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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(5/8/15) HHS Work Sessions on 11 Medical Marijuana Bills (VIDEOS)

Posted on May 10, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Health and Human Services Cross Building, Room 209

9AM PUBLIC HEARING

    LD 1392, An Act To Amend the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act
    Rep. Sanderson of Chelsea

10 AM WORK SESSIONS

    LD 5, An Act To Remove the Limit on the Number of Patients a Primary Caregiver May Provide for under the Medical Marijuana Laws
    Rep. Russell of Portland

    LD 23, An Act To Remove from the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act the Requirement That a Patient’s Medical Condition Be Debilitating
    Rep. Russell of Portland

    LD 35, An Act To Allow a Qualifying Patient To Use Medical Marijuana in a Hospital
    Sen. Brakey of Androscoggin

    LD 266, An Act To Allow Access for Law Enforcement Officers to the List of Registered Primary Caregivers for Medical Marijuana Patients
    Rep. Blume of York

    LD 560, An Act Regarding Patient Information Under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act
    Rep. Russell of Portland

    LD 726, An Act To Increase Patient Safety in Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program
    Sen. Saviello of Franklin

    LD 752, An Act To Permit Medical Marijuana Cultivation by Incapacitated Adults
    Rep. Dunphy of Embden

    LD 766, An Act To Require a Medical Marijuana Primary Caregiver Cultivating in a Residential Building To Obtain an Electrical Permit
    Rep. Corey of Windham

    LD 1059, An Act Relating to Marijuana Testing Facilities
    Rep. Farnsworth of Portland

    LD 1258, An Act To Amend the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act with Regard to Good Business Practices
    Rep. Sanderson of Chelsea

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HHS Committee Holds Public Hearings on 12 Medical Marijuana Bills (15 Videos)

Posted on April 29, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Public hearings were held this week in the 127th Maine Legislature’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Standing Committee on the following bills:

    LD 5, An Act To Remove the Limit on the Number of Patients a Primary Caregiver May Provide for under the Medical Marijuana Laws

    LD 21, An Act To Amend the Medical Marijuana Laws

    LD 23, An Act To Remove from the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act the Requirement That a Patient’s Medical Condition Be Debilitating

    LD 35, An Act To Allow a Qualifying Patient To Use Medical Marijuana in a Hospital

    LD 266, An Act To Allow Access for Law Enforcement Officers to the List of Registered Primary Caregivers for Medical Marijuana Patients

    LD 560, An Act Regarding Patient Information Under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act

    LD 726, An Act To Increase Patient Safety in Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program

    LD 752, An Act To Permit Medical Marijuana Cultivation by Incapacitated Adults

    LD 766, An Act To Require a Medical Marijuana Primary Caregiver Cultivating in a Residential Building To Obtain an Electrical Permit

    LD 1058, An Act Regarding Medical Marijuana Registered Testing Laboratories

    LD 1059, An Act Relating to Marijuana Testing Facilities

    LD 1258, An Act To Amend the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act with Regard to Good Business Practices

Over 9 hours of public testimony was recorded:

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Maine Lawmakers Submit Bill Aimed at Prohibiting “Revenge Porn”

Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

100_5145LR 326, “An Act To Prohibit The Unauthorized Distribution of Certain Private Images” was introduced by members of the 127th Maine Legislature in late February at a press conference held in the Welcome Center. Speakers included:

    House Minority Leader Rep. Ken Fredette (R-Newport)
    Senator Asst Minority Leader Sen. Dawn Hill (D-York)
    Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland)
    Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner)
    Julia Colpitts, ME Coalition to End Domestic Violence
    Cara Couchesne, ME Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Fredette partnered with the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence to sponsor the bill, which would make posting revenge porn a Class D crime with penalties including a $2,000 fine and one year in jail.

