Archive for January, 2016

Announcing Hiatus- #FeelTheBern!

Posted on January 25, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Taking a break from photo, video journalism and overall freelance reporting in the State House for awhile and announcing tonight that I have accepted a position as the new CD2 Field Organizer (Lewiston Office, Western Maine Counties) for the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, located at 110 Lisbon St in Lewiston (the old Lamey Wellehan building).

As they say, #FeelTheBern!

Once again, the video of Senator Sanders in Portland last year.

    Published on Jul 7, 2015
    Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, spoke with thousands of enthusiastic supporters on July 6th at the Cross Insurance Arena/ Portland Civic Center. Crowd estimates range from 7500 (MPBN) to as high as 9000 (BDN).

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Bernie Sanders 2016 Campaign Announces Maine Working Class Cabinet

Posted on January 19, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Today at the State House, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign announced the creation of the Maine “Working Class Cabinet.” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap will chair the committee.

From his prepared remarks:

    “Bernie Sanders is the strongest advocate for working families this country has seen since President Roosevelt nearly 70 years ago. He plans to build a strong economy for all of us, not just the billionaires. He is also our best hope for tackling climate change, getting big money out of politics, fighting for women’s rights, caring for our veterans, and making college tuition free and debt free. This cabinet is a reflection of the people-powered campaign Bernie Sanders is running. We look forward to working together to get him elected.”

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe:


    “If you’re not outraged by the disappearance of the middle class here in the state of Maine, then it’s time to skip the cocktail parties. It’s time to head down to the main street to the coffee shop. It’s time to talk to your neighbors.”

bernpressBernie 2016 Maine Working Class Cabinet

    Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap
    House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe,
    State Senator David Dutremble
    State Senator Geoffrey Gratwick
    State Senator David Miramant
    State Senator John Patrick
    State Representative Robert Alley
    State Representative Roberta Beavers
    State Representative Lydia Blume
    State Representative Heidi Brooks
    State Representative James Campbell
    State Representative Ralph Chapman
    State Representative Benjamin Chipman
    State Representative Michael Devin
    State Representative Mark Dion
    State Representative Donna Doore
    State Representative Michelle Dunphy
    State Representative Jeffrey Evangelos
    State Representative Richard Farnsworth
    State Representative Paul Gilbert
    State Representative Adam Goode
    State Representative Scott Hamann
    State Representative Denise Harlow
    State Representative George Hogan
    State Representative Brian Hubbell
    State Representative Michel Lajoie
    State Representative Gina Melaragno
    State Representative Kimberly Monaghan
    State Representative Christine Powers
    State Representative Diane Russell
    State Representative Deane Rykerson
    State Representative Robert Saucier
    State Representative Stanley Short
    State Representative Stephen Stanley
    State Representative Peter Stuckey
    State Representative Ryan Tipping-Spitz
    Honorable Severin Beliveau, Former Maine Democratic Party Chair
    Honorable John Richardson, Former Speaker of the House
    Honorable Michael Brennan, Former Past Mayor of Portland
    Honorable Bruce Bryant
    Honorable Robert Duplessie
    Honorable Charles Priest
    Former President Don Berry, ME AFL-CIO
    Former President Joe Gaudette, ATU 714
    District VP, Serina DeWolfe CWA District 1400
    President Peter Keefe, IBEW 2327
    Reggie Munson, Ironworkers Local 7 Business Agent
    President Cokie Giles, Maine State Nurses Association
    Chairperson Tom Reynolds, Androscoggin County Democratic Party
    Chairperson Troy Haines, Aroostook County Democratic Party
    Former Chairperson Shelly Mountain, Aroostook County Democratic Party
    Chairperson Bruce Hodson, Knox County Democratic Party
    Chairperson Rita Moran, Kennebec County Democratic Party
    Chairperson Joanne Dunlap, Franklin County Democratic Party
    Chairperson Carole Boothroyd, Piscataquis County Democratic Party
    Chairperson Ellen Farnsworth, Washington County Democratic Party
    Legislative Chairperson Charles Chick Cicotte, American Legion
    President Jim Gerritsen, Organic Seed Growers OSGATA
    Craig Brown, Founder, Common Dreams
    President James Pross, Androscoggin Land Trust
    Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, Founder, Frances Perkins Center
    Maine Business Leader Kevin Mattson
    Maine Business Leader Jim Wellehan
    Maine Business Leaders Connor and Chelsea Belliveau

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LePage Holds Presser to Address Racism Charges, Blames Media For Bad Drug Coverage

Posted on January 18, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Maine Governor Paul LePage found himself in hot water recently, as his racially-charged comments made regarding Maine’s heroin crisis at a Bridgton town hall event made international news.

