Joint meeting by the Appropriations & Financial Affairs, Health & Human Services standing legislative committees held to discuss a number of topics with officials from DHHS and Riverview Psychiatric Center including CTS (transportation), safety concerns, training issues, re-certification efforts and more.
The committees submitted two pages of detailed questions to Commissioner Mayhew, who responded with a 27 page document and sent Stephanie Nadeau, Ricker Hamilton and Riverview superintendent Jay Harper in her stead.
Maine Legislative AFA, HHS Joint Cmte Meeting 8 19 14 (Pt 1)
Maine Legislative AFA, HHS Joint Cmte Meeting 8 19 14 (Pt 2)
Maine Legislative AFA, HHS Joint Cmte Meeting 8 19 14 (Pt 3)
Maine Legislative AFA, HHS Joint Cmte Meeting 8 19 14 (Pt 4)
Maine Legislative AFA, HHS Joint Cmte Meeting 8 19 14 (Pt 5)
Maine Legislative AFA, HHS Joint Cmte Meeting 8 19 14 (Pt 6)
Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: “New Welfare Rule: State to Start Drug Testing Convicted Felons”
- New Welfare Rule: State to Start Drug Testing Convicted Felons
Drug testing of convicted felons who are applying or receiving welfare is nothing new.
Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.
In 2014, at least 18 states introduced plans that would require drug screening or testing for welfare applicants or recipients.
Today, I am announcing that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services is moving forward with its plan to conduct drug tests of convicted drug felons who are applying for or receiving welfare benefits.
Over the last several months, the State has been focused on drug-testing measures that not only ensure privacy and fairness, but also reinforce accountability in the program.
The tests will be required for drug felons who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF. Federal rules support drug testing as part of the federal TANF money that Maine receives.
When people apply for welfare benefits, they must report whether they have a prior drug-related felony conviction. If the answer is yes, the State will schedule a drug test and notify the individual 24 hours prior to the actual test.
If a person tests positive, they will have the option to be tested a second time. At any time, an individual can avoid termination of benefits by enrolling in an approved substance abuse program. Those who fail to disclose they are convicted drug felons will lose their welfare benefits immediately.
Our welfare programs, including TANF, are designed to be a short-term benefit that assists families and children with the basics of everyday living. If someone tests positive, they are putting their drug habits or addictions ahead of their family’s needs. We must do all that we can to ensure children’s needs are being met and that TANF recipients have the best possible chance at economic independence.
Being drug-free is a critical aspect of escaping from poverty and moving toward self-sufficiency.
Protecting the trust of taxpayers is one of my greatest responsibilities. I will do everything in my power to ensure welfare benefits are used for the truly needy and not provided to support people’s drug habits or addictions.
However, it’s no secret: Maine has a drug problem. When we identify people who are on drugs, we must make an effort to help them break their addiction. Our welfare system depends on it, but more importantly, our society does.
If you have a drug problem or know someone struggling with addiction, the State has resources to help. Please call 2-1-1 and someone will help you find services in your area. Addiction does not have to control your life. Again, call 2-1-1 for help today.
Thank you for listening.
Democratic leaders Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves have issued their own responses in a press release, agreeing with the Governor’s statement that this is “nothing new” while accusing the chief executive of politicizing enforcement of a three year old law.
More later on the Mike Michaud proposed “Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services” mentioned in the release- here is a clip from his June press conference, rolling out the idea to Maine media in Augusta.
LePage Continues to Play Politics With Welfare to Distract From Lagging Jobs Record
Governor announces he’ll finally enforce a law that’s been on the books for years to score election year political points
AUGUSTA — Top legislative leaders on Wednesday said Governor LePage’s latest announcement that he’ll finally enforce a 2011 law* to drug test convicted drug felons whose families rely on temporary assistance from the state is just the latest in his campaign effort to distract from his lagging economic record. The leaders also said the Governor’s failure to enforce the law was another reason to support an independent Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, who helped negotiate the 2011 law to ensure substance abuse treatment was included, called the Governor’s announcement “pure politics.”
“This law has been on the books for years, yet LePage hasn’t enforced it,” said Eves. “We need leaders who are serious about solving problems and enforcing the law, not simply scoring political points in an election year at a time when Maine’s economy is lagging. It’s also one more reason to support an independent Inspector General at the Department.”
Earlier this week, Business Insider ranked Maine 47th for economic growth in the country, so now the Governor is stepping up his welfare rhetoric.
“This is more election year politics. The governor is trumpeting a law that already exists and he hasn’t enforced,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “The timing is peculiar given that he made this stale announcement the day after another report ranks Maine’s economy at the bottom of the pack. The evidence is mounting that Paul LePage’s policies are failing Maine people.”
