UPDATED: Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Handing out money won’t guide Mainers to economic success

Posted on July 23, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATE: Some days ya just can’t make this stuff up…

Now Paul LePage is claiming (online petition found on the LePage2014 website) HE is the one responsible for these changes in SNAP benefits, rather than acknowledging that LD 1343, the “Ticket to Work” bill sponsored by Speaker of the House Mark Eves passed into law in June (unsigned by LePage), was not his idea at all.

LD 1343 mandated the “partnership between DHHS and DOL has led to an increased effort to help Mainers who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Vocational assessments, connection to the Maine Career Centers and job banks and continued case management have led to a significant increase in the employment of TANF recipients” that LePage mentioned in his weekly address (see below).

And then there is the matter of some pesky news stories and press releases about LD 1343 as well as the fact that DHHS presented testimony in support of LD 1343 at the 5/3/13 public hearing.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Seth Berry during 7/24/14 Legislative Council meeting.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Seth Berry during 7/24/14 Legislative Council meeting.

  • 6/14/13- “Maine House Unanimously Approves Speaker’s “Ticket-to-Work” bill”

      The Maine House on Friday unanimously approved a “Ticket to Work” bill that would reform Maine’s program for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

      The legislation, LD 1343, “An Act to Improve Work Readiness for Families facing Significant Barriers to Employment,” would ensure that TANF recipients received tools and training to enter the workforce and secure long-term employment. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services to provide a comprehensive assessment to identify education and other programs recipients need for job placement.

      The legislation also directs the Department to transition TANF recipients with severe disabilities and barriers to work from the state program and transition them to SSI/SSDI, reducing the cost to the state. A 2010 survey of TANF recipients conducted by the University of Maine found that 90 percent of recipients who were on the program for longer than five years faced a physical and mental health disability.

      The LePage administration testified in support of the measure during the public hearing on the bill. The Department of Health and Human Services is already in the process of selecting a contractor for the assessment services, which will be funded from federal block grant funds.

  • 7/2/13- “Ticket-to-work law designed to help welfare recipients get long-term employment”
      A bill meant to more quickly move families from welfare to sustainable long-term employment has become law, the Democratic Speaker of the House Mark Eves said Tuesday.

      The so-called, “Ticket-to-Work” law provides resources and assessment for those receiving state and federal financial aid and looks to determine what specific training or educational programs would help individuals gain sustainable employment.

      Eves, of North Berwick, authored the bill, but the measure will go into effect without Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s signature.

  • 1/3/14- “LePage: Maine faces $13 million in federal fines for ‘overly generous’ welfare system”
      According to LePage, the state could be liable for up to $13 million in federal fines for not meeting national TANF guidelines from 2007 through 2010, though that amount can be reduced if Maine takes quick action. At issue is that the state did not meet federal requirements for the number of TANF recipients who were working while receiving benefits.

      “We must fix this Maine law in order to comply with federal law,” said LePage in a prepared statement. “Maine is overly generous in allowing a wide variety of exemptions from the work requirement, which are not recommended by the federal government, making it impossible to meet federal standards.”

      House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said in a prepared statement Friday that Democrats are willing to work with LePage to improve anti-poverty programs, and already have. Last year, a “Ticket to Work” bill proposed by Eves, which helps Mainers access job training and other tools to secure long-term employment, went into law without LePage’s signature.

    ——————————————————

    DSC_0114As was noted in a press release, the changes proposed by Governor LePage and DHHS must go through the rule-making and public hearing process first. Despite that, DHHS will be sending out notification letters soon to almost 12,000 EBT food stamp recipients and intend to implement the 20 hr work or volunteer requirement effective October 1:

      Recipients of Food Supplement, more commonly known as Food Stamps, who are between ages 18 and 49, who have no dependents living with them, who are not pregnant and who are not disabled will have to meet the work participation requirement or the benefit will no longer be provided after three months.

      Nearly 12,000 people in the Food Supplement program are considered Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents’ by federal rules. Approximately $15 million a year in Food Supplemental benefits are provided to this group.

      In order to meet work requirements, those who fall into this category must work a minimum of 20 hours a week or volunteer for a community agency for a certain number of hours, depending upon the value of the current Food Supplement benefit received. Participation in the Maine Department of Labor’s (DOL) Competitive Skills Scholarship Program, which helps individuals gain skills that will lead to higher paying jobs, also fulfills the work requirement.

      “There are some valuable resources available to assist people in meeting the work requirement and ultimately, to transition from government dependence to personal independence,” said Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “We are committed to helping people use these resources, as well as providing training, to get people back to work as quickly as possible.”

    Audio link here

    Handing out money won’t guide Mainers to economic success

    I don’t believe that handing a check to someone will lift them out of poverty. I do believe in giving them the tools and the knowledge to help them succeed at their job.

    Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

    There are two ways to fight poverty. We can try to buy our way out of it, which makes liberals feel good. But doing that has grown our welfare system so much that we can no longer provide the appropriate level of care for Maine’s most vulnerable people.

    Or we can provide education and training to help guide a person toward a life of economic independence.

    If you hand someone money who hasn’t worked for it, 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be spent frivolously. But if you offer support and guidance to help someone get employed, the check they get from their hard work is apt to be spent more wisely.

    DSC_0113Our Administration has transformed welfare, turning the focus from welfare to work. We have intensified efforts to ensure people have the ability and access to learn job skills.