    “These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty… these types of guys… they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”

Some reactions are below.

1. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree: “Governor LePage’s comments were disgraceful and racist. Once again, just a week before Martin Luther King Day, the governor has made a comment that is offensive to the African American community and to all of us. It does not represent the values of Maine people and is embarrassing to our state. And although the governor seems to regret getting caught making those remarks, he also seems unwilling to apologize to the community that he has insulted.”

2. 2CD Democratic candidate Emily Cain (D-Orono): “We need to be talking about real solutions to the serious epidemic of heroin addiction afflicting our state. Governor LePage’s appalling remarks this week embody the very worst of fear-mongering in politics that hold us back as a state and a nation, and they do not reflect Maine values. There is absolutely no place for this in our public discourse – especially in Maine. Unfortunately, Congressman Bruce Poliquin – who in the past has referred to himself and LePage as ‘good friends’ – has still remained silent on LePage’s ugly remarks. Does Bruce Poliquin defend LePage’s comments?”

3. Senate Democratic Minority Leader Justin Alfond (D-Portland): “At best, the governor’s comments were careless or poorly stated. At worst, they were purposeful and deeply offensive. Either way, they were completely unproductive. Maine’s drug addiction crisis is complex, and impacts ever aspect of life for those affected by it. We need to work on solutions, not reduce the problem to racially charged soundbites.”

4. House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan): “Today, at a national summit of rural state leaders, I am being bombarded by questions about Governor LePage’s hateful statements rather than about what Maine is doing right. At a time when Maine needs leaders to move our state forward, the governor is making national headlines for the wrong reasons yet again. He is making it harder for us to work on policies important to Maine people, whether it’s energy, substance abuse or growing the rural economy.”

5. Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon (D-Freeport): “The governor keeps saying he wants to address the state’s drug epidemic. Comments like the one he made in Bridgton keep Maine from moving forward on this front. If the governor is serious about tackling this crisis, he should stop standing in the way of the Legislature’s comprehensive plan and help Mainers desperate for treatment get the care they need.”

A few days later, the governor held a press conference in his Cabinet Room in hopes of clarifying his remarks and discussing the state’s heroin epidemic. From a media advisory:

    AUGUSTA- Governor Paul R. LePage will hold a news conference at 10:00 AM in the Cabinet Room to discuss his recent remarks regarding Maine’s drug crisis. All verified media is welcome to attend.

    When: Friday, January 08, 2016, 10:00 AM
    Where: Cabinet Room, State House, Augusta

Here is full video from that press conference.

Here are a few parsed out moments from the press conference.

1. Maine Governor Paul LePage to Media: “You Don’t Like Me, and I Don’t Like You”

2. Governor Paul LePage Describes Drug Bust He Personally Witnessed While in Office

3. LePage Accuses Press of Being in Bloggers’ Backpockets

4. LePage To NECN: “Your comment is inappropriate”; “Never said anything about being black”

5. Maine Governor Paul LePage on Drug Omnibus Bill: “Ecstatic” Legislature Taking Up Issue

6. LePage on Media Role in Solving Maine’s Drug Crisis

7. Maine Governor Paul LePage Tells Stories of Addicts, Narcan Usage

8. LePage Tells Media What They Are Missing in Reporting on Maine’s Drug Crisis

9. LePage to WMTW: “Only time I see you in this building… is when you are criticizing me”

10. LePage Verbally Attacks Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond (D-Portland) At Press Conference

11. Maine Governor Paul LePage Hints at New County Jail Program

12. LePage Takes Followup Question, Re: Drug Busts He Has Witnessed

The governor will conduct another public town hall event tomorrow evening in Windham.

