(UPDATED, 1/22/17) MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Show aired the following as a quick review of the weekend’s events in Washington DC and nationally:
On Friday, as Donald J. Trump was sworn into office as the country’s 45th President, Mainers gathered in the State House’s Hall of Flags to read the U.S. Constitution. Here is full video of the event, hosted by ACLU of Maine:
Saturday saw the largest number of protesters ever gathered outside the State House complex as part of the over 600 international location rally/ #WomensMarch event, protesting President Trump. Numbers for participation are still being totaled, but event organizers are claiming over 10,000 participants at the Augusta site.
A quick video from within the crowd. State Senator Shenna Bellows (D-Kennebec) can be heard speaking in the background.
Here are photos that better illustrate the strength of numbers (link to more photos here).
Via Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills’ offices in the Cross Building:
A Facebook photo shared by Maine Senate Democratic press secretary Mario Moretto from the State House shows Senator Bellows looking down at the crowds:
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Speaker Eves’ Legal Team File ‘Notice of Claim’ Against Governor LePage with Attorney General’s Office
Attorneys for Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves filed a state law claim against Governor Paul LePage today with the state’s Attorney General. From an accompanying press release by David Webbert:
Today, I filed a new notice of claim under Maine law against Gov. Paul LePage on behalf of Speaker Mark Eves.
The attached written notice explains why Speaker Eves has a very strong state law claim against the Governor for intentional interference with employment. Not only did the governor violate federal law, but he also violated Maine law when he blackmailed Good Will-Hinckley to coerce it into firing Speaker Eves. This state law claim adds to the Speaker’s case against the Governor and will be considered as part of the lawsuit in federal court.
Maine law requires that this notice be filed with the Office of the Governor and the Attorney General. It also requires that Speaker Eves wait 120 days after filing this notice before he can add this state law claim to his lawsuit filed in federal court on July 30, 2015.
Here is the notice of claim.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(Breaking story; will be updated as needed. ~AP)
As anticipated, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court wasted no time in coming back with a speedy response to last week’s hour long hearing, issuing the following opinion today: a 6-0 smack-down of Governor LePage (PDF).
Attorney General Janet T. Mills: “The Office of the Attorney General is pleased with the full and complete responses to the Governor’s questions elucidated in the unanimous 47 page opinion today. The Opinion of the Justices is on all fours with all the research conducted by our Office and with the Opinion of the Attorney General of July 10, 2015. We are also pleased that the Court ruled expeditiously so as to avoid any further unnecessary debate and confusion. The answers to the Governor’s questions are clear, unambiguous and completely consistent with his own past practice and with that of every other Governor in recent memory. Except when the Legislature has adjourned sine die, the Chief Executive has ten days (excluding Sundays) within which to return any bills with his objections. By his failure to do so, he has forfeited the right to veto any of the bills at issue.”
Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N. Berwick): “The court has rightly rejected Gov. Paul LePage’s legal gymnastics. The decision affirms these bills are law. The governor must enforce them. The ruling also reaffirms the Constitution, historical precedent, and honors the separation of powers in our Democracy that protects against partisanship and abuse of power. The decision is a victory a huge win for Maine women, families, seniors, and veterans, who will see great benefits from the laws we passed.”
House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan): “This ruling is a victory for the Maine people and the Maine constitution. It affirms both the good bipartisan work of the Legislature and the separation of powers. I call on Governor LePage to abide by the Court’s opinion, fulfill his constitutional duties and enforce all 71 laws that were duly passed by the Legislature.”
Asst House Majority Leader Sara Gideon (D-Freeport): “The Supreme Court has confirmed what we’ve long known – the Legislature has the sole power to decide when it is adjourned. Today’s ruling ensures Maine will make progress on key issues like women’s health, veterans’ services, domestic violence, drug overdose deaths, affordable housing for seniors and many more. I look forward to the executive branch implementing these laws and doing the work the people hired them to do.”
And the verdict is in. Governor's effort to delay, distract and rewrite Maine's Constitution unanimously rejected. #mepolitics
— Phil Bartlett (@PhilMaine) August 6, 2015
— Steve Mistler (@stevemistler) August 6, 2015
— Paul Merrill (@PaulMerrillWMTW) August 6, 2015
— Mario Moretto (@riocarmine) August 6, 2015
— MPA (@mainepeople) August 6, 2015
Breaking: ME Supreme Judicial Court rules – bills are law! #mepolitics
— ACLU of Maine (@ACLUMaine) August 6, 2015
Statement of Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo):
- “Today, Maine’s highest court confirmed that the Governor’s inaction on these 65 bills resulted in them becoming law. While I am disappointed that some of these measures are now law, I am pleased that we have a court opinion which reaffirms the longstanding, 195-year old practice of dealing with vetoes that is outlined in the Constitution.
We should now move past this dispute and use this as an opportunity to change the tone in Augusta. The executive and legislative branches must work together. I encourage the Administration to reset their relationship with the Legislature to foster an environment of engagement and collaboration. Effective leadership requires instilling confidence both in our colleagues in Augusta and constituents back home. When that confidence is shaken we should not be surprised when we are unable to accomplish our goals. By working together we can all accomplish great things for the people of Maine.”
- “Today’s court opinion reaffirmed what virtually every observer knew from the very beginning – that the Governor’s interpretation of the Constitution was incorrect. As he has stated, the Governor’s aim with these vetoes was to waste the Legislature’s time.
Going forward, as Republicans, we need to refocus on effectively governing the State of Maine. As Republicans, we are proud to stand by the principles of honesty, integrity, and good government. We hope that this ruling will result in a different pattern of conduct from this Administration, one that more closely resembles the tradition of Maine Republican statesmanship that so many of our elected officials have exemplified. The time for political games, inflammatory rhetoric, and irresponsible governing is over.”
