Maine Governor Paul LePage found himself in hot water recently, as his racially-charged comments made regarding Maine’s heroin crisis at a Bridgton town hall event made international news.
- “These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty… these types of guys… they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”
Some reactions are below.
1. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree: “Governor LePage’s comments were disgraceful and racist. Once again, just a week before Martin Luther King Day, the governor has made a comment that is offensive to the African American community and to all of us. It does not represent the values of Maine people and is embarrassing to our state. And although the governor seems to regret getting caught making those remarks, he also seems unwilling to apologize to the community that he has insulted.”
2. 2CD Democratic candidate Emily Cain (D-Orono): “We need to be talking about real solutions to the serious epidemic of heroin addiction afflicting our state. Governor LePage’s appalling remarks this week embody the very worst of fear-mongering in politics that hold us back as a state and a nation, and they do not reflect Maine values. There is absolutely no place for this in our public discourse – especially in Maine. Unfortunately, Congressman Bruce Poliquin – who in the past has referred to himself and LePage as ‘good friends’ – has still remained silent on LePage’s ugly remarks. Does Bruce Poliquin defend LePage’s comments?”
3. Senate Democratic Minority Leader Justin Alfond (D-Portland): “At best, the governor’s comments were careless or poorly stated. At worst, they were purposeful and deeply offensive. Either way, they were completely unproductive. Maine’s drug addiction crisis is complex, and impacts ever aspect of life for those affected by it. We need to work on solutions, not reduce the problem to racially charged soundbites.”
4. House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan): “Today, at a national summit of rural state leaders, I am being bombarded by questions about Governor LePage’s hateful statements rather than about what Maine is doing right. At a time when Maine needs leaders to move our state forward, the governor is making national headlines for the wrong reasons yet again. He is making it harder for us to work on policies important to Maine people, whether it’s energy, substance abuse or growing the rural economy.”
5. Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon (D-Freeport): “The governor keeps saying he wants to address the state’s drug epidemic. Comments like the one he made in Bridgton keep Maine from moving forward on this front. If the governor is serious about tackling this crisis, he should stop standing in the way of the Legislature’s comprehensive plan and help Mainers desperate for treatment get the care they need.”
A few days later, the governor held a press conference in his Cabinet Room in hopes of clarifying his remarks and discussing the state’s heroin epidemic. From a media advisory:
- AUGUSTA- Governor Paul R. LePage will hold a news conference at 10:00 AM in the Cabinet Room to discuss his recent remarks regarding Maine’s drug crisis. All verified media is welcome to attend.
When: Friday, January 08, 2016, 10:00 AM
Where: Cabinet Room, State House, Augusta
Here is full video from that press conference.
Here are a few parsed out moments from the press conference.
1. Maine Governor Paul LePage to Media: “You Don’t Like Me, and I Don’t Like You”
2. Governor Paul LePage Describes Drug Bust He Personally Witnessed While in Office
3. LePage Accuses Press of Being in Bloggers’ Backpockets
4. LePage To NECN: “Your comment is inappropriate”; “Never said anything about being black”
5. Maine Governor Paul LePage on Drug Omnibus Bill: “Ecstatic” Legislature Taking Up Issue
6. LePage on Media Role in Solving Maine’s Drug Crisis
7. Maine Governor Paul LePage Tells Stories of Addicts, Narcan Usage
8. LePage Tells Media What They Are Missing in Reporting on Maine’s Drug Crisis
9. LePage to WMTW: “Only time I see you in this building… is when you are criticizing me”
10. LePage Verbally Attacks Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond (D-Portland) At Press Conference
11. Maine Governor Paul LePage Hints at New County Jail Program
12. LePage Takes Followup Question, Re: Drug Busts He Has Witnessed
The governor will conduct another public town hall event tomorrow evening in Windham.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Democrats responded via press release:
- The governor’s plan to make deep cuts in mental health services puts at-risk vulnerable Mainers by reducing the availability of vital services, increasing wait lists and pushing them toward crisis, according to testimony at public hearings before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee.
The governor’s proposed state budget would impose 10 percent across-the-board cuts in Medicaid behavioral and mental health services. The governor’s budget would also deal cuts of about 60 percent to some providers in the area of medication management, services now provided by psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses to ensure that patients are complying with their regimens and not in danger of potentially dangerous drug complications.