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Maine Coalition Submits Signatures to Put Minimum Wage Increase on 2016 Ballot

Posted on January 18, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Last Thursday, Mainers for Fair Wages submitted 75,000 plus verified signatures to Secretary of State Dunlap’s office to place a minimum wage increase on the November ballot. Supporters and signature gatherers assembled for a rally in the State House’s Hall of Flags.

Mainers for Fair Wages, a coalition including the Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Small Business Coalition, and Maine AFL-CIO, launched the petition process for a citizen initiative to raise Maine’s minimum wage in June. If passed, the initiative would increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2017 and then by $1 a year until it reaches $12 by 2020. After that the wage would increase at the same rate as the cost of living. The initiative would also incrementally raise the sub-minimum tipped wage until it matches the minimum wage for all other workers by 2024.

Speakers included:

  • Adam Lee – Chairman, Lee Automalls, Auburn

  • Benjamin Waxman – Co-owner, American Roots, Portland
  • April Thibodeau – Volunteer and restaurant server, Westport Island
  • Adelaide Manirakiza – Homecare worker, Westbrook

Prepared remarks of other speakers:

  • Katie Logue, Auburn: “I work at a convenience store for just over the state minimum wage and I struggle to support myself and my family. When you’re this close to the edge, one emergency can ruin everything. It wasn’t too long ago that we were forced to live in a homeless shelter, while I was working full time but unable to keep up with the bills. It just isn’t right that there are people like me all over the state who are working hard every day but can’t get ahead. That’s why I helped to collect hundreds of signatures to get this measure on the ballot, boost our state economy and help tens of thousands of struggling Mainers.”

    fair

  • Melissa Stevens, Lewiston: “I’m a single mother and I know what it’s like to work low wage jobs and not be able to make ends meet. On $8 an hour it was impossible to afford basic necessities for my family like childcare, transportation and keeping a roof over our heads. While I was working full time I still needed to rely on food assistance to be able to feed my family. I joined the minimum wage campaign last fall to collect signatures to support this initiative and I am thrilled to be here today with so many community leaders from all walks of life as we submit far more than enough signatures to place this referendum on the ballot.”
  • Esther Pew, Portland: “I am working as a tipped worker at a restaurant and a boost in my base wage would mean that I would not have to rely solely on tips in order to support myself. It’s hard to stick to a budget and be financially responsible when your wages can fluctuate drastically from one shift to the next. Getting a steady paycheck from my employer, and not just tips from my customers, would be a boost for me and thousands of tipped workers, mostly women, working in restaurants all over Maine.”
  • Tyler Williams, Bangor: “From the time I was 15, I’ve had to work a number of minimum wage jobs to help my family make ends meet. As the breadwinner, I was responsible, as a child, for making sure the heat stayed on through the winter, and unfortunately, I often failed in this endeavor. Recently, I was forced to drop out of school because minimum wage, does not pay enough to get necessities, much less to pay tuition, too. This is the true tragedy of having such a low minimum wage. No one should have to choose between an education and a pittance. Hard work is supposed to give you the opportunity to pull yourself out of poverty, but $7.50 doesn’t help you out of poverty. It keeps you in it.”

    sfa

  • Brandy Staples, Phippsburg: “When I was 26, I was diagnosed with aggressive stage four breast cancer. I had to leave the workforce for in order to deal with it and regain my health and strength. Since then, I have had a hard time finding dependable and livable wage work that allows me to make ends meet while still paying off huge amounts of medical debt. I currently work two part time jobs at very close to minimum wage, plus I help my parents with their business. With these three jobs, I still don’t make enough to get by. I heard similar stories all the time while I was collecting signatures to get this initiative on the ballot. That’s what motivated me to collected more than 600 signatures last summer and fall. Raising Maine’s minimum wage to $12/hour will help me get on my feet and will help so many others like me.”

The Secretary of State’s office has 30 days to review the petitions and refer the matter to the Legislature to either enact without change or allow placement on the November ballot.

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Trio of New Maine Unions Announced

Posted on January 18, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Maine AFL-CIO announced the formation of two new unions last week:

Also organizing are the employees at McTeague-Higbee in Topsham. Their press release is below.

