Complete Video Record of Maine House Debates LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”

Posted on March 19, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

In chronological order, here are clips from this week’s House floor debate on LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”. The bill passed the chamber, but as in the Senate last week, narrowly failed to garner a veto proof majority.

Whenever possible, the full text of the prepared remarks has been linked to each clip; for others, either direct quotes or summaries as provided by House Democratic legislative aides online has been shared.

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HHS Chair Rep. Dick Farnsworth (D-Portland) Presents LD 1487

Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) opposing LD 1487 (pt 1)

Rep. Louis Luchini (D-Ellsworth) supporting LD 1487

Asst. Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) in support of LD 1487 (full prepared remarks HERE)

    Rep. McCabe thanks lawmakers for this bipartisan effort. “This bipartisan health care bill can make a different to 70,000 Mainers — Our friends, our family, our neighbors.”

    Rep. Jeff McCabe on economic benefits of health care expansion: “Why not these jobs? Why not now? ”

Rep. Paul McGowan (D-York) supporting LD 1487

    Rep. Paul McGowan on health problems he had: “I had that health experience with the security of health insurance. Everybody in this chamber has the security of health insurance.”

    Rep. Paul McGowan: “Can you imagine living in a society where if your house caught on fire and you called the fire department, and they said I’m sorry, you don’t qualify?”

Rep. Helen Rankin (D-Hiram) supporting LD 1487

    Rep. Helen Rankin: “Our veterans who have sacrificed everything. Do we really turn away from them? I think not.”

    Rep. Rankin: “Who made us God to decide about the lives of these people who are so desperate? … I think it’s time for us to pay it forward.”

Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) opposing LD 1487 (pt 1)

Rep. Matt Pouliot (R-Augusta) supporting LD 1487

    Rep. Matt Pouliot: “This bill is a valiant attempt to find a middle ground, incorporating many principles that are important to me. … I will be supporting this motion.”

Rep. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop) supporting LD 1487, pt 1

Rep. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop) supporting LD 1487, pt 2

    Rep. Craig Hickman reading from a constituent letter: “Are we really going to let these people down and say tough luck you’re on your own?… We are a better nation than that. We are a more compassionate people than that.”

House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) in support of LD 1487 (full prepared remarks HERE)

    Rep. Seth Berry: “Health care expansion makes good business sense. There’s also the human cost of denying health care to 70,000 Mainers.”

    Rep. Berry on his younger brother: “He is one of the most hardworking Mainers you’ll ever meet. He is one of the Mainers who fall into the coverage gap caused by our failure to expand health care.”

Rep. Bobbi Beavers (D-S Berwick) in support of LD 1487

    Rep. Roberta Beavers : “In York County alone, about 82 hundred more people will gain access to health care. An additional $43 million will be spent each year on health care services by 2016, stimulating about $59 million in additional economic activity and 513 new jobs in my county.”

Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Anne Graham (D- N Yarmouth) supporting LD 1487 (full remarks here)

    “The argument that that everyone should go on the exchange is false. Yes, one can purchase an insurance plan for $50 per month with a $2,5000 deductable. When one makes less than $12,000 a year, this is an impossibility. Once again, lose your life or lose your livelihood. I ask, what choice would you make?

    It saddens me deeply that this debate has become more about politics than about people.”

Rep. Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Dr. Jane Pringle (D-Windham) supporting LD 1487

    Rep. Jane Pringle, a retired doctor on why she’s in the Legislature: “I have watched the number of patients without health care grow. I have seen too many patients who could not get the health care they need until they were in crisis.”

    Rep. Pringle: “Imagine coming to me as your doctor with chest pain. And I say, ‘Have you worked hard enough today for me to give you health care?'”

    Rep. Pringle on the lack of belief in a system that will increase access, lower costs for all and save lives: “We have the power to do this. We just have to make this choice.”

Rep. Paulette Beaudoin (D-Biddeford) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Richard Malaby (R-Hancock) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Josh Plante (D-Berwick) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Dr. Ann Dorney (D-Norridgewock) supporting LD 1487

    Another patient of Rep. Dorney lost health coverage, ran out of insulin and ended up in the ICU with dangerously high blood sugars. The hospital gave her some insulin when she was well enough to leave.

Rep. Bernard Ayotte (R-Caswell) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Sheryl Briggs (D-Mexico) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Lisa Villa (D-Harrison) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Brian Jones (D-Freedom) supporting LD 1487 (full prepared remarks HERE)

    Rep. Brian Jones on health care needs in the community: “The collection plate in church and the donation jar in the store have demonstrated they cannot completely fulfill this purpose. Nor can directives to get a better job.”

Rep. Dr. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Steve Moriarty (D-Portland) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Tom Longstaff (D-Waterville) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Nate Libby (D-Lewiston) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Katherine Cassidy (D-Lubec) supporting LD 1487 (full prepared remarks HERE)

    Rep. Katherine Cassidy about constituent with cancer: “They already put a portion of cancer treatment on their daughter’s credit card.”

Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) supporting LD 1487

Rep. James Campbell (U-Newfield) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) opposing LD 1487 (pt 2)

Questions posed through the Speaker during LD 1487 floor debate

Rep. Dick Campbell (R-Orrington) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Karen Kusiak (D-Fairfield) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) supporting LD 1487

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House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) in support of LD 1487: Expansion is “Economic Shot in Arm” for Maine

Posted on March 19, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Video from 3/18/14 and remarks as prepared for delivery on LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”. The bill passed the House by a 07-49 vote.



Mr. Speaker; men and women of the House. I rise in favor of the pending motion.

As House chair of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future, I would like to draw your attention to the economic benefits of this measure. Health care expansion fits perfectly with the major focus of our workforce panel: high-demand, high-wage jobs, the jobs of tomorrow.

If Maine accepts the federal health care dollars, we say “yes” to 4,400 jobs. Most of these are in the health care sector. They are good-paying jobs where workers earn enough to more than cover the basics, jobs where they earn enough to spend on local businesses and boost other sectors of our economy.

Maine is lagging behind the nation in job creation. We’re at the back of the pack.
This bill is that economic shot in the arm. If we accept the federal government’s offer, we would inject money into our economy. My own Sagadahoc County would see an additional $8 million annually, which in turn would stimulate another $3 million in additional economic activity.

Health care expansion makes good business sense.

There’s also a great human cost of denying health care to 70,000 Mainers. This is not an abstract issue, it’s one that’s close to home. For all of us. If we fail, we will see the results vividly and in some cases, tragically.

My younger brother is a logger and a farmer. He is as hardworking a Mainer as you’ll meet. He is also one of the Mainers who fall into the coverage gap created by the failure to expand health care. I worry about him. An accident could be both physically and financially disastrous.

One time, he was alone doing some tree work and the branch he was on broke. He came crashing down fifteen feet and landed on his chainsaw. It wasn’t running, but its chain was well sharpened and his forearm was nicely opened up. He bled profusely, and needed stitches. Frankly, it was a miracle he didn’t die. If my brother is injured again, whether while baling hay or working with his oxen or felling trees, I want to know he has health care.

If he doesn’t feel right and develops a condition, I also don’t want him to put it off until it becomes worse — more serious, more expensive, more dangerous to him and to our health care system. I want him to have access to preventive care, so he is healthier and we don’t all pay more for him later in our insurance rates.

Please join me in supporting this motion.

Let’s give Maine this shot in the arm. And Mr. Speaker, men and women of the House, let’s do it together.

I urge you to follow my light. Thank you.

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UPDATED x2: Maine House Votes Down Controversial Religious Discrimination Bill LD 1428, 89-52

Posted on February 20, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Rep. Andrew McLean (D-Gorham) addresses colleagues during LD 1428 debate.

Rep. Andrew McLean (D-Gorham) addresses colleagues during LD 1428 debate.

12:45pm UPDATE: House just voted 89-52 to accept the Judicial Committee “ONTP” (Ought Not to Pass) recommendation moments ago, 89-52.

This was the final vote on LD 1428; it is now dead.

Roll call vote shows 5 GOP members broke with their party to join Democrats: Reps. Beaulieu of Auburn, Campbell of Orrington, Libby of Waterboro, MacDonald of Old Orchard Beach and Maker of Calais. 2 House Democrats voted for the bill: Rep. Stan Short (D-Pittsfield) and Steve Stanley (D-Medway).

Over 2 dozen rose to speak on the measure in a lengthy floor debate. Some quotes:

    Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland): “Please vote to end the war on gay people in our state.”

    Rep. Justin Chenette (D-Saco): “Religious freedom is important, but this bill makes me feel like a second-class citizen… Name me an issue in Maine — I still haven’t heard one. There isn’t an issue. This is a bill searching for a problem, rather than solving one. This wastes taxpayer money… It’s fiscally responsible to oppose it.”

UPDATE #2 (1:45pm): Maine House Democrats issued a press release with more quotes from legislators:

    “This is not a bill about religious freedom; it will only create religious discrimination,” said Rep. Charles Priest of Brunswick, who chairs the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. “Maine’s law and constitution has strong protections for religious freedom. This bill is not necessary.”

    “This fight will continue across the country. Many states still do not have a human rights law that covers sexual orientation. But in Maine our voters have settled this, ” said Rep. Matt Moonen of Portland, during the floor debate.

    “This bill moves Maine backwards on equality and women’s rights,” said Rep. Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick. “This is not religious freedom, it is legalized hate.”