In his testimony, Tom McAdam, chief executive of Kennebec Behavioral Health, referred to a 1996 tragedy in Waterville in which a severely mentally ill man bludgeoned to death two elderly nuns and left two others severely injured. He described how the case galvanized mental health services in Maine.
“I think it had a fairly major impact on the entire system. I think that it helped to bring resources into the community-based side. And frankly, many of us that are in the provider community are confused by some of the initiatives in this budget because they kind of run counter to what we thought our role and responsibility (were) as community providers,” McAdam said. “Really, next to housing, for people to be successful med management – access to med management – is important. And we already have an access issue, and that really is especially true for the kids.”
Democrats reaffirmed their commitment to a budget that protects the most vulnerable Mainers.
“The governor’s cuts would shred our safety net. They would have devastating effects on some of our most vulnerable Mainers – those grappling with severe mental illness – as well as their families and communities. Slashing mental health services to this extent has grave implications for public health and public safety in Maine. It’s beyond irresponsible to play games with people’s lives and public safety like this. The governor has presented us with a series of false choices. We do not need to pit one group against another,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, House chair of the budget-writing committee.
“The facts presented today over hours of testimony show that we must protect mental health services. These drastic cuts would prevent Mainers with mental illness from getting needed care and push them toward crisis. Providing sufficient services is not only compassionate, it makes economic sense. Severely mentally ill people who cannot access the services they need often wind up in emergency rooms or in jail, much more expensive and traumatic experiences that can be avoided,” said Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, a member of the budget-writing committee.
(5pm UPDATE) Despite earlier today acknowledging the futility of such a move, moments ago Governor LePage’s office issued a statement calling on Democrats to reconvene and pass his “war on drugs” bill:
- “Drug trafficking by ruthless, out-of-state street gangs is on the rise, but Democrats are still pretending Maine does not have a problem with violent drug crime. Organized drug gangs are flooding the state with cheap heroin, but Democrats remain obstinate. They refuse to provide the manpower law enforcement agencies need to prevent these criminals from addicting Mainers with this killer drug.”
“We even identified funding to add MDEA agents, judges and prosecutors to help combat the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. That money is still sitting there. I could call the legislature back to take up my bill, but Democratic leaders could simply recess immediately and go home. I cannot force them to do something they are not willing to do.”
“Democratic leadership stated they won’t call the legislature back unless there is an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ They don’t think that deaths from drug overdoses, babies born addicted to drugs and violent street gangs peddling poison on our street corners amount to an ‘extraordinary occasion.’ But Maine people do.”
More via BDN:
Lawmakers had attempted to revise the bill to make it more politically palatable, but LePage signaled he would veto anything but his original proposal and a bipartisan panel of legislators unanimously moved to kill the bill.
Democratic leaders in the Legislature have said they will not bring lawmakers back to Augusta until the next session begins in 2015. While LePage has the constitutional authority to call lawmakers back into session, he said Tuesday that it would be pointless. Lawmakers, if they chose, could simply recess immediately upon being called back to Augusta, he said.
Earlier this month, Governor LePage issued a statement on the then newly released 2013 drug-induced death statistics in Maine, which read in part:
“Our Administration is focusing on the fact that Maine is subject to ever-increasing numbers of out-of-state drug trafficking organizations establishing drug markets in the state. This disturbing trend tears at the very fabric of our communities and puts our children at risk.
As I have said in the past, we must be proactive in combating drug dealers and target our limited resources to better protect our communities.
I think we all agree we also need to find more effective and efficient ways to treat addicts and provide them options that lead to successful long-term outcomes. In fact, the State has increased substance abuse funding in recent years from $7 million to more than $9 million. However, until we are able to curb the amount of drugs coming into our state, we will likely see the number of drug-induced deaths continue to rise.”
So with that in mind, it was quite startling to learn that LePage intended to skip a private meeting of all New England governors held at Waltham MA’s Brandeis University today with the goal of regionally addressing opiate abuse, sharing information and developing strategies. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had previously unveiled his plan to deal with opiate abuse as he called for the summit:
Patrick said he planned to meet with his counterparts from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine next week to discuss ways they could collaborate to reduce opiate abuse in New England.