According to national labor statistics, the country has recovered 106 percent of the non-farm payroll jobs lost during the recession. Regionally, New England has recovered 116 percent of jobs. Maine lags behind, recovering only 63 percent of the jobs lost in the recession.
Under Paul LePage’s economic leadership, Maine has experienced, a job creation record among the worst in the U.S. since the bottom of the recession, ranking 42nd out of 50 states in the latest report (June 2014). Additionally, Maine has the 5th highest rate in the country of people who work only part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs.
*According to Title 22, Section 20, Denial of assistance based on positive drug test: A recipient of TANF assistance may be denied TANF assistance as described in this subsection. A. The department may administer a drug test to a recipient of TANF assistance who has been convicted of a drug-related felony, as described in Section 115 of PRWORA, within 20 years of that person’s date of conviction…If the 2nd drug test confirms that the person is using an illegal drug, the person may avoid termination of TANF assistance by enrolling in a substance abuse treatment program appropriate to the type of illegal drug being used by that person. [RR 2011, c. 1, §33 (RAL).]
(Following up on yesterday’s #MEGOV LePage Skips NE Governors’ Regional Opioid Abuse Summit; Dismisses As “Chit Chat” post)
Yesterday Maine Governor Paul LePage skipped an important summit of all New England governors in Waltham, MA to address the ongoing regional heroin epidemic in order to speak at an Augusta press conference regarding reports of Maine’s crime rates dropping dramatically in 2013. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced that despite LePage’s absence, “Maine officials would participate in the work group.”
Late in the afternoon, LePage sent out a press release under the guise of calling for the 126th Legislature to reconvene to address LD 1811, “An Act To Appropriate and Allocate Funds To Strengthen the State’s Efforts To Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes”, which read more as finger-pointing than constructive in content:
- “Drug trafficking by ruthless, out-of-state street gangs is on the rise, but Democrats are still pretending Maine does not have a problem with violent drug crime. Organized drug gangs are flooding the state with cheap heroin, but Democrats remain obstinate. They refuse to provide the manpower law enforcement agencies need to prevent these criminals from addicting Mainers with this killer drug.”
“We even identified funding to add MDEA agents, judges and prosecutors to help combat the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. That money is still sitting there. I could call the legislature back to take up my bill, but Democratic leaders could simply recess immediately and go home. I cannot force them to do something they are not willing to do.”
“Democratic leadership stated they won’t call the legislature back unless there is an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ They don’t think that deaths from drug overdoses, babies born addicted to drugs and violent street gangs peddling poison on our street corners amount to an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ But Maine people do.”
Democratic leaders last night issued their own statements in response. Senate President Justin Alfond (Cumberland):
“Once again, Governor LePage is stirring the pot by making up stories. If he thinks we should go back in, it is certainly within his authority to call us back,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “We have no intention of calling ourselves back in. We finished a very successful legislative session in May and during that time, Governor LePage was missing in action. Much like then, he refuses to cooperate with lawmakers on solving problems facing our state. The question isn’t what would the legislature do. Governor LePage has a track record of taking our good work and flushing it away.”
Speaker of the House Mark Eves (N. Berwick):
“We will not reconvene the Legislature just so the governor can veto another bill,” said Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Governor LePage has failed to lead, failed to collaborate with lawmakers and failed to stand up for Maine people. He sat on the sidelines, resorted to his ‘my way or the high way’ approach until the last moments of the legislative session and now is playing political games to distract from his poor performance as Maine’s chief executive.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Representative Mike Michaud this morning issued his own statement:While talking tough about illegal drugs during an election year, LePage’s actions have undermined Maine’s efforts to fight drug trafficking and addiction. Since taking office, he has cut drug intervention and treatment programs, derailed a bipartisan legislative effort to increase enforcement and drug treatment in the state, and even vetoed common-sense legislation that increased access to medicine that can prevent fatal drug overdoses.
“The drug problem facing Maine is serious, real and requires true action – not political theater,” said LePage’s opponent in the race for governor, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. “Sadly, Gov. LePage is only interested in scoring political points in an election year. When it comes to doing the hard work to tackle the problem, he’s absent.
“Gov. LePage had an important opportunity to work with other governors to take a comprehensive, regional approach to an epidemic that is affecting all of our communities. Instead, he chose to play games, govern by press conference, and politicize the issue in an effort to divide this state,” said Michaud.