From a Maine House Republican post:

    More and more people are finding their intimate photographs and/or videos disseminated online without their consent with at least 3,000 active websites devoted to this practice. Many of them force victims to pay hundreds of dollars in order to have their images removed. This disturbing trend is now on the rise here in Maine, where the majority of the victims are women. Victims are publicly humiliated to the point where some of them are moving out of areas they have lived in their whole lives and in extreme cases, some are even committing suicide.

    In many cases these images are posted in an effort to exact revenge on a former girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband. In other instances, these videos and images are used as threatening leverage to keep victims trapped in an abusive relationship.

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette: “This is a despicable act that mostly targets women. In states like Maine, where there are no laws on the books to punish those responsible, these victims have nowhere to turn. This is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.”

Co-Sponsor Sen. Dawn Hill: “The practice of non-consensual pornography has no place in Maine. Victims of this despicable act serve a life sentence of humiliation and shame while those responsible are currently going unpunished. It’s time for Maine to join the other states who are putting a stop to this.”

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LePage, Portland, Homeless Advocates Battle Over General Assistance

Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Sen. Justin Alfond, Sen. Anne Haskell, Rep. Mark Dion, Rep. Diane Russell, Rep. Drew Gattine , Rep. Peter Stuckey, Rep. Erik Jorgensen, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Portland City Council Ed Suslovik, Preble St ED Mark Swann, and many others at 2/27/15 Oxford St Homeless Shelter press conference.

Sen. Justin Alfond, Sen. Anne Haskell, Rep. Mark Dion, Rep. Diane Russell, Rep. Drew Gattine , Rep. Peter Stuckey, Rep. Erik Jorgensen, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Portland City Council Ed Suslovik, Preble St ED Mark Swann, and many others at 2/27/15 Oxford St Homeless Shelter press conference.

At the end of the coldest February on record in Maine, political leaders and homelessness advocates held a press conference in Portland to discuss the needs of some of the region’s most needy and address the attacks by the LePage administration regarding the city’s spending of General Assistance monies.

A reminder: this is part of an ongoing legal battle between Portland/ Westbrook and the state over GA funds.

    Alfond, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and others on hand at the shelter Friday said they can explain why Portland seems to have an outsized share of the state’s General Assistance allocation, but that they can’t get a prompt audience with LePage or DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew to discuss it.

    “We want the coordinated attacks on Portland to end, and the work to make our social services better to begin,”
    Alfond said, pointing out that Portland is not only an “outlier” in its distribution of General Assistance funds but also in that it represents an outsized share of the state’s economy.

    Alfond acknowledged Friday the audit was “troubling” and that Portland’s city officials and state representatives were eager to meet with the administration to discuss ways the city could better administer General Assistance. Brennan said he called the governor’s office on Monday to set up an appointment to discuss the audit.

    “I thought it was urgent, but the first date they gave me [for a meeting] was the end of March,” Brennan said Friday. “Obviously, it’s not as urgent to them as it is to us.”

Governor LePage immediately fired back and issued the following statements via a press release:

    “My quarrel is not with the people who stayed at the shelter,” said Governor LePage. “Mental illness often plays a role there. It’s a matter of who pays. The City of Portland knew these people had this money in the bank, but they decided to bill the taxpayers anyway for years’ worth of welfare reimbursement. Municipalities complain about losing revenue sharing, but then I see abuse like this. When municipalities set priorities that unfairly burden Maine property taxpayers, it’s hard to have sympathy for them. Tax relief should go directly to the property taxpayer, not to fund more government. That’s why my tax reform plan gives money directly to the Maine people by tripling property tax fairness credits, doubling the homestead exemption for those over 65 and significantly lowering income tax rates. The most recent news out of Portland shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it serves as an example of why Maine needs real tax reform.”

This weekend, State Senator Anne Haskell (D-Portland) responded to the governor and administration via the Democratic radio address:

    At 8 p.m. last night it was 12 degrees. And it’s March–not January. Together we’ve experienced one of the longest, most frigid, and snowiest winters in history.