Representatives for Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy, Vermont’s Peter Shumlin and New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan confirmed the governors would attend next week’s summit. A spokeswoman for Maine’s Paul LePage, the sole Republican governor in the region, said he would not attend due to a prior commitment.
Today Maine learned what that “prior commitment” was- a photo op in Augusta:
- Crime is down according to the Uniform Crime Reporting Division at the Maine Department of Public Safety. Governor Paul R. LePage and Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Morris will release details at a news conference Tuesday.
Governor LePage credits the overall decline to a variety of factors, including more coordination between law enforcement, the courts, prosecutors and domestic violence advocates.
“Maine is one of the safest states in the country. We can all be proud of that,” said the Governor. “Our police departments across Maine deserve to be recognized for the work they do. However, while we have good news to report, we still have issues to address. There are some disturbing trends we have identified, which we cannot ignore. Protecting the public’s safety is the greatest responsibility of government.”
— Paul R. LePage (@Governor_LePage) June 17, 2014
However at today’s press conference, LePage wasted no time in pointing fingers at the other five governors for his no-show:
A spokeswoman for Maine Gov. Paul LePage said he did not attend because of a scheduling conflict but wanted to be kept apprised of details. LePage later complained, however, that as the only Republican governor in New England his point of view might not be heard.
“So rather than listen to chit-chat, I’m here trying to get the work done,” LePage said during a news conference on crime statistics in Maine.
The governor’s office even tweeted the message:
I dont want chit chat about drugs. I want action. Funding is there to pay for my bill to fight drug crime. Let's get it done! #mepolitics
— Paul R. LePage (@Governor_LePage) June 17, 2014
A reminder: At the original press conference where he stood with multiple administration and state law officials, Paul LePage also went on record as calling marijuana a “gateway drug”.
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
(UPDATED x3) Maine Gov Paul LePage To Reintroduce LD 1811, War on Drugs Bill, as Emergency Measure on Veto Day (May 1)
(UPDATED x3) Governor LePage has just announced that he plans to reintroduce LD 1811, “An Act To Appropriate and Allocate Funds To Strengthen the State’s Efforts To Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes”, tomorrow as an emergency bill. Here is the press release:
Governor Finds Funding to Pay For New Drug Enforcement Agents, Judges, Prosecutors
Bill will go to Legislature on Thursday
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage will propose emergency legislation to fund his initiative to fight drug crime by adding Maine Drug Enforcement Agents, judges and prosecutors, which was a major initiative he outlined in his State of the State Address.“Although my proposal was widely supported, it died when the Appropriations Committee failed to fund it,” said the Governor. “But this issue is much too important to let die. I am pleased that we have found the funding to help combat the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. We cannot wait any longer. We must act now to crack down on drug dealers and make our streets safe for Maine families.”
The Governor will propose using revenue in the Unclaimed Property Fund account to pay for LD 1811, “An Act to Appropriate and Allocate Funds to Strengthen the State’s Efforts to Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes.” LD 1811 would add 10 new MDEA agents, two new District Court judges, deputy marshals and assistant clerks, and two prosecutors in the Attorney General’s office.
In addition, the bill would provide $750,000 to augment existing drug addiction treatment programs. The total cost of the proposal is about $2.5 million.
The proposal initially had broad bipartisan support in the Legislature, and it won endorsement from the judicial branch and law enforcement agencies across the state.
(UPDATED x2) On April 4, NBC Nightly News ran an in-depth story by national correspondent Kate Snow on the FDA approving opiate antidote Evzio. It featured paramedics in Portland, discussing using life-saving heroin antidote Nalaxone, also known as Narcan to save lives. A portion of that story focused on Maine Governor Paul LePage’s opposition to non-medical personnel having access to Narcan, with a clip from the press conference seen below.One quote from Governor LePage on the topic has drawn much attention and summarized his views:
“I think we need to treat, Let’s deal with the treatment, the proper treatment and not say, Go overdose, and oh, by the way, if you do I’ll be there to save you. I think we need to deal with the bigger, basic problem of drug addiction, drug trafficking and drug abuse in the state. That’s all I’m interested in.”
This morning, NBC’s Today Show again featured quotes from the same press conference as part of Snow’s ongoing report on heroin addiction:
Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the medication. At a press conference on Maine’s drug problem, the governor was adamant that only medical professionals should have access to Narcan.