    “JUSTICE FOR ALL”
    Local Law Firm Employees Ratify Labor Agreement

    mcteagueTOPSHAM, MAINE. Legal professionals at McTeague-Higbee, a highly-regarded law firm that has represented organized labor in Maine for decades, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) have completed negotiation of their second 3-year collective bargaining agreement. The Topsham law firm specializes in employee/plaintiff-oriented labor law, workers’ compensation, discrimination, and personal injury cases. The IAMAW has a reputation for being one of the most diversified labor unions in North America.

    Although negotiation of its first contract was challenging, the negotiation of the second contract took less than 8 hours of negotiation before agreement was reached. The contract was ratified unanimously by the members.

    Law firm managing partner Kevin Noonan, stated, “McTeague Higbee has a long history of fighting for workers’ rights, and we are pleased to take this to a new level. We are very proud to be the only unionized law firm in the entire State of Maine. By fully embracing unionization of our staff, we are doing our best to live up to our own motto: Justice for All.”

    The new 3-year accord features wage increases of 3.25% the first year and 3% in each of the next two years, as well as increased contributions to the IAM pension plan, and continuation of the IAM Benefits Trust Healthcare Plan, grievance and arbitration procedures, seniority provisions, and paid time off.

    “We attribute this excellent result to both the effective negotiation skills of George Edwards, Assistant Directing Business Representative of IAMAW District Lodge 4 and the law firm’s good-faith approach to negotiating this contract. The firm has demonstrated an awareness that collective bargaining is good for both sides of the table and we are hopeful McTeague Higbee will serve as a role model for other employers,” said paralegal and bargaining committee member Carol Sanborn.

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Maine House Rejects HO #34, 96-52

Posted on January 18, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Last Thursday the Maine House of Representatives took up House Order 34, “Establishing the House Special Investigative Committee”, sponsored by Rep. Ben Chipman (D-Portland), calling for a special committee to investigate allegations of multiple incidences of wrongdoing by Governor Paul LePage. Ultimately the House voted 96-52 to indefinitely postpone the measure, effectively killing any further action towards impeachment. Full floor debate is below.

Roll call of the vote here.

From the House Journal:

    (4-3) On motion of Representative CHIPMAN of Portland, the following House Order: (H.O. 34) (Cosponsored by Representatives: BABBIDGE of Kennebunk, BEAVERS of South Berwick, BEEBE-CENTER of Rockland, BLUME of York, EVANGELOS of Friendship, RYKERSON of Kittery, SAUCIER of Presque Isle, WARREN of Hallowell) WHEREAS, the Constitution of Maine, Article IX, Section 5 provides that every person holding any civil office under this State may be removed by impeachment for misdemeanor in office; and WHEREAS, the Constitution of Maine, Article IV, Part First, Section 8 vests in the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment; and WHEREAS, grave and serious allegations have been raised regarding the conduct of Governor Paul R. LePage; now, therefore, be it ORDERED, that the House Special Investigative Committee is established to investigate allegations of misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance and other misconduct by Governor Paul R. LePage and to make a recommendation to the full House of Representatives as to whether cause exists for impeachment. The committee shall conduct a comprehensive review of allegations of misconduct by Governor LePage, including but not limited to the:

    1. Refusal, beginning in 2012, to facilitate the issuance of land conservation bonds that were ratified by the voters of the State in statewide elections held in November 2010 and November 2012 and repeated insistence on extracting compliance by the Legislature on unrelated issues prior to the Governor’s carrying out the will of the people of the State regarding issuance of the bonds;

    2. Alleged use of state assets as leverage to bring about the resignation in 2013 of the President of the World Acadian Congress, Jason Parent;

    3. Exertion of pressure, in March 2013, on hearing officers in the Department of Labor, Bureau of Unemployment Compensation to favor employers in their decision making;

    4. Refusal, beginning in May 2013, to allow cabinet members and members of the administration to appear and testify before legislative committees;

    5. Alleged use of state assets as leverage to bring about the resignation in January 2015 of the President of the Maine Community College System, John Fitzsimmons;