    Good Morning. This is State Senator Anne Haskell of Portland. And, I don’t really want to talk about the weather. But I do want each of us to stop for a second and think about a time this winter: Think about the ten minutes it took you to walk from your office to your car on a blustery cold day. Your cheeks froze. Your fingers and toes hurt and you couldn’t wait to seek shelter from the wind.

    What if you didn’t have a home. If you didn’t have a place where you could crank the heat, pull up the blankets, and settle in with a cup of tea.

    What if, at sun down, you had stand in line for hours with the hopes–not the guarantee–that you could get a mat to sleep on at a shelter. A mat, by the way, that is only three inches thick. A mat that is placed in an open room–flanked on each side by strangers–only five inches from you. Clutching all that belongs to you, in a bag or a backpack.

    Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street Homeless Shelter: We are just trying to keep people alive

    Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street Homeless Shelter: We are just trying to keep people alive

    Mark Swann, the executive director at Preble Street in Portland, said, one day this winter, there were 282 people who showed up for one of the 142 mats. The math on this one is easy: 140 people were left to find shelter elsewhere that night. Some slept on the floor of the soup kitchen down the street. Others, had to sit up in chairs all night at city offices. And, a few others waited at the shelter–hoping a mat would open up. One person waited 11 hours; only to lay his head for two hours before the morning came, and the shelter closed for the day.

    Who chooses this?

    The answer is, nobody.

    Nobody chooses to be homeless. Nobody chooses to be mentally ill. Not one of the 282 people who lined up at the Oxford Street Shelter that night was trying to get away with something. Nobody working at the shelter or the city who is trying to provide life-saving shelter is trying to get away with something.

    At its core, this service of providing EMERGENCY shelter is serving the most basic and fundamental and crucial needs of humanity.

    Yet, in recent weeks, it’s become a political football. The LePage administration has attempted to garner salacious headlines by vilifying the people who utilize the shelter, and also those who provide the service.

    It’s not an easy story to tell. Why? Because we are talking about mental illness. We are talking about diseases like Schizophrenia.

    Recently the City of Portland studied 30 of the so-called “long stayers” at the shelters. What did they find? All of them, 100% had serious and persistent mental health issues–often untreated. Some had money in the bank. Some even had thousands of dollars in the bank.

    What does this mean?

    It could mean many things.

    For some, it means that perhaps a special account was set up by family members to put money aside for them. Perhaps intended to pay for things like dental and medical care.

    For some, it could be the remnant of another time in their life–before they got sick.

    For all, it is money that–because of their psychosis, they are unable or unwilling to use.

    DSC_0132They are not staying at homeless shelters to save a buck. They are staying there because they believe staying at a shelter is the best option available to them.

    And…most importantly, they are not numbers on someone’s spreadsheet. They are our brothers and sisters, our parents, our aunts and uncles. They are our fellow human beings–living much more difficult lives than we can imagine.

    Mental illness is not easy to understand. But it is something that we all need to take a closer look at. We can’t be afraid of it. And most of all, we can’t play the blame-game–that serves no purpose other than to distract and delay from a meaningful solutions-based dialogue.

    Long before this administration, the mental health system in Maine has been broken. The overflowing shelters in our state is one symptom of that–as are our jails–that are also overflowing with people who would benefit more from mental health intervention and treatment.

    As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee and a former member of the state’s Criminal Justice Committee, I can tell you that there are dozens of lawmakers who are interested in solving this problem and helping our fellow Mainers who are suffering. But the first step toward a solution has to be one that is honest.

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Diane Russell, John Patrick Speak in Support of Troy Jackson for Congress at 2014 ME Dem Convention

Posted on June 2, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

(Both speeches below are shared as released.)