“Maine needs a comprehensive approach to addressing Maine’s drug epidemic, and a governor who will bring people together to address this problem head on. We know what works and what doesn’t. Playing political games and simply throwing people in jail won’t solve this problem and won’t move Maine forward,” said Michaud.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Attorney General Janet Mills Addresses 2014 Maine Democratic Convention (speech as prepared)
- Attorney General Janet T. Mills
Remarks to the Maine Democratic Convention
Saturday, May 31, 2014, Bangor Maine
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you members of the Maine Democratic Party.
Thank you, Matt Dunlap, the hardest working, most productive Secretary of State we have ever had!
Thank you, Ben Grant and Mary Erin Casale for your leadership and difficult work during good times and bad. And for bringing back a well-deserved majority in the Maine State Legislature!
Folks, it’s May 31st. The ice is finally out, in most of the state. The lakes and ponds are stocked, the sidewalks smelling of lilacs at last. In western Maine the mowing has begun. We have shaken off the snows of January, the hardships of a frigid February, as we enjoy a long delayed spring and commence the annual recycling of goods at neighborhood yard sales.
Our long wintry nightmare is over. And this year our recycling starts right at the Blaine House!
No one deserves this fresh, fruitful season more than we do, you and I.
It has taken courage to weather the storm.
During cold and difficult times over the past three and a half years, I have seen many acts of courage.
I have watched as the brave co-chairs of Appropriations, Democrats Sen. Hill and Rep. Rotundo (the first time both chairs have been women), worked all night, many nights, writing budgets from scratch, preserving funding for our schools, saving local fire and police services and life-saving social programs, while the Governor, refusing to write a budget at all, eschewed governing and headed for Jamaica to play golf….and then accuse the entire legislature of “not working hard enough!”
I saw people like Rep. Joan Welsh hold the line against mining rules and slack environmental enforcement that would destroy our natural resources, even sell them off to the highest bidder.
I saw freshmen Reps. Ann Dorney and Sara Gideon bravely, patiently, persistently push to reintroduce and enact legislature that will save the lives of people who overdose, despite a veto and a failure it to override last year.
I saw Rep. Drew Gattine and Senators Colleen Lachowitz and Margaret Craven question the Commissioner of Health and Human Services repeatedly about why her budget was no longer about health or human services but about electioneering, auctioning off social services and about sweetheart business deals funded by programs to feed children.
I saw women and men—Democrats—stand up for women’s rights on the floor of the House and the Senate, against a governor who vetoed every reasonable measure to protect the health of Maine families.
I saw them fight valiantly against this Governor’s veto of Rep. Jane Pringle’s bipartisan bill (LD 1247) to ensure that thousands of low-income women have preventive health services, cancer screenings, annual physicals, birth control, pap tests and health information, saying, after he had vetoed the bills that would cover them with insurance, “they can go buy insurance!?” “Let them eat cake!” the man says.
I heard Paul LePage say he is dead set against abortion because he was one of 18 children. Seriously. So he believes women should be forced to bear children against their will, regardless of hardship, regardless of sexual assault, regardless of circumstances?
I saw our Democratic party work to raise the minimum wage, in a state where 60 percent of minimum wage workers are women, while this Governor tried to actually lower the working wage for young people.
I listened to Gov. LePage give lip service to domestic violence while pulling the rug out from those same women and children seeking emergency help from General Assistance.
I watched as our Democratic leadership cried foul when this Governor prevented the DEP from protecting Maine children from toxic household chemicals, claiming that BPA is not harmful, saying: “…[I]t gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards.”
Maybe he still thinks, like some of the Republican leadership, that “Women are from Venus, men are still from Mars!”
This is worse than junk science, junk politics. It is junk governance.
Governing is not a game of Candy Crush or Farmville.
It is not played in a sand box, throwing dirt in people’s faces.
It is not done from a golf course in Jamaica.
Governing is about leading—by words, by deeds and by example.
It is about helping, not hurting. It is about working hard.
It is about taking us through difficult winter storms and not giving up on the courage, the heart and the soul of Maine people.
That is why, come next winter, I will be proud to stand with our new Governor, Mike Michaud, who will lead with integrity, experience and example.
Let us work as hard as we can, through the summer and the fall, to reelect our courageous Democrats to the Maine Legislature, repair the reputation of our state, restore the voice of the people, renew faith in our government and elect a governor who will not leave Maine people out in the cold ever again.
(NOTE: All of these will be separated and written up over the rest of the week. In the meanwhile, for the sake of sharing quickly, here are all 44 video clips taken during the Monday afternoon/ evening second session in order of debate.)
1. LD 1829, “An Act To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Report Annually on Investigations and Prosecutions of False Claims Made under the MaineCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Food Supplement Programs”.