    During the last six months, a partnership between DHHS and DOL has led to an increased effort to help Mainers who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Vocational assessments, connection to the Maine Career Centers and job banks and continued case management have led to a significant increase in the employment of TANF recipients. The Departments will take a similar approach to help Food Supplement recipients meet the work requirement by providing job-search training and support that focuses heavily on attaining employment.

    Effective October 1, the State will no longer seek a waiver from the federal government to eliminate the work requirement for Food Supplement benefits, more commonly known as food stamps. Instead, DHHS will abide by federal law that requires most able-bodied recipients work, provide volunteer services or be involved in a specialized work training program in order to receive food stamps. We expect this change will affect about 11,000 Mainers.

    However, this is not about cutting people off a program. Instead, this is common-sense reform that will put Mainers on a path to economic independence. The State has the resources, and it’s our job to let Mainers know that the help is available for them.

    Ultimately, we must prioritize our welfare system so we can protect our most needy. My administration has been focused on our children, elderly, disabled and mentally ill. These people are a priority, and we will continue to see that they are at the top of the list.

    Thank you for listening.

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  • Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: The Legislature Must Take Action to Protect Our Elderly

    Posted on July 17, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

    It should be noted in regards to Gov. LePage’s recent requests for the 126th Legislature to convene that since the 108th Legislature (1977-1978), there have been 37 special sessions. All but 1 was initiated by a Governor’s Proclamation; that sole outlier was during a state shutdown, called at 12:10 a.m.

    Prior to the 108th Legislature, the second year of the Legislature was considered a special session. In these instances, each special session back to the 99th Legislature (1959-1960) was also called by a Governor’s Proclamation.

    —–

    Audio link here.

    Last week I met a woman in her 80s whose husband has dementia. She has lunch with him every single day at the nursing home that cares for him. If the nursing home had to close, she would be forced to drive hours to see him in another facility.

    Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

    The Legislature must take action on our nursing homes.

    lepage mayhewMany Mainers have loved ones in nursing homes. But some of them in rural areas are in danger of closing. Two have already announced they will shut their doors in July.

    Not only is this sad for our elderly and their families, it is also avoidable. I worked with Republican leadership just a few short months ago to find more than $5 million that could be used to care for our elderly in Maine’s nursing homes.

    But the liberal legislative leadership rejected this source of funding, which would have spurred about $8 million in federal dollars.

    The $5 million is still sitting there. The Legislature can take action on my proposal to fund nursing homes before another facility is forced to close. Our elderly should not have to live in fear. They should not have to worry if they will have a place to call home tomorrow.

    On behalf of all Mainers who are concerned about our elderly, I have sent a letter to Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves to call back the Legislature to vote on funding the nursing homes.

    Senator Alfond represents an urban area with plenty of nursing facilities, and Representative Eves represents people who have easy access to urban areas. They may favor large corporations that buy up nursing homes and consolidate them in urban areas.

    But that doesn’t help Mainers in rural parts of our state. They simply do not understand how difficult it is for Mainers in the rest of the state to find nursing homes that are close to home.

    Maine families should not have to drive hours to see their loved ones. We must do everything we can to support all of our nursing homes, but especially those in the rural areas.
    All members of the Legislature should have the opportunity to show Mainers whether they support our elderly by taking a straight up-or-down vote on my proposal.

    The Senate is already coming back into session on July 31 to vote on judicial nominations. That would be a good day to convene the entire Legislature. Our elderly cannot wait any longer.

    Thank you for listening.

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    Maine House LD 1546 Floor Speeches (VIDEO), Part 2

    Posted on May 29, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

    (NOTE FROM ANDI: All of these clips were recorded the evening of May 21, 2013 in the House chamber and being shared unedited in chronological order. In the instances where a post has previously been written, a link to that write-up is being shared as well, as some lawmakers were kind enough to share their prepared statements.)


    8. Rep Henry Bear (Maliseet) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

    9. Rep Katherine Cassidy (D- Lubec) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

    10. Rep Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) Speaks in Opposition to LD 1546

    11. Rep. James Campbell (I-Newfield) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

    12. Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) Speaks in Opposition to LD 1546

    13. Rep Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

    14. Minority Leader Fredette, then Rep Wayne Parry (R-Arundel) Speak in Opposition to LD 1546

    15. Rep Jane Pringle (D-Windham) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

    16. Rep Richard Malaby (R-Hancock) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1546

    17. Rep Adam Goode (D-Bangor) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

    18. Rep Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston) Speaks in Support of LD 1546

    19. Rep Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1546

    20. Rep Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1546


    Additional related links:

    1. Maine Senate Passes Historic Medicare Expansion, Hospital Repayment Bill LD 1546 Along Party Lines

    2. Maine Senate Republicans Floor Speeches Opposing LD 1546: “Washington Politics” And Mixed Messaging On Medicaid Expansion

    3. Maine Governor Paul LePage Vetoes LD 1546, Medicaid Expansion Bill (Video)

    4. Maine House LD 1546 Floor Speeches (VIDEO), Part 1

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    ICYMI: Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves Urges Passage of Medicaid Expansion Bill LD 1546 (Video; Text)

    Posted on May 28, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    (On Wednesday (5/29/13), the House is expected to take up LD 1546 again in an evening session. Here again is the floor speech of Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick), urging his colleagues in the House join him in supporting this important bill. ~AP)

    (Over 50 clips of individual House members rose to deliver testimony both in support and in opposition last night, as the bill LD1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” got its first reading and roll call votes in the House. More to follow. ~AP)

    Below is the full text of Speaker Eves’ remarks as prepared and released to media. Note: House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D- Bowdoinham) served as Speaker Pro Tempore. Video link here.