Rep. Diane Russell of Portland Introduces Senator John Patrick, Speaks in Support of Troy Jackson for Congress

      Diane Russell Convention Speech

    Hello Democrats! My name is Diane Russell and I am here to speak in support of a voice for those who’ve not had one, in support of a champion for those who need one, and in support of my friend, Troy Jackson. You may be wondering: what do Troy Jackson, a logger from Allagash, and I, a progressive representing Munjoy Hill have in common? More than you might think:

    In 1968, Troy was born to a young couple in Allagash. It was extraordinarily unlikely the generational poverty his family had known would be anything but a challenge for their son. Instead, Troy has turned those trials into an opportunity to stand up for people like us and lead him here, poised to be our voice in Washington.

    Troy grew up under the specter of the landowners who held the lives of northern Maine’s logging families in their hands. At twelve years old he watched them dehumanize his father and dozens of other loggers and truckers by threatening to replace them all with Canadians if they didn’t work for the low wages they insisted upon. Troy hid behind his father as two of the striking woodcutter’s dared challenge them. To their protests the landowners replied, “Grass will grow in the roads of Allagash before we’ll pay another cent.” The memory of the wrongness of using working people as chess pieces to make more profits was powerful and would never leave Troy.

    Years later as a young woodsman with his own family, Troy found himself trapped in the same abusive system his entire community had suffered for decades. He believed if he worked as hard as he possibly could and did his very best for his family he could keep the bills paid and build a better life for his kids. But as millions of Americans, thousands of Mainers, and very few members of Congress know, a person’s “best” has not been enough to make it in this country for a long time now.

    DSC_0027This is Troy’s story, but it’s also ours. This is the story of everyone who has ever wanted to “make it” in America but were paralyzed by the reality of corporate greed, of politicians’ distance from working people, and by the greatest problem of our age: income inequality.

    My Dad is a truck driver from Bryant Pond. For years, I’ve watched him get up at 2:00 am, fill his thermos with coffee, and head off to work. His entire life has been spent working as hard as he possibly could for my brother and I. When I hear Troy Jackson speak, I hear my Dad.

    When I hear Troy Jackson speak I don’t just hear the pain of struggling to take care of his family, I hear the voice of a struggling middle class that feels abandoned and ignored. When Troy Jackson speaks I don’t just hear the fears of a man who is concerned for his children’s future, I hear the fears of millions of Americans who every single day wonder if the best days of the middle class are behind us. When Troy Jackson speaks I hear the story of America and the story of Maine and I am here today because it’s time our working class had a voice again. I support Troy Jackson because we deserve – we demand – a voice in the process and a place at the table.

    And now please welcome the Senator from Oxford County, my friend and fellow rabble rouser, John Patrick.

Sen. John Patrick of Rumford speaking in support of Troy Jackson for Congress

      John Patrick Convention Speech

    Hello brothers and sisters! My name is John Patrick, and I’m a maintenance worker at the mill in Rumford, a proud member of the United Steelworkers Local 900, and a proud Labor Democrat. – {pause} – I’ve worked at the mill my entire adult life, just like my father and my brothers and sisters.

    I had served in the legislature for two years before Troy Dale Jackson got there. Like many people, my first estimation of Troy Jackson was that he was a quiet, unpolished young man who spoke with a thick accent. Boy, wasn’t I wrong. Well, not about the accent.

    It didn’t take me long to understand who Troy Jackson really is. – {pause} – He is far and away the strongest voice, the fiercest advocate, and the most determined fighter for working people that I have ever seen.

    Time and time again, I’ve seen Troy stand up to the Republicans, the big companies, and even Wall Street corporate Democrats who need to be reminded that we are supposed to represent the people of Maine who don’t have lobbyists to do their bidding.

    I was never more proud than in 2011 when Troy Jackson lead a small group of Democrats in the Senate to try to block Paul LePage’s 400 million dollar tax cut for the wealthy, a tax cut that was balanced on the backs of working people and the middle class. Troy understood that standing up for working people is important, and unfortunately, too many Democrats then and now need to be reminded of that.