I am getting private notes that Maine Democrats won at the Supreme Court today . SORRY, uh no . The LAW won & the Constitution was followed
— Ray Richardson (@RayRichardsonJr) August 6, 2015
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7/12/15 12:05 am UPDATE: As Governor LePage took no action on the additional 51 bills listed below before the deadline minutes ago, those additional bills have now become law as well. This post will be updated with any new information as it becomes available, as well as any statements from legislators.
A curious thing happened on Monday night, as Maine realized that Governor Paul LePage had failed to act on 19 bills sitting on his desk within the 10 day window for a decision to veto or sign them- and as such, they became law.
The next day, LePage and his administration denied that this was the case, stating that they were dead via the pocket veto option available to the chief executive… which is only true if the Legislature was not “at ease” but rather had “adjourned sine die” on June 30th (which they had NOT).
But while the Governor and his staff continue to insist that they are right, the Revisor’s office disagreed.
Here is the list of the 19 new laws.
Bills on Governor’s Desk Past the 10 Day Limit
LD 25 “An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Uses” Sponsored by Representative Diane Russell
LD 78 “An Act Regarding Limitations on Certain Storm Water Fees” Sponsored by Senator Nathan Libby
LD 113 “An Act To Reduce the Penalties for Certain Drug Offenses” Sponsored by Senator Roger Katz
LD 234 “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015” (Emergency) (Governor’s Bill) Sponsored by Representative Margaret Rotundo
LD 299 “An Act To Protect Children in Municipal and School Facilities by Requiring Boiler Inspections” Sponsored by Senator Dawn Hill
LD 369 “An Act To Align Municipal General Assistance Programs with the Immigration Status Policies of the Department of Health and Human Services” Sponsored by Senator Eric Brakey
LD 522 “An Act To Clarify a Recently Enacted Law Designed To Expand the Number of Qualified Educators” Sponsored by Senator David Burns
LD 722 “An Act To Strengthen Penalties for Abuse of General Assistance” Sponsored by Senator Eric Brakey
LD 756 “An Act To Enhance the Address Confidentiality Program Regarding Property Records” Sponsored by Representative Michelle Dunphy
LD 822 “An Act To Allow a Former Spouse of a Member of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System To Begin Collecting Benefits When the Former Spouse Reaches the Member’s Retirement Age” Sponsored by Representative Patrick Corey
LD 870 “An Act To Amend the Maine Spruce Budworm Management Laws” Sponsored by Senator James Dill
LD 1013 “An Act To Prevent the Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners” Sponsored by Senator Anne Haskell
LD 1039 “An Act To Amend the Polygraph Examiners Act” Sponsored by Senator Anne Haskell
LD 1085 “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Right To Know Advisory Committee Concerning Receipt of a Request for Public Records” Introduced by Rep. Barry Hobbins
LD 1108 “An Act To Protect Children and the Public from Electronic Cigarette Vapor” Sponsored by Representative Jeff McCabe
LD 1134 “An Act To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Distribute Information Regarding Down Syndrome to Providers of Prenatal and Postnatal Care and to Genetic Counselors” Sponsored by Senator Amy Volk
LD 1185 “An Act To Establish the Municipal Gigabit Broadband Network Access Fund” Sponsored by Representative Norman Higgins
LD 1303 “An Act To Stabilize and Streamline the Department of Environmental Protection’s Ground Water Oil Clean-up Fund and Maine Coastal and Inland Surface Oil Clean-up Fund” Sponsored by Senator Thomas Saviello
LD 1391 “An Act Regarding the Treatment of Forensic Patients” Sponsored by Representative Richard Malaby
LePage’s lawyers Cynthia Montgomery and Hank Fenton quickly wrote to Grant Pennoyer, Executive Director of the Legislative Council, about the actions of the Revisor’s office.
And Pennoyer responded back, just as zippety-quick… and against Team LePage.
This sentence is key:
“Absent a legal opinion from an authoritative external legal source, such as an opinion of the justices or a written opinion of the attorney general, which the office has used as guidance in the past, the revisor’s office will continue to perform its administrative responsibilities in an absolutely nonpartisan manner.”
And here’s why it’s important. Moments ago, Maine’s Attorney General Janet T. Mills responded to requests earlier this week by Senators Tom Saviello (R-Franklin) and Asst Minority Leader Dawn Hill (D-York), on the question of whether or not the Legislature was adjourned sine die or not, as well as the status of the 19 now printed bills/ laws.
Mills’ response is below.
As of yesterday, it was announced that another 51 bills could also become law if the governor also ignores them until after 12:01 am July 12th (Sunday). Here is the list of those bills.
Who knows where next this goes– Maine may well see Paul LePage take the Legislature, the Revisor’s office, Grant Pennoyer and the Attorney General to court. It’s all anyone’s guess.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
You remember… the ones, along with Aroostook Watchman Jack McCarthy that Mike Tipping made famous last year? Here’s a timeline to refresh your memory.
Anyhoo… seems that a little birdie told these fellas that they would be well served to submit an amicus brief to the Maine Supreme Court, as part of Governor LePage’s going to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to squeal on the oh so very mean Attorney General Janet Mills, who won’t let Paul play with all the toys.
He hasn’t been so mad since the Legislative Council made him move his TV from behind the stairs!
But back to Merletti and McCarthy, because there is more than a dash of irony in them filing the papers in the first place. As was questioned by Portland Press Herald’s Greg Kasich: “Do they recognize the supreme court?”
It is a wonder, to be sure. But see for yourselves!
Here are the entire proceedings, as shared on the State of Maine Judicial Branch “Governor’s Request for Opinion of the Justices” page of the case. Click on “Brief of Lise McLain and Dorothy Lafortune”, to find where Merletti and McCarthy pop up.
GOVERNOR’S REQUEST FOR OPINION OF THE JUSTICES
On Friday January 23, 2015, the Governor of the State of Maine, Paul R. LePage, referred two questions to the Supreme Judicial Court related to the legal representation of the Governor and the Executive Branch in litigation. A copy of the letter setting forth the questions is linked to below.
