    In addition, the bill would provide $750,000 to augment existing drug addiction treatment programs. The total cost of the proposal is about $2.5 million.

    The proposal initially had broad bipartisan support in the Legislature, and it won endorsement from the judicial branch and law enforcement agencies across the state.

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(UPDATED x2) On April 4, NBC Nightly News ran an in-depth story by national correspondent Kate Snow on the FDA approving opiate antidote Evzio. It featured paramedics in Portland, discussing using life-saving heroin antidote Nalaxone, also known as Narcan to save lives. A portion of that story focused on Maine Governor Paul LePage’s opposition to non-medical personnel having access to Narcan, with a clip from the press conference seen below.

NBC reporter Kate Snow asks Governor LePage about his opposition to Nalaxone.

NBC reporter Kate Snow asks Governor LePage about his opposition to Nalaxone.

One quote from Governor LePage on the topic has drawn much attention and summarized his views:

    “I think we need to treat, Let’s deal with the treatment, the proper treatment and not say, Go overdose, and oh, by the way, if you do I’ll be there to save you. I think we need to deal with the bigger, basic problem of drug addiction, drug trafficking and drug abuse in the state. That’s all I’m interested in.”

This morning, NBC’s Today Show again featured quotes from the same press conference as part of Snow’s ongoing report on heroin addiction:

    Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the medication. At a press conference on Maine’s drug problem, the governor was adamant that only medical professionals should have access to Narcan.

    “It’s an escape,” Gov. Paul LePage told NBC News. “It’s an excuse to stay addicted. I think we need to deal with the treatment, the proper treatment and not be saying, “go overdose and oh, by the way, if you do, I’ll be there to save you.”

But in a stunning move, NBC is reporting the governor’s office told them yesterday that LePage is reversing course and no longer opposing access to the antidote:

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9am UPDATE: Via Sun Journal’s Scott Thistle is a clip of former Cumberland County Sheriff Rep. Mark Dion, speaking in more depth to the issues raised by the governor during the press conference and elaborating on his own remarks found below.

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(Originally posted 3/12/14)

DSC_0032Governor Paul LePage yesterday held a press conference in his Cabinet Room to announce that he has submitted legislation to provide funding for 22 new state employee positions to fight Maine’s drug addiction and trafficking problems: 4 new hires within the Judicial Branch, 14 for the Department of Public Safety and four additional Assistant AGs. The move is part of his State of the State address promise to toughen up on Maine’s drug laws and enforcement.

With Attorney General Janet Mills, Cumberland County DA Stephanie Anderson, MDEA head Roy McKinney and law enforcement officers from around Maine in attendance, the governor spoke to and again listed statistics regarding the large number of Maine babies that are born addicted, criticized the state’s methadone clinics and called marijuana a “gateway drug”, a claim supported and expanded upon by DA Anderson when it was her turn at the podium.

Some quotes of LePage:

    “The methadone clinics in the state of Maine are an absolute dismal failure.”

    “I’m not here to say that eradicating the drug trafficking trade is a silver bullet. We still have the addiction efforts. This is a full-blown business activity, and we’ve allowed it to go from a little bit of heroin for your buddy to a commercial enterprise. We need to break the commercial enterprise. This is, we want to get the people who bring the poison into the state, we want to get them off the streets.”

The governor also managed to get in a few political digs regarding Medicaid expansion:

    “We must confront this troubling epidemic. While some are spending all their time trying to expand welfare, we are losing the war on drugs.”

LD 1811, “An Act To Appropriate and Allocate Funds To Strengthen the State’s Efforts To Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes” is sponsored by Sen. Gary Plummer (R-Cumberland) and while it beefs up enforcement and the drug courts, there are no provisions or mention within the bill as will be presented to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee in regards to medical treatment for addicts, education or counselling.

Some Democrats voiced their opinions on LePage’s approach:

Asst Majority Leader Senator Anne Haskell (D-Cumberland):

    “There are Mainers who today, are living drug-free lives — and the reason for that is the treatment required by the oversight of the drug court. I am pleased to see more resources allocated to the drug courts. However, they are only half the answer. We simply are not going to arrest our way out of drug addiction.”

Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) agreed:

    “The governor does not have a track record of supporting prevention and treatment. We want to hear about what he will do on those fronts. We should all be able to agree that we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of Maine’s drug problems.”

Rep. Mark Dion (D-South Portland), a former Cumberland County Sheriff and House Chair of the CJPS Committee:

    “Where we part ways is he’s offering part of a solution. Judges and prosecutors that don’t have the resources to intervene in the addiction cycle will only guarantee more arrests and more detentions at our correctional facilities, which are already under stress.”

Maine Gov Paul LePage Presents LD 1811, War on Drugs Bill, in Press Conference

Roy McKinney, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Director, Speaks in Support of LePage Plan

Cumberland County DA Stephanie Anderson Speaks in Support of LD 1811, Gov LePage War on Drugs Bill

Conclusion of LePage War on Drugs Press Conference; Q&A with Press

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Some parsed out moments:

1. ME Gov Paul LePage: Marijuana a “Gateway Drug”

    Reporter: “Governor, can you talk about how the push to legalize marijuana in Portland and possibly statewide affects this? Is it a separate issue?”