National coverage here:

1. Breaking: Maine Rejects ‘Religious Freedom’ License To Discriminate Against Gays

2. Maine House Rejects ‘Right to Discriminate’ Bill

Reminder: The Senate voted down the bill 19-16 on Tuesday. The one Democrat who voted for the bill with the Republicans was Senator John Tuttle.

Link to House video here; session starts at 10 am. LD 1428, “An Act To Protect Religious Freedom” is listed as item 6-3 in the Divided Reports of the House Calendar.

Via press release this morning:

      Maine House to take up controversial religious discrimination bill
      Discrimination carve-out would undercut human rights, women’s rights

    Augusta — The Maine House today will take up a controversial bill that would undercut human rights protections and women’s rights by creating a loophole in the state’s strong non-discrimination laws.

    The religious discrimination bill, LD 1428, would carve out an exception for religious beliefs in the state’s non-discrimination laws, such as the Maine’s Human Rights Act.

    “Religion should never be used as a cloak to discriminate,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, whose father served as a pastor in the U.S. military. Eves attained his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

    The Maine Senate rejected the GOP-sponsored measure earlier this week in a largely party-line vote of 19-16.

    “Maine has led the country with our anti-discrimination laws,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “This bill is a big step backwards. There should be no exceptions or loopholes when it comes to discrimination.”

    Maine is one of 32 states that does not allow for religious exceptions in non-discrimination laws. In the last 10 years, only six states have enacted similar bills.

    Nationally laws like LD 1428 have been used to infringe upon women’s access to health care. In Texas a municipal bus driver refused to drive a woman to a reproductive health clinic on his bus route. At the federal level, corporations are trying to use the religious exception or loophole to avoid providing employees with health care that covers reproductive health.

    “This measure would take Maine backwards on women’s rights and equality,”
    said Rep. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan the Assistant Majority Leader. “The Maine legislature and courts have a track record of being careful and deliberate about protecting religious liberty while balancing other rights. This bill is not necessary. ”

    During the public hearing on the bill, one survivor of the genocide in Rwanda, spoke about his experiences coming to America to escape persecution and asked the committee to oppose the bill.

    The bill has met with strong opposition from a broad group of organizations, including ACLU of Maine, Coalition for Maine Women, Equality Maine, Family Planning Association of Maine, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Choice Coalition, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Maine Education Association, Maine LGBT Coalition, Maine Medical Association, Maine People’s Alliance, Maine School Management Association, Maine State Employees Association, Maine Women’s Lobby, Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, Secular Coalition.

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*Related: Maine Senate Votes 19-16 Against LD 1428, “An Act To Protect Religious Freedom”

*(UPDATED) Maine Takes Up LD 1428, “An Act To Protect Religious Freedom”

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Dems, GOP Leaders Hold Matching Pre-LePage State of the State Press Conferences

Posted on February 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

In a rather unusual move yesterday, legislative leadership from both parties held press conferences before Governor Paul LePage gives his annual State of the State address tonight, with points that contradicted each other’s stands on whether or not the LePage administration has helped or harmed Maine, whether or not the policies of the Governor have been effective, whether or not there has been economic progress made, etc.

One interesting exchange that media picked up on was whether or not there have been quid pro quo discussions between LePage and leadership of both parties regarding right-to-work legislation and Medicaid expansion.

Here are full video clips from each meeting.

First, Democratic leaders Senate Majority Troy Jackson and House Majority Leader Seth Berry:

    “Governor LePage has divided Maine and pitted us against each other. He’s insulted us and turned Maine into a punch line on the nightly talk shows. Instead of offering solutions to poverty and unemployment, his administration has vilified and shamed working people,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “He hasn’t done right by the people, but tomorrow night, he has an opportunity to offer solutions to problems, instead of the same old political rhetoric.”

    “These are complex problems that require the Legislature and the governor to come together to craft meaningful solutions,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “Instead, Governor LePage has offered stale political rhetoric, or remained silent on some of the most pressing issues facing his administration, from the struggles of the middle class to federal investigations to department mismanagement.”

    “There are two federal inquiries looking into the actions of his people at the Department of Labor and the CDC,” added Senator Jackson. “And where does he stand? Who knows? He’s remained silent. Well, he won’t be silent tomorrow night. And he shouldn’t be. It’s time to be accountable.”

Next, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Senator Ron Collins (York):

Although not present, a statement by Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau was distributed to the press as part of a joint release from Fredette’s office:

    “Governor LePage’s reforms have significantly reduced Maine’s unemployment rate and the drop is because the people are finding jobs, not quitting the search,” said Rep. Fredette, referring to the December jobs report showing Maine’s 6.2% employment rate and higher than average employment to population ratio. “With reforms to Maine’s tax, welfare, regulatory, and energy policies, we are finally seeing economic growth after decades of Democratic party rule.”