The Justices invite the Governor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office and any interested person or entity to submit briefs addressing
- whether the questions propounded present, individually or together, a “solemn occasion[ ],” pursuant to article VI, section 3 of the Maine Constitution; and
- the law regarding either or each of the questions propounded.
Any person or entity wishing to submit a brief to the Court shall do so by filing the brief with the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court, in Portland, at 205 Newbury Street, Room 139, Portland, Maine 04101, at or before noon on Friday, February 6, 2015. Briefs shall not be longer than thirty pages, double spaced. Responsive briefs are not required, but may be filed by any person or entity that filed an initial brief, at or before noon on Friday, February 13, 2015. Responsive briefs shall not be longer than ten pages, double spaced.
To facilitate public and judicial review of all filings, the justices request that an electronic copy of any hard copy brief filed be emailed as a pdf file to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oral Argument will be held on February 26, 2015, in Portland at 10:00 a.m.
- Letter from the Governor
- Procedural Order
- Briefs (listed in the order received):
- Brief of Lise McLain and Dorothy Lafortune
- Brief of Audrey Spence
- Brief of Peter Brann, Esq.
- Brief of Governor Paul R. LePage
- Brief of Attorney General Janet T. Mills
- Reply brief of Audrey Spence
- Reply brief of Governor Paul R. LePage
- Reply brief of Attorney General Janet T. Mills
- Reply brief of Lise McLain
- Other documents (in order received):
- Motion for leave to participate in the oral argument
- Letter and attachment from Governor’s Office
- Letter and attachment from Attorney General’s Office
- Order denying motion for leave to participate in oral argument
- Disclosure by the Justices pursuant to Canon 3(E)(3)
of the Maine Code of Judicial Conduct
Now this is where the legal clown car gets a tad crowded- the above “Motion for leave to participate in the oral argument“. Merletti and McCarthy asserted today in court that their vast experience as researchers is required by the Court, for the Court to fully understand the case. Needless to say, this motion was summarily denied by the Court.
Indeed, Justice is blind.
(To be updated)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Earlier today Maine Attorney General stood on the steps of the Kennebec County Courthouse to meet with press and announce that a huge chunk of money is coming our way. Via press release:
Attorney General Janet Mills has announced the largest ever one-time settlement in Maine history. The State of Maine filed papers Wednesday with the Superior Court settling the state’s complex lawsuit against Standard & Poor’s (S&P). The lawsuit, originally filed two years ago in Kennebec Superior Court, alleged that the credit ratings giant engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in connection with its ratings during the time leading up to the financial crisis of 2008. The settlement was negotiated in conjunction with the federal Department of Justice and 19 states and the District of Columbia. Maine will receive $21.5 million dollars for consumer protection efforts.
The total settlement amount is $1.375 Billion. One half of the amount was paid the United States Department of Justice to settle its case. The other half was divided among the states that sued S&P. S&P is paying the Maine Office of the Attorney General $21,535,714.00, an amount commensurate with the economic harm caused by the company’s behavior and an amount which exceeds the profits from its activities, amounting to essentially a disgorgement of S&P’s ill-gotten gains. The state’s share will be directed toward consumer protection and education efforts.
Portions of her prepared statement:
“Holding S&P accountable for these practices tells Wall Street we will not tolerate acts that deceive investors and devastate our economy,” said Attorney General Mills. “As Attorney General I will continue to work to promote transparency and protect the integrity of our financial system. This settlement shows that banks did not act alone and that the Attorneys General of the states and of the United States together will pursue any entity that violates the public trust and stacks the deck against consumers and homeowners.”
Per Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti, Maine’s Consumer Protection Division Chief, the states are dividing the windfall pretty much equally, with a few exceptions receiving a slightly larger portion. More from the Justice Department:
- In its agreed statement of facts, S&P admits that its decisions on its rating models were affected by business concerns, and that, with an eye to business concerns, S&P maintained and continued to issue positive ratings on securities despite a growing awareness of quality problems with those securities. S&P acknowledges that:
- S&P promised investors at all relevant times that its ratings must be independent and objective and must not be affected by any existing or potential business relationship;
- S&P executives have admitted, despite its representations, that decisions about the testing and rollout of updates to S&P’s model for rating CDOs were made, at least in part, based on the effect that any update would have on S&P’s business relationship with issuers;
- Relevant people within S&P knew in 2007 many loans in RMBS transactions S&P were rating were delinquent and that losses were probable;
- S&P representatives continued to issue and confirm positive ratings without adjustments to reflect the negative rating actions that it expected would come.
There is ongoing similar multi-state litigation against Moody’s as well, but that is still in its preliminary stage. As such, Mills and her office were unwilling to discuss details pertaining to that case.
As for distribution of the $21M, Mills said that she intended to speak with legislative leadership and the governor’s office with recommendations for usage of the funds.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Political Pettiness? “Get Over It”
On Thursday, Cathy Breen (D-Cumberland) was finally sworn in to represent Senate District 25, a full month later than her colleagues, due to the recent recount snafu. Governor Paul LePage administered the oath of office in his chambers.While this is not unusual practice, what happened later that day most definitely was.
In an unprecedented move, Maine’s three constitutional officers Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Treasurer Terry Hayes and Attorney General Janet T. Mills were informed that by the governor’s request, they would not be sworn into office publicly in the House of Representatives- but rather that LePage would administer their oaths privately in his chambers.
All three had served as Democratic legislators with Hayes serving as House Minority Whip in the 125th Legislature. While Dunlap and Mills still are Democrats, Hayes last year declared herself as an Independent while working as field director for Eliot Cutler’s gubernatorial campaign. This marks Dunlap’s second consecutive term in the office, as he previously served three terms from 2005-10 and returned for the 2013-14 term. Mills, Maine’s first female Attorney General, served from 2008-10 and again from 2012-4.
Terry Hayes was nominated by Republicans Senator Tom Saviello and former Speaker of the House Rep. Bob Nutting when she defeated incumbent Democrat Treasurer Neria Douglass in December. She ran unsuccessfully for House Speaker against Mark Eves in 2012. This is her first term as Treasurer and she made a special request of the governor for a public ceremony, as she had invited over 60 family members, friends and former legislative colleagues to witness her swearing in.
