Archive for November, 2014

(UPDATED) Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Despite Opposition, Maine is Putting Photos on All EBT Cards

Posted on November 21, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Updated post from July to reflect the following letter from the USDA to Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew dated 11/20/14:

As the Portland Press Herald is reporting, Maine has 45 days to respond to the letter, else risk losing 50% of the funding that helps cover SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) administrative costs.

    “Since Maine has represented to (the USDA) that the state’s EBT photo program is optional, the state must affirmatively demonstrate that SNAP clients have a choice whether to have a photo on their EBT card and their choice does not adversely affect their SNAP eligibility,” Kurt Messner, administrator for the USDA’s Northeast Region, wrote in the letter dated Thursday.

    Messner went on to say that “there are significant civil rights concerns about the state’s practice of taking photos of all non-applicant household members.” The practice, according to Messner, may represent a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    “Any individual who applies for SNAP on behalf of eligible household members must be able to access the program without fear,” Messner wrote.

Newly minted DHHS spokesman David Sorensen responded that “that the photo ID measure is a policy, not a rule or law” and that Commissioner Mayhew “plans to review some of the USDA allegations, including the claim that recipients are given the impression that a photo is mandatory.”

Mayhew is quoted:

    “We remain 100 percent committed to placing photos on EBT cards. While we are still reviewing the letter, it is imperative that Maine is able to implement common-sense reforms to ensure the integrity of our welfare system, preserving resources for the truly needy while protecting taxpayers.”

ACLU of Maine and Maine Equal Justice Partners have also weighed in:

    “Maine has a real hunger problem and it’s very serious,” said Chris Hastedt, public policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners. “(SNAP) is being administered in a way that the state is creating more hunger problems and greater barriers for those who are hungry. The state has to tell people upfront that they have a choice about the photo ID.”

    “Requiring photo ID on EBT cards is incredibly costly, it’s ineffective and the Department of Agriculture has said it’s illegal,” Zachary Heiden, the ACLU of Maine’s legal director, said in a written statement. “If the administration wants to do what’s best for the state, it will stop punishing people who are struggling in this tough economy.”

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Originally posted July 9.

A few weeks ago, DHHS officials provided case workers the following instructions regarding the photo ID EBT card changes the LePage administration was making.

DHHS also provided those same case workers a script of prepared answers to use when the inevitable questions would arise:

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AUDIO LINK HERE

Two men from South Thomaston were arrested last week for trafficking bath salts. Drug enforcement agents seized three handguns, $25,000 in cash and—yes, you guessed it—seven EBT cards.

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

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.

The drug dealer admitted that the seven EBT cards were given to him as payment for the drugs. Bath salts contain very dangerous synthetic stimulants. They result in overdoses, hallucinations and even death. It’s bad enough that some people will pay for these drugs, but it is even worse when taxpayer dollars are used to pay for them.

This drug bust, along with several others, shows EBT cards are being used to support criminal behavior invading our state.

I had a plan that added 14 agents to fight drug crime, but liberal politicians rejected it. Democrats couldn’t even say yes, when I found the money for a compromise package with fewer drug agents, judges, prosecutors and supported an additional $750,000 for substance abuse treatment. Instead, liberal politicians swept the bill under the rug killing the compromise in the middle of the night.

Despite all evidence, including major drug busts day after day, Democrats refuse to address drug crime in our State.

These same liberal politicians also believe that a certain level of EBT fraud is acceptable. I don’t think any level of EBT fraud is acceptable, and I know you don’t either. Using an EBT card to buy drugs means a needy child, elderly or disabled person is not getting their benefits.

That’s why we are moving ahead with our plan to put photos on all EBT cards. It will not stop all EBT fraud, but it will make it easier to identify who is abusing these cards. It puts those who would abuse EBT cards on notice that the state is holding them accountable.

To test the plan to put photos on EBT cards, the Department of Health and Human Services ran a pilot project in its Bangor office. DHHS studied the mistakes other states made to ensure they did it right. The pilot program ran for two months and was very successful.

We are now implementing the program statewide. The new card not only features a photo, but it also clearly states that misuse of the EBT card is considered a crime. Photos on the new EBT cards will help DHHS verify the identity of the card holder. The photos will be helpful in cases where EBT cards are sold for cash or drugs.