    “Democrats are proposing to expand the very welfare program that has given us a budget shortfall as is responsible for racking up the massive hospital debt that Gov. Lepage and the Republican lawmakers pushed to pay off,” said Sen. Mike Thibodeau. “Gov. LePage has made it clear that he’s focused on making Medicaid work for the disabled Mainers that it was originally meant to help, not able-bodied adults, and I think we can expect him to make that argument Tuesday night.”

The GOP press release concluded by reminding that the State of the State Address can be watched on MPBN, without mention of the efforts the LePage administration made to slash funding for MPBN years ago.

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Maine’s Republican Legislature Divided on LD 1066, Medicaid Expansion Bill

Posted on December 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

NOTE: Continuing to dust off past posts regarding Maine Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo), as news broke today that he is considering jumping into the GOP primary race for Mike Michaud’s open seat. Here is the clip linked below in the original write up.

*Related: “Maine Senate Floor Debate On Override Of LePage LD 1509 FY 14-15 Budget Veto (June 26 VIDEOS)”

(Originally posted 18 Jun 2013)

Last week saw a clear division among the 126th Legislature’s GOP caucus regarding whether or not to pass LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”, as Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) proposed a “sunset provision” amendment that passed that chamber by a 23-12 vote.

Rising to speak against the provision were Minority Leader Sen. Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo), Sen. Doug Thomas (R-Somerset) , Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) , Sen. Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin) , Sen. David Burns (R-Washington) and Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) .

Over in the House, Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) offered a second amendment to the bipartisan Senate approved bill, adding a $100 million dollar fiscal note that was indefinitely postponed by a 88-61 vote.

From her prepared testimony: (shortened dramatically, due to available working space on this post. ~AP)

    “I rise before you today and present an amendment to LD 1066. This amendment seeks to set a clear and distinct priority in our MaineCare program and ensure that its original mission of caring for those who cannot care for themselves is fulfilled….

    Today I speak for the people that we legislators, policy makers and budgeters have shoved into the shadows. Today I’d like to bring them out in the light for you to see. Yes, these are the 3100 people being forced to languish on a waitlist, not receiving essential services because we don’t have the fiscal discipline to make the choices that need to be made in order to fund the care they need… not want… need. Some have been on this list for years….

    This amendment tried to rectify the abuses committed by the legislature and asks that you vote to insist that they begin receiving services by July 1 of THIS year….

    Yes, it will be expensive. This amendment carries a fiscal note of almost $100 million dollars over the upcoming biennium….”

Her colleague Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) rose to speak in support of the amendment:

Then Minority Leader Rep Ken Fredette (R-Newport) spoke in strong opposition, not just to the amendment but to the Medicaid expansion bill as well.

(Later, Fredette would rise again to speak infamously out against the expansion- but, we’ve already covered THAT today!)

Asst Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) then moved to indefinitely postpone the LD 1066 amendment.

When the House took the bill up again, as amended previously by Asst Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec), the vote results revealed some modest gains for the expansion, with 97 voting for enactment.

As expected, Governor LePage vetoed LD 1066 on Monday (now the second time he has vetoed Medicaid expansion), so now it awaits more votes in the Legislature.

Currently, House Majority Leader Seth Berry has moved for the bill to be tabled until later today (June 18) pending reconsideration.

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As Goodall Takes SBA Regional Job, Maine Dems’ Turn at “Musical Chairs”

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

Last week at the end of the first half of the 126th Legislature, Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall (D-Sagadahoc), who was named last month as New England Regional SBA Administrator for the Obama administration, formally resigned his post in an address to his colleagues (apologies for the less than stellar camera work!).

It was announced that the Senate Democrats chose as his replacement Second Congressional District candidate and Assistant Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson (D- Aroostook) and to fill Jackson’s slot, Senator Anne Haskell (D- Cumberland). Via press release:

    JACKSON-35Head2
    Maine Senate Democrats elected new leadership following the resignation of Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall. Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash was elected Senate Majority Leader and Senator Anne Haskell of Portland was elected Assistant Senate Majority Leader. Both Senators were unchallenged and unanimously elected by the entire Senate Democratic caucus.

      “Democrats in the State Senate are well served by the experience, commitment, and tireless advocacy of Senators Jackson and Haskell,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “We have a team of leaders who will continue fighting for the very things important to Mainers like improving our economy, getting people back to work, a strong public education system, and affordable health care.”

    Senate Majority Leader: Senator Jackson served as Assistant Senate Majority Leader for the First Regular Session of the 126th Legislature. He served as the Senate Democratic lead on the 2013 Redistricting Commission. This is his third term in the Senate and he previously served three terms in the House.

      “This is a great honor. I will do my best to lead by example and serve the Senate and my caucus,” said Senate Majority Leader Jackson. “We’re a hard working group and I know that we will continue to focus on the job the people of Maine sent us here to do.”