On Thursday afternoon, Dunlap and Mills were escorted separately into the governor’s Cabinet Room along with members of their staff, family and a handful of state senators to witness the quick ceremonies behind closed doors. Neither the public nor the press were allowed to witness, although this reporter did manage to obtain a photo of Secretary of State Dunlap’s swearing in by quickly passing a camera to a willing party as they went through the door.
Once both were sworn in, Governor LePage met with Hayes and her husband Stephen in the Hall of Flags and spoke for a few moments privately. Before a large crowd of invited guests including former legislators of all political stripes, he administered the oath of office publicly, congratulated her, waved to the crowd of witnesses and returned to his office.
It would be easy to chalk all of this up as yet another example of “Paul LePage being Paul LePage”, except this feels like the beginning of a concerning tonal trend. Earlier in the week and with much fanfare, the governor unveiled a new facility in South Portland that consolidates the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Labor (DOL) offices. The administration claimed that the new facility will save taxpayers more than $23 million. But when asked by the press about the difficulties the new location creates for those having to take a 40 minute bus ride to get to it, the governor quipped:
“Get over it.”
Also this week, DHHS head Mary Mayhew stated that the federal government’s battle with the LePage administration over photos on EBT cards could lead to her department’s “questioning their ability to administrate the SNAP program”.
Let that sink in: Mayhew, considered to be mulling a future Blaine House run herself, is willing to deny 249,000 Maine families their federally allowed food assistance.
“Get over it.”
But back to the private/ public oath of office brouhaha. The governor and his office have refused to comment on the matter at all.
“Get over it.”
One anticipates this phrase will be repeated many times over the next four years.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
After Governor Paul LePage swore in Matthew Dunlap as Secretary of State, Janet T. Mills as Attorney General and Terry Hayes as Treasurer, the three and invited guests reconvened in the House of Representatives.
A reminder: the swearing in for incumbents Dunlap and Mills were both conducted privately by LePage in his Cabinet Room; he swore Hayes into office publicly in the Hall of Flags:
Here are the speeches presented by the trio, with text as prepared for Dunlap and Mills.
1. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D-Old Town)
- Thank you for coming today—and especially, thank you to my wife and family, without whom I would be helpless to ever amount to anything. Also, special thanks, again, to Senator Anne Haskell of Cumberland and Representative Aaron Frey of Bangor for nominating me for another term as Secretary of State.
I’m sorry you missed the actual act of my taking the oath. The Executive had reserved a custodian’s closet for the act, but we had to use it while the good fellow was taking his break, so the schedule didn’t mesh with this event.
We’re nearing the end of the sesquicentennial observation of the Civil War. One of the most famous letters to come out of that war was written by a Rhode Island officer to his wife just days before he was killed in the first Battle of Bull Run. In it, he writes of the noble purpose of the war:
“If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.”
Sullivan Ballou understood that the fight to support the government was really the fight to support freedom—which is our right, as citizens, to govern ourselves, and not, in fear, stand subject to petty actions by some despot. I am grateful that brave, conscientious Americans stand at this hour in harm’s way to protect that same idea. So, empty efforts that attempt to portray false power are just games, and don’t really get under my skin. My work goes on, as does yours, as we all stride forward for a better future.
We live in dangerous times. In any direction that we cast our eyes, we see turmoil. The civil war raging in Syria; tension in Ukraine; distrust in North Korea; piracy in the Gulf of Aden; and our soldiers, sailors and airmen deployed and on high alert in many very, very dangerous places around the world keep us lighting candles and tying yellow ribbons as a show of hope for their safe return.
Even the happy circumstance of falling oil prices contributes to a disturbing sense of global entropy. Cheap oil isn’t good for everyone, and as nations face crippling deflation of their currencies, unrest may well follow.
My instincts, at one time, would have been to turn off the television, close up the front door, and go out back and plant a garden.
While it’s always more comfortable to pretend that all is well and that our problems will go away by themselves, the reality is they don’t, and superheroes only live in comic books. I learned from the examples of so many around me—especially my parents, Bob and Sue Dunlap, that no one will come rescue you when things go wrong; (well, the Maine Warden Service will rescue you, but you know what I mean, generally) you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
My late father, an energetic and creative man, never knew quite what to make of me. I wasn’t like everyone else in my family—they were always making something. I was content to lay around in bed long into a summer’s day, reading and daydreaming. It was a source of tremendous frustration for him, even causing him to exclaim one time that I had no shame, and was the laziest kid he had ever seen.
He would have been stunned at what’s transpired in me since those carefree days.
I believe strongly in what I do; and am grateful for the opportunity to continue in this role bestowed on me by the Legislature. Being able to help people access their government is one of the great blessings of my life, and the calling is strong enough to keep me coming back.
We engage in no small tasks. Nothing I am asked is a bother to me, nor do I ever have anything more important to do, despite the protestations of those who come to me, hat in hand, with what to them is a great issue indeed. We have, in the office of the Secretary of State, very simple rules of engagement.
1. We always tell it like it is; never hedge, blame others, or dissemble.
2. The world stops for kids. Young people are our future leaders, and taking time to listen to them, answer their questions, and show them the respect of any citizen pays long dividends.
3. Do it now. Post-it notes and reminders are the urns of forgotten tasks, and appear to mean that we consider something important to a citizen unworthy of our immediate attention.
We’ve been through a lot since I first stood here. At the time, still fresh from my service in the House, I meant it when I said that my goal for the Legislature was for people to see their representatives and senators as highly effective—because they had a good experience with my office. We’ve had a lot of success there, which was at many times uncertain. There was the long turmoil of the Motor Vehicles computer upgrades—deftly executed by our great people there. Now, we are nearing completion of upgrades to all of our service facilities, and are working towards keeping pace with the expectations and opportunities of the 21st Century.
