UPDATED x2: Maine House Votes Down Controversial Religious Discrimination Bill LD 1428, 89-52

Posted on February 20, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Rep. Andrew McLean (D-Gorham) addresses colleagues during LD 1428 debate.

Rep. Andrew McLean (D-Gorham) addresses colleagues during LD 1428 debate.

12:45pm UPDATE: House just voted 89-52 to accept the Judicial Committee “ONTP” (Ought Not to Pass) recommendation moments ago, 89-52.

This was the final vote on LD 1428; it is now dead.

Roll call vote shows 5 GOP members broke with their party to join Democrats: Reps. Beaulieu of Auburn, Campbell of Orrington, Libby of Waterboro, MacDonald of Old Orchard Beach and Maker of Calais. 2 House Democrats voted for the bill: Rep. Stan Short (D-Pittsfield) and Steve Stanley (D-Medway).

Over 2 dozen rose to speak on the measure in a lengthy floor debate. Some quotes:

    Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland): “Please vote to end the war on gay people in our state.”

    Rep. Justin Chenette (D-Saco): “Religious freedom is important, but this bill makes me feel like a second-class citizen… Name me an issue in Maine — I still haven’t heard one. There isn’t an issue. This is a bill searching for a problem, rather than solving one. This wastes taxpayer money… It’s fiscally responsible to oppose it.”

UPDATE #2 (1:45pm): Maine House Democrats issued a press release with more quotes from legislators:

    “This is not a bill about religious freedom; it will only create religious discrimination,” said Rep. Charles Priest of Brunswick, who chairs the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. “Maine’s law and constitution has strong protections for religious freedom. This bill is not necessary.”

    “This fight will continue across the country. Many states still do not have a human rights law that covers sexual orientation. But in Maine our voters have settled this, ” said Rep. Matt Moonen of Portland, during the floor debate.

    “This bill moves Maine backwards on equality and women’s rights,” said Rep. Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick. “This is not religious freedom, it is legalized hate.”

National coverage here:

1. Breaking: Maine Rejects ‘Religious Freedom’ License To Discriminate Against Gays

2. Maine House Rejects ‘Right to Discriminate’ Bill

Reminder: The Senate voted down the bill 19-16 on Tuesday. The one Democrat who voted for the bill with the Republicans was Senator John Tuttle.

Link to House video here; session starts at 10 am. LD 1428, “An Act To Protect Religious Freedom” is listed as item 6-3 in the Divided Reports of the House Calendar.

Via press release this morning:

      Maine House to take up controversial religious discrimination bill
      Discrimination carve-out would undercut human rights, women’s rights

    Augusta — The Maine House today will take up a controversial bill that would undercut human rights protections and women’s rights by creating a loophole in the state’s strong non-discrimination laws.

    The religious discrimination bill, LD 1428, would carve out an exception for religious beliefs in the state’s non-discrimination laws, such as the Maine’s Human Rights Act.

    “Religion should never be used as a cloak to discriminate,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, whose father served as a pastor in the U.S. military. Eves attained his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

    The Maine Senate rejected the GOP-sponsored measure earlier this week in a largely party-line vote of 19-16.

    “Maine has led the country with our anti-discrimination laws,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “This bill is a big step backwards. There should be no exceptions or loopholes when it comes to discrimination.”

    Maine is one of 32 states that does not allow for religious exceptions in non-discrimination laws. In the last 10 years, only six states have enacted similar bills.

    Nationally laws like LD 1428 have been used to infringe upon women’s access to health care. In Texas a municipal bus driver refused to drive a woman to a reproductive health clinic on his bus route. At the federal level, corporations are trying to use the religious exception or loophole to avoid providing employees with health care that covers reproductive health.

    “This measure would take Maine backwards on women’s rights and equality,”
    said Rep. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan the Assistant Majority Leader. “The Maine legislature and courts have a track record of being careful and deliberate about protecting religious liberty while balancing other rights. This bill is not necessary. ”

    During the public hearing on the bill, one survivor of the genocide in Rwanda, spoke about his experiences coming to America to escape persecution and asked the committee to oppose the bill.