    LePage: “Yeah, it’s a separate issue. I think what they are doing in Portland is against federal law and the state law- I don’t condone it. I think… I will tell you, I’m not a user, so I don’t know what it does… but everybody that has experience with it is telling me it is a gateway drug. If it is a gateway drug, it’s certainly not helping the situation.”

2. LePage: Narloxone in home is “excuse to stay addicted”

3. Medicaid Expansion Question/ Drug Abuse Tie In Question by Susan Alexa

4. Press sings Happy Birthday to LePage press secretary Adrienne Bennett

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May 1 aka “Veto Day” Score Card: 30, no, 46, wait- 48- And Counting

Posted on April 29, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATE x2: 15 vetoes on Friday became 30 on Monday, then became 46 on Tuesday as Paul LePage’s veto spree continues with no end in sight.

Wednesday: Now at 48 with LDs 1043 and 1744 added so far.

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lepage sots angry selfGovernor Paul LePage held true to his vow during last weekend’s GOP Convention in Bangor regarding vetoes and added 15 new ones to the existing stack of 15 previous ones for the 126th Legislature to wade through when they reconvene on Thursday. Here is the list so far; no doubt that this list will be updated as more are thrown back to legislators.

So far, LePage has vetoed 163 bills. The previous high water mark was Jim Longley’s 118.

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1. LD 38, “Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 201: Provider of Last Resort Service Quality, a Major Substantive Rule of the Public Utilities Commission”

2. LD 1431, “An Act To Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy”

3. LD 1719, “An Act To Improve Education about and Awareness of Maine’s Health Laws and Resources”

4. LD 1747, “Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 180: Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education”

5. LD 1761, “An Act To Ensure That Large Public Utility Reorganizations Advance the Economic Development and Information Access Goals of the State”

6. LD 1806, “An Act To Implement the Recommendations Contained in the State Government Evaluation Act Review of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System”

7. LD 1816, “An Act To Address Recommendations from the Report by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability Regarding the Public Utilities Commission”

8. LD 1820, “An Act To Reduce Abuse of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program through Restriction of Electronic Benefits Transfers”

9. LD 1851, “An Act To Delay Implementation of the Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act and Related Statutory Provisions”

10. LD 1829, “An Act To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Report Annually on Investigations and Prosecutions of False Claims Made under the MaineCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Food Supplement Programs”

11. LD 1821, “An Act To Implement Recommendations of the Right To Know Advisory Committee”

Paul LePage12. LD 1809, “An Act Concerning Meetings of Boards of Trustees and Governing Bodies of Quasi-municipal Corporations and Districts That Provide Water, Sewer and Sanitary Services”

13. LD 1479, “An Act to Clarify Telecommunications Regulation Reform”

14. LD 1858, “An Act to Achieve the Savings Required under Part F of the Biennial Budget and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law for Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015”

15. LD 1468, “Resolve, Directing the Public Utilities Commission To Study the Potential Benefits and Barriers Involved in Making Renewable Thermal Technologies Eligible for Qualification in Maine’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard”

16. LD 1120, “An Act To Improve Maine’s Tax Laws”

17. LD 1247, “An Act To Expand Coverage of Family Planning Services”

18. LD 1772, “Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 200: Metallic Mineral Exploration, Advanced Exploration and Mining, a Late-filed Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Environmental Protection”

19. LD 1794, “An Act To Cancel the No-bid Alexander Group Contract To Produce Savings in Fiscal Year 2013-14”

20. LD 1641, “An Act To Amend the Workers’ Compensation Laws as They Pertain to Employee Representation”

21. LD 1729, “An Act To Increase the Period of Time for the Calculation of a Prior Conviction for Operating Under the Influence”

22. LD 347, “An Act To Amend Insurance Coverage for Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders”

23. LD 906, “An Act to Permit a School Administrative Unit Discretion Concerning Participation of Students from Charter Schools in School Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities”

24. LD 1600, “An Act to Require Health Insurers to Provide Coverage for Human Leukocyte Antigen Testing to Establish Bone Marrow Donor Transplantation Suitability”

25. LD 1463, “A Resolve to Develop a Process for Tax Expenditure Review”

26. LD 1194, “An Act to Protect Social Media Privacy in School and in the Workplace”

27. LD 1593, “A Resolve to Eliminate Financial Inequality in MaineCare Reimbursement for Community-based Behavioral Health Services”

28. LD 1345, “A Resolve to Study the Design and Implementation of Options for a Universal Health Care Plan”

29. LD 1185, “An Act to Enhance Efforts to Use Locally Produced Food in Schools”

30. LD 1757, “A Resolve to Establish the Blue Ribbon Commission on Independent Living and Disability”

31. LD 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People”

32. LD 222, “An Act Designating the Chief of the State Police as the Only Issuing Authority of a Permit To Carry a Concealed Handgun”