We’ll have a lot to talk about this session as we consider how Maine will respond to the latest feints by the Federal government towards getting the several states to conjure up for them—at no cost to the Feds—for a national ID and citizen tracking system called REAL ID. Still fraught with problems and sold with fantasy, we’ll want to engage the Legislature for guidance.
We built the Central Voter Registration system, and provided expedited service to military and overseas voters as well as people with disabilities. But the help the Federal government lent us to do that is gone—and they expect us to continue, without the benefit of additional Federal dollars. So we’ll be chatting with you about that, too.
We’ll be working on rebuilding our Corporations databases as well, and at NASS, we’ll continue to grapple with Congress over corporate formation issues that, if they get their way, will be an incredible burden on business and not achieve any of the goals Congress has in mind. We call that process REAL ID Business Class.
At the Archives, we’re putting the resources the last Legislature asked us to use for securing our electronic history to work and are beginning to implement what will be the underpinning of a digital archiving policy. We’re going to keep working on that, and with a largely new and highly energized staff, we’re planning on getting a lot done over the next two years.
We have a lot to do. I could tell you plenty more, and I will; you’ll see me every day, in the halls and in your committee rooms, and I’ll strive to answer your questions and help you craft solutions to the problems that Hector our shared goals of building a stronger, more prosperous Maine for our children.
But let us, as we bend to that work, never forget those who handed off the promise of freedom to us and entrusted us with the promise of the better tomorrow that we live in. Honoring those who have stood, fearless, in times of danger, casts forward the blessing of freedom to the next generation.
Last year, we took the opportunity of better promoting the Vote in Honor of a Veteran program to profile a different veteran every day on our department Facebook page. It was enormously popular, and I still receive thanks from people for highlighting the service of someone they care about.
I thought about how best I could convey the spirit of my passion for this work today. The Executive stated yesterday that actions speak louder than words; and he’s right. But words are important too, so let me conclude with a bit of a mix.
In the fall of 2013, I participated in the somber, yet glorious interment of the remains of Corporal Robert Tait of my hometown of Bar Harbor. Corporal Tait died of starvation in a North Korean prisoner of war camp. Bringing home his remains to rest in our hometown was one of the most meaningful events I’ve been a part of in my professional life.
In my actions, I will never forget. In my actions, I will always strive to serve. And when I serve, I will serve my country with my entire soul.
To honor what I strive to be, let me leave you with a poem written by Herman Melville in 1864 called In the Prison-pen, about the sad plight of prisoners of war. He could have written it about Robert Tait.
Listless he eyes the palisades
And sentries in the glare;
‘Tis barren as a pelican-beach—
But his world is ended there.
Nothing to do; and vacant hands
Bring on the idiot-pain;
He tries to think—to recollect,
But the blur is on his brain.
Around him swarm the plaining ghosts
Like those on Virgil’s shore—
A wilderness of faces dim,
And pale ones gashed and hoar.
A smiting sun. No shed, no tree;
He totters to his lair—
A den that sick hands dug in earth
Ere famine wasted there,
Or, dropping in his place, he swoons,
Walled in by throngs that press,
Till forth from the throngs they bear him dead—
Dead in his meagreness.
In my actions, let their sacrifice be not in vain.
Thank you for your trust in me.
2. Attorney General Janet T. Mills (D-Farmington)
- Thank you, Rob Hunt.
And thank you, Terry Hayes and Matt Dunlap, for the service you are prepared to provide (again) to the citizens of Maine. I want to thank Neria Douglass for her ten years in state service as Auditor and Treasurer at the same time that I welcome Terry Hayes to the ranks of the constitutionals.
And I want to thank my husband Stan, who left us 3 � months ago but whose courage is still the wind beneath my wings.
Last week, before the snow, the ice that formed so quickly was like glass. We could look to the bottom of the lakes and rivers and see clearly to the bottom. It was like a dream where you’re skating and floating above your own reflection, above the rocks and mud ten feet below, ultimate transparency.
And I wondered, are we in state government standing on thin ice too, with no sense of depth, distance or danger?
As days grow longer; as longer, slower shadows fall against these walls and people look for laws and legacies in the halls; as the Kennebec River rushes toward its rendezvous with the ocean, and the days grow longer and wetter, I realize we need more light, less ice. We need to be rowing together towards our very own Merrymeeting Bay.
There are people in this room who keep the boats afloat. And today I want to thank the incredibly hard working attorneys and staffers in the Office of the Attorney General whose commitment to public service and the protection of the public safety is unparalleled.
Working on thousands of matters from child abuse to consumer protection to police involved shootings to healthcare crimes to the challenges of Riverview and the prosecution of domestic violence homicides and felony drug cases, these attorneys are busy solving problems, not creating them; they are busy defending state agencies, litigating, mediating, all on behalf of the public interest. And they deserve our special thanks.
Like the faithful rivers of Maine that do their work under both frigid winds and the sun of sultry summers, rivers that now flow like muscles flexing under a thick hide of ice, the work of government draws from the headwaters of conflict and fertilizes the fields of justice.
Every evening, when I leave the office, I ask: Have we made Maine safer, stronger, better these past few years? Have we made our state more just? Have we strengthened the social contract we have with our citizens, perfecting, not neglecting, our obligations towards each other?
To answer this— Just ask the elderly woman who bravely testified against her own daughter for stealing her life’s earnings in a Bangor jury trial last year.
Ask the familes of the three people shot to death and set on fire in a car in Bangor. Ask about the months of intensive investigation and the four week long trial our office conducted to put those two murderous drug dealers behind bars.
Many more of our homicides involve drugs now and are difficult to solve. And 32 percent of our felony drug cases last year were for heroin, up from only 7 percent two years before.
With 961 babies born in Maine last year affected by drugs and 176 people dead from drugs in 2013, this epidemic deserves an intensive effort—from public education to punishment of dealers and treatment of offenders. Working with the MDEA, the US Attorney, the pharmacies, the medical community and advocates like Skip Gates, my office will take part in the all-out attack on the meth-makers and heroin traffickers who are killing our youth.