They will also help determine who is the rightful owner of a card when multiple EBT cards are found on an individual.

There are about 223,000 EBT cards in Maine. These cards are loaded with benefits such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other welfare benefits. Over the last 12 months, more than $383 million in benefits have been put on Maine EBT cards.

Even if just one percent is wasted or abused, that’s almost 4 million dollars. Wasting 4 million dollars of taxpayer money may be okay to liberals in Maine and Washington, D.C., but it’s not okay with me.

While I am your Governor, I won’t tolerate one dollar of waste, fraud or abuse. I believe it’s government’s responsibility to ensure your taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. That’s why my administration will keep moving forward to protect taxpayer dollars and the benefits that are truly needed by our most vulnerable citizens.

Thank you for listening.

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Incoming 127th Maine Legislature Picks Leaders (UPDATED w/ Statements)

Posted on November 13, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Majority Leader Garrett Mason and Asst Majority Leader Andre Cushing

Senate President Mike Thibodeau (Waldo), Majority Leader Garrett Mason (Androscoggin) and Asst Majority Leader Andre Cushing (Penobscot)

Last week, the Republicans in both legislative chambers of the Maine State House selected their leadership.

With Friday’s recount of Senate District 11 between Sen. Mike Thibodeau of Waldo and challenger Jonathan Fulford of Monroe concluding that the district re-elected the incumbent by a 135 vote margin, the make-up of the Senate Majority leadership team selected last week will be: Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Majority Leader Garrett Mason and Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing. Each issued statements:

Senate President Mike Thibodeau:“I cannot begin to express what this means to me. It is a true honor to be chosen by such an outstanding group of people to lead not only them, but the entire Maine Senate.

“At the same time, I recognize it is an awesome responsibility. The people of Maine spoke very clearly in this week’s election. They are demanding action on critical issues such as job creation, energy costs, and welfare reform. We cannot let them down. Delivering real results will take the efforts of both Republicans and Democrats to put their partisan differences aside and work in a collaborative manner on behalf of the people of Maine. It is what we were elected to do and we must rise to the challenge.”

Majority Leader Garrett Mason: “I am very honored to have earned the trust of my Republican colleagues who chose me to be the majority leader. I look forward to working with my fellow senators, members of the House of Representatives, and Governor LePage to find real solutions for the people of Maine.”

Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing: “I am looking forward to the opportunity to go to work on the agenda items that are most important to the citizens of Maine.”

As has been noted in the past, both Thibodeau and Cushing have long-standing ties to ALEC, as do a number of other returning Maine GOP senators and incoming Kim Rosen, wife of former State Senator Richard Rosen of Bucksport.

Over in the House, Republicans chose to retain 126th Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport to serve again in the 127th in that office and replace outgoing Alex Willette, who resigned to take a position with the LePage re-election campaign, with Rep. Eleanor Espling of New Gloucester.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves, , Majority Leader Jeff McCabe and Asst Majority Leader Sara Gideon

Speaker of the House Mark Eves (N. Berwick), Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (Skowhegan) and Asst Majority Leader Sara Gideon (Freeport)

On Wednesday, Democrats held separate caucuses to select their leaders. The House Democrats had lost a few seats in the recently concluded elections, but managed to retain their majority.

While Speaker of the House Mark Eves was not challenged for his seat, the other two leadership positions went up to votes by the caucus, with Rep. Barry Hobbins going up against Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe for the Majority Leader spot last held by termed-out Rep. Seth Berry (Bowdoinham), and 126th freshmen Rep. Lori Lister Fowle (Vassalboro) taking on Rep. Sara Gideon (Freeport) for McCabe’s chair. Ultimately the body selected McCabe and Gideon to join Eves as their 127th Legislative leaders.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves: “It is an honor and privilege to lead our strong and historic 83 seat majority. With Election Day behind us, now is the time govern. We must come together with Governor LePage and our Republican colleagues to address the challenges we face as a state. We cannot allow the partisan battles of the past dictate our future.