33. LD 1750, “An Act To Amend the Maine Administrative Procedure Act and Clarify Wind Energy Laws”

34. LD 1640, “An Act To Enhance the Stability and Predictability of Health Care Costs for Returning Veterans and Others by Addressing the Issues Associated with Hospital Charity Care and Bad Debt”

35. LD 1827, “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support Maine Small Business and Job Creation”

36. LD 1837, “An Act To Provide Former Employees of the Maine Military Authority the Ability To Sue for Severance Pay”

37. LD 444, “An Act To Improve Workers’ Compensation Coverage for All Injured Workers”

38. LD 1367, “An Act To Require Health Insurance Carriers and the MaineCare Program To Cover the Cost of Transition Services To Bridge the Gap between High School and Independence”

39. LD 297, “An Act To Require Forest Rangers To Be Trained in Order To Allow Them To Carry Firearms”

40. LD 1824, “An Act To Provide Additional Authority to the State Board of Corrections”

41. LD 440, “An Act To Support Community Health Centers through Tax Credits for Dentists and Primary Care Professionals Practicing in Underserved Areas”

42. LD 933, “An Act To Establish a Separate Regulatory Board for Dental Hygienists”

43. LD 1154, “An Act To Establish the Maine Length of Service Award Program”

44. LD 1310, “An Act To Improve Access to Dental Care through the Establishment of the Maine Board of Oral Health”

45. LD 1850, “Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Strengthen the Adequacy and Equity of Certain Cost Components of the School Funding Formula”

46. LD 1765, “An Act To Establish the Criminal Law Revision Commission”

47. LD 1043, “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue and To Assist in the Creation of Jobs through Regional Economic Development”

48. LD 1744, “An Act To Protect Maine Lakes”

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More BREAKING: Feds Warn LePage Admin Stop EBT Photo ID Rollout, Else Risk Lawsuits, Loss of $$$

Posted on April 25, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Whoopsie. Via Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office:

Feds warn state to stop rollout of EBT photo identification until further review
USDA says not doing so brings threats of lawsuits and loss of funding

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree today voiced her agreement with concerns raised in a letter the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) sent to the state regarding plans to require ID photos on EBT cards.

chellie

    “The USDA’s letter is another message that adding this burden on families and retailers is not the right direction for the state. It doesn’t do anything to prevent fraud, but it does make it harder for people to access the benefits they need to feed their families,” said Pingree. “The USDA clearly said that the state opens itself to a number of risks if it goes forward with this plan, including possible litigation and loss of federal funding. I hope the state takes this as an opportunity to reconsider its plans.”

The letter states that the state has not given USDA enough time to determine whether the state’s implementation plan adequately addresses the agency’s concerns, including whether safeguards are adequate to protect beneficiaries’ rights and how effectively retailers have been notified of changes.

    “Therefore, Maine should delay any implementation until FNS can fully review and approve the State’s plan,” USDA said in its letter. “Given the risk of losing Federal financial participation, as well as the risk for litigation against the State should the State’s implementation of the photo EBT card violate provisions of the Food and Nutrition Act or SNAP regulations, Maine should not rush into implementation.”

Earlier today, Pingree spoke with USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon to voice her concerns about the state’s plans and to ask the agency to give them a thorough review.

Here is the letter:

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BREAKING: LePage Vetoes LD 1858, $32M Supplemental Budget Bill

Posted on April 25, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Late Friday news dump/ breaking news from Augusta, as Governor LePage vetoed LD 1858,“An Act To Achieve the Savings Required under Part F of the Biennial Budget and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law for Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015” moments ago.

The chairs of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, Senator Dawn Hill (D-York) and Rep. Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston) were quick to denounce the Governor’s decision in an issued joint statement:

Senator Dawn Hill and Rep. Peggy Rotundo, chairs of the legislature's Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, listen to testimony at a public hearing.

Senator Dawn Hill and Rep. Peggy Rotundo, chairs of the legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, listen to testimony at a public hearing.

    “For the past two years, Governor LePage has made himself irrelevant to the budget process and this veto letter only proves it. He demonstrates a lack of understanding for what this budget does and how government works. In fact, the very thing he calls a “gimmick” is actually a smart solution and it was proposed by members of his own party,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “I am confident this veto will be overridden. Nearly every lawmaker supported this budget and they will stand by their vote and stand up to another one of Governor LePage’s tantrums. It’s time for the people of Maine to have a real leader to work with.”

    The measure was passed unanimously in the Senate with a vote of 35 to 0 and by a vote of 133 to 8 in the House.


    “Democrats and Republicans worked collaboratively to craft a responsible and life-changing budget for our most vulnerable people with disabilities and for our seniors,”
    said Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “It’s no surprise to see the Governor veto the bipartisan measure. He has refused to participate in solving the state’s budget problems from day one. If he had items he wanted funded or didn’t like our approach, he should have worked with lawmakers.”

    Governor Paul LePage refused to propose a budget despite shortfalls at his Departments, refused to allow his commissioners to provide information to the budget committee in public, and provided inaccurate information on the budget shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services. LePage also never provided a funding source for his drug enforcement plan, which he claims was a top priority.