    A logger by trade, Jackson is the former Chair of the Labor Committee, and is known in Augusta as an advocate for working families and small businesses. He lives in Allagash with his partner Lana Pelletier, and their sons, Chace and Camden.

    anne haskellAssistant Senate Majority Leader: Senator Haskell chaired the Taxation Committee and served on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee for the First Regular Session of the 126th Legislature. This is her first term in the Senate. She previously served six terms in the House where she chaired and served on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

      “I am humbled and honored to have the trust of this hard working caucus,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Haskell. “We made great strides this session—with so much work coming out of committees unanimously and with bipartisan support. However, we also understand how much we have left to do. We’re still living in challenging economic times. It is our responsibility to make our state stronger and prosper. I look forward to working on that in the months to come.”

    Haskell lives in Portland with her husband, Lou, where she enjoys visiting their summer camp, spending time with their grandchildren, and participating in an active lifestyle.

That still left Senator Goodall’s SD seat open. Last week, Governor LePage set a special election date for August 27th and Monday the Sagadahoc County Democrats selected Eloise Vitelli as their nominee against Green candidate Daniel Stromgren of Topsham and probably former GOP State Senator Paula Benoit.

Eloise Vitelli chosen as Democratic candidate for Dist. 19 special election on Aug. 27. Seen here with David Sinclair (left) and Will Neilson (right). Photo credit to Times Record.

Eloise Vitelli chosen as Democratic candidate for Dist. 19 special election on Aug. 27. Seen here with David Sinclair (left) and Will Neilson (right). Photo credit to Times Record.

Vitelli defeated Will Neilson, an Arrowsic resident and mostly non-practicing attorney who owns Solo Bistro in Bath and Bath City Councilor David Sinclair, also an attorney.

She won on the first ballot, garnering what Bronwen Tudor, chairwoman of the Sagadahoc County Democratic Committee called “a significant majority” of the 89 votes cast.

Vitelli was nominated by House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who said she could hit the ground running in the Senate due to her experience supporting entrepreneurs and helping shape state policy. Berry considered running for the seat before endorsing Vitelli in early July.

More via BDN:

    Vitelli, who was chairwoman of the Sagadahoc County Democratic Committee for four years, said Wednesday that Goodall asked her to run for his seat, which includes Sagadahoc County and the town of Dresden.

    “He turned to me when he knew he got the [SBA] position,” she said. Vitelli said she has helped Goodall with all of his Senate campaigns and has “worked closely with him” since then. She also wrote him a letter of recommendation for the SBA position, she said.

    Vitelli said she hopes to bring her experience in economic development — which she called “my clear passion” — to the Senate 19 seat.

    “Above that, I hope to bring a sense of how to make good decisions at the government level,” she said. “I’m a strong believer in the art of compromise. I guess I am old enough to be able to take the long view, and recognize that things don’t happen overnight, that we have to work together to find solutions. And I hope to bring an even temper.”

    Vitelli said the “incredibly important” race — likely against Benoit of Phippsburg — will be “very interesting. I don’t know how often it’s happened that two women have run against each other.”

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Weekly Democratic Address by Leader Seth Berry (Bowdoinham): Lawmakers Accomplish Much For the People of Maine, While Governor Picks Fights

Posted on July 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Audio file here.

seth berry house glassLawmakers in Augusta wrapped up an unprecedented legislative session this year. Despite a divided government and a governor prone to personal attacks and distortions, Democrats and Republicans were able to work together on some of the most important issues of the day.

We passed a bipartisan, compromise state budget that protects property tax payers from the massive tax increases proposed by Governor LePage, while also making sure that public schools get the support they need for the classroom.

Working with reasonable Republicans, we also ensured that elderly Mainers and people with disabilities will be able to afford their life-saving medicines.

And we passed a bipartisan comprehensive energy plan that will help to reduce heating costs while also protecting the environment.

While the governor wanted to fight, Democrats were willing to do the hard work necessary to build consensus and find compromises to move our state forward.

Good morning. I’m Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, the leader of the Maine House Democrats.

When Democrats first took office, we made a commitment to work to strengthen our middle class and Maine’s economy. We passed a responsible budget that will prevent massive property tax hikes across the state for working families and businesses.

We worked with Republicans to reject Governor LePage’s harmful budget and prevented a state shutdown that would have undermined our economy. We put more money into classrooms for children and restored funds to help seniors and people with disabilities pay for their medicine and care.

Democrats set out to strengthen our workforce and ensure that our workers would be able to get the skills they need to succeed in this global economy. We delivered on that promise — passing key measures to close the state’s skills gap and provide that critical training.

Maine people elected Democrats because we offered a positive alternative to Governor LePage and his harmful agenda that puts the interests of corporations ahead of people and stands up for polluters instead of mothers looking out for their children.