      “Thank you Mr. Speaker pro-tem.

      Ladies and gentlemen of the House, I rise this evening to speak to an issue of great importance to me, and to the people of the state of Maine.

      Speaker of the House Mark Eves gives a rare speech from the floor, urgung members to join him in support of LD 1546, "An Act To Strengthen Maine's Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract"

      Speaker of the House Mark Eves gives a rare speech from the floor, urgung members to join him in support of LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract”

      I rise to speak in favor of the pending motion to accept the majority ought to pass as amended report, and by doing so, accept a comprehensive measure that would make a final payment on Maine’s hospital debt and reduce future hospital costs by accepting federal health care dollars to cover tens of thousands of Mainers.

      Today lawmakers have an opportunity to pay back the debt owed to our hospitals and contain the rising costs of health care for our people and our hospitals.


      We have an opportunity together to do three things in one bill:

      Help our hospitals, help working Mainers who need health care, and help our economy.

      For 4 years, I served on the Health and Human Services Committee where we would consistently hear about the amount of charity care and bad debt the hospitals absorbed and then shifted onto working families with insurance and onto Maine businesses.

      When people without insurance get sick, they often end up getting care in the emergency room — where it is the most costly, least efficient way of providing care. Just last year, the Maine Hospital Association reported that Maine hospitals provided $450 million dollars in charity care and bad debt.


      The hospitals can not afford this and neither can we!

      In the proposal before us, not only do we pay back our hospitals, but we also ensure that thousands of Mainers can see a doctor when they are sick. By doing so, we reduce the charity care costs and bad debt that are cost drivers for our hospitals. This is a win for our hospitals and for every family in Maine who has insurance today.

      For several months, we’ve talked about the nearly 70,000 Mainers, many of them who are working but can’t afford health insurance, who would be eligible for coverage under this legislation.

      The number is so large and has been repeated so often, it’s easy to forget what it actually means.

      We could cut the number of people in Maine without health insurance in half.

      Seventy thousand people: That’s equivalent to the population of Aroostook County. Or Somerset and Piscatiquis counties together.

      The county by county numbers are compelling.

      Residents and hospitals in Maine’s most rural counties have the most to gain.

      · In Washington: 2,601 people would gain health care;$9.3 million in economic activity

      · In Somerset: 3,590 people would gain health care; $12.9 million in economic activity

      · In Waldo: 2,629 people would gain health care; $9.7 million in economic activity

      · In Oxford: 3,806 people would gain health care; 13.7 million in economic activity

      · In Aroostook: 4,615 people would gain health care; 16.8 million in economic activity

      · In Piscataquis: 1,067 people would gain health care; $4.0 million in economic activity

      · In Franklin: 1,878 people would gain health care; $6.9 million in economic activity

      · In Knox: 2,317 people would gain health care; $8.6 million in economic activity

      · In Hancock: 3,235 people would gain health care; $12.9 million in economic activity

      · In Lincoln: 1,817 people would gain health care; $6.6 million in economic activity

      · In Androscoggin: 5,829 people would gain health care; $20 million in economic activity

      · In Penobscot: 8,447 people would gain health care; $31.6 million in economic activity

      · In Kennebec: 5,997 people would gain health care; $20.8 million in economic activity

      · In Sagadahoc: 1,456 people would gain health care; $5.3 million in economic activity

      · In Cumberland: 12,018 would gain health care; $46.6 million in economic activity

      · In York: 8,196 would gain health care; $29.7 million in economic activity

      Now think of one of those 70,000 Mainers. Take Marie from Bangor. She has a part-time job that doesn’t provide health insurance. She also has a serious heart condition that doesn’t allow her to work full time. Without health insurance for her or her family, she is forced to choose between putting gas in her car and paying her medical and utility bills.

      This is not a hypothetical scenario. They are the hard facts for too many Mainers. And THIS is an ethical and moral dilemma for all of us.

      Unfortunately, Marie is one of tens of thousands of Mainers – many of your constituents – who are unable to afford health insurance.

      The personal stakes are high for thousands of people who could receive life-saving access to health care. But there is also a tremendous opportunity for our entire state.

      The Maine health care economy is the largest single job provider in the state of Maine. Healthcare jobs account for 1 in 4 jobs in Maine. By accepting these federal health care dollars we will inject $250 million dollars into our health care economy, creating more than 3,000 jobs.

      It is estimated that Maine hospitals would receive $163 million each year in additional revenue if we were to accept the federal dollars. This will help alleviate the current burden hospitals are facing and make sure we prevent future debt from accumulating so that we avoid a situation like this in the future.

      Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high health care costs.

      This comprehensive measure pays the debt and helps fix the underlying problem that contributes to high health care costs in the first place. We don’t just treat the symptom; we treat the problem.

      The federal government has agreed to fully cover the cost for health care for tens of thousands of Mainers for the next three years, and gradually lowers its payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost over a decade. There is no cost to the state — in fact, we will save money.

      Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if we accept the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation. These numbers are also confirmed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

      We are one of 10 states that will actually see our Medicaid expenditures go down!

      If we want to save money in our Medicaid account, which I believe we all do, we must accept these federal health care dollars.

      This could change the lives of tens of thousands of Maine people who fear getting sick because they can’t afford to see a doctor when they need it most.

      Accepting these federal funds to increase health care coverage for more working Mainers is morally and economically the right thing to. And it makes sense to do it as part of a comprehensive package that repays Maine’s hospital debt. It both addresses the costs of health care for our hospitals and our people. To do one without the other, would leave the job half done.

      It’s a good deal. One we cannot walk away from!

      That’s why Republican governors across the country have sized up the proposal and have decided to accept the funds.

      Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has said turning away federal Medicaid dollars would increase human suffering and further cripple hospitals and other health care providers that care for the uninsured.

      Gov. Brewer recently said, “Being governor is tough — you have to make tough decisions and you have to look at the whole state, you have to do what’s right. Without expansion, “we would’ve had to go in and get people off of Medicaid, they would still be in our hospitals, you would still be paying for them.”

      Gov. Brewer’s bill to accept these federal dollars is accurately called the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment Measure. Gov. Brewer gets it!

      In New Jersey, Republican Governor Chris Christie has made a similar case:

      He said in a speech before the legislature unveiling his budget. “It’s simple. We are putting people first.”

      “Expanding Medicaid is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health” and will “ensure New Jersey taxpayers will see their dollars maximized.”

      Gov. Christie gets it!

      This should not be a political issue. We all agree we should pay the hospitals.

      But we are at an impasse over health care for tens of thousands of Maine people.

      The members of this body have a choice to make. Will you support a plan that pays the hospitals and accepts federal health care dollars to cover more Mainers? Or will you chose to deny and delay health care for tens of thousands of Maine people — putting politics ahead of the people’s health and our hospitals?

      I urge you to see this for what it is — a compromise that would benefit the state as a whole.

      This is how state government should function.

      In a divided government, neither party can get anything done by demanding all or nothing.

      I urge you to join me in supporting the pending motion. Now is the time to act.

      Thank you.”

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    Maine Senate Republicans Floor Speeches Opposing LD 1546: “Washington Politics” and Mixed Messaging on Medicaid Expansion

    Posted on May 26, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

    (UPDATED: Links to more GOP floor speeches from the follow day’s second reading in the Senate are now found at the bottom of this original post. ~AP)

    lepage veto 1546Originally, the intention was to simply share the various clips taken of the LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” floor debates in the Senate and House as stand-alone posts without comment. Then a funny thing happened: in reviewing them, a clear separation of messaging became apparent between the members of the GOP in the Senate and the Governor’s “Office Du Jour” (see: Washington Post, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo).

    So, let’s take a look.

    First Reading in the Senate, 5/20/13

    Consistent GOP themes: LD 1546 is “Washington Politics”, “Welfare expansion”, myriad concerns over costs and having to hire either 83 new people (per Senator Mason) or 93 new people (per Senator Thibodeau) and general distrust of the federal government.

    (Side note: If a business were to open in their district with 83-93 new jobs, Mason and Thibodeau would loudly cheer and claim “this was proof that Governor LePage’s policies work to help business.” Sigh…)

    In short, everything Maine rejected from this party in the November election results.

    So let’s go to the clips:

    1. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin)

      (:36) “… back room, Pelosi-style, Washington politics on full display, in the State House.”
      (:50) “… LD 1066, (“An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”)is a massive welfare expansion that will cost Maine untold millions of dollars, not only over the next year, but over the life of the program.”
      (2:20) “… welfare expansion
      (2:47) “… So, what is this bill? Well, it’s a massive welfare expansion, to seventy thousand people…”

    Perhaps some of the greater moments of irony came at the 1:20 mark, when Senator Mason claimed that the bill’s creation and process was “rude and disrespectful” of the VLA Committee and then further comments (2:00) that LD 1546 “was ram-rodded through”.

    Um… anyone else remember LD 1333/ PL 90 from the 125th Legislative session? When Republicans openly admitted that they had not even read the bill? The bill that really WAS “ramrodded through”?

    Republicans also claimed that it would pay for Maine’s 133,000 uninsured citizens and lower insurance costs. Um- not so much.

    Onward.

    2. Assistant Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec), Part 1

      “Linking these two bills together that have nothing to do with one another is just what people complain about when they see it happening in Washington. Unfortunately, that kind of strong-arm politics has migrated north.

      Governor LePage is in the middle of negotiations with the federal government to try to get us a better deal on Medicaid expansion. Maybe he will be successful and maybe he won’t. But if he is, that could save the state tens of millions of dollars. If we say yes to Medicaid expansion now, we lose our negotiating leverage.”

    An ongoing “negotiation” since last July that has gotten Maine nowhere… nor this past March, when the Governor demanded a ten year waiver rather than three- something no other state has been granted by the federal government. In fact, Maine is no closer that it was in February 2012. Not exactly working to close the deal but rather putting off as long as he can.

    Again- onward.