    The $32 million budget would:

    • Close a $17 million shortfall in the MaineCare program for fiscal year 2015
    • Provide $5 million to reduce and eliminate the Department of Health and Human Services’ wait lists for people with disabilities to get home care services
    • Increase reimbursement rates for nursing homes by $5 million and provides $2 million for the state’s court ordered mental health consent decree
    • Increase funds for safety and security at Riverview Psychiatric Center and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center
    • Invest in key education and workforce training programs, including $650,000 for the Bridge Year program, $300,000 in funding for Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, and $750,000 for Head Start.

Veto letter here:

The bill will now be added with a ever-growing list of others and dealt with by the Legislature on May 1, aka “Veto Day”.

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2nd CD Democratic Candidates Troy Jackson, Emily Cain Answer Questions at Lewiston Forum (VIDEOS)

Posted on April 25, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson answers questions of USM L/A student Jihan Omar on the needs of immigrants.

Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson answers questions of USM L/A student Jihan Omar on the needs of immigrants.

Last night the Androscoggin County Democrats hosted a candidate forum at the L/A USM campus for the open Second Congressional District seat, vacated by Rep. Mike Michaud who is now running for Governor.

Conducted by former Rep. Elaine Makas, the two primary challengers Troy Jackson and Emily Cain were asked questions on a number of topics. While the pair were on similar pages on many of the topics, their styles in approaching their answers appeared to contrast this race most for the large audience in attendance:

    Cain seemed precise and detailed in her responses while Jackson drew on his personal experiences and connections to the working class.

    “Troy reminds me a little more of myself,” said Jimmy McHugh, a retired boilermaker from Mexico. “I love to hear someone like him talk about the struggles I’ve had to go through. He’s a regular guy, like me.”

    Others said they valued Cain’s record in Augusta and her ability to find solutions, broker deals and bring Republicans and Democrats together.

1. Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (Allagash) opening statement:

2. State Senator Emily Cain (Orono) opening statement:

3. Q1 (Healthcare): “Do you feel that healthcare is a human right, and would you support a universal, single payer system? And if so, how would you ensure that everyone would be covered by a single payer system, that no one would be left out because of economic hardship?”

4. Q2 (Veterans 1): “For the past 13 years, we have been at war in Afghanistan and for part of that period with Iraq as well. Millions of Americans answered the call to service during that time and continue to to do in Afghanistan today. Our veterans are equipped with the strength of character, resiliency, and dedication to public service that military service breeds. They have been leaders in the most austere environments, possess the adaptability necessary to overcome adversity and understand how to work as part of a selfless team. Can you please share with us how you would use your position as a Congressman or Congresswoman to help veterans lead successful lives after service and to reach their full potential within their communities and the workforce?”

5. Q3 (Veterans 2): “Recently, the Veterans Administration has been outsourcing its disability claims to expedite the processing of the thousands of backlogged claims for veterans. The goal was to have the claims reviewed within a 3-6 month period. My claim was initiated in April 2013, outsourced to Tacoma, Washington, and has not been reviewed, and contact with them has been impossible. Other veterans are experiencing similar problems. What would you do to address this problem?”

6. Q4 (Seniors): “Some seniors in Maine have only their Social Security checks to live on. The biggest concerns of seniors today is that my Social Security check be in the mail or deposited into my bank account as promised. What would your solution be to strengthen the Social Security Trust fund?”

7. Q5 (Immigration): “Our community has experienced some rapid demographic changes over the past decade or so as African immigrants have relocated to the area. The have been inconsistent response to the arrival of New Mainers both by local leadership and in terms of governmental support. In Lewiston and Auburn most New Mainers are refugees from Africa, primarily Somalia- however, as neither Lewiston nor Auburn is designated as a Primary Resettlement Site, and as many who relocate to this area are Secondary Migrants (in that the have lived in another US city before coming here), neither the immigrants nor the communities in which they settle receive much (if any) governmental support to assist with the burdens of adjusting to life in a new culture and city. What are your plans, as a future Congressperson representing our area, to address the challenging disparities and inadequate support received by our communities with regard to new immigrants?”

8. Q6 (Social Services): “Given that Lewiston and Portland host about 1.000 immigrants who are waiting for permanency or seeking asylum, and given that the only source of support they have in General Assistance, what would you do to either shorten the 180 day wait to be issued a work permit, or otherwise help to get the Feds to help with some benefits for them? This is a very ineffective way to support people until they are allowed to work.”

9. Q7 (Education 1): “In 2015 many school districts in the United States will adapt their curriculum to adhere to a new set of academic standards. Although most states have decided to adopt these standards, these changes are not coming without controversy. The Common Core is an educational initiative that outlines benchmarks in English and math that should be met at the end of each grade level. The goal is to ensure that American high school graduates have received an education that prepares them for higher education or direct entry into the workforce. Do you agree with the Common Core?”

10. Q8 (Education 2): “The $1.2 Trillion college debt crisis is crippling students, driving further inequality, and jeopardizing their and the country’s futures. What can you do to alleviate this situation while also maintaining access to public higher education?”

