Archive for April 25th, 2014

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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