    Brothers and sisters – {pause} – this election offers us a clear choice: we can send someone to congress who makes the middle class one of their talking points, or we can send Troy Jackson to Washington and have a representative that will make the middle class a focal point. – {pause} – In the 430-some congressional districts all over this country there are hundreds of candidates telling people that they’re going to personally go to Washington and bring everyone together and somehow magically make bipartisanship happen.

    Folks, let’s be honest: – {pause} – the people who tell us those things do it because it polls well and it helps them win elections. Every two years we hear about it and yet Congress is more polarized than ever. – {pause} – So I’m going to tell it like it is: whoever we elect to Congress from this district isn’t going to go to DC and bring Democrats and Republicans together. They aren’t going to get Democratic and Republican leadership to hold hands and pass some super-budget that saves the world. But here’s what they can do, – {pause} – and this is why we need Troy Jackson.

    DSC_0032Our next member of Congress can take on the tea party in their radical assault on social security and medicare – just like Troy did when he stood up to LePage to fight for pensions. Our next member of Congress can push fellow Democrats to speak out against the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and remind Americans what supply-side economics really is – {pause} – a bunch of nonsense. And our next member of Congress can fight like the dickens to make sure our next health care reform results in a universal, single-payer system – {pause} – Ask Troy Jackson about healthcare – {pause} – he’s on pacemaker #3 that he wouldn’t afford without state sponsored healthcare. Troy is giving up that healthcare to run for this seat so he can fight to give that healthcare to all of us.

    Ladies and gentleman, Troy Jackson is the only politician I’ve ever truly believed in. This is the person we need on the floor of Congress – {pause} – giving them hell every single day. – {pause} – This is the person we need to choose as our nominee on June 10th. Fellow Democrats – ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the next congressperson from Maine, my friend, and a friend of every working man and woman, Troy Dale Jackson.

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2014 Maine Democratic Party Convention Videos: Day 2, 5/31/14 (Saturday)

Posted on June 2, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

(With this next batch, I will be setting videos with released prepared speeches individually as well. Please note that a request was made to the Cain campaign and as of this morning, there has been no response yet- if the text of her speech is forwarded, hers also will be set as a stand-alone post.)

1. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap Addresses 2014 ME Dem Convention

2. Attorney General Janet Mills Addresses 2014 Maine Democratic Convention

3. Androscoggin Chair Tom Reynolds Introduces Shenna Bellows for Senate at Convention

4. U.S. Senate Democratic Candidate Shenna Bellows Addresses Convention

5. Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston Introduces Emily Cain for Congress

6. Emily Cain for Congress Addresses Convention

7.Troy Jackson: Core Values” at 2014 Maine Democratic Convention

8. Rep. Diane Russell of Portland speaking in support of Troy Jackson for Congress

9. Sen. John Patrick of Rumford speaking in support of Troy Jackson for Congress

10. Troy Jackson for Congress Addresses 2014 Maine Democratic Convention

11. Mike Michaud for Governor at 2014 Maine Democratic Party Convention

12. Mike Michaud for Governor addresses convention

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Silly Season Continues in Augusta, As Fredette Mansplains and Hamper Croons Hotel California

Posted on June 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATED: Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough)’s “American Pie” speech had some jaws dropping in the House.

Some days, one only needs a camera and popcorn when reporting on the Legislature…

MPA captured this moment from the floor of the House, in which Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) explained in an especially sexist and misogynistic, out-dated and irrelevant way his objections to LD 1066, the Medicaid expansion bill, that later went viral:

    “As I listen to the debate today and earlier debate on this bill, I can’t help but think of a title of a book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And it’s a book about the fact that men sort of think one way in their own brain, in their own world. And women think another way in their own brain and in their own world. And it really talks about the way that men and women can do a better job at communicating.