11. Q9 (Economic): “Maine’s rural counties- all of which are in the 2nd Congressional District- are experiencing persistent high unemployment rates, loss of major industrial employers, an out-migration of young people, high rates of child poverty, low educational attainment, falling real estate values, and the resulting decline in median household income. Explain ideas that you have for reversing these serious demographic trends and improving the economy for rural Maine.”

12. Q10 (Jobs/ Labor 1): “Over the last several decades, a large number of companies in Maine and throughout the nation have moved their operations overseas, mostly to countries where wages are low because unions are weak or nonexistent, and safety and health standards and environmental regulations lax or absent. As a result, many Maine workers have lost good-paying jobs. As a member of the U.S. Congress, what measures would you propose or support to stem this drain?”

13. Q11 (Jobs/ Labor 2): “Hard-working Mainers like us pay taxes, but Wall Street doesn’t. The U.S. used to have a Financial Transaction Tax, like a sales tax for huge corporations. It ended in 1966. A small tax of less than 1/2 of 1% on Wall Street transactions can generate hundreds of billions of dollars every year in the U.S. alone. This could be used for things like healthcare, education and public infrastructure projects. Unions in Maine support this so-called “Robin Hood Tax”. If elected, would you vote for the Financial Transaction Tax, a small financial transaction tax so that Wall Street helps clean up the economic mess it helped create?”

14. Q12 (Infrastructure): “At present, Maine’s freight railroads are privately run and are in need of massive overhaul. Many lines are run at speeds restricted to 10 mph. The only scheduled passenger trains that serve the public are run bu Amtrak, a government-run agency. Those trains can cruise at 80 mph. What would you do to improve the situation?”

15. Q13 (International): “The Obama administration has escalated the use of drone warfare and continued the intellengence agencies’ intrusive surveillance tactics both on foreign leaders and on U.S. citizens, including members of Congress. What measures would you support to ensure the executive branch remain accountable to the American people on matters of national security?”

16. Q14 (Environmental 1): “The International Panel on Climate Change recently put out a report arguing that the global community must act very soon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid catastrophic change by the end of the century, but also noted that the cost of reducing the role of carbon in our economy has also declined dramatically in the last ten years. What actions would you support to accelerate the shift away from a carbon economy? In particular, would you support a revenue-neutral tax on carbon?”

17. Q15 (Environmental 2): “Discuss your position on land-based wind power in Maine, focusing on the conflict of visual/ noise pollution versus renewable power generation.”

18. Q16 (Environmental 3): “This is a question about energy and environment at the national level. Please comment on your vision of future energy development in the U.S. and specifically on the role of hydrofracturing and off-shore oil extraction.”

19. Troy Jackson conclusion: “I won’t back down to the tea party, because, believe me, Paul LePage doesn’t scare me — and trust me, he doesn’t; Ted Cruz and John Boehner won’t either. I think it’s ridiculous that legislators have government-funded health care and have the audacity to stand in the well of the House and the Senate and debate who else should have health care in this country.”

20. Emily Cain conclusion: “We can’t send someone to Washington who thinks bickering and name calling is the right approach. And my approach in Congress, as it has been in Augusta, will be to work together.”

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Democratic Radio Address by Sen. Geoff Gratwick (Penobscot): LePage War on Poor A Cyincal Political Campaign Strategy, Witch Hunt

Posted on April 11, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Audio here.

DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS
Gratwick says: The Governor’s war on the poor is a cynical political campaign strategy, a witch hunt

gratwick in senateIn his office, Governor LePage rings alarm bells on a daily basis about fraud and abuse. But his choice of when to sound the alarm is selective. He does not ring the alarm for all fraud and abuse, only when he talks about the poor.

Good Morning. This is State Senator Geoff Gratwick of Bangor.

Make no mistake, fraud and abuse, of any sort, is wrong; it is cheating, it is stealing. Where ever it exists, it must be prosecuted–and our laws must be strong.

Here’s the thing: our laws are strong.

The Maine Attorney General’s office and Department of Health and Human Services have active divisions dedicated to investigating and prosecuting fraud and abuse. In fact, in the past several years, lawmakers passed a measure giving the state an additional $700,000 per year to fight fraud. We hired an additional seven fraud investigators so we now have a total of 17. To put that in perspective, the state only has 12 investigators inspecting the safety of daycare centers for infants and children in Maine.

And so it seems, Maine has all the tools needed to investigate potential cases of fraud.

While Governor LePage is holding press conferences with glossy photos of EBT cards, a closer look at where recovered funds actually come from gives a more accurate picture of the true extent of the problem. And, it suggests that perhaps the Governor is more interested in politics than in protecting the public purse in his pursuit of fraud and abuse.

Over the last four years, from 2010 to 2014, Maine has prosecuted and recovered funds related to fraud and abuse by individuals and large corporations. Here are the facts: you decide which group deserves more attention.

Maine, along with the federal government, has prosecuted 48 medical and pharmaceutical corporations and recovered $55 MILLION DOLLARS. To their shame, these businesses include some of the largest and best known medical companies in the country – Walgreens, Johnson and Johnson, Avandia, and Merck.