We put the brakes on the Governor’s special interest agenda: Stopping the roll back of rights for workers and women; putting much needed resources into classrooms; fighting against toxins in baby bottles and pollution in our air and water.

While we were able to find common ground with many Republicans, Governor LePage’s confrontational approach and record-breaking veto spree sought to divide our state and pit people against one another

More than two-thirds of the bills vetoed by the Governor had bipartisan or unanimous support. It was disappointing to see Republicans flip flop on vote for vote.

Time and again, good work was sacrificed as Republicans joined with the governor to put party loyalty ahead of loggers in Aroostook County, businesses along the coast, at risk children, and working families in every community in our state.

Despite these challenges, we accomplished a lot for the people of Maine.

Nearly 500 bills became law this session, from ensuring that veterans could get work and transition smoothly into the state’s workforce, to protecting teens from suicide.

Governor LePage’s obstructionism cost Mainers much this year, from life-saving health care to clean water and safe children’s products.

But Democrats won’t stop standing up for Maine values. We will continue to work on behalf of the people

Thank you for listening; I’m Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. The House Democratic Leader.

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Maine House Floor Debate on LD 1509, Budget Veto Override (VIDEOS)

Posted on July 1, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

veto budgetSame as with their counterparts in the Senate, the House Republicans had nothing to say regarding the veto override vote (roll call).

Here are statements of House Democratic leadership and Appropriation committee member Rep. Peggy Rotundo (Lewiston), sent out via press release:

    “I thank the Maine lawmakers who worked tirelessly and came together to override this careless veto,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “We put to rest the specter of a state shutdown that has loomed over the Legislature for months. We made the responsible choice to support a bipartisan budget that blunts massive property tax hikes, puts money back into our classrooms and helps our seniors and people with disabilities.”

    The House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said the vote affirmed the “collaborative and responsible” work of the budget committee. “The bipartisan budget we again endorsed today will serve the people of Maine well. A government shutdown would not serve anyone,” said Rotundo.

    “I applaud lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for standing up to the governor’s reckless action and standing up for Maine people. The governor’s political games could have led to serious consequences: a shutdown of important services, property tax hikes, harm to workers and the health of our economy,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.

    “No one got everything they wanted out of this compromise budget, but lawmakers were able to find common ground through hard work. They came together once again today for the well-being of our people and our state,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan.

Here is the order of speakers are the floor speeches from last week.

Floor speech of Rep. Jeff Timberlake (R-Turner) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Lawrence Lockhart (R-Amherst) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. David Cotta (R-China) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Ben Chipman (I-Portland) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Stacey Guerin (R-Glenburn) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Paul McGowan (D-York) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Richard Malaby (R-Hancock) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Jarred Crockett (R-Bethel) on LD 1509

Floor Speech of Rep. Jethro Pease (R-Morrill) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Stanley Short (D-Pittsfield) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Kathleen Chase (R-Wells) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. James Campbell (I-Newfield) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Kim Monaghan-Derrig on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Dick Campbell (R-Orrington) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Matt Pouliot (R-Augusta) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Erik Jorgensen (D-Portland) on LD 1509

(AUDIO) Floor speech of Asst Minority Leader Rep. Alex Willette (R-Mapleton) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Ray Wallace (R-Dexter) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Anne Graham (D- N Yarmouth) on LD 1509

(AUDIO) Floor speech of Rep. Wayne Parry (R-Arundel) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Majority Leader Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) on LD 1509

Floor speech of Rep. Andrea Boland (D-Sanford) on LD 1509

(AUDIO) Floor speech of Minority Leader Rep. Ken Fredette on LD 1509

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Maine House Floor Debates, Passes LD 1113 Buffett Rule Bill; Senate Votes to Indef Postpone (VIDEOS)

Posted on June 25, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Among the many bills taken up during the last whirlwind that was last week’s legislative session was House Majority Leader Seth Berry’s sponsored LD 1333, “An Act To Provide Tax Fairness to Maine’s Middle Class and Working Families”, aka the Buffett rule bill.

LD 1113 Sponsor House Majority Leader Seth Beth (D-Bowdoinham) Speaks To His Bill

From his prepared testimony:

    “LD 1113 would apply the logic of the “Buffett Rule” on Maine’s state and local tax code. As you know, the Buffett Rule is a concept named for the wealthy investor Warren Buffet, who famously said his secretary should not be required to pay higher taxes than he pays.

    According to Maine Revenue Services, Maine’s secretaries- and truck drivers, and child care workers- are now paying higher taxes than their bosses. It is time for this to stop. It is time to reduce taxes on those who pay the most, and equalize them for those paying too little.

    At present, a mother of two, working full-time at minimum wage, pays, nearly twice as much per dollar of income as a person making $1 million a year. This is due to the regressive nature of property and sales taxes, as well as the “stacking” of income tax credits, exemptions and deductions by a select few.