    Because if you listen to the debate today, in my mind — a man’s mind — I hear two fundamental issues. From the other side of the aisle, I hear the conversation being about: free. ‘This is free, we need to take it, and it’s free. And we need to do it now.’ And that’s the fundamental message that my brain receives. Now, my brain, being a man’s brain, sort of thinks differently, because I say, well, it’s not — if it’s free, is it really free? Because I say, in my brain, there’s a cost to this.”

MPA, who shared the above clip, had this response from organizer Jennie Pirkl:

    “This isn’t about women and men; it’s about life and death. Rep. Fredette would probably say that I only think this way because of my ‘woman’s brain’, but I find it incredibly distasteful for him to use offensive, gender-based stereotypes to advance his anti-health care agenda,” said Maine People’s Alliance Health Care Organizer Jennie Pirkl.

    “What’s more, he’s lying about the bill. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation admits that accepting federal health care funding will save the state $690 million over the next decade while providing health care coverage for 70,000 more Maine people.”

To say that Fredett’e choice in tone and language in delivering his floor speech got some national attention would be an understatement… Think Progress picked it up immediately and from there, well… Jezebel had a bunch of fun with it!

Democratic Underground was next… and then Rachel Maddow:

    For the record, Fredette, the leader of Maine Republicans in the state House, did not appear to be kidding.

    After having watched it a couple of times, I’m still not sure what this state lawmaker is trying to say. Does he believe women are confused by federal-state partnerships in providing health care benefits? Does he think men necessarily oppose Medicaid expansion because of their male brains? Fredette certainly seems to be under the impression that he — with his “man’s mind” — is better able to understand health care costs that women apparently can’t see.

    And if that is what Fredette believes, there may be something wrong with his brain.

    As for the politics of this, I’m beginning to wonder if some kind of secret memo went out to Republican policymakers, telling them to be as offensive as possible so that women vote Democratic in even larger numbers. Just consider the recent evidence.

    For what it’s worth, later in the day, Fredette apologized for his “inartful” remarks. His man’s brain apparently came to realize he’d made an embarrassing mistake.

Rep. Diane Rusell, wearing her  "FIGHT LIKE A GIRL" pin on her lapel.

Rep. Diane Rusell, wearing her “FIGHT LIKE A GIRL” pin on her lapel.

Then we have Slate. And Huffington Post. And Glamour.

Political Wire. National Memo.

This list goes on and on…

As Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) said, blasting Fredette’s remarks:

    “I thought it was 2013, not 1813. Apparently, I was wrong.”

Word to the wise: Do NOT click on the Jezebel link and read that while recording video live on the floor of the House, like I did- think I bit right through my lip, trying to keep quiet!

Onward to the Senate…

This has got to be one of the strangest moments I personally have witnessed, bar none, in the Senate. Not sure if Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) was denouncing Medicaid expansion or if he thought it was Karaoke Night!

Who would have thought that an Eagles song, released in 1976, was in actuality penned as a take-down argument against Medicaid expansion…

The quoted lyrics:

    “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
    Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
    Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
    My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
    I had to stop for the night”

    “There she stood in the doorway;
    I heard the mission bell
    And I was thinking to myself,
    “This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”

    “Mirrors on the ceiling,
    The pink champagne on ice
    And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”

    “And in the master’s chambers,
    They gathered for the feast
    They stab it with their steely knives,
    But they just can’t kill the beast”

    “Last thing I remember, I was
    Running for the door
    I had to find the passage back
    To the place I was before
    “Relax, ” said the night man,
    “We are programmed to receive.
    You can check-out any time you like,
    But you can never leave! ”

Oh, to have one of the Democratic Senators stand and deliver the line: “You can’t hide your lying eyes”… or even better, this.

A reminder: Session supposedly ends this week. Stay tuned!

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Rep Diane Russell (Portland): Maine must lead marijuana regulation (Video, Text, Pix)

Posted on February 23, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Link to full press conference conducted 21 Feb 2013. Speakers included: Rep. Russell, Shenna Bellows of ACLU of Maine, Denny Gallaudet (retired bank president and retired superintendent), David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project and Rep. Aaron Libby (R- Waterboro).