The state also prosecuted 37 individuals for abuse of SNAP and TANF benefits. SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP) and TANF is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Recent data from DHHS indicates that less than half of one percent of folks, that is one in every 200 people receiving benefits have abused these programs. The guilty folks have been sentenced to jail for up to a year and returned $489,000 to the state treasury.

The evidence simply does not support accusations of widespread problems.

So compare: big corporations fraudulently took $55 MILLION DOLLARS, and individuals fraudulently took less than HALF a MILLION DOLLARS.

Make no mistake. No amount of fraud is acceptable. But in a time of scarce resources, is it unacceptable that the Governor is spending more than $700,000 to recover less than $500,000 from individuals.

The Governor has focused our attention solely on the low income people in front of us in the grocery line buying food with an EBT card because they are an easy target. It’s easier to rail against the poor than it is to make sure our system works for all Mainers.

Just this week, Senate Democrats voted in support of a measure that would have banned the so-called “Prohibited Five” from purchase with TANF dollars. The items on this list include alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets, bail, and strip clubs. It makes common sense that in order for a program to work effectively and help families and children in crisis get back on their feet, it is essential that these dollars not go toward things like alcohol and cigarettes.

But for all the tough talk, not a single Republican supported the measure to ban the “Prohibited Five”–even though it was nearly identical to a bill sponsored by Governor LePage. One has to wonder why.

The Governor’s war on the poor is a cynical political campaign strategy, a witch hunt; he has chosen to demonize people who are poor–even if they are the working poor- for political advantage.

The poor and the powerless have been easy scapegoats since history began. It easier to stoke popular fear and resentment of the ‘other’, to blame the victim, than it is to find real solutions to difficult problems.

The only way we can curb fraud and abuse by individuals is by using the proven levers that help people escape poverty: education, jobs and health care. The only way we can curb corporate abuse is to have a government that functions well. This is a job that must involve us all, including the Governor.

Thank you for listening. This is State Senator Geoff Gratwick. Have a great spring weekend.

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Maine Senate Takes Up EBT- TANF- GA Bills LDs 1829, 1822, 1820, 1842, 1815 and 1844 (VIDEOS)

Posted on April 8, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

(NOTE: All of these will be separated and written up over the rest of the week. In the meanwhile, for the sake of sharing quickly, here are all 44 video clips taken during the Monday afternoon/ evening second session in order of debate.)

1. LD 1829, “An Act To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Report Annually on Investigations and Prosecutions of False Claims Made under the MaineCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Food Supplement Programs”.
ROLL CALL: 21 Yeas – 14 Nays

HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1829 to Senate

Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing LD 1829

Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Supporting LD 1829

Asst Minority Leader Sen. Roger Katz Opposing LD 1829

Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Penobscot) Supporting LD 1829

2. LD 1822, “An Act To Increase Integrity in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program through Restriction of Expenditures”.
ROLL CALL: 18 Yeas – 17 Nays

HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1822 (OTP as amended by H-787) to Senate

Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing LD 1822 as amended by H-787

Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Supporting H-787 amended LD 1822

Asst Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) Opposing LD 1822 as amended by H-787

Sen. John Patrick (D-Oxford) Offers SAS 505 to amend LD 1822

Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) opposing LD 1822 SAS-505

HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505

Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505 (PT 1)

Asst Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) Opposing LD 1822 CAH 787, SAS 505

Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) Opposing LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505

Sen. John Patrick (D-Oxford) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505

Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) opposing LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505

Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505

Sen. David Burns (R-Washington) opposing LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505

Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505 (PT 1)

Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) concludes supporting remarks on LD 1822, SAS-505

Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505 (PT 2)

3. LD 1820, “An Act To Reduce Abuse of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program through Restriction of Electronic Benefits Transfers”.
ROLL CALL: Yeas 20 – Nays 15

HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1820 as amended to Senate

Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) opposing LD 1820

Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) supporting LD 1820

4. LD 1842, “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program”.
ROLL CALL: Yeas 20 – Nays 15

HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1842 to Senate w/ ONTP committee recommendation

Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing ONTP on LD 1842

Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc) Supporting “ONTP” on LD 1842

Asst Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) Opposing “ONTP” on LD 1842

Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Supporting “ONTP” on LD 1842

Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland) supporting ONTP on LD 1842

Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin) supporting “ONTP” on LD 1842

Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) Supporting “ONTP” on LD 1842

5. LD 1815, “An Act To Require a Work Search for Job-ready Applicants for Benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program”.
ROLL CALL: 20 Yeas – 15 Nays

HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1815 (“ONTP”) to Senate

Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing ONTP on LD 1815

Sen. Ron Collins (R-York) Opposing ONTP on LD 1815

Asst Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) opposing ONTP on LD 1815

Asst Majority Leader Anne Haskell (D-Cumberland) supporting ONTP on LD 1815

Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin) supporting ONTP on LD 1815

6. LD 1844, “An Act To Increase Local Responsibility for General Assistance”.
ROLL CALL: 22 Yeas – 12 Nays

HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1844 (ONTP) to Senate

Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Penobscot) supporting LD 1844 ONTP recommendation

Sen. John Cleveland (D-Androscoggin) supporting LD 1844 ONTP recommendation

Sen. Doug Thomas (R-Somerset) opposing LD 1844 ONTP recommendation

Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) supporting LD 1844 ONTP recommendation

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“Put Up or Shut Up” Time! Maine Legislature Takes Up LD 1829, Directing DHHS to Report EBT/ TANF Fraud

Posted on April 7, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Gov. Paul LePage discusses his EBT/ TANF reform bills LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 and 1842 at a press conference.