    3. Senator James Hamper (Oxford)

    Summary: Senator Hamper is concerned with the costs, especially in light of the reported DHHS shortfalls, inabilities to pay their bills past June 12th and budget projections for FY 14-15. Yet he urges that Maine not “rush through” with Medicaid expansion. Shame that the Governor thinks that “The Administration has not been entertained”and is now putting an unilateral gag order onto any within his administration that would go before the Appropriations committee to speak regarding the proposed budget and that he and he alone will be the one to speak to the committee.

      (5:48) “Slow down.
      (6:00)“We’re saying, ‘Don’t play Washington politics‘…”

    As Hamper concluded: “Fool me twice… shame on me.

    Indeed.

    4. Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)

    “Charlie Brown’s football being hauled away by Lucy”. Um, okay. Not even gonna touch this one.

    5. Senator Brian Langley (Hancock)

    Now here is where it gets interesting- until this point, all of the GOP lawmakers have been on the same page of “Washington politics” and together poo-pooed the idea of expanding Medicaid at all. But at the 0:45 mark, we hear this from Senator Langley, who urges the bill be separated, rather than simply voted down- a far different position than all of the other Republicans that have spoken before him:

      “… because I am not opposed to it. What I am opposed to is the way it is being done here today.”

    Interesting… and contrary to what Governor LePage said when he vetoed LD 1546.

      “Democrat leadership has spent the past week forcing this bill through the legislative process, over the objections of Republicans and Democrats alike. This unadulterated partisanship tied two different issues together in a quest to force welfare expansion upon the Maine people. I have said all along this bill would receive a veto when it reached my desk, so this letter should be no surprise.

      That is why I have filed a Governor’s bill today reflecting the parts of LD 1546 we all agree on—paying the hospitals and ensuring the liquor business provides the best return for the state—without the forced expansion of MaineCare. The Legislature will have the opportunity to vote up or down to pay the hospitals—I trust you will do the right thing.”

    6. Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo)

    Assistant Minority Leader Thibodeau, same as Rep. Ken Fredette would do later in the House, attempts to delay the vote with a series of procedural questions regarding the bill’s formation and combining of separate elements. Senate President, as Speaker of the House Eves would also do later in the session the next evening, explained his ruling. Thibodeau then speaks, first complaining on timelines elapsing in what he feels is a premature time frame, and then referring to items that the Democrats claimed were ramrodded through in the 125th Legislature.

    He then quoted this PPH article penned by Maine Hospital Association president Steve Michaud:


      “Medicaid expansion is a centerpiece of the federal Affordable Care Act. While hospitals support the Medicaid expansion, we vehemently disagree that the expansion should be tied in any way to whether or not the outstanding bills get paid. Hospitals don’t control whether MaineCare gets expanded; they shouldn’t be punished if the expansion fails.”

    What he failed to read was the following paragraph by Michaud:

      “This kind of leveraging of one issue versus another issue is bad policymaking. It is a common tactic in Washington, D.C., and one of the hallmarks of its dysfunction.”

    And at the 5:10 mark, Thibodeau echos the phrase “Washington style politics”.

    Wait, five “Washingtons”? BINGO!!

    Oh wait… one of them was from the PPH article. Maybe we’ll get lucky with the next speaker.

    7. Assistant Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec), Part 2

    We already got Senator Katz down for a “Washington” mention. But we can add the good Senator from Kennebec as now a second supporter of Medicaid expansion! Note the 2:25 mark:

      “Personally speaking for myself, I have an open mind on the expansion.”

    Moving along.

    8. Senator Pat Flood (Kennebec)

    Well, well! Add another senator who thinks (0:40) that expanding Medicaid is a good thing! His issues are similar to Senator Langley’s in that he would prefer the bills be examined and worked upon separately.

    9. Senator David Burns (Washington)

    (2:10)

      “Don’t be guilty of Washington politics.”

    We even get a bonus, just to be sure (2:20)!

      “…don’t get caught up in the process of Washingtonian politics.”

    Okay, there it is. BINGO!

    Second Day Floor Speeches

    1. Senator Pat Flood (Kennebec)

    2. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin), Part 1

    3. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin), Part 2

    4. Asst Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec) Part 1

    5. Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin) Part 3

    6. Senator Andre Cushing (Penobscot)

    7. Asst Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec) Part 2

    8. Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo)

    9. Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)

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    Maine Governor Paul LePage Vetoes LD 1546, Medicaid Expansion Bill (Video)

    Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

    At a Hall of Flags ceremony surrounded by GOP legislators, Governor LePage on Thursday signed the letter to veto LD 1546, characterizing LD 1546, “An Act to Strengthen Maine Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract,” as “tied payment of the hospital debt to welfare expansion” and then announced plans to reintroduce his own bill in its place.

      “Democrat leadership has spent the past week forcing this bill through the legislative process, over the objections of Republicans and Democrats alike. This unadulterated partisanship tied two different issues together in a quest to force welfare expansion upon the Maine people. I have said all along this bill would receive a veto when it reached my desk, so this letter should be no surprise.

      That is why I have filed a Governor’s bill today reflecting the parts of LD 1546 we all agree on—paying the hospitals and ensuring the liquor business provides the best return for the state—without the forced expansion of MaineCare. The Legislature will have the opportunity to vote up or down to pay the hospitals—I trust you will do the right thing.”