ROLL CALL: 21 Yeas – 14 Nays
HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1829 to Senate
Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing LD 1829
Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Supporting LD 1829
Asst Minority Leader Sen. Roger Katz Opposing LD 1829
Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Penobscot) Supporting LD 1829
HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1822 (OTP as amended by H-787) to Senate
Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing LD 1822 as amended by H-787
Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Supporting H-787 amended LD 1822
Asst Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) Opposing LD 1822 as amended by H-787
Sen. John Patrick (D-Oxford) Offers SAS 505 to amend LD 1822
Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) opposing LD 1822 SAS-505
HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505
Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505 (PT 1)
Asst Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) Opposing LD 1822 CAH 787, SAS 505
Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) Opposing LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505
Sen. John Patrick (D-Oxford) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505
Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) opposing LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505
Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505
Sen. David Burns (R-Washington) opposing LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505
Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505 (PT 1)
Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) concludes supporting remarks on LD 1822, SAS-505
Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) Supporting LD 1822 as amended by SAS-505 (PT 2)
HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1820 as amended to Senate
Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) opposing LD 1820
Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) supporting LD 1820
HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1842 to Senate w/ ONTP committee recommendation
Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing ONTP on LD 1842
Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc) Supporting “ONTP” on LD 1842
Asst Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) Opposing “ONTP” on LD 1842
Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Supporting “ONTP” on LD 1842
Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland) supporting ONTP on LD 1842
Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin) supporting “ONTP” on LD 1842
Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) Supporting “ONTP” on LD 1842
HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1815 (“ONTP”) to Senate
Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing ONTP on LD 1815
Sen. Ron Collins (R-York) Opposing ONTP on LD 1815
Asst Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) opposing ONTP on LD 1815
Asst Majority Leader Anne Haskell (D-Cumberland) supporting ONTP on LD 1815
Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin) supporting ONTP on LD 1815
HHS Chair Sen. Margaret Craven Introduces LD 1844 (ONTP) to Senate
Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Penobscot) supporting LD 1844 ONTP recommendation
Sen. John Cleveland (D-Androscoggin) supporting LD 1844 ONTP recommendation
Sen. Doug Thomas (R-Somerset) opposing LD 1844 ONTP recommendation
Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) supporting LD 1844 ONTP recommendation
Here is the entire Maine State Senate LD 1487 floor debate from 3/12/14, unedited and in order of speakers.
Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Bill Sponsor Sen. Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. Dick Woodbury (I-Cumberland) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Bill Sponsor Sen. Tom Saviello (R-Franklin) Speaks in Support of LD 1487 (PT 1)
Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Penobscot) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Speaks in Opposition to LD 1487 (PT 1)
Sen. Linda Valentino (D-Cumberland) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. Emily Cain (D-Penobscot) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. John Tuttle (D-York) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. David Burns (R-Washington) Speaks in Opposition to LD 1487
Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. David Dutremble (D-York) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. Jim Boyle (D-Cumberland) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin) Opposing LD 1487
Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock) Opposing LD 1487
Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) Opposing LD 1487
Sen. Roger Sherman (R-Aroostook) Opposing LD 1487
Sen. John Patrick (D-Oxford) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
Sen. Rodney Whittemore (R-Somerset) Opposing LD 1487
Sen. Rebecca Millet (D-Cumberland) Speaks in Support of LD 1487
ME Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) Opposing LD 1487 (PT 1)
ME Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) Opposing LD 1487 (PT 2)
Sen. Stan Gerzofsky (D-Cumberland) Speaking in Support of LD 1487
Sen. Doug Thomas (R-Somerset) Opposing LD 1487
Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing LD 1487 (PT 2)
Sen. Tom Saviello Speaking in Support of LD 1487 (PT 2)
(11:45 AM UPDATE) The plan has now been released and as anticipated, it involves combining proposals from Senator Roger Katz and Speaker of the House Mark Eves:
- A key Republican senator on Tuesday will release his proposal to expand the state’s Medicaid program to more than 60,000 low-income Mainers, a move that could reshape a fiercely partisan debate that has raged at the State House for over a year.
The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, the assistant minority leader, is the result of a six-month effort to build support to expand a publicly funded health insurance program that has traditionally provoked fierce ideological and philosophical opposition among Republicans for its results and costs.
Lawmakers will take up Katz’s bill before they tackle a separate expansion proposal sponsored by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.
Democrats released more information on the proposal and statements from leadership:
Democratic Leaders Issue Statement on Republican Health Care Expansion Proposal
- Put in place a plan to reduce the wait list for individuals with intellectual disabilities seeking MaineCare services like home care;
- Call for managed care to reduce healthcare costs;
- Fund two new Medicaid fraud investigators in the Attorney General’s office;
- Conduct a feasibility study to review Arkansas’ and Iowa’s plans to use the federal dollars to purchase private insurance;
- Include a sunset provision after three years when federal reimbursement reduces to 95 percent and an opt-out provision if the match rate goes below 100 percent during the first three years.
AUGUSTA — Top Democratic leaders in the Maine House and Senate issued the following statements in response to a proposal from Senate Republican Leader Senator Roger Katz of Kennebec to accept federal funds to provide healthcare coverage to 70,000 Mainers, including nearly 3,000 veterans.
In addition to accepting the federal funds, Sen. Katz’s proposal would:
Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash sponsored two separate measures to accept federal funds, and issued the following statements.
DEMOCRATIC STATEMENT ON REPUBLICAN PROPOSAL“We view the proposal as a step forward after months of debate over how to ensure more families can have access to a family doctor,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Our priority has always been securing life-saving health care for 70,000 Maine people. While we have been skeptical of managed care programs in the past, we look forward to hearing the details of the Republican proposal. We will want to make sure that the emphasis is on quality treatment; not simply denying care.”
“The people of Maine are counting on us to do right by them. They’ve put their faith and their trust in us and asked us to represent them to the best of our abilities,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “Health care is a right, and lawmakers who get health care from the state should think twice before denying it to their constituents.”
Senator Katz is expected to present the Republican proposal to the Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
A pair of Republican state senators are set to roll out a bill that would expand the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare — a proposal that so far has been largely opposed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage and rank-and-file members of the party. On Tuesday, state Sen.’s Tom Saviello, R-Wilton and Roger Katz, R-Augusta, will unveil their plan to members of their party during a caucus meeting and then take their pitch to the editorial boards of two of the state’s daily newspapers.
Democrats have also been uncharacteristically quiet about the measure, which would allow the state to accept federal funding to expand the state’s low-income health care system under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
But state Sen. Margaret Craven, the Senate chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said she was setting aside time Wednesday for her committee to hold a public hearing on the measure.
The bill, LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program” was carried over last July and as such, needs a simple majority to pass both chambers. However, it would need 2/3s vote as an emergency bill and to override a veto from Governor LePage, who is vehemently opposed to expansion.
Current thought is that LD 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People”, would be tacked on as an amendment to the bill.
The Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services is scheduled for 3 pm work sessions tomorrow on LDs 1636 and 1663 after the conclusion of the legislative session (audio link here).
The news has garnered some positive and negative reactions among Republicans. Former LePage communications director Dan Demeritt posted on Twitter:
— Dan Demeritt (@DemerittDan) February 25, 2014
House GOP Communications Director David Sorensen fired off a press release before the senate caucus to media. Here is a portion:
“Medicaid Mythbusters Round 1”
– Many of those eligible for Medicaid under an expansion would already be eligible for a federal health care subsidy, were they to buy their own health insurance on the private market.
– The U.S. Congress, “can’t be trusted to sustain its Medicaid funding promises,” suggesting the state would be stuck footing the bill for any health care expansion.
– An expansion of Medicaid would cause further defunding of existing state government programs including those that help pay for nursing home care.
Sorensen later took to Twitter himself, to share the following slap-down:
— David Sorensen (@DSorensenME) February 25, 2014
So what does all of this mean?
It would finally mean expansion of Medicaid to 70,000 Mainers, which Democrats have tried to do but been unsuccessful both as LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” , the combination hospital debt payoff- Medicaid expansion- liquor contract bill and as the stand alone bill LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”.
This story is still unfolding and will be updated.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Democratic Address by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: Democrats Stood Up For Good Policy, Keeping Promises to Towns
DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS
Jackson says, “Democrats led on standing up for good policy and doing the right thing by keeping our promise to our towns.”
Sometimes what happens in Augusta, at the State House, seems far removed from what goes on in our communities. But this week, after about a month into the 2014 legislative session, the Maine Legislature moved forward with two major accomplishments—despite Governor LePage’s objections. We kept the state’s promise to fund Maine’s towns and cities; and, we overrode Governor LePage’s veto, in order to feed kids who are hungry.
As the Senate Majority Leader, I am proud that Democrats led on both of these critically important issues. I am, however, equally proud that many Republicans joined us in standing up for good policy and doing the right thing.
To many of us, ensuring that a kid who is hungry and comes from a poor family gets at least one meal a day during the summer is a no brainer. Especially when the cost of the food is paid for by the federal Department of Agriculture.
While some were trying to decide who to blame for hungry kids, and do nothing; others, including a third of the Senate Republicans and all of the Democrats stood up to this nonsense—and overrode the veto.