It’s not just drugs and murders we’re prosecuting. We’re constantly going after those who cheat the state—
Like the couple in Lewiston who got subsidized housing vouchers for living in a building they owned and profited from themselves.
Like the man who bilked MaineCare out of nearly half a million dollars for counseling services he never provided.
Like the DHHS employee who diverted funds to her boyfriend, and like the DOL employee who bought a camera, an IPod, clothes and new tires for herself with someone else’s voc rehab funds.
And over the last five years our office recouped 69 million dollars in fines and restitution for provider fraud from pharmaceutical companies and others.
We’ve also spent hundreds of hours finding ways to help homeowners facing foreclosure and towns dealing with neighborhood blight.
We’ve collected many thousands of dollars in child support from deadbeat parents across the state, while our volunteer mediators recouped nearly $700,000 for consumers last year.
Because of a 58% increase in child abuse in Maine, our child protection attorneys now carry caseload of more than a hundred apiece, and they make app. 140 court appearances every week.
Among those cases is the 12-month old child whose brain was shattered by a father ill-prepared for parenthood, a case that tears my heart out.
We are also protecting victims of hate crimes, like the Iraqi refugee and war hero who came to Maine looking for sanctuary but ended up sleeping in his car out of fear from the racial epithets and violent threats from a biased neighbor.
We have helped negotiate severance payments for hundreds of hard-working millworkers laid off when the Bucksport mill closed. Today they received their first checks.
A few weeks ago, drowned out by the din of political rhetoric, my office and the Chief Executive settled the Aldrich case that will take nearly a thousand of Maine’s neediest citizens off the infamous waitlist for services.
Some have said, “Why don’t you work better with the Governor?” Well, it’s true, you probably won’t catch Gov. LePage and me sitting down sharing a glass of Chardonnay, eating Brie and watching Downton Abbey together. Not likely. But I do respect the Chief Executive. And I do think we have some things in common: We both like “straight talk.” We both speak our minds. We both believe in action. We both get upset when people steal from the public purse. We are both determined to end domestic violence. We both despise the drug dealers that are killing our youth. We both oppose the scams that rob our veterans of their hard-earned dollars. Like the old Jimmy Cliff song says, we’ve got “many rivers to cross…” But we both believe, fundamentally, in the Rule of Law, the knowledge that our country is governed by laws, not by individuals.
The Rule of Law is what informs the work of our office. Like Mt. Katahdin shedding its cloak of frost and nourishing the streams and fields of Maine, the constitution and the rule of law are the source of all our laws, the foundation for governance.
That is why, on any given day, you will see my office working with the departments of state government and representing the state in nearly 7,000 separate legal matters. We work together; and, for the most part, the interests of my office, the interests of the Maine Legislature and the interests of the administration are aligned.
When they are not, you will know about it. And on the thousands of occasions when they are running smoothly, you will hear little. But know that this happens. And it is for the public good, mindful still of the necessary independence of the constitutional officers.
For the constitutional officers are the brackets, the wedges, the independent glue that secures the beams and rafters of government, that fixes them to the solid long ridge beam that is our Constitution. Working with diligence and integrity, we will hold the beams and trusses of government sturdy against the strongest of winds.
In the coming years, my door will always be open to the administration and to those from all branches of state government. We will work with a spirit of openness, with a passion for the people whose lives we are all here to protect.
We recognize that every disagreement need not become a great divide, every loaded word someone’s Waterloo, every freshet of bravado a flood of conflict, drowning out compromise and progress.
Over the next two years, we will address tough challenges together:
Riverview, with its new building perched along the Kennebec, reflected in the polished State House dome, gives a false sense of comfort to those outside. We will work hard to better balance due process rights, the safety of staff and patients and the fiscal needs and safety of our state.
We will continue to work “cold cases,” 120 unsolved murders, even with only one attorney assigned to all of them.
We will modernize the Medical Examiner’s Office, finding the machinery and expertise to achieve national certification, to finish cases in timely fashion and bring closure to grieving families.
We will create ways for seniors who have been neglected and robbed to be heard effectively in our courts.
We will be vigilant about our Freedom of Access laws. I would love to expand those principles of transparency to other public health institutions where millions of dollars in taxpayer funds are spent in closed door meetings.
We will make sure lenders are offering the relief and foreclosure alternatives which the National Mortgage Settlement requires.
I will speak out against international trade agreements that jeopardize the health, safety and economic well-being of our citizens.
And in my new role as Co-Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Committee, I will be looking for new ways to snuff out the biggest cause of cancer and heart disease in our state and our nation.
This past year there were twenty-one homicides in Maine. We like to think that’s a low number. After all, we have one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Fourteen of those homicides were crimes of domestic violence.
When I consider that statistic, I remember these names:
Jason Montez, who was shot to death by his mother’s husband. He was only 12 years of age. Duwayne Coke, who was strangled to death by his mother’s boyfriend; he was 10 years old. Destiny Sargent, strangled to death by the same man; 8 years old. Noah Smith, shot to death by his father; seven years old. Lily Smith, also shot to death by her father who then turned the gun on himself; she was 4 years old. Sean St. Amand, left in a bath tub by his father with the water running and drowned; he was 11 months old. Korbyn Antworth, beaten and shaken to death by a babysitter; Korbyn was only five months old. And Zade Adams, asphyxiated by a parent at Christmastime. Three months old.
Eight children killed in one year. A first for our state. And we must never let it happen again. The lifeless hopes and dreams of these children and their need for justice will drive our work in the coming years.
Mario Cuomo challenged us forty years ago to make our nation “remember how futures are built,” stressing the need for government to operate as a family with care and compassion for those in need.
As the State of Maine chips away at vital services, at education, public health, drug treatment, mental health and the safety net of our citizens, we must recognize that these decisions may have consequences. They can be named: Jason, Duwayne, Destiny, Noah, Lily, Sean, Korbyn, Zade.