    6. Request, in February 2015, that the Maine Human Rights Commission postpone a proceeding against a particular business pending before the commission and threatening to withhold state assets when the commission declined to postpone the proceeding;

    7. Creation, in April 2015, without public notice in violation of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, of a panel to conduct a review of the Maine Human Rights Commission; and

    8. Alleged use of state assets as leverage to intimidate the Board of Directors of Good Will-Hinckley in June 2015 into terminating its employment of Mark W. Eves, the Speaker of the House of Representatives; and be it further ORDERED, that the House Special Investigative Committee consists of 13 members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the Speaker’s designee, 6 of whom are appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives upon the recommendation of the House Minority Leader, and that the first-named member is the chair of the committee; and be it further ORDERED, that the House Special Investigative Committee:

    1. Shall adopt rules to govern the proceedings before it in order to ensure due process, fundamental fairness and a thorough investigation;

    2. May administer oaths and compel the attendance and testimony of persons and the production of papers, documents and other evidence under oath, by subpoena, when the testimony, documents or evidence is necessary for or incident to any inquiry relevant to the business or purposes of the committee and punish any person for the neglect, refusal to appear or failure to produce papers or documents or provide evidence commanded by subpoena or who, upon appearance, either with or without subpoena, refuses to be sworn or testify or produce papers, documents or evidence demanded;

    3. May hire special counsel and such other personnel as may be necessary to carry out the committee’s responsibilities; and

    4. Following its review and investigation of the facts and circumstances relating to the alleged misconduct of Governor Paul R. LePage, shall submit to the House of Representatives no later than April 1, 2016 its findings and recommendations in the form of a final report, including, if the committee concludes such action is warranted, articles of impeachment describing the misdemeanors in office with which Governor Paul R. LePage is charged. The committee may request from the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the Speaker’s designee extensions of time to complete its work.

Multiple interviews followed the conclusion of the day’s work.

1. Representatives Chipman and Gay Grant (D-Gardiner)

2. House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport)

3. Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N. Berwick)

4. House Majority and Asst Majority Leaders Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) and Sara Gideon (Freeport)

Governor LePage issued a written statement to the press:

    “As I have said all along, this impeachment nonsense was nothing more than a political witch hunt that had absolutely no merit. While some members of the Legislature were obsessing for months over this foolishness, I have been working on the real issues that matter to the Maine people.”

    “Just today, I was the keynote speaker at the Mid Maine Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, where I spoke about the drug crisis facing our state, lowering taxes and reducing student debt to keep our young people here. I met with the State Employee Health Commission to discuss how to reduce the cost of health care, and I had a lunch meeting with a group of manufacturers to discuss how reducing energy costs can help them create more jobs.”

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Maine House Release Resolution Condemning Governor Paul LePage

Posted on January 13, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Statement put out by Maine House Democrats this evening:

    House resolution affirms lawmakers’ commitment to Maine values
    Resolution includes pledge to honor commitment of public office

    AUGUSTA – The Maine House on Thursday will take up a resolution that affirms lawmakers’ commitment to the standards the public has the right to expect of its public officials.

    DSC_0120“We have the opportunity to show Maine people – and indeed the rest of the nation – that we stand for the Maine values of civility, progress and respect for diverse ideas and backgrounds,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who is offering the House resolution. “No matter what our political affiliation, we reject the politics of retribution, intolerance and divisiveness. We take seriously the commitment we made to serve Maine people.”

    Gideon and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe on Wednesday invited all members of the House, regardless of party affiliation, to support the nonpartisan resolution. Under the resolution, members pledge to “honor the responsibilities entrusted to us by the people of the state.”

    “At a time when Maine is grappling with serious challenges, we should come together and remind ourselves and our constituents that we need to rise above partisanship for the people of Maine,” said McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “We have a drug epidemic that is taking the lives of five Mainers each week, a need for good-paying jobs and an economy that continues to lag. To move forward, we need healthy debate without fear of retribution. This nonpartisan resolution is an important first step.”

The resolution is below.

The House will take up the resolution, along with what could be the first steps towards impeachment of the governor, tomorrow morning.