    Press secretary Adrienne Bennett provided copies to the press of the letter the Governor read.

    lepage veto lettr

    The governor then informed those assembled of his plans to continue to hold the voter-approved bonds hostage unless his bill is passed through the Legislature, in what a press release categorized “a gesture of good faith”:

      The Governor also directed the State Treasurer to prepare the voter-authorized bonds for his signature. “I will sign them as soon as this new Governor’s Bill is enacted,” the Governor stated.
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    Maine State Reps Sirocki (R-Scarborough), Malaby (R- Hancock) LD 1546 Opposition Speeches (Video; Text)

    Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

    (NOTE: Representative Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough shared the texts of these prepared speeches last night on my personal FB wall; sharing here with the videos taken from the floor of the House. ~AP)

    FLOOR SPEECH OF REP. HEATHER SIROCKI (R-SCARBOROUGH) (VIDEO)

      Mr Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House,

      I rise in strong opposition of the pending measure.

      Some may feel that combining bills from different committees is an efficient way to move forward, but the People of Maine are ill-served by considering legislation without input from the public.

      The question was posed, “ Is this bill properly before the body?”

      We were told that a public hearing was held. But I checked online, and found that no public hearings were scheduled.

      Before casting votes, most of us listen to testimony, read and research the issue, and consider the views of our constituents. I do not like being asked to pass bills first before I find out what is in them.

      LD 1546, the bill before us, did not follow the usual path of thoughtful consideration.

      The process of working this bill has been violated at its most basic level…two bills combined into one that did not receive any input from the public. As a matter of fact, there is not one piece of public testimony posted for this particular bill. Not one.

      There are, however, 69 documents of public testimony on the Medicaid expansion bill. But the Health and Human Services Committee is the only committee to have heard from the public regarding the expansion of Medicaid.

      I am very uncomfortable knowing that the sitting members of the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee, the committee of jurisdiction for this bill, have not had the opportunity to seek public input on this very important portion of LD 1546.

      Mr Speaker… How can we vote to move this bill forward when the process has been violated in this manner?

      Ramming a bill through a committee where the members did not have the opportunity to even read about the details, and where they did not hear even ONE minute of public testimony, is wrong.

      This violation of the process at the committee level is unacceptable.

      Regarding other reasons to vote No on this bill, let’s start with fiscal irresponsibility.

      Negotiating the liquor contract is time sensitive. If we miss the deadline, it will cost Maine’s hardworking taxpayers an additional $5 million. The clock is ticking.

      If we had paid our hospitals as the debt accrued, we would have been able to take advantage of a higher federal dollar match rate.

      My back-of-the- napkin calculations show that this delay has already cost us tens of millions of dollars.

      Thus, if we miss this deadline, that number bumps an additional $5 million.

      Let me repeat – tens of million dollars.

      Money that we could have spent towards services for … perhaps… disabled individuals who have been placed on waitlists.

      Mr. Speaker you are correct this is a moral and ethical issue.

      Mr. Speaker, I implore this body to recognize that the expansion of Medicaid is a separate bill with a separate timeline. Currently, that bill sits on the table in my committee- the Health and Human Services committee. The expansion should not be rushed. As a matter of fact, it is in Maine’s best interests to take our time, because rushing the expansion, may in fact, cost us more money, potentially, a lot more money. An audit is currently underway and is expected to be complete within a month. We do not have firm promises from the federal commission of health and human services yet.

      I urge each member of this body to think carefully before voting today.

      Please recognize that LD 1546 should go back to its roots. We need to bifurcate LD 1546. These are two separate bills, the one that was assigned to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and the other bill to consider expanding Medicaid, which still sits on the table over in the Health and Human Services committee, where it rightfully belongs.

      For these reasons I cannot support LD 1546.

      We need to pay our hospitals now.

      We need to take our time negotiating with the federal government on further expansion of Medicaid.

      Two separate bills.

      Two separate time lines.

      Two separate votes.

      Thank you.

    FLOOR SPEECH OF REP. RICHARD MALABY (R-HANCOCK) (VIDEO)

      Mr. Speaker, Ladies and gentleman of the House, I rise in opposition to the pending motion.

      As a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services, I would love to see that everyone in Maine with an Income below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level has true health insurance. It would likely save money for our health care providers and would hopefully improve health care outcomes. Who could not vote for that?

      Unfortunately that is NOT what we are voting on. The Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act is neither Health Insurance nor is it fiscally responsible for the state of Maine.

      Medicaid and our healthcare delivery system are clearly broken. And more of the same won’t fix it. Expanding Medicaid is the wrong prescription for a broken system and a faulty diagnosis invariably leads to the wrong treatment. Medicaid needs to be reformed prior to any expansion. We need to design a system that aligns consumer actions with societal goals while decreasing costs……… increasing access ……..and promoting quality. The bill before us will increase access at the expense of increasing costs and will do nothing to promote overall quality.

      I would gladly vote to reform Medicaid, a program designed in 1965 and rife with perverse incentives both for the consumers and the providers! I just can’t see how burdening the people of the state of Maine with hundreds of Millions of dollars of ongoing and future expenses for a program with no demonstrated efficacy in terms of health care outcomes is going to help anyone. At its very heart Medicaid encourages people to over consume and undervalue health care. With no copay or premium for health care in a system with unknown prices or information about quality is it any wonder that health care costs keep rising out of control? And isn’t that our real problem?