A year from now, will we be standing on a hardened frost, immobilized? Will we be looking at ourselves through sheer ice, unaware of impending dangers? Or will we be steering through moving waters, pulling together as a family, heading in a common direction and helping all the people of Maine stay alive and afloat?
I will be there to help navigate the shoals.
3. Treasurer Terry Hayes (I-Buckfield)
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Was the dispute less about the Senate and more about back room shenanigans?Maine got a preview of what to expect in 2015 thanks to the now-resolved “Who won Senate District 25?” question last week. For a month, Mainers had speculated as to what occurred. It seemed impossible that 12% more ballots than actual participating voters materialized out of thin air; something funky had to have happened. But what? No one knew for sure, but everyone had an opinion.
A petition calling for officials to “investigate potential voter fraud” garnered 3200 signatures. Representative Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) took a sterner approach:
- “One of two things has to happen to put this matter to rest: the state attorney general or the U.S. Attorney should immediately conduct a thorough, independent criminal investigation of the circumstances of this discrepancy, one that involves questioning all relevant witnesses under oath and forensic experts.”
Senate President Mike Thibodeau went against Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s recommendations by provisionally seating Manchester:
- “The fact of the matter is that we have had a recount and the results of that recount left Cathy Manchester as the apparent winner. Because some folks are not happy with that outcome, they’re throwing around some pretty wild accusations.”
Why the rush? Simply put, Republicans needed her vote later that same day on the Constitutional officers, as they were within one vote of replacing Attorney General Janet T. Mills. Seating Manchester gave one more vote to their surprise candidate, Bill Logan, the GOP recount attorney.
Got that? Manchester was quickly shoved into office so she could vote for her own lawyer. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Thibodeau eventually named a seven member Investigative Committee. Spoiler alert: Democrat Cathy Breen’s originally reported 32 vote lead held.
Tuesday’s public hearing was held in the packed Legislative Council chamber with only live audio feed available for those not in the room.
Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn was the first witness. Sworn in before a room full of media, lawyers, candidates and election officials, armed with a 4″ binder full of documentation and 25 years of recount experience, she confidently gave detailed testimony for hours. Frankly, it was pretty dry stuff and with 30 people scheduled to speak after her, a quick resolution seemed unlikely.
To break it down, imagine the 171 ballots as a deck of cards, but divided into 3 piles of 50 with a leftover stack of 21. Take each stack individually and divide into 3 smaller groups: Breen, Manchester and Other (No Votes). Write down the results from that first group, rinse and repeat for the rest of the stacks, then add them up. Long Island officials tallied 95 Breen, 65 Manchester and 11 Other equaling 171 votes cast, but the Augusta recount team came up with 21 more for Manchester, totaling 192. The ballots had been bundled with tally sheets designated as “A1, A2, A3 and A4″.
One 50 ballot lot had a total of 21 votes for Manchester, catching the eye of former Secretary of State Senator Bill Diamond (D-Windham). He remarked to Flynn, “On A3… it just jumped out at me, because Manchester had 21 votes … is there any way… that number could be, could have been… is there anything unusual about that number?”
Flynn had no answer and appeared momentarily flustered. She did not answer and continued to discuss the next lot.
The committee decided next to examine the ballots and it was quickly surmised that Diamond’s instincts had been spot-on, as the first lot had only 29 ballots instead of 50. A second recount immediately confirmed the 21 A3 ballots had been added in twice.
Manchester addressed the senators to announce her intention to offer a formal letter of resignation to President Thibodeau and congratulated Senator-elect Breen on her win.
The governor issued a statement, “I thank Senate President Thibodeau for his integrity throughout this process, in which liberals falsely accused Republicans of trying to manipulate the election with so-called ‘phantom ballots’. President Thibodeau followed the proper procedure to ensure the electoral process was upheld while awaiting the final decision from the Senate committee. It is unfortunate that Cathy Manchester had to endure a situation that was created entirely by the Secretary of State’s office during the recount.”
As for Thibodeau, his only response was, “You can’t read my word balloon, man.”
The Senate will meet in January and will have to vote to seat Breen.
(Published in the 12/18/14 edition of DigPortland)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
UPDATE: Despite the fact that the panel of seven senators that will be tasked with resolving the SD 25 election has not even yet been selected and named, let alone met to take up the messy problem, the Maine State Senate webpage has been amended to give the win to the Republican candidate, Cathy Manchester:
About the 127th Maine State Senate
All members of the 127th Maine Senate have been elected to serve a two-year term. Of the 35 members, there are 21 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Eight are women (4 Republicans and 4 Democrats) and 27 are men (17 Republicans and 10 Democrats).
The link to NEW Contact Information for Members of the 127th Maine Senate (excel spreadsheet) continues to have Democrat Cathy Breen as the winner.
A pair of press conferences were held on Monday with each side repeating their stance as to whether what occurred was a mistake or something more deliberate:
“It appears that there was just a clerical error that 21 ballots didn’t get counted. And we’re glad they’ve been counted. But we want to find out for sure,” said Senator Roger Katz, R-Augusta.
“We expect Republicans to share this concern of potential ballot tampering because, again, this is not about a political party, it is about the integrity and confidence we can all have when we cast our ballot,” said outgoing Senate President Justin Alfond D-Portland.
Before Thanksgiving, the Secretary of State’s office was tasked with settling a handful of disputed elections, as happens periodically. At one point, WCSH and MPBN reported there would be recounts in Senate District 2 (Aroostook County) and 13 (Lincoln County). But later it was confirmed that the requests for both had been withdrawn.
That left three races for resolution in Senate Districts 11, 21 and 25. These recounts were a result of either being automatically generated due to the closeness of the initial tallies or per request of a candidate. Preliminary totals via BDN:
— Senate District 11 (Waldo County), Democrat Jonathan Fulford versus Mike Thibodeau. According to unofficial election results compiled by the Bangor Daily News (the Secretary of State’s office has not yet posted its results), the incumbent Thibodeau won the seat 9,064 votes to 8,949, a 115-vote margin. Thibodeau, the former Senate minority leader, was nominated by his Republican peers Friday to be president of the Senate for the 127th Legislature, though that is subject to approval by the full Senate when it convenes in December.