As my colleague Senator Lachowicz from Waterville said, “At a time when more families are struggling to make ends meet and more children are hungry, it is irresponsible and unconscionable of us not to do everything we can to make sure children in our communities get fed.”
Feeding hungry kids was not the only area where Governor LePage tried to stand in the way of getting things done for the people in our state.
For weeks, lawmakers have been working together to craft a plan to restore revenue sharing—which are the dollars promised by the state to Maine’s towns and cities to ensure towns can continue providing essential services and keep property taxes down.
Governor LePage has waged a crusade against keeping this promise—starting last year when his budget proposal completely eliminated the program. Lawmakers stood up to that and partially restored funding.
But Governor LePage’s attempts to keep raiding dollars from our towns and cities didn’t stop there. In December, Governor LePage doubled down on his threat to eliminate revenue sharing. He even went so far as to call the very dollars used to keep our police and fire departments operating, “welfare.”
And then, just a few days ago, Governor LePage issued a brand new threat: If lawmakers restored revenue sharing, he would hold back bond investments. This is not the first time he has threatened to hold Maine’s jobs hostage. Remember, he did so for the last three years.
What was peculiar this time, was that a mere 48 hours earlier, Governor LePage touted bonds as part of his economic development plan in his State of the State address. Regardless of the threats, a resounding number of lawmakers—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—stood up to these outbursts and did what was right for our towns across the state.
Even though Governor LePage has said that I can’t count, I can count to $40 million. And based on my math, the Legislature just restored $40 million to our towns. We kept our promise and we did the responsible thing for Maine’s property taxpayers.
Our work is not done—and thankfully we have another few months of session to work.
Before us will be issues like, how can we make college more affordable to Maine families? What kind of investments do Maine small businesses need and want? And what more can we do to keep energy costs down and renewable energy sources more abundant?
But perhaps the most fundamental issue before us will be, once again, standing up to Governor LePage’s political rhetoric and faulty math. We must do everything we can to expand health care for 70,000 Mainers who still do not have coverage. We have a plan—and the costs are picked up by the feds.
The time is now. The people of Maine know it—and many Republicans know that just like with the issues of child hunger and keeping our funding promise to Maine’s towns, expanding health care is the right thing to do.
The Legislature knows that actions speak louder than words. That’s why we have been keeping our promise to Maine people and why we will continue to do so.
Thank you for listening. This is Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. Have a warm and safe weekend.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The Health and Human Services Committee held public hearings on two measures to fix the flawed MaineCare Rides system today. Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson is sponsoring a bill, to cancel the current contract with Coordinated Transportation Solutions (CTS), the least responsive transportation broker and the broker with the most egregious errors, and Senator Colleen Lachowicz is sponsoring a bill to create a more reliable and efficient transportation system.
PPH reported in October that CTS had documented only 160 complaints for August when the company’s complaint line actually received 3,662 calls. Not only has CTS failed to meet the current terms of its contract, but they have requested additional funds, with no specifics as to how the money would be used.
Before the hearing, it was announced that the company’s contract will not be renewed by DHHS– Senator Jackson veered off of his prepared remarks to address his concerns regarding the now more urgent need for his bill’s swift passage.
Senator Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville) addressed the committee first:
Her testimony to the committee as prepared:
Testimony of Senator Lachowicz Introducing LD 1636, “An Act to Provide a More Efficient
and Reliable System of Nonemergency Transportation for MaineCare Members” Thursday,
January 9, 2014
Good afternoon Senator Craven, Representative Farnsworth and fellow members of the Health and Human Services Committee. I am Senator Colleen Lachowicz, representing Senate District 25, which includes the towns of Waterville, Winslow, Albion, Benton, Clinton, Pittsfield, Detroit and Unity Township. I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak before you and I ask for your support of LD 1636, “An Act to Provide a More Efficient and Reliable System of Nonemergency Transportation for MaineCare Members.”In addition to being a senator I am also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. In my work for the past 2 decades, I’ve had an up close and personal view of how transportation to medical appointments is provided to MaineCare members. I’ve sat with children and families as they’ve waited for their ride to pick them up. I’ve helped clients arrange transportation for themselves or family members. In a rural state such as ours, this isn’t always an easy task- for the client, transportation provider or the medical provider. When I looked into the changes in how we provide transportation for MaineCare members, I became concerned. So many people in our communities worked hard every day to make this system work. What would happen when it changed?
I’ve heard a lot of talk that you have to let a new system work out the bugs. I suppose that’s true. I’ve worked in healthcare long enough to see new models and systems come and go. Some have worked; some have not. But here’s the thing: providing transportation for people to medical appointments is a big deal. Sometimes it is for scheduled vaccinations or a possible ear infection- things that can likely be rescheduled with little repercussions, but sometimes it is for chemotherapy for a cancer patient, or dialysis or critical tests and procedures for people with heart disease. Sometimes that appointment is for someone who is close to a psychiatric crisis. Other times it is simply for a person to get to their jobs so they can pay their bills. That’s why this is a big deal.
We can look at the human costs and the monetary costs, but either way I think our current system that began in August is not working and the cost is too high. Too high for the patients and too high for the taxpayers. I ask of you, if it was you or your loved one that missed an appointment for life saving chemotherapy for cancer, chemotherapy that is specifically scheduled to best beat back that cancer so you can survive, would waiting to let the bugs be worked out be good enough for you? What if it was your child who was having more meltdowns and becoming more dangerous to himself and his family and you couldn’t get in to see the psychiatrist for another 3-4 weeks after your ride didn’t show up? Would that be acceptable to you? Or what if it was your elderly mother who had recently broken a bone in a fall and was in pain? How would you feel about a system that failed to get her to her doctor? I could spend the next hour or so telling this committee the stories I have heard from people who have been harmed by this flawed new system, but I know there are plenty of people here to do just that today. I and others on this committee have also already heard many of these stories in our monthly meetings we held in between the legislative sessions.
In August of last year when the new system for MaineCare transportation first went live, we all began to hear the stories of the missed rides, unanswered calls for rides and more. Like many of you, I received numerous calls from constituents about the problem. To be honest, I couldn’t keep up with it. Many patients reported having missed appointments because rides were delayed, or failed to show up completely.
The bottom line is we have given the new system a chance to work and it is not working. Taxpayers of Maine are paying $28M for services that are not being delivered. At a time of scarce resources, we cannot afford to be paying for something we’re not getting. This problem needs to be addressed immediately.
We had a system that worked well for a rural state with an older population than many other states. Yes, the federal government had wanted our state to make changes, but we had other options. I think the broker system would work well in a more urban state with many competing transportation providers. But that’s not what we have. We have never had a system like that. We are rural. Our population is spread out. We never had multiple transportation providers competing for the privilege to transport patients to their appointments. We had a system where different regions had different transportation providers that had built up a network that worked well for the unique characteristics of that region. Some depended more on volunteer drivers than others. It’s quite different to drive someone from Ashland to Bangor than it is to drive someone from Westbrook to Portland. I thought we needed a system that worked for us and would meet the federal requirements. So I started looking into this. I talked with MaineCare members, transportation providers and medical and behavioral health providers. I also looked to see what other states had done. Maine wasn’t unique in having to make changes.
By talking with legislators and administrators in Vermont, I discovered that they had considered making the same change we had when faced with the same dilemma. I asked questions. I discovered that Vermont is similar in many ways- rural, spread out, older population, but certainly not as big as Maine. But that state has decided that the brokerage system would not work as well in their state, so they crafted something different that met their needs and met federal guidelines.
LD 1636 will create a more reliable and efficient system based on the Vermont model. Vermont satisfied federal requirements but maintained a system that relies on local nonprofits arranging and delivering rides, similar to our system before the Aug. 1 change.
This bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to contract with transportation providers in each region to provide transportation for MaineCare members. The Department would negotiate on a per member per month basis. It would not be the old fee for service model. Transportation providers and the Department of Health and Human Services would have to work together to consider the amount of MaineCare members in a region, fuel costs, the logistics of travel in a particular region and other factors. Transportation providers would have to develop the systems required to meet reporting requirements. The Department would set performance standards much like they do now.
In closing, I ask you to give this bill your full consideration. I believe that MaineCare members and the taxpayers of Maine deserve something better than what we are getting now. We can build on what we have, make it meet our needs as a rural state and meet federal guidelines and keep more of our tax dollars in our own state.
Then it was Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Allagash)’s turn:
Here is his prepared testimony:
Testimony from Senator Troy Jackson in Support of L.D. 1663 Resolve, To Terminate a MaineCare Transportation Contract
Senator Craven, Representative Farnsworth, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services, I am Senator Troy Jackson from Aroostook County, and I am here today to ask for your support of my bill, Resolve, To Terminate a MaineCare Transportation Contract.The purpose of this bill is to cancel the current MaineCare rides contract with Coordinated Transportation Solutions (CTS) that began in August of last year. The MaineCare rides system services about 45,000 people a month and since the change to a new ride system, there has been mounting frustration with ongoing customer service problems. These problems have left our most vulnerable friends and neighbors without access to the critical care that they need. Of the three brokers, CTS has been the most aggregious in the mishandling of their services.
While it is true that each transition can come with its’ share of bumps – these problems go beyond simple growing pains.
Since the change, countless clients have had difficulty booking rides. According to Stefanie Nadeau, the director of MaineCare services of DHHS, 58 percent of callers hung up in frustration before reaching a live caller. In one notable case, a caller was put on hold for 21 hours waiting for help. Even in cases where their calls got through, the rides have often been seriously delayed or have failed to show up completely. In rural districts like mine in Aroostook County, there is often no other option for public transportation for those who need it.
December 1 was the deadline for CTS to either meet their objectives or show progress toward meeting goals. There has been no evidence that this has happened, and the taxpayers of Maine have been left on the hook for $28 million dollars in exchange for services that aren’t being delivered.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the new rides broker is the failure to secure a performance bond. This represents an extreme mismanagement, and makes throwing any more money towards the current brokers’ an irresponsible risk.
As if this wasn’t enough, CTS has requested additional funds after failing to meet the terms of their contract.
We’ve given the new system a chance to work and it hasn’t. Our friends and neighbors can’t wait for dialysis while the brokers get their act together, not to mention those who depend on these rides to get to their jobs. This is why my colleague Senator Lachowicz has introduced a measure to replace this system with a program based on the Vermont model which is much more similar to the system Maine has used effectively for years. This plan has been tested to be more efficient and effective, and is a system that has met the requirements of the federal government.
In the case that the contract with CTS is cancelled, but the new system has not been implemented, two brokers have said they are willing to step in. American Medical Response and MTM are two well-funded, national non-emergency transportation providers that are willing to take up the task of providing services. In other states, these providers have stepped in for CTS where they have fallen short.
We should be moving forward with this proposal, and cancel the existing contract with CTS to avoid further hardship for our citizens and further costs to the taxpayers.
I would like to thank the Health and Human Services committee for their time and consideration.
Weekly Democratic Address of Senator Colleen Lachowicz (Kennebec): Coming Together After Newtown CT Tragedy
Audio link here.
Good Morning. This is State Senator Colleen Lachowicz from Waterville.
There are events that happen in our lives, in our communities, and in our world that forever change us. And often, as a result, dates become emblazoned in our memory. Words take on new meanings. Conversations shift. And, often communities come together—unifying around our collective experience—our shared emotion.
Last week, America experienced one of our biggest tragedies with the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
The actions of last week were senseless. Incomprehensible. Perhaps leaving all of us with more questions than answers.
But, even in the wake of this tragedy, there are some who will try to divide us by politics. As lawmakers we cannot allow it because that will not heal our communities or make our children any safer.
There is no simple answer. But it is our duty to strengthen our resolve. First, by understanding and then, by addressing the real factors that led to this tragedy. To solve the problem, we have to know what the problem is.
We must slow down. Listen to each other. Collectively we have the wisdom—from law enforcement to educators, mental health providers and family members.
As a school social worker, I have seen tragedy. I work with children every day who have encountered trauma. And as I tell them, I will say to all of us: We cannot let this horrible event define us. But, it must define how we act.
There was not a parent in this state who didn’t hug their child a little longer after Newtown. This week I worked in two schools. I cannot look those children, parents and teachers in the eye without knowing we, as lawmakers, will do everything in our power to take their right to be safe into consideration. We have a duty—a duty to the parents and children of this state to reassure them we are doing everything in our power to keep our children and schools safe. Governor LePage and his administration have done the right thing by calling for a review of safety protocols in Maine’s schools.
But we can’t stop there.
As we continue to process and understand what transpired in Newtown on that fateful day, we must look ahead and ask, what can be different? As a culture, a state, a community, a school, a family.
No matter the viewpoint, we all need to talk with each other respectfully—even when we disagree. We’re in this together. It is true that we will need to examine our existing laws and practices with regard to gun safety. But we need to also do this without demonizing gun owners. It is true we need to look at our mental health system. But we need to do this without stigmatizing mental illness. These are tough issues.
Now is not the time to blame. But it is time to take a deep breath and ask, What’s next?
We are days away from the Christmas holiday. And as we prepare to celebrate with our own families, let’s remember the heroes of last week. The teachers who stand on the front lines each day educating our children—and most critically, on that day, the selfless act of protecting the lives of children. And to the dozens of first-responders. We must be proud of them—because they make us remember what is right in our world. And, to the dozens of acts of kindness and thoughtfulness from people across our nation who buoyed a community in a time of darkness.
Thank you for listening. This is State Senator Colleen Lachowicz from Waterville. Have a good weekend—and a Happy Holiday.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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