    LD 1113 would correct this inequality. Through its credit mechanism, it would actually cut taxes for hundreds of thousands of middle and working class families. More immediately, the bill as amended would fully restore revenue sharing.

(NOTE: LD 1113 would have worked in addition to restoring the municipality revenue sharing portion not covered by LD 1509, the biannual budget vetoed by Governor LePage yesterday. ~AP).

IMG_4857

    Does equalization add complexity? Absolutely not. In fact, by simplifying the Circuit Breaker and incorporating it into the tax return, LD 1113 can actually reduce paperwork for hundreds of thousands of families, and add only 3 or 4 lines for the few making over $350,000.

    Are the wealthy already taxed enough? In some cases, yes. In fact, the average Maine household in the 95th to 98th percentile pays more than average already. That is why LD 1113 proposes an individualized equalization test, only for those in the top 1 percent.

    The questions LD 1113 poses to you are politic, economic and moral.

    Politically, a Maine Buffett Rule is supported by 4 in 5 voters. A national Buffett Rule is supported by Maine’s entire tripartisan Congressional delegation, including Senator Susan Collins. Can we stand with Maine people and with our entire U.S. delegation- or can’t we?

    Economically, research shows that fair taxes assist growth. When the struggling full-time worker has a little more money in her pocket, businesses like mine have more customers. Work is rewarded and productivity increases. Do we want a thriving economy and middle class- or don’t we?

    Morally, Maine people have always believed that we should each do our fair share, as we are able. Yet at present, our overall code is very unfair. Will we be the Legislature that asked each Mainer to do their fair share- or won’t we?

    With your leadership on this issue, I believe we can, we do, and we will.

    Thank you.

IMG_4851The House then voted to pass the bill, 88-51. But when it was the Senate’s turn, that body unanimously decided to table LD 1113 with a indefinite postponement vote that passed under the hammer. The House Democrats were quick to send out a press release, which read in part:

    The Senate early Thursday morning failed to pass a Buffett Rule for Maine that would have restored revenue sharing for communities and provided tax breaks for the middle class.

    “The Senate failed Maine’s middle class and local property taxpayers today. They had a chance to embrace tax fairness and prevent a property tax hike with this measure,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, the bill’s lead sponsor. “These are issues many of us campaigned on. How can they face their constituents after breaking these promises?”

    “We have yet another situation here where the House has done good bipartisan work only to see it undermined by the Senate,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan, a cosponsor of the bill.

    Starting in the two-year period beginning July 1, the measure would add approximately $75 million to the revenue-sharing system between the state and municipalities, thanks to an amendment from Rep. Michael Carey, D-Lewiston.

    The governor’s budget would have eliminated revenue sharing, but the bipartisan budget passed by the Legislature would restore two-thirds of it. The amendment from Carey, a member of the budget-writing committee, fully restores revenue sharing to its current levels.

    “On the Appropriations Committee, we worked hard to blunt the tax shift to local property taxpayers in the governor’s budget. We were able to get two-thirds of the way to full restoration but not any further until this amendment was added to the measure,” Carey said. “Property taxes are the most regressive of our taxes and hit our middle class particularly hard.”

Here are the remainder of the videos from the House floor debate, in order of speakers.

Rep. Gary Knight (R-Livermore Falls) speaks against LD 1113 (Pt 1)

Rep. Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) Speaks Against LD 1113 (Pt 1)

Rep. Joe Brooks (U-Winterport) Speaks for LD 1113

Rep Adam Goode (D-Bangor) Speaks in Support of LD 1113

Rep. Ryan Tipping-Spitz (D-Orono) Speaks in Support of LD 1113

Rep Mike Carey (D-Lewiston) Speaks in Support of LD 1113

Rep Gary Knight poses question on LD 1113

Rep Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan), Nate Libby (D-Lewiston) Speak in Favor of LD 1113

Question of Rep Jeff Timberlake (R-Turner), Answer by Rep Berry on LD 1113

Rep Peter Stuckey (D-Portland) speaks in favor of LD 1113

Rep Roger Jackson (R-Oxford) Opposing LD 1113

Rep Mike Carey (D-Lewiston) answers question on LD 1113

Rep Justin Chenette (D-Saco) Speaks in Strong Support of LD 1113

Rep Keschl (R-Belgrade) Rises Again in Opposition to LD 1113

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(UPDATED) Maine Gov LePage Threatens Blanket Vetoes & Govt Shutdown; Dem Majority Leaders Fire Back

Posted on March 1, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

(11:45 am UPDATE– A media availability press conference has now been announced for later this afternoon with the entire Democratic majority leadership members.)

A busy morning, as Governor Paul LePage, just returning from a “blink and you missed it” trip to DC and his annual Florida family vacation has once again blustered himself into some media coverage that is sure to get more national attention:

huffy lepage

    During a Bangor radio station interview this morning, Gov. Paul LePage said he will veto every bill that crosses his desk until his plan to repay hospitals goes into law. That includes the bill that will allow bars to open at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Sunday this year.