Gov. Paul LePage discusses his EBT/ TANF reform bills LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 and 1842 at a press conference.

When Governor LePage and others in March held a press conference in the governor’s cabinet room and rolled out a slew of EBT/ TANF welfare reform bills, they were widely seen as election year politicized moves and characterized as a “bait and switch”tactic by LePage:

    “The governor maintains that “millions” of dollars in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families EBT card transactions must be fraudulent because, well, they were spent out of state. Yet even though it’s perfectly legal to spend TANF funds beyond Maine, the governor is determined to eliminate the transactions entirely.

    And he isn’t letting the facts get in the way of a good election year issue.

    The actual total of so-called “questionable” out-of-state TANF transactions in 2013 was about $1 million, or about .0002 percent of Maine’s biennial budget – or almost exactly what the governor spent on his no-bid, politically rigged and economically flawed Alexander Group “welfare report.”

    But if that’s not enough, the governor can’t actually prove that any of these transactions were fraudulent because the government doesn’t track the purchases. Instead, all he can do it spout anecdotes, allegations and breathless hyperbole.”

After the bills’ public hearing, the HHS Committee chairs minced no words in their criticism of the governor’s tactics:

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    Sen. Margaret Craven of Lewiston: “Governor LePage’s proposals will not help people get a job and get back on their feet. They will simply make it harder for struggling families to survive. The right route to reform is through education and training. We certainly should not be passing the buck to our towns and shirking on our responsibility.”

    Rep. Dick Farnsworth of Portland: “If there is fraud, no matter how small, it should be investigated and prosecuted, not politicized. We are directing the Governor to investigate that fraud and prosecute it, if it is real. He should stop using it to pull the rug out from struggling families, especially at a time when Maine has one of the worst job growth records in the nation. Governor LePage has built his election campaigns on cynically stereotyping poor Mainers under the guise of welfare reform. The reality is that his policies have only led to a rise in homelessness and an increase in child hunger.”

Upon hearing about the bills initially and their intent, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills sent a letter last month to Democratic leaders, urging them to “put this matter into perspective”, “go after big fish as well as small” and “not elevate one over another”. Her 3 page missive is below.

To that end, HHS Committee member Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) put forth a bill, LD 1829 “An Act To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Report Annually on Investigations and Prosecutions of False Claims Made under the MaineCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Food Supplement Programs”, to combat the claims of the Governor’s office of fraud and do exactly what the attorney general urged.

Here are his prepared remarks as delivered before the legislature’s standing HHS committee at the bill’s public hearing, held immediately after those for LDs 1815, 1822, 1820, and 1842:

More from a Maine House Democrats press release:

HHS Committee members Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) and Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) listen to testimony during the public hearings for LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 and 1842.

HHS Committee members Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) and Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) listen to testimony during the public hearings for LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 and 1842.

    According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, despite the effort, the number of successful prosecutions has increased from eight in 2010, to 10 in 2011, to 15 in 2012. The amount of restitution that courts have ordered increased from $92,339 in 2010 to $104,341 in 2012. In 2012, only 13 people were convicted of welfare fraud .

    “What we see from the Governor and the administration is more smoke and mirrors. The Governor has the tools and resources to fight fraud. But he’s not doing the job,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, who serves on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services committee. “Not only are his proposals unconstitutional and unenforceable, but they deflect attention from the real waste and mismanagement on his watch.”

    Under Governor Paul LePage, the Department of Health and Human Services has been plagued by chronic mismanagement and budget shortfalls that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

    The Department has squandered taxpayer dollars on a failed MaineCare rides contract and the controversial Alexander report, it has overpaid long-term care providers, and lost the state’s certification and federal funding for the Riverview Psychiatric Center. The Department is also under scrutiny for document shredding at the CDC and tampering with the public bidding process for smoking cessation dollars.

    Gattine has a proposed a measure, LD 1829, which would increase accountability and prevent fraud in the state’s anti-poverty and Medicaid programs. The bill would require an annual program integrity report on all fraud waste and abuse activities including provider and consumer prosecutions and on-going DHHS management issues.

    “We need to shed light on what’s happening at the Department,” said Gattine.

The bill as amended passed the House last week, but only by a 92-52 margin. It next goes before the Senate this afternoon, as do LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 and 1842.

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Democratic Radio Address by Rep. Matt Moonen (Portland): LePage’s lagging job creation hits younger Mainers hard

Posted on April 5, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Audio link here.