      Likewise Medicaid encourages providers to overbill for services. If patients are not paying for the health care services they receive, then they are unlikely to shop for quality and value. Consequently providers whether hospitals or doctors have no incentives to keep prices low in order to compete-as in any other market place- and hence the provider is incented to maximize their revenue and income based on the reimbursement model. Isn’t that why we owe our hospitals $484 Million for 2009 and 2010? And why is is that this bill requests $490.2 Million dollars when we owe the hospitals $484 Million? Is it the intent of the sponsors to repay the debt after October 1, thereby receiving $5 million less in FMAP match? Is that not irresponsible?

      The previous Medicaid expansions in which eligibility had been increased and optional services added currently costs the state of Maine $177 Million annually in General Fund dollars. Those who urged the past expansion of Medicaid promised it would reduce the number of the uninsured, reduce charity care, lower ER usage and have low and predictable costs. In reality health care costs have grown 4 times the rate of inflation, enrollment has exploded, there has been a gigantic increase in charity care and programs are now “capped” as the state has no money to pay for those seeking services. The state has even started to tax hospitals and nursing homes in pursuit of those federal dollars. I find that incredibly shameful.

      I support paying our hospitals that which we owe them. The state made a deal and the hospitals have lived up to their end of that bargain. I would support a true health insurance program for our low income population, but insurance is something you buy in a competitive market place where prices are known and competition is real and buyers shop based on value and price. I can’t support the poorly conceived expansion of Medicaid now being urged by so many. Expanding a financially failed program simply does not make sense.

      The hard working Maine taxpayers understand that we need to control spending. It is our job as legislators to prioritize our spending needs. What about all those people we currently have on waitlists for services who legally and morally deserve those services? The expansion will not address their needs. I am embarrassed by our inability to take care of the truly needy. Prioritizing spending during tough economic times requires leadership. For too long we have taken the easy way out by saying yes to more and more federal dollars. This has resulted in a never ending cycle of growing waitlists for our disabled population, increased pressure to repeatedly raise taxes, ongoing and annual supplemental budgets and crowding out of the true investments the state should be making. It is time to say no.

      Thank you Mr Speaker.

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    Weekly Democratic Radio Address by Speaker Mark Eves (N. Berwick): Maine Can’t Miss an Opportunity to Accept Federal Health Care Dollars for More families

    Posted on April 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

    Audio link here.

    photo (1)Marie from Bangor has a part-time job that doesn’t provide health insurance. She has a serious heart condition that doesn’t allow her to work full time. Without health insurance for her or her family, she is forced to choose between putting gas in her car or paying her medical and utility bills. Marie shared her story with lawmakers last week in Augusta. Unfortunately, she is not alone.

    Good morning. This is Maine Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick.

    The story I just told you is a reality for tens of thousands of Mainers who are unable to afford health insurance. A working father who can’t afford to pay for his heart medicine; an older Mainer struggling to pay for prescriptions or food; a veteran who can’t afford his insulin.

    Many of you listening know how frightening it is to be sick and unable to afford go to the doctor. Or to have a loved one in that situation.

    Maine has an opportunity to change that. We can change the lives of nearly 70,000 people in our state by accepting federal health care dollars under the Affordable Care Act.

    The federal government has offered to fully pay for health care for tens of thousands of Maine people – like Marie – for three years. Maine should take the funds; it’s a bargain.

    So why should we do it? More Mainers will be able to see a doctor. More Mainers will be able to pay for their medicine. More Mainers will be able to go to work.

    When the three years are up, the state will have to gradually chip in for no more than 10 percent of the total cost.

    Plus, the state of Maine can opt out anytime.

    It’s a deal we can’t pass up.

    In exchange for taking the money, we save more than half a billion dollars over the course of a decade. In exchange for taking the money, we generate $350 million in economic activity. In exchange for taking the money, we create 3,100 jobs.

    We should take the money because it will lower health care costs for all Maine people.

    When more people have access to a doctor, we have healthier people and health care costs go down for everyone.

    Maine businesses say it is good deal. Maine doctors say it will lead to healthier people. Maine hospitals say it will lower their costs.

    Some opponents of accepting the health care dollars have questioned whether the federal government will keep its promise to foot the bill. The truth is the federal government hasn’t missed a Medicaid payment in five decades. Now, that’s a good credit history.

    We should seize the opportunity now. If we don’t, Maine will lose out.

    Join me in urging Governor LePage and Republican legislators to support this bargain for Maine people.

    Thank you for listening, I’m House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick.

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    Mainers Reach Out to Senators Collins and Snowe on Tax Fairness, Fiscal Cliff, Proposed Cuts to Safety Net Programs

    Posted on December 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

    obama snoweWhile President Obama and Congressional leaders negotiate possible solutions to averting the fiscal cliff scernario, Maine citizens are taking matters into their own hands by contacting Senator Susan Collins, out-bound Senator Olympia Snowe and Senator-elect Angus King. Neither Snowe nor Collins has yet signaled a willingness to end Bush tax cuts for individuals making over $250,000 a year, a step that would raise over a trillion a year. Those cuts are due to expire at the end of this year.