    LePage was speaking to Rik Tyler, on the George Hale/Rik Tyler Show on WVQM 101.3 and WVOM 103.9. The governor said he will veto any and all bills — including his own — until the emergency legislation he submitted is signed into law. LePage said he notified legislators of that intent last week.

More via Portland Press Herald:

    Tyler, the radio show host, was caught off guard by the governor’s veto comment. LePage elaborated, saying the Legislature had passed emergency legislation to allow bars to open early on Sunday for St. Patrick’s Day and an emergency moratorium on public inspection of concealed weapons permit holder information.

    LePage urged passage of the concealed weapons bill.

    “If that’s more important than paying the hospitals then I think we have a problem,” LePage said.

    He added, “Until they move forward … I’m not going to move forward on any legislation,” he said.

    LePage added that the veto threat applied to his own bills.

Within hours, some of the Democratic majority leaders fired back with the following press release:

    DEMOCRATS DENOUNCE LEPAGE SHUTDOWN, VETO THREATS

    Democrats call on Republicans to reject “do nothing” politics

    AUGUSTA — Democratic leaders on Friday denounced Governor Paul LePage’s threat to halt the work of the Legislature by abusing his veto power and shutting down state government until his hospital repayment plan becomes law.

    goodall“In one week we’ve heard ongoing threats to shutdown state government if Republicans don’t get what they want. Today, the Governor promised to veto every bill that comes across his desk if he doesn’t get what he wants. This is not governing. This is not leadership. It is the type of political gamesmanship that doesn’t belong here in Maine,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “I suspect the people of Maine want leaders not schoolyard bullies. We have serious challenges facing our economy and we should be focused on finding solutions not making threats.”

    During a radio appearance early Friday morning, the Governor promised that he will veto all bills that cross his desk until the Legislature passes his borrowing scheme to make the final payment to Maine hospitals. Republicans have failed to acknowledge that the hospital debt has been continuously and increasingly paid back, thanks largely to a plan developed by Democrats. The Governor’s threat to shutdown state government follows Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s prediction of a shutdown last week.

    Seth Berry File Photo 2012 cropped“First, Republican leaders start throwing around the possibility of a state government shutdown and now the Governor is threatening to go on a veto spree. This type of brinksmanship is even worse than what we’re seeing from the GOP in Washington. Maine people deserve better than this from their leaders,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.

    Democrats are focused on legislation to strengthen Maine’s workforce, public schools, and the middle class. The Governor is threatening those and other important efforts.

    jeff mccabe“The Governor is telling us it’s his way or the highway. His obstructionist bullying will derail important legislation on domestic violence, public safety and economic development,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. We call on our Republican colleagues to reject such do-nothing politics.

    The LePage administration is pushing a convoluted plan that pulls the state’s wholesale liquor business into a deal that would put Maine in debt to Wall Street to make the final payment to hospitals. The plan gambles the value of the liquor contract and is being used to hold hostage other bonds that already have approval from Maine voters.

    troy jackson nmt
    “Today the Governor told the people of Maine that the hospitals are more important than they are. I disagree,”
    said Assistant Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash. “I think the people of Maine want lawmakers focused on getting folks back to work, earning more money and improving our schools.”

    Maine has paid more than $3.7 billion to hospitals over the last decade.

    Jackson added, “We need to get the best deal for Maine and that requires us working together. I think everyone agrees that ten years ago we rushed this deal and could’ve done better. Now, we cannot gamble the future of Maine because the Governor is having another temper tantrum.”

Interesting timing for the latest outburst from LePage- could it be to deflect attention from the fact that starting today, all of the… um… “inaccuracies” that former Rep. Jon McKane and the rest of the 125th GOP legislators told to get LD 1333/ PL 90 shoved into law are being exposed as such?

    About 7,000 Maine customers of Mega Life and Health Insurance Co. will be affected by a rate change set to take effect March 1.

    While some policyholders will see their health premium costs drop by nearly 33 percent, others will be hit with rate hikes of up to 47 percent, according to Mega’s filing with the Maine Bureau of Insurance. The average rate increase across all policyholders amounts to 6.5 percent.

    The rate change affects Mega’s individual policyholders, or people who purchase health coverage on their own rather than through an employer. The 6,990 policies involved provide coverage to about 12,600 people, including the policyholders’ dependents.

It is also worth noting that one of the loudest critics of Dirigo Health, created by the Maine Legislature in 2003 to offer an affordable option to small businesses or self-employed individuals, and a co-sponsor of PL 90/ LD 1333, termed out former Rep. Jonathan McKane of Newcastle, was selected to sit on Dirigo Health’s board.

More to come.

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