    Rep. Moonen: LePage’s lagging job creation hits younger Mainers hard
    Governor styles self as “turnaround specialist” but fails to deliver

Maine has so many good things going for it, particularly for young people establishing families. Quality of life, engaged communities, vibrant schools and amazing outdoor opportunities – just to name a few. But it’s getting harder for young people to live, work and play in Maine – especially the work part under the administration of Governor Paul LePage.

matt moonenGood morning, I’m Representative Matt Moonen of Portland.

I’m a member of the Legislature’s Youth Caucus. We’re a bipartisan group of lawmakers focused on policies that affect younger Mainers and their futures in our state.

It’s been clear for a while that our economy is not where it should be.

It’s ironic because the governor touts his background as a businessman – a “turnaround specialist.” In his State of the State address, he told the people of Maine, “Having spent my career in business, I know what grows an economy.”

A new report confirms that as Maine’s CEO, the governor has not delivered on job creation. The report provides another troubling insight: Mainers in their prime working years are really hurting under the governor’s watch.

You’ve probably already heard about how Maine is far behind in job creation. We’ve been scraping along the bottom with each new set of employment data that comes out. The latest numbers say we’re currently ranked 49th in the nation. Forth-ninth!

But did you know that younger Mainers are having such a hard time? For this group, employment levels have not improved since the end of the recession.

This job creation problem has a large ripple effect. These are Mainers who are trying to establish themselves and build solid foundations for their families. Without job opportunities how likely is it that they can buy their first homes or invest in their children’s futures? Forget about extra pocket money to boost local economies.
Without opportunity, how can we expect young people to stay in the state or return home? This is an important question, especially as we address the challenges of an increasingly aging population. Top economist Charlie Colgan has warned that this demographic trend would be disastrous for the state’s workforce, competitiveness and economy.

Working-age Mainers – and the entire state – need the governor to step up and deliver on job creation.

Maine has recovered less than half of the jobs lost in the recession. We’re doing the worst in New England, which has recovered 96 percent. The nation, meanwhile, is back up to 93 percent.

If you were a shareholder in a firm led by the governor, what would you think about this performance?

Democrats have put forward solutions to address our workforce and economic needs. Solutions like early childhood education, college affordability and incentives to encourage young Mainers stay in-state after college.

And a jobs bond package from the bipartisan workforce committee would spur job creation by small businesses and invest in areas like the marine economy where Maine has a competitive advantage.

What has our CEO been up to?

He’s given a $1 million no-bid contract to a political ally for shoddy work; lost $20 million for the state’s psychiatric hospital by ignoring federal law; given a failing transportation contractor an extra $1.2 million without a reason; and prompted a federal investigation by interfering in unemployment hearings.

He’s failed on a major part of his job description: working with the Legislature on a supplemental budget. Instead of making a proposal as Maine governors are supposed to, he essentially punted.

This is no way to lead. Young Mainers, their families and their communities deserve more from their CEO.

Thank you for tuning in. This is Representative Matt Moonen of Portland. Have a wonderful weekend.

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(UPDATED) Paul LePage Sets New Maine Veto Record (LIST)

Posted on April 2, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

UPDATE: Apparently LePage decided to veto more bills today since this was originally posted, increasing the current number to 125 vetoes.

Among this afternoon’s additions was LD 1552, Resolve, To Provide for an Analysis of MaineCare Rates for Facility-based Preschool Services for Children with Disabilities and a Report on the Analysis, addressing longstanding problems with the reimbursement system for providers. The bill calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to analyze the rates, the costs and the needs of the children and look for cost-saving initiatives.

HHS Chairs Sen. Craven and Rep. Farnsworth question DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew during public hearing. Also pictured, Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville)

HHS Chairs Sen. Craven and Rep. Farnsworth question DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew during public hearing. Also pictured, Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville)

HHS Committee Chair Rep. Richard Farnsworth, who sponsored the bill and also sits on the Autism Society of Maine board, issued the following statement:

    “The governor likes to talk about the state’s most vulnerable citizens. These children are our most vulnerable Mainers. Specialized preschool services for children with developmental disabilities like autism are among the best ways to prepare them for success in their later school years.

    Despite what the governor says, the department has not initiated the important steps of modernizing this outdated reimbursement system. The department has proven that it needs direction from the Legislature to accomplish this task, improve services for these children and make wise use of taxpayer dollars.”

autismblueIt needs to be noted that April is Autism Awareness Month and today is World Autism Awareness Day. Despite the fact that Maine has one of the highest incidence rates in the nation, neither LePage nor his administration has ever made mention or notice of this since he was first sworn into office in 2011.

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lepage sots angry selfContinuing on his message of “My Way Or The Highway”, Maine Governor Paul LePage this week set a rather dubious benchmark for future governors by vetoing now 122 pieces of legislation. No doubt that the current number of vetoes will increase before the end of the current legislative session. The previous veto record was 118, set by independent Gov. James Longley (1975-1979).

Earlier today, 3 of his vetoes were overridden in the House and now go to the Senate.

Here is a list of Governor Paul LePage’s record setting vetoes with issued statements.

(OVERRIDDEN) House: 136-6; Senate 33-1.

(OVERRIDDEN) House: 129-12; Senate 29-5.

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