    The bill has met with strong opposition from a broad group of organizations, including ACLU of Maine, Coalition for Maine Women, Equality Maine, Family Planning Association of Maine, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Choice Coalition, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Maine Education Association, Maine LGBT Coalition, Maine Medical Association, Maine People’s Alliance, Maine School Management Association, Maine State Employees Association, Maine Women’s Lobby, Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, Secular Coalition.

    ###

*Related: Maine Senate Votes 19-16 Against LD 1428, “An Act To Protect Religious Freedom”

*(UPDATED) Maine Takes Up LD 1428, “An Act To Protect Religious Freedom”

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(BLAST FROM THE PAST) LD 1333 Already Causing Fears of Skyrocketing Rates, Disgraced Insurers Coming Back to Maine

Posted on November 26, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

(Originally posted 13 Sep 2011. ~AP)

Bangor Daily reporting that the U.S. Census Bureau today will be releasing the latest uninsured figures today. But as it is based upon the 2010 census numbers, one wonders how accurate the numbers for Maine will be.

Especially in light of news that the insurance industry is already raising premiums beyond reach of many small rural Maine companies.

One company that left Maine but has now returned, Assurant, is now sending out expensive lil recruiting literature to all life and health (L&H) insurance agents in the state. Previously they did business under than name of Fortis, and had landed themselves in hot water with the State of Maine Bureau of Insurance, as did the company John Alden.

More on Assurant here, John Alden here.

Expect to see a LOT of these formerly disgraced companies coming back home to roost in Maine, thanks to LD 1333. There are many reasons they left Maine markets in the first place, and one would be wise to be skeptical of them as they return, as well as do their own research into the companies before they sign anything.

In addition to Senator Plowman’s opinion piece today where she failed repeatedly and predictably to mention her (and others) many questionable connections to ALEC and MHPC, the Bangor Daily News ran one from Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle).

Some clips:

One of those laws is the major health insurance overhaul Republicans pushed through a few months ago.We are already seeing the negative effects of this health insurance overhaul. The Ellsworth American reported recently that some small businesses in rural Maine will be seeing their health insurance costs go up more than 60 percent as early as October.

According to the report, small businesses in Hancock, Washington and Aroostook counties will seeinsurance premiums rise more than 60 or 70 percent. One company in Presque Isle may see an increase of 90 percent.

Premium hikes like these will put the companies at their breaking points. A recent survey of Maine people by Market Decisions found that 21 percent fear losing health insurance coverage in the next 12 months. Nearly 40 percent of those individuals said the top reason for their fear was the new health care law passed by Republicans in Augusta.

It’s no wonder they are afraid. The insurance overhaul will allow insurance companies selling individual policies to set rates based on age at up to five times higher than the lowest rate. And, most troubling, there will be no limits on rate changes depending on where you live, or what kind of job you have.

The new law expands that ratio to 1 to 5; that is, if the lowest premium is $500 a month, the highest an insurer can now charge is $2,500. The thought is that that insurers would increase the premiums for their more costly customers while – don’t laugh at this – lowering the costs for the young and healthy.

Raise your hand if you can afford $2500 a month for health insurance. Yeah, me neither.

This caught my eye, as I was in the House gallery on May 5th during the first reading of LD 1333:

During the floor debate, I asked this question to all the lawmakers in the House: “What effect will this have on premiums for a 50-year-old, self-employed fisherman living on an offshore island?” No one answered, either because they did not know or did not like the answer.

In fact, Reps. Kumiega, Webster and Russell all had questions of their colleagues that went completely unanswered. Have a look:

This is just getting started and it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.

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(VIDEO) ALEC Rock

Posted on August 2, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

An interesting twist on the old Schoolhouse Rock clips. Take a look:

A reminder to some of ALEC-affliliated Maine GOP legislative members:

  • Rep. Andre Cushing (R-Hampden)
  • Rep. James M. Hamper (R-Oxford)
  • Rep. R. Ryan Harmon (R-Palermo)
  • Sen. Brian D. Langley (R-Ellsworth)
  • Sen. Debra Plowman (R-Hampden)
  • Sen. Christopher W. Rector (R-Thomaston)
  • Sen. Richard Rosen (R-Bucksport)
  • Sen. Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport)
  • Link to the original “I’m Just a Bill” video.

    For more info on ALEC, please check out Alec Exposed. Of particular interest is the Maine portion of the site.

    *Related- Maine’s Majority: Who is Writing Maine’s Laws?

    * Is there something else behind the proposed DHHS cuts?

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    Maine’s Majority Asks: Did Andre Cushing Double Dip?

    Posted on January 4, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

    Sure does look that way. From today’s press release:

    Rep. Andre Cushing (R-Hampden) used his “Respect Maine” political action committee to pay registration fees and travel expenses associated with his attendance at last summer’s meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL). However, identical charges also appear on approved legislative reimbursement forms covering expenses from the same time period. The duplicate transactions total $1,559.03.

    An analysis of both sets of reports revealed the following:

  • Cushing sought taxpayer reimbursement of $575.00 on a July 18, 2011 legislative expense form for “Registration for ALEC annual meeting New Orleans, LA,” dated July 7. On July 8, Cushing’s political action committee disbursed $575.00 to a payee named “American Legislative.”
  • Expenses of $209.90 (7/12) and $237.40 (7/19) to Continental Airlines and an unnamed air carrier appear on the same reimbursement form. These charges are associated with Cushing’s travel to an NCSL conference in San Antonio. Cushing’s PAC reported payments to Continental and AirTran for the same amounts on 7/14 and 7/21, respectively.
  • An ALEC-related reimbursement of $284.40 to US Airways (7/14) also appears on the July 18 legislative expense form. On the same date, Cushing’s PAC reported separate payments to US Airways of $39.00 and $245.40, a total of $284.40.
  • A subsequent legislative expense form dated August 15 shows Cushing receiving taxpayer reimbursement of $232.33 for lodging at the San Antonio Marriott (8/8), and a $20 AirTran baggage fee (8/12). The PAC report lists identical expenses on July 10 and July 15, respectively.
  • Gerald has written to Rep. Cushing for a statement and will update this post when we know more. Meanwhile, Maine’s Majority has submitted a new FOAA request for Cushing’s remaining legislative reimbursement records.

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    Rep. Andre Cushing (R-Hampden; ALEC) Announcing State Senate Run

    Posted on December 14, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

    Here are portions of yesterday’s press release:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    December 13, 2011

    ANDRE CUSHING ANNOUNCES HIS CANDIDACY FOR STATE SENATE

    Assistant Majority Leader to run for open District 33 State Senate seat

    HAMPDEN- Representative Andre Cushing announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination to the Maine State Senate in District 33, to represent the 16 Penobscot County towns of; Carmel, Charleston, Corinth, Corrina, Dexter, Dixmont, Etna, Exeter, Garland, Glenburn, Hampden, Kenduskeag, Levant, Newburgh, Newport, and Plymouth.

    Cushing is in his second term as state representative for District 39, which includes Dixmont, Hampden and Newburgh, and is the Assistant Majority Leader of the Maine House of Representatives. He is the House chair of the Joint Rules Committee and Committee on Elections. During his first term he was the ranking member of the Joint Committee on Labor.

    Representative Cushing was chosen as House chair for The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Affordable Housing and for a study dealing with regulatory taking.

    “As a parent, small business owner and native of this area,” he said, “I am proud to work for the people of Maine, and I know firsthand the challenges many face in this economy. I also know, given the opportunity, Mainers can and will persevere. If elected I will continue to work on issues that make our state more friendly to job creators and the people who live and work here.

    As a state we must get our financial house in order and we must stop creating laws that punish those who contribute to a strong Maine economy,” he added. “We in Augusta must work to create an environment where people want to live, work and enjoy the way life should be. The strength of our state is in the many people who drive our economy, be they farmers, trades people or professionals. They all want the opportunities to provide for themselves and their families.”

    Former House Minority Leader Josh Tardy of Newport, who will serve as Cushing’s campaign treasurer, offered his strong words of support. “I am thrilled that Andre is running for the State Senate.” Tardy said.

    Cushing, who has over 25 years experience as a small business owner, currently is a Realtor and home builder. He is a native Mainer who attended Bangor-area schools and the University of Maine. He is an active member in both civic organizations and local government, who believes in giving back to the community in which he lives.

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