Representative Russell’s full address, as prepared:

“Maine is a remarkable case study in how a state can regulate marijuana in a controlled, responsible manner that balances the broad interests of public safety, substance abuse and parents. We have retail establishments that grow and supply marijuana to responsible customers.

We have proven that this can be done for medical purposes, and now it is time to institute that same strict regulatory infrastructure for responsible adult recreational consumers.

IMG_2464When was the last time you heard of a drug dealer carding a kid? It doesn’t happen. Responsible Maine business owners who sell alcohol do it all the time. It is time we let business owners who card their consumers earn the profits and not the drug dealers or drug cartels.

Two years ago, I introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana. I introduced it because I realized that the trends were shifting and public policy was going to have to shift to meet this new culture shift. What I did not realize was just how quickly that change would come.

Historically, the end of alcohol Prohibition began the day New York decriminalized its production. In our generation’s prohibition, Washington and Colorado were the tipping points. The question of whether to legalize or not was answered for history in November when voters in two states voted to allow marijuana to be taxed and regulated.

Over 1200 online viewers of the press conference, live streamed by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland)

Over 1200 online viewers of the press conference, live streamed by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland)

Most people have been remarkably supportive of my efforts and many share my concern about preventing young people from having access to marijuana. 85% of high school seniors are telling us that they have easy access to it. That number has not dipped below 82% since 1975. The War on Drugs began in 1971. If the metric by which we measure this program is the success we have had in getting it out of the hands of young people, then we have failed. Prohibition did not work with alcohol and it has not worked with marijuana, either.

Today, I join my colleagues in asking the legislature to do the responsible thing and to set up a regulatory infrastructure that takes into account the broad spectrum of interests: from law enforcement, from substance abuse counselors and especially from parents and teachers. Let us not bury our heads in the sands, hoping this issue will simply go away. We have been doing that for far too long as it is, and now we can see the trend is coming.

My bill would set up a strong regulatory infrastructure for the in-state cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21 by licensed retailers. It gives preference to Maine-based business owners, dispensaries and caregivers in the application process to do what we can to ensure we are creating Maine jobs.

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  • The bill taxes it at $50 per ounce, bringing in an estimated- and probably conservative- $13 million new dollars to the state.

  • 75% of that will go to the General Fund to offset education costs.
  • 10% will go to help law enforcement.
  • 10% will go toward substance abuse and prevention.
  • 5% would be set aside for research grants so that we can study the effects of marijuana use as well as THC potency.
  • This bill provides lawmakers an opportunity to have an open and transparent process to refine the regulatory framework of the current bill to ensure Mainers can be confident in the end result. If approves by the Legislature and Governor, the bill would go to the people for ratification by referendum.

    Maine has been a model state in how we regulate medical marijuana. We have been smart, conservative and responsible, proving that our state has the knowledge and ability to regulate properly. Our state motto, Dirigo, reminds us that we must lead. I’m asking my colleagues to do just that.

    Thank you.”

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    Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) Addresses House on Emergency Bill, LD 576

    Posted on February 19, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

    Link here to LD 576, An Act to “Resolve, To Protect Concealed Handgun Permit Information on a Temporary Basis”, sponsored by Asst Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson, Asst House Majority Leader Representative Jeff McCabe, Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Asst House Minority Leader Alex Willette.

    “Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

    Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House,

    I would like to point out for the record that we are voting on a bill today that would limit the public’s right to know- and we are doing so, without a public hearing.

    This is a bad public process precisely because there has not been a public process.

    I also wanted an opportunity to allow the public to weigh in on this, and as Representative Brooks stated, it is the part I staunchly oppose.

    I will vote for the 60 days today, but I’d like the record to show that this is not a good process.

    We are much better than this.”

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