“Too much is at stake for leaders to put their party ideology ahead of common sense solutions. Democrats and Republicans can see eye to eye on smart and strategic investments in our state, on property tax relief, on lowering energy costs and helping seniors and veterans. We must focus on areas of common ground, not conflict.”

Majority Leader Jeff McCabe: “We need to move Maine forward and do everything we can to improve the lives of Mainers. We must establish an economic message and policy that works statewide. The voters sent us a message on Election Day. They don’t care about party labels or partisan ideology. They care about government that works.”

Asst Majority Leader Sara Gideon: “Now that these long and divisive campaigns are over, it’s time to show the people of Maine that we are about action, that Democrats will deliver while holding steadfast to our values, that Democrats own the idea of prosperity for everyone. We will work with all our strength to protect the values of Maine people: women’s economic security and basic rights, workers’ ability to organize, a clean and sustainable environment and the integrity of excellent public school systems.”

The Senate-elect Democrats, who saw their 18 majority shrink to a 15 seat minority last week, held a caucus Wednesday evening in Hallowell.

Democratic Senators congratulate Dawn Hill as being selected as Assistant Minority Leader. To her right is Senator Justin Alfond, who will be moving from the podium as exiting Senate President to serve as Minority Leader for the upcoming 127th legislative session.

Democratic Senators congratulate Dawn Hill as being selected as Assistant Minority Leader. To her right is Senator Justin Alfond, who will be moving from the podium as exiting Senate President to serve as Minority Leader for the upcoming 127th legislative session.

They chose outgoing Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland to serve as their Minority Leader in the upcoming 127th legislative session. Alfond is in his final term and served in the 125th Legislature as Assistant Minority Leader to then-Senator Barry Hobbins’ Minority Leader.

Senator Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick, who chaired the 126th Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and was honored as Emerge Maine’s Woman of the Year along with fellow AFA Chair Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, was chosen to serve as Assistant Minority Leader for the next two years.

Minority Leader Senator Justin Alfond:“Even though, as Democrats, our political beliefs may be different from Paul LePage and Republicans in the Legislature, there are areas in which we agree–and we must build off of that common ground in order to serve the Maine people. I will extend my hand with to Governor LePage, Senate President-elect Thibodeau and others to find that common ground and forge the relationships needed to move ideas forward that work for Maine people.”

Asst Minority Leader Dawn Hill: (sent a message of listening to her fellow lawmakers to ensure that) “we all carry the distinct stories and values of our districts. Listening is how we define our plan and our purpose going forward.”

The 127th Legislature will be sworn into office on December 3 by Governor Paul LePage.

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Weekly Democratic Address by House Speaker Mark Eves (N Berwick): “With Election Day behind us, now is the time to govern”

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

House Speaker Eves: “With Election Day behind us, now is the time to govern”

The political ads on TV and radio are done. With Election Day behind us, now is the time to govern.

Speaker of the House Mark EvesGood morning, I’m Speaker of the House Rep. Mark Eves of North Berwick.

We are honored that the people of our state have put their faith in Democrats to run the Maine House of Representatives.

We are the People’s House and you can count on us stand strong for you while also coming to the table with Governor LePage and Republican legislative leaders.

Maine families deserve leaders who will set aside politics and ideology, and seek common sense solutions to grow opportunity for everyone.

-Our seniors deserve to have a more secure retirement right here in Maine.

-Our children deserve to have more opportunity to live and grow in our great state.

-Our working men and women deserve a raise! An honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay.

If you work full time you should not live in poverty. Too many women and men in our state are working harder and harder for less and less. It is time to raise the minimum wage.

We are committed to holding the line for the middle class in our state. And we have an opportunity to work together to do so.

Democrats and Republicans can see eye to eye on property tax relief on lowering energy costs and helping seniors and veterans. We must focus on areas of common ground not issues that divide us.

As a former family therapist, I know first hand how to listen and bring people together. And as a father of three young children, I care deeply about ensuring a strong future for our state.

Too much is at stake for leaders to put their party ideology ahead of common sense solutions.

As Speaker of the House, I promise today to always seek progress and not get caught up in the pettiness of politics. I commit that the House of Representatives will always seek what is best for our economy and our people.

In the words of President John F. Kennedy, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

Let’s determine our future together.

Thank you I’m Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick.

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