(UPDATED x3) Maine Gov Paul LePage To Reintroduce LD 1811, War on Drugs Bill, as Emergency Measure on Veto Day (May 1)
(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.“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.
(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.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:
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.
(Originally posted 3/12/14)
Governor 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
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