    According to a new report released by the AFL-CIO, 299,875 Mainers could be negatively impacted if Congress attempts cuts to Social Security, including 55,525 people with disabilities and 24,150 children. Of the 358,004 Mainers who get their health care coverage from Medicaid, 130,862 children and 60,768 seniors could be affected if the lame duck Congress makes cuts to Medicaid benefits. If the Bush tax cuts are renewed, the richest 2% in Maine would receive an average of $27,230 in tax cuts, while workers would receive an average of $1,200. The 2012 House Republican budget plan would cut federal support to Maine’s Medicaid program by at least $6.2 billion over 10 years, further throwing the numbers reported last week to the state’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee into chaos.

    (Sidenote: As of today, it is being reported that the budget may not have a $100 million shortfall, but rather be twice as large a deficit.)

    Last week volunteers with the Maine People’s Alliance, as part of the organization’s “Fair Share” initiative efforts, visited the senators’ Augusta offices to urge them to support President Obama’s plan to end the Bush-era tax breaks for individuals who make over $250,000 a year. Staffers were presented with copies of more than 50 letters and editorials recently published in Maine newspapers. The letters “serve as a reminder that a strong majority of Mainers support ending tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the wealthy as a way to avert the budget showdown in Washington”, per MPA.

    sukeRachel Sukeforth of Litchfield, one of those making the deliveries, saw this consensus first hand as she campaigned for the State House of Representatives over the past year. Last week, a recount showed she had come up only four votes short against a Republican incumbent in a conservative district (HD 80).

    “I want Senators Snowe and Collins to know that I just don’t see why, when so many working Mainers like myself and my family are struggling to make ends meet, that our tax rates are being held hostage to protect the incomes of a tiny sliver of very wealthy people,” said Sukeforth.

    IMG_0724A recent poll conducted by the Maine People’s Resource Center found that not only did Mainers support tax fairness, but 55.3% of voters believed that increasing taxes on the wealthy would help the economy. Only 29.2% percent thought it would hurt the economy.

    “We want to make sure that Senators Snowe and Collins realize that their constituents are watching the budget negotiations in Washington very closely and have been speaking out on this issue for months,” said MPA organizer Jonathan Hillier. “A strong majority of Americans and Mainers have made it very clear that they would rather see tax rates for the wealthy return to Clinton-era levels than see deep cuts to important programs like Medicare and Social Security.”

    The Maine People’s Alliance is also launching an online postcard campaign to continue the drumbeat of support for tax fairness.

    collins obamaResponding to her constituents’ strong desire to speak to her, Senator Collins has authorized her staff to hold statewide local constituent service hours in all of Maine’s 16 counties tomorrow, in addition to her regularly maintained six state offices (in Caribou, Bangor, Augusta, Lewiston, Portland, and Biddeford). A staff member will be available to provide assistance with federal issues and agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Internal Revenue Service. No appointment is necessary and all conversations are strictly confidential.

    “It can be incredibly frustrating for people to try and navigate the often muddy waters of federal regulations, and each year thousands of Mainers turn to the talented staff in my state offices for help,” said Senator Collins. “Constituent service is incredibly important to me, and I’m proud of my state office staff, which acts as an important liaison between federal agencies and the people of our state. They understand the cares and concerns of the local areas in which they work because that is also where they live, and they have the expertise to investigate and resolve problems.”

    The locations and hours:

      Androscoggin County
      Turner Town Office
      11 Turner Center Road, Turner
      10:00-11:30 AM

      Aroostook County
      Ashland Town Office
      17 Bridgham Street, Ashland
      9:30 – 10:30 AM

      Cumberland County (four locations)
      Falmouth Town Office
      271 Falmouth Road, Falmouth
      10:00-11:00 AM

      Cumberland Town Office
      290 Tuttle Road, Cumberland
      11:30 AM-12:30 PM

      South Portland City Hall
      25 Cottage Road, South Portland
      1:30 PM-3:00 PM

      Cape Elizabeth Town Hall
      320 Ocean House Road, Cape Elizabeth
      3:30 PM-4:30 PM

      Franklin County
      Wilton Town Office
      158 Weld Road, Wilton
      12:30-2:00pm

      Hancock County
      Lamoine Town Office
      686 Douglas Highway, Lamoine
      9:30-11:00 AM

      Kennebec County
      Winthrop Town Office
      17 Highland Avenue, Winthrop
      10:30-11:30 AM

      Knox County
      Camden Town Office
      29 Elm Street, Conference Room
      Camden
      1:00 – 3:00 PM

      Lincoln County
      Newcastle Town Office
      4 Pump Street, Newcastle
      3:30-4:30 PM

      Oxford County
      Norway Town Office
      19 Danforth Street, Norway
      3:00-4:30 PM

      Penobscot County
      Millinocket Town Office
      197 Penobscot Avenue, Millinocket
      10:00-11:30 AM

      Piscataquis County
      Greenville Town Office
      7 Minden Street, Greenville
      10:00-11:30 AM

      Sagadahoc County
      Topsham Town Office
      100 Main Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room
      Topsham
      1:30-2:30 PM

      Somerset County
      Norridgewock Town Office
      16 Perkins Street, Norridgewock
      8:30-9:30 AM

      Waldo County
      Belfast City Hall
      131 Church Street, Belfast
      1:30 – 3:00 PM

      Washington County

      Danforth Town Office
      18 Central Street, Danforth
      9:30 – 10:30 AM

      York County (2 Locations)
      Arundel Fire Department
      468 Limerick Road, Arundel
      12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

      Berwick Town Hall
      11 Square Street, Berwick
      12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

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