— Senate District 21 (Lewiston), Democrat Nathan Libby versus Republican Patricia Gagne. According to the BDN’s unofficial results, Libby was victorious by a vote of 6,636 to 6,572, a 64-vote margin. This seat was formerly held by Democrat Margaret Craven, who opted not to seek re-election.
— Senate District 25 (part of Cumberland County), Democrat Catherine Breen versus Republican Cathleen Manchester. According to the BDN’s unofficial results, Breen took the seat by a vote of 10,897 to 10,890, a seven-vote margin. This seat was previously held by independent Richard Woodbury, who opted not to seek re-election.
The manual examinations included recounting all ballots separately for each municipality within the district, searching for any potentially overlooked ballots accidentally tucked into stacks of absentee envelopes, ensuring that the overseas ballots from other areas of the state were either not accidentally included or that overseas ballots were not accidentally omitted and investigation of all rejected ballots.
The process of recounting the ballots is methodical, meticulous, slow and tedious work, carried out by Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn and her staff in the Florian Room of the Maine Public Safety Building in Augusta. The entire proceedings, open to the public, included teams made of an official from the Secretary of State’s office working with both a registered Democratic and Republican volunteer. There were attorneys for both parties available throughout the recounts to weigh in on disputed ballots, irregularities and the like, as well as other support staff tabulating the final tallies before the final certification for each race.
Results were made public by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in press releases and on Facebook.
- (Friday, Nov. 14) Senate District 11: “In the State Senate District 11 recount, results show that Republican Michael Thibodeau is the winner. Jonathan Fulford (D) received 8,974 votes, while Thibodeau received 9,109 in the recount.”
(Monday, Nov. 17) Senate District 21: “The State Senate District 21 (City of Lewiston) recount is now complete. Results show that Democrat Nathan Libby remains the winner, with 6,646 votes to Republican Patricia Gagne’s 6,563.”
(Tuesday, Nov. 18) Senate District 25: …
And here’s where “a funny thing happened”.
By 5 pm on the 18th, not only was there no clear winner after all of the present ballots were re-examined, but it was told to this reporter that a box of ballots had been discovered to still be in Westbrook and being brought to Augusta by Maine State Police- an unusual turn of events that meant a further delay of SD 25’s final results.Even funnier- later on that evening, Secretary of State’s office issued the following statement:
- “The State Senate District 25 final results will be decided by the Senate. The recount showed a reversal in the apparent winner, with Catherine Breen (D) getting 10,916 votes and Cathleen Manchester (R) getting 10,927, but the results were not accepted by both candidates.
When the Legislature convenes in January, its standing Senatorial Vote Committee will review the situation and make a recommendation to the full Senate on which candidate should be seated for the full term. (The committee is made up of four majority and three minority members.) The Senate will then make the final determination of which candidate to seat, typically no later than January.”
Soon it was learned that at the center of the dispute were not ballots from Westbrook, but rather almost 2 dozen new GOP ballots from Long Island. Immediately calls for a full investigation into potential voter fraud began:
- Unanswered questions remain about 21 ballots from the town of Long Island that can’t seem to be attributed to any voter. The ballots were discovered on Nov. 18, the night of the recount, and all of them contained a vote for Republican Cathleen Manchester of Gray, who had requested the recount.
During an election, wardens at each polling place keep track of which registered voters have cast ballots. This ensures that no one gets to vote twice. The incoming voter list, or “voter manifest,” in Long Island indicated that 171 residents cast ballots either in person or absentee in this year’s election.That’s the same number of votes presented by warden and Town Clerk Brenda Singo in unofficial results relayed on election night to the Bangor Daily News and the Associated Press. Long Island, a town of about 230 residents, has only one polling place, and Singo was the only warden.
However, when the locked box of ballots was opened during the recount, 192 ballots were found. Put simply, there are 21 more ballots from Long Island than there are documented voters.
Incoming Senate President elect Mike Thibodeau, who himself had been subject to a recount, had this to say:
- “I think the committee could convene and go over the results on swearing-in day. We’ve got to figure out if Cathy Manchester has the most votes. It’s unfortunate to throw around terms like that without some sort of substantial evidence. The fact of the matter is that we have had a recount and the results of that recount left Cathy Manchester as the apparent winner. Because some folks are not happy with that outcome, they’re throwing around some pretty wild accusations.”
Rep. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) represents House District 47, which consists of Yarmouth, Long Island and Chebeague Island, has called for Attorney General Janet Mills to look into the matter.
- “One of two things has to happen to put this matter to rest: the state attorney general or the U.S. Attorney should immediately conduct a thorough, independent criminal investigation of the circumstances of this discrepancy, one that involves questioning all relevant witnesses under oath and forensic experts.
It’s entirely appropriate for a political body to make political decisions, as we do on proposed legislation or nominations. Sometimes, however, the Legislature must act in a quasi-judicial role, which is not easy.
Years ago, I was counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in an impeachment case concerning removal of a federal judge for alleged conspiracy to commit bribery. The case came to the House with a massive record from a criminal trial, grand jury and independent counsel’s investigation. Nevertheless, the House also conducted its own investigation, subpoenaing and deposing witnesses under oath, conducting forensic investigations, etc. We then presented our case first to the House of Representatives and then to the U.S. Senate. For the most part, the proceedings followed judicial rules of evidence. The judge was impeached, convicted and removed from office.
This is what a quasi-judicial legislative inquiry should look like. Whether the Maine Senate is prepared to go to this length remains to be seen. Frankly, they don’t have the resources or the expertise, even if they had the will.
That’s why we should leave it to professional prosecutors to conduct the inquiry. The Senate can seat whom it wants, but whether that decision stands or is set aside by the courts would very likely hinge on the outcome of a professional inquiry. Nothing less will do.“
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