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Sanders 2016 Campaign Opening Maine Office

Posted on January 13, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

The media advisory reads as follows:

bernpressBernie 2016 To Open Maine Headquarters in Portland

    PORTLAND, MaineU.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign on Wednesday will formally open its Maine headquarters. The office opening will feature local elected officials, campaign staff and volunteers. This is the first official campaign office in Maine.

    Here is the itinerary:

    Wednesday, January 13th

    6 p.m. Bernie 2016 Office Opening, Maine Headquarters, 465 Congress Street, Mezzanine Level, Portland

    Information for the public: Doors open 4:30 pm. This event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is strongly encouraged. Admission is first come, first served.

Here again is video from last summer’s Portland rally, as Senator Sanders was introduced by former Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash.

Sanders supporters have been conducting phone banks all over the state (Augusta, Waterville and Bangor to name a few) for months.

With now seven weeks to go until Maine’s caucus on March 6, the new headquarters allows for even more push to undecided Democratic voters and comes on the heels of news that support for Hillary Clinton is either slipping dramatically or completely gone, depending on the polling.

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Maine House Democrats Discuss 2016 Legislative Priorities

Posted on January 7, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

On the first day of the 2016 session, the Maine House Democratic caucus took time before the start of the day’s work to lay out their objectives for the remainder of the 127th session.

From a press release:

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) opened the press conference by saying, “We’re focusing on priorities that matter for Maine families and our communities. Those priorities include getting good, high paying jobs for our towns, making sure seniors can stay in their homes, getting people who want it the life-saving treatment they need to enable recovery from drug addiction, and educating our children.”

    House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe and Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon focused on job creation and the economy, particularly for rural Maine.

    House Democratic leadership take questions from Maine press, 1/6/16.

    House Democratic leadership take questions from Maine press, 1/6/16.

    McCabe, D-Skowhegan, noted that the release of voter-approved Land for Maine’s Future bonds, growth of the agricultural sector, and promotion of the outdoor recreation economy are all key.


    “If we here in Augusta are going to accomplish things, we’ll need willing partners,”
    McCabe said. “We’ll need the other legislative caucuses and we’ll need Governor Paul LePage. We’ll need transparency and cooperation from the administration. We’ll need the governor to allow his commissioner and other state employees to work with the Legislature and we’ll need access to the information we need to do our jobs.”

    Gideon, D-Freeport, focused on how investments in broadband and renewable energy can boost the economy.

    “If we all agree that jobs are the top priority, then let’s talk about two ways that we can actually pump life into our economy,” said Gideon. “Maine can catch up and step into the 21st century if we start investing in functional and forward-thinking technology and infrastructure. This is true for broadband capability and it’s true for Maine grown-energy production.”

After the press conference, House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe took more questions from the media:

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Maine House Republican Members Outline 2016 Legislative Objectives

Posted on January 4, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

From a press release:

“The Maine Legislature must deal with a number of challenges as legislators return to Augusta this week.

Maine is in the midst of the worst drug crisis in state history. Governor LePage requested funding for 10 new MDEA agents immediately to help fight the supply side of this epidemic. That funding has been found within existing resources and the process of recruiting those agents has already begun.

Now it’s time for legislators to turn their attention toward drug treatment and education. This is an issue that requires a thoughtful and thorough process and whatever plan is ultimately brought forward for a vote must be completely vetted by the committees of jurisdiction. We cannot afford to race through this process.

In addition to the drug epidemic, there are several fiscal issues that demand the immediate attention of legislators.

• Tax Conformity: On the heels of the omnibus spending package passed in Washington last month, whether or not Maine complies with these new tax changes could cost roughly $40 million.

• Voter approved changes made to the Maine Clean Elections Program will cost the state an additional $7-$10 million.

• Indigent Legal Services: This program was not funded for the second year of the biennium. This is a constitutionally mandated program and will require $4 million in funding.

• County Jails Issue: A bill to address the situation with the county jails was carried over to the upcoming session. This also has the potential to cost the state additional money.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N. Berwick) responded:

    “Every day, more Maine families struggle to save the lives of their loved ones suffering from crippling addiction. While some members would rather posture in front of a microphone, we are focused on using available resources to mount a serious effort to tackle the drug crisis and give families, law enforcement, and treatment providers the tools they need.”
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