“It’s an escape,” Gov. Paul LePage told NBC News. “It’s an excuse to stay addicted. I think we need to deal with the treatment, the proper treatment and not be saying, “go overdose and oh, by the way, if you do, I’ll be there to save you.”
But in a stunning move, NBC is reporting the governor’s office told them yesterday that LePage is reversing course and no longer opposing access to the antidote:
9am UPDATE: Via Sun Journal’s Scott Thistle is a clip of former Cumberland County Sheriff Rep. Mark Dion, speaking in more depth to the issues raised by the governor during the press conference and elaborating on his own remarks found below.
(Originally posted 3/12/14)
Governor Paul LePage yesterday held a press conference in his Cabinet Room to announce that he has submitted legislation to provide funding for 22 new state employee positions to fight Maine’s drug addiction and trafficking problems: 4 new hires within the Judicial Branch, 14 for the Department of Public Safety and four additional Assistant AGs. The move is part of his State of the State address promise to toughen up on Maine’s drug laws and enforcement.
With Attorney General Janet Mills, Cumberland County DA Stephanie Anderson, MDEA head Roy McKinney and law enforcement officers from around Maine in attendance, the governor spoke to and again listed statistics regarding the large number of Maine babies that are born addicted, criticized the state’s methadone clinics and called marijuana a “gateway drug”, a claim supported and expanded upon by DA Anderson when it was her turn at the podium.
Some quotes of LePage:
- “The methadone clinics in the state of Maine are an absolute dismal failure.”
“I’m not here to say that eradicating the drug trafficking trade is a silver bullet. We still have the addiction efforts. This is a full-blown business activity, and we’ve allowed it to go from a little bit of heroin for your buddy to a commercial enterprise. We need to break the commercial enterprise. This is, we want to get the people who bring the poison into the state, we want to get them off the streets.”
The governor also managed to get in a few political digs regarding Medicaid expansion:
“We must confront this troubling epidemic. While some are spending all their time trying to expand welfare, we are losing the war on drugs.”
LD 1811, “An Act To Appropriate and Allocate Funds To Strengthen the State’s Efforts To Investigate, Prosecute and Punish Persons Committing Drug Crimes” is sponsored by Sen. Gary Plummer (R-Cumberland) and while it beefs up enforcement and the drug courts, there are no provisions or mention within the bill as will be presented to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee in regards to medical treatment for addicts, education or counselling.
Some Democrats voiced their opinions on LePage’s approach:
Asst Majority Leader Senator Anne Haskell (D-Cumberland):
“There are Mainers who today, are living drug-free lives — and the reason for that is the treatment required by the oversight of the drug court. I am pleased to see more resources allocated to the drug courts. However, they are only half the answer. We simply are not going to arrest our way out of drug addiction.”
Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) agreed:
“The governor does not have a track record of supporting prevention and treatment. We want to hear about what he will do on those fronts. We should all be able to agree that we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of Maine’s drug problems.”
Rep. Mark Dion (D-South Portland), a former Cumberland County Sheriff and House Chair of the CJPS Committee:
“Where we part ways is he’s offering part of a solution. Judges and prosecutors that don’t have the resources to intervene in the addiction cycle will only guarantee more arrests and more detentions at our correctional facilities, which are already under stress.”
Maine Gov Paul LePage Presents LD 1811, War on Drugs Bill, in Press Conference
Roy McKinney, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Director, Speaks in Support of LePage Plan
Cumberland County DA Stephanie Anderson Speaks in Support of LD 1811, Gov LePage War on Drugs Bill
Conclusion of LePage War on Drugs Press Conference; Q&A with Press
Some parsed out moments:
1. ME Gov Paul LePage: Marijuana a “Gateway Drug”
Reporter: “Governor, can you talk about how the push to legalize marijuana in Portland and possibly statewide affects this? Is it a separate issue?”
LePage: “Yeah, it’s a separate issue. I think what they are doing in Portland is against federal law and the state law- I don’t condone it. I think… I will tell you, I’m not a user, so I don’t know what it does… but everybody that has experience with it is telling me it is a gateway drug. If it is a gateway drug, it’s certainly not helping the situation.”
2. LePage: Narloxone in home is “excuse to stay addicted”
3. Medicaid Expansion Question/ Drug Abuse Tie In Question by Susan Alexa
4. Press sings Happy Birthday to LePage press secretary Adrienne BennettRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )