Rep. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop) Gives Powerful Floor Speech on GA/ FY ’16/17 Budget

Posted on June 19, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

    I believe every person in this Chamber is a proud American. Our ancestors come from different places; practice different faiths; eat different meals. But we share one nation and one set of ideals. We share a belief in the greatness of our country. A belief that what makes us a great nation isn’t our sameness, but our diversity. Today in the hallways of this magnificent building we saw some of Maine’s diversity. There were people here who came from Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Congo Brazza-ville, Djibouti, Mauritania, Rwanda, Somalia.

    They hail from the continent of my ancestors, who did not come to these shores by choice. Ancestors who did not come to these shores fleeing anything. Still, I love America more than any other country on earth, and I wish to be nowhere else.

    It has already been quoted, but I am going to quote it again:

      Give me your tired, your poor,

      Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

      Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

      I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

    I am certain, Mr. Speaker, that every person here, every person listening or watching online, knows that those closing lines from Emma Lazarus’ 1883 sonnet “The New Colossus” are emblazoned on a bronze plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, placed there in 1903.

    We are a nation of immigrants.

    Let us never forget.

    DSC_0093As Thomas Jefferson challenges us, “Shall we refuse the unhappy fugitives from distress that hospitality which the savages of the wilderness extended to our fathers arriving in this land? Shall oppressed humanity find no asylum on this globe?”

    We are a nation of immigrants.

    Let us be reminded by the international community through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for which the United States voted, that “[e]veryone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

    We are a nation of immigrants.

    Let us never forget.

    Throughout this conversation, we have heard arguments such as: “We can’t even afford to take care of our own; we can’t help our disadvantaged, our elderly, and our infirm, so we can’t help them.” I say, Why not? Why can’t we? From the long perspective of human history, from before the times of the Pharaohs to now, in the wealthiest nation ever to exist on the earth, can we really cry poverty in good faith?

    Throughout this conversation, we have heard fears like this: “They don’t look like us. They don’t speak our language. They worship differently than we do. They have strange ways. They can’t be trusted. They just come here to take from us, to pick our pockets, and live off the dole.”

    If we haven’t walked in their shoes, then who are we to judge them?

    Mr. Speaker, women and men of the house, have we forgotten what makes us human? How have we forgotten what makes us humane? Have we forgotten the purpose of our government?

    DSC_0100Our purpose for existing, the principles that guide our work in this Chamber, are laid out in our State Constitution. We have formed the government of the State of Maine “to establish justice, insure tranquility … promote our common welfare, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty.” Is not the welfare of all God’s children our “common welfare”? Isn’t treating all of our residents with fairness and equality indeed “justice”? Isn’t our responsibility to truly secure the blessings of liberty for those who have sought refuge among us, fleeing tyranny and civil war?

    It breaks my heart that we are even having this debate.

    I will quote a passage from “The Fire Next Time,” by James Baldwin:

      “Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.”

    And so in facing the conundrum of life in this debate, I am going to flip the script. I am not going to call them immigrants, or asylum seekers, or legal non-citizens. I am going to call them exactly what they are: human beings seeking a better life in the greatest country on earth.

    How can we in good conscience vote to throw decent human beings out onto the streets because our sometimes cold and insensitive language around “welfare cheats and illegals” has been repeated so often we have lost our ability to see the human beings behind the labels?

    As Martin Luther King said, “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”

    In order to live with my conscience, I cannot, ought not, will not vote against human beings who need our help. I cannot, ought not, will not pit them against other human beings who need our help. And I cannot, ought not, will not fear what happens at the ballot box in the next election.

    Mr. Speaker, women and men of the House, no matter the outcome on this conundrum, this amendment, this vote that we are about to take here this afternoon, I pledge to work with anyone in this Chamber to make sure that our state is more welcoming to young families; more welcoming to people who don’t look like most of us; more welcoming to people from different lands and other countries. And, yes, more welcoming to human beings fleeing the terrible places where life can be found, human beings whose toughness and resilience and ambition will make us a better state now and in the future.

    Brilliantly blessed are those who create Unity out of vast Diversity, for they will experience Heaven on Earth.

    Mr. Speaker, women and men of the House, let us remember who we are. Let us follow the light of the golden lamp of Lady Liberty and vote to pass this amendment.

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Maine Takes Up Right to Food, GMO Labeling in Public Hearing

Posted on May 7, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

craigA large rally (pictures here)between the State House and Cross Building was held April 30, as hundreds gathered in Augusta to show support or testify on a series of food rights and GMO labeling bills heard by the 127th Maine Legislature’s standing Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (AG) Committee:

    LD 456, An Act To Include Nonalcoholic Malt Beverages in the List of Exempt Products in the Law Regarding the Labeling of Genetically Engineered Products
    Rep. Black of Wilton

    LD 783, RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Right to Food
    Rep. Hickman of Winthrop

    LD 991, An Act To Amend Maine’s Genetically Modified Food Products Labeling Law
    Rep. Dunphy of Old Town

    LD 1326, An Act To Require Labeling of All Genetically Modified Products
    Sen. Burns of Washington

Here is video of the large rally.

During the five plus hour long public hearing, testimony was offered by a variety of individuals and organizations on both sides of the discussions, as well as local individuals and national interested parties. Among those non-legislative members who spoke or whose testimony was presented (partial list):


    Joel Salatin, author, Virginia farmer, and leading voice for small, ecologically-minded farmers
    Jonathan Emord, a Washington D.C.-based attorney and expert on states’ rights to pass GMO labeling laws
    Michael Hansen, senior scientist with the Consumers Union
    Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association
    Nisha Swinton, New England Director, Food and Water Watch
    Jerry Greenfield, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream co-founder (read by GOP Rep. Matt Pouliot of Augusta)
    Heather Spalding, deputy director of MOFGA

    Nancy Oden
    Bonnie Preston
    Brian Jones
    Heather Retberg
    Hendrik D. Gideonse
    Richard King
    Maria King
    Betsy Garrold
    Joy Metcalf


    Shelly Doak, Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association
    Greg Dugal, Maine Restaurant Association
    Jon Olson, Maine Farm Bureau
    Ellis Additon, Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources
    Bruce Krupke, NorthEast Dairy Foods (New York)

Here are videos of the entire public hearing. The work session for these bills is set for May 7.


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Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DACF Meets With AFA, AG Committees

Posted on January 25, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

whitcombMaine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walter Whitcomb met before a joint meeting of the 127th Legislture’s standing Appropriations and Agricultural Committees on January 20th to discuss Governor LePage’s 2016/17 biennial budget’s impacts upon his department in a surprising overhaul of the department, including elimination of 25 Maine Forest Ranger positions, 12 of which are currently vacant, and creation of new law enforcement positions.

    Walter E. Whitcomb, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said in a statement that the budget “represents an important shift in public resources to provide more comprehensive forestry protection and better meet the wide range of forest management threats. It also addresses safety issues raised last year through a proposal to arm rangers.”

    Whitcomb said he participated in budget discussions and is comfortable with the direction his department may be headed.

    “I think what we’re causing to happen is an investigation of what we want our rangers to do,”
    Whitcomb said in an interview. “And I think we’re getting to that point … We want them to be doing more of those firefighter duties, and less of the chasing bad guys.”

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