One day after winning the Maine Senate District 19 special election last week, Democrat Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic was sworn into office by Governor Paul LePage and seated with her colleagues. Vitelli is Director of Program and Policy at Women, Work and Community where she has spent her career assisting small businesses, creating a statewide job training program that has assisted more than 3,000 entrepreneurs and helped unemployed Mainers start successful businesses. Senator Vitelli also currently serves on the Maine Economic Growth Council.
“I am honored to be serving the people of Sagadahoc County and Dresden,” said Senator Vitelli. “I am greatly committed to standing up for the needs and concerns of the people in our community, including how we can all work together to strengthen our state. As a state senator, I look forward to continuing my work of helping workers and growing businesses,” she added.
“As a former Head Start teacher and workforce advocate, I know that education is the backbone to economic development. We must work together to improve our schools and job opportunities. I look forward to putting my experience to work for the people of Maine.”
Then came the special session’s true business of voting on the bond bills that eventually passed both chambers and will go before voters this November.
On Saurday, Senator Vitelli delivered the weekly Democratic radio address: “Maine workers drive our economy, fuel our businesses, and grow the middle class” (Audio link).
Good Morning. This is newly-elected State Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic.
It’s Labor Day weekend. A time when our country takes pause to offer homage to the American worker. It’s a holiday that dates back more than a hundred years—and, it was borne out of an economic time very similar to the one we’ve experienced the last several years with the Great Recession.
But there is no doubt, in a hundred years, we have made strides for the American worker. Workplaces are safer. Teen workers are protected. And even though we must do more, there is a minimum wage.
But there are other differences.
Today, more than ever before, there are more women in the workforce—nearly fifty percent of the American workforce are women.
Women are a growing number of breadwinners for their families. And, in many cases, women out number men at our colleges and universities—and, are going on to get advanced degrees.
Nationally, women own more than thirty percent of all small businesses.
Our role, as women in the workplace, is central to the national economy—and, to the Maine economy.
For me, sharing this, is about more than just economic and workforce trends. It’s been personal. For more than thirty years, through my work at Women, Work and Community, I have assisted Maine workers and small businesses. I started a statewide training program, that has helped more than three-thousand people—men and women—start successful businesses.
For example, Lisa from Palmyra started Oats Anytime, a gluten-free product she sells nationwide; it was featured at a Taste of Maine event hosted by Senator Susan Collins in Washington this Spring.
I am proud of these accomplishments, and know, that it is exactly this entrepreneurial spirit and determination to succeed that is seminal to the Maine work ethic. And better yet, the reputation of the Maine worker is nationally known as being second-to-none.
As so as we look to what is needed to grow our state’s economy, to put more people back to work, and ensure that hard working Mainers earn what is fair, we must look at how to capitalize on the spirit of Maine workers by training them for the jobs of today and preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow.
Earlier this week, I along with my Senate and House colleagues, took one step closer toward achieving that goal by passing a $149.5 million bond package that includes investments in many things like our state’s infrastructure and higher education facilities.
We all agree that critical investments are needed for our roads and bridges, ports and rail. Ask any Maine driver and they’ll tell of the potholes and torn up roads we all have to travel on to get from “here to there”. This bond package addresses those concerns by investing $100 million in transportation issues. The good news, is that this will be a boost to our construction workers in the short-and long-term.
We also invested $35.5 million in science, technology, engineering and math facilities at every campus of the University of Maine and Maine Community College systems and the Maine Maritime Academy. Prioritizing these so-called STEM programs and facilities ensures that Maine can train students and workers in high-demand, high-wage jobs, and, compete—perhaps even out-innovate and out-educate other states.
In looking ahead, I am hopeful that beyond making these long overdue upgrades and investments in our college and university classrooms and science labs, that we realize we also need to invest in the people who learn and train in these facilities. We need to do more to encourage innovation—whether it’s through research and development or encouraging more STEM training.
Ultimately, it is our people, our workers who drive our economy. It is our workers who fuel our businesses. It is our workers who build and grow the middle class.
On this Labor Day weekend, let’s reflect not only on the work that we do, and the labor of our predecessors, but let’s look ahead to the future and think about all the possibility that remains in building the legacy of the Maine worker and the American worker.
This is State Senator Eloise Vitelli. I thank you for listening. And have a good holiday weekend.
10 pm Update: Democrat Eloise Vitelli is projected to be the winner of the SD 19 special election with a 4621 vote total over Paula Benoit’s 4339 and Daniel Stromgren’s 357 tallies.
Senate President Justin Alfond released the following statement:
“Congratulations to Eloise on her win tonight. As someone who has helped thousands of Mainers get to work and start businesses, Eloise is the right person for the job as Maine’s next State Senator. I know she will stand up for the people of her community, and I look forward to working with her as we help grow our economy and put more Mainers back to work.
The people of Maine spoke strongly tonight. They want lawmakers who are going to stand up to the LePage approach and instead work collaboratively to get things done to move our state forward.”
7pm Update via BDN: Earlier reports of ballot shortages were erroneous. Extremely high turnout continues to be seen in all districts:
- Topsham Town Clerk Ruth Lyons said at 5:30 p.m. that turnout was “huge.” However, despite reports by other media, Topsham did not run out of ballots, Lyons said.
At 5:30 p.m., Topsham still had 1,500 to 2,000 blank ballots, as well as another 600 absentee ballots at the town office, “if it came to that,” Lyons said
Clerks all over the district, which includes all of Sagadahoc County and the Lincoln County town of Dresden, said they had seen high numbers of voters.
In this special election, clerks and poll workers will count the ballots by hand, which could slow the reporting of results, some election officials said.
5PM Update shows very high turnout and even one municipality running out of ballots:
- Voters are turning out in surprisingly large numbers across Senate District 19 today as residents decide who should fill the year remaining on the term of Sen. Seth Goodall.
In Topsham, where officials eventually ran out of ballots, Ruth Lyons, the top voting official, said turnout was “heavy” at 11 a.m. In Bowdoin, the town clerk counted 150 ballots this morning and predicted higher turnout than for the June school referendums in that town.
In Bath, City Clerk Mary Small said turnout had been “brisk.” By 3:30, Small said that 1,500 ballots, including absentee ballots, had been cast.
In Topsham, meanwhile, voting was halted temporarily because the polling place had run out of ballots.
When now former Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall announced in June that he was accepting the New England Regional SBA Administrator position, that set up the need for a special election to fill his Senate District 19 (Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Georgetown, Perkins Twp., Phippsburg, Richmond, Topsham, West Bath, and Woolwich in Sagadahoc County and Dresden in Lincoln County) seat.
There are three candidates vying for the coveted spot, which Goodall held for three terms: Former State Senator Republican Paula Benoit of Phippsburg (who served previously from 2006-8 and was defeated by Goodall), Maine Women’s Hall of Fame Democrat Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic, the Program and Policy Development Maine Centers Director for Women, Work, and Community, and Green Independent Daniel Longley Stromgren of Topsham. All three ran as Maine Clean Election Act candidates.
While Vitelli, who has spent decades working for Maine people and fostering women’s business growth efforts, has won endorsements from Bath Iron Works, International Association of Machinists—Maine Lobstermen, Local 207, Rep. Chellie Pingree and even had Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Congressman Mike Michaud out knocking on doors for her campaign, former Blaine House director, Baxter LePage blogger and First Lady Ann LePage’s assistant Paula Benoit has found herself caught in the latest controversy caused by Governor Paul LePage (PPH, “Republican lawmakers: LePage said Obama ‘hates white people'”):
- Benoit said Thursday that LePage’s alleged comment about President Barack Obama hating white people has been overhyped by the media and is distracting voters from more important issues such as jobs, taxes and economic development.
“[The LePage controversy] isn’t affecting this election from where I stand,” said Benoit. “I’m just meeting people and going door to door and talking about myself. I’m not talking about the governor. All I say is that he sees a light at the end of the tunnel; it’s just that his message gets distorted.”
Several GOP insiders, however, have told the BDN that there is grave concern within the party that the latest LePage controversy will tip the race toward the Democrat Vitelli, so no one will talk about the issue publicly before the election.
Whether or not those in attendance will indeed come forward publicly remains to be seen; for his own part, Governor LePage offered a “non-apology” apology to Republican legislators. Benoit at a debate last week made numerous judgmental and disparaging remarks about her experiences meeting with SD 19 constituents while knocking on doors, echoing LePage’s infamous “get off the couch and get a job” speech at last year’s Maine Republican Party convention.
Polls opened at 8-10 am, depending on town, and all will close tonight at 8 pm.
Turnout for the special election is already seemingly very high:
- Voters are turning out in surprisingly large numbers across Senate District 19 today as residents decide who should fill the year remaining on the term of Sen. Seth Goodall.
In Topsham, Ruth Lyons, the top voting official called the turnout “heavy” at 11 a.m. In Bowdoin, the town clerk predicted a higher turnout than for the June school referendums.
Lyons said she would not expect a result before midnight tonight.
SENATE 19: Topsham vote warden Ruth Lyons calls turnout “heavy.” #mepolitics
SENATE 19: Absentee ballots being counted now, throughout the day, clerk says. #MePolitics
SENATE 19: Topsham election warden Ruth Lyons says result unlikely before midnight. #MePolitics
SENATE 19: Turnout ‘heavy’ as cash gushes at finish line http://www.timesrecord.com/news/2013-08-27/Front_Page/SENATE_19_Turnout_heavy_cash_gushes_at_finish_line.html … #mepolitics
SENATE 19: @bangordailynews and @MidcoastNews to provide up-to-the- minute returns tonight at their sites. #MePolitics
SENATE 19: No electronic counting in municipalities, big absentee counts to push tally late #MePolitics
House Majority Leader Seth Berry @sethberry (who himself considered running for the seat): Fantastic turnout this AM in Bowdoinham; more than half for Vitelli so far. See you at Sagadahoc/Dresden polls before 8 pm! #mepolitics
Megan Hannan @meganhannan: Heavy voter turnout in Bath today! #mepolitics #SD19
Vitelli 144, Benoit 58, Stromgren 5.
Vitelli 1159, Benoit 1009, Stromgren 68.
Benoit 285, Vitelli 213, Stromgren 19.
Vitelli 408, Benoit 320, Stromgren 29.
Vitelli 226, Benoit 156, Stromgren 14.
Benoit 390, Vitelli 315, Stromgren 11.
Vitelli 307, Benoit 280, Stromgren 54.
Vitelli 990, Benoit 924, Stromgren 99.
Benoit 313, Vitelli 275, Stromgren 22.
Benoit 429, Vitelli 371, Stromgren
Vitelli 213, Benoit 175, Stromgren 15.
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:
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.
Assistant 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.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.”
Maine Legislative Round Up and Preview for Tomorrow: Vetoes, The Budget, Energy Omnibus Bill and More
With so many bills being taken up in the waning days of the first half of the 126th Legislative session, it is impossible to write each bill up properly- things happen fast and furious in Augusta and quite often, one feels like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth between the Chambers and wishes for roller skates to cover as much activity, debates, press conferences and news stories as possible!
This is as appropriate a time as any to thank the dedicated staffs in both chambers, the clerks, aides and more for both parties- these people do a tremendous job behind the scenes to ensure that the complicated processes at play in making laws are done in as orderly a fashion as possible, right down to the IT folks running the wireless networking within the building and dealing with the occasional non-working lights on the boards.
So with this in mind, let’s quickly try to cover what we can before the 126th comes back in tomorrow!
First off, we have this handy list from the Governor’s office of bills either signed, allowed to pass without his signature or vetoed- with those vetoes come specific messages to the Legislature. Governor LePage has now issued at least a dozen vetoes this past week alone and as such, the bills each now face more votes in both the House and Senate for override of the veto or to sustain the Governor’s veto.
Yesterday as earlier reported, the Governor as expected vetoed LD 1509, “An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015”. This vote will certainly be “the one to watch” tomorrow, as both chambers sent the bill to the Governor with super majority tallies and failure to pass the bill will result in a statewide government shutdown starting on July 1.
Here is the Governor’s letter.
Another bill that was vetoed at 11:55pm on the last mandatory Legislative session day by statute (June 19) and worth watching for tomorrow is the energy omnibus bill, LD 1559, “An Act To Reduce Energy Costs, Increase Energy Efficiency, Promote Electric System Reliability and Protect the Environment”.
Governor LePage issued the following statement:
“Maine’s energy costs are too high – and it’s killing economic opportunity. Maine families pay more than 24 percent above the national average for electricity. Our businesses pay 14 percent more. Alternatives can help us move to lower the $3,000 or more that Mainers spend on average annually to heat their homes.”
LePage’s energy director Patrick Woodcock added:
“We should be focusing on what could unite the State of Maine and allow our University to compete for an offshore wind project. The current version of this bill chooses the Norwegian oil company Statoil over our University. While it is the PUC’s decision to specifically award contracts, the Governor supports evaluating whether we can utilize the subsidy that will maximize the economic benefits to the State of Maine. The University of Maine should be given that option and if they are chosen by the PUC as being the best option for our economy, the Governor supports this research and development.”
But moments after the veto was signed, the House reconvened and voted 121-11 to override the veto. It next goes before the Senate, who had adjourned for the evening when the bill passed the House and as such, were unable to immediately take it up themselves. Democratic leaders issued statements, which are posted below.
Senate President Justin Alfond:
“This is yet another example of one man standing in the way of progress for the entire state. This in a historic bill with critically important elements that would have helped Maine families and kept Maine’s industrial and commercial facilities competitive. This is a bill that has garnered broad support from people on both sides of the aisle and instead of supporting what’s best for our state, the Governor has yet again resorted to getting in the way of progress for Maine. With this bill, Maine could have seen huge reductions in our energy costs, saved an additional $365 million, and jump-started thousands of Mainers on the path of making cost effective home energy improvements. Unfortunately the people of Maine have suffered the consequences of the Governor’s games.”
Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall:
“The Governor has made it clear that he is trying to undo a signed agreement between Statoil and the PUC, a contract that would bring millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to Maine. This isn’t just politics at its worst, it’s business at its worst. The Governor has jeopardized crucial energy policy for Maine and is attempting to close the door on a multi-million dollar investment by an international company.”
It should be noted that the Senate originally passed LD 1559 by a 28-7 vote. Here is the Governor’s veto letter for LD 1559.
Also before the Legislature are the stack of bills (PDF warning) on the special Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee table; ie, the bills deemed to have expenses added to them that before enactment, need to be figured out as far as potential costs and financial impacts. As there are 32 pages’ worth and well over 100 bills, there is no way yet of knowing how many will be dealt with tomorrow or which ones will be set aside for the second half of the session.
So, now we wait!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
As expected, today Governor Paul LePage vetoed the budget, aka LD 1509, “An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015”. On Wednesday, the 126th Legislature will reconvene to take it up in both chambers, along with a slew of other matters including ten bills vetoed late Friday and others today.
Here is the full list of Governor LePage’s vetoes of bills passed by the 126th Legislature.
When the Senate met the evening of June 13th to take up the budget, those who worked on the budget praised their fellow Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee members from across the aisle, their staff and clerks, for working so hard together to create a budget that, per Senator Pat Flood (R-Kennebec), won unanimous approval by the entire AFA Committee on every single line item of the 680 page document, individually and as a whole.
And as the votes were tallied, it showed that same as in the House (102-43, 6 absent) earlier, the Senate had passed the measure (25-10) with a super majority strong enough to sustain a veto from the Governor.
“Lawmakers did the right thing by passing a budget that allows the state of Maine to keep working,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “In divided government, Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature worked together to pass a responsible budget that protects our schools, our property owners, and small businesses.”
Here are videos taken of the Senate LD 1509 floor debate, in order of speakers.
Appropriations Chair Sen. Dawn Hill (D-York) urges support for LD 1509, FY 14-15 Budget
“As a committee and as a Legislature, we left politics at the door. We rolled up our sleeves and worked together to craft a responsible, bipartisan budget for the people of Maine,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the committee. “This is what we are expected to do. And I’m proud of our ability to work together despite our differences.”
Sen. Pat Flood (R-Kennebec) Speaks in Support of LD 1509, FY 14-15 Budget
Sen. Emily Cain (D-Penobscot) Speaks in Support of LD 1509, FY 14-15 Budget
“This is a tough budget, but it is fair, and passing this budget is the right thing to do,” said Senator Emily Cain of Orono.
Asst Majority Leader Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) Speaks in Support of FY 14-15 Budget, LD 1509
“This is not a perfect budget. But it is a budget that reflects the spirit of compromise and getting things done for the people of our state,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “This is the best compromise that I have ever been a part of and reflects how this Legislature is supposed to work.”
Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) speaks in opposition to LD 1509, FY 14-15 budget
Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau Speaks in Opposition to LD 1509, FY 14-15 budget
Sen. Doug Thomas (R-Somerset) speaks in opposition to LD 1509, FY 14-15 budget
Asst Minority Leader Sen. Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) speaks in support of LD 1509, FY 14-15 budget
Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall (D-Sagadahoc) Speaks in support of LD 1509, FY 14-15 budget
“Every two years we take a vote that is perhaps one of the most challenging. It requires us to set aside our philosophical differences and do what is right by looking ahead to our future,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “This budget makes public education stronger and finally acknowledges the public service and dedication of our state employees.”
And now we wait.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Maine Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond has been appointed by the Obama Administration as Regional Administrator for the Small Business Administration, which includes Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The position of regional administrator was vacated in 2012 when Jeanne Hulit, who had been the regional administrator since 2009, was promoted to become the SBA’s associate administrator of the Office of Capital Access.
Representatives Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree put Goodall’s name forward for the position last year and congratulated him in a press release this morning.
“Seth Goodall’s leadership skills and small business experience make him an excellent choice to be the next Regional SBA Administrator. His experience starting, financing, and growing a business position him well to fight for our entrepreneurs. He’s been in their shoes and he knows what it takes to get them to the next level. Seth’s firsthand experience and depth of knowledge in business policy will serve Maine and New England well, and I look forward to working with him,” said Michaud.
“Seth is just what we need at the SBA,” Pingree said. “He knows what it’s like to have to meet payroll, raise capital and grow a business. The SBA can play an important role in helping small businesses and I’m confident Seth will be able to put those resources to work in New England. I can’t think of a better person for this job.”
Goodall will leave his State Senate seat at the end of the current legislative session to assume his new position at the SBA.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Democratic Radio Address by Sen. Seth Goodall (Sagadahoc): Putting Mainers back to work, helping businesses grow is a shared priority
Last year, more than 4,000 Mainers were turned away from Maine’s community colleges.
More than 200,000 Mainers started college but left before they completed their degree.
And, within a decade, 4,000 jobs could go unfilled if Mainers aren’t trained in high-demand fields like information technology and precision manufacturing.
This is just some of the news lawmakers in Augusta learned about the state of Maine’s workforce and business needs.
Good Morning this is Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond.
When we were on the campaign trail, we heard Mainers say that they want to be able go to work, pay their bills, and enjoy their family—and know, that we, as lawmakers, are doing our job— by working together to get results and move Maine forward.
And that is why, four months ago, a new legislative committee was formed to find solutions to close the skills gap and address the workforce needs of our businesses.
From the start, lawmakers on this committee got to work in partnership with economic, education, business, and labor leaders from across our state.
United in our goal, we sought to target our investments in a way that would strengthen the backbone of our economy: Maine workers and small businesses.
Just this week, we celebrated an achievement for our state.
The committee is proud of its work—unanimously passing a first-of-its-kind measure that will transform Maine’s workforce.
This measure is an investment that will grow Maine’s economy in the short-term while also building it to last beyond the needs of today.
Now, with passage of this measure, if you want to earn a computer science degree and you live in Washington County, or if you live in Presque Isle and want to be an electrician, Maine’s community colleges are working to come to you.
If you’re a company that employs fewer than 50 people, community colleges will work with your business to design worker training tailored for your specific needs–at no cost.
If you’re one of the 150 businesses that participate in the Apprenticeship Program, your workers can “learn while they earn.”
With the best trained workers, businesses can innovate and remain competitive in their industry.
These are just some of the highlights of more than a dozen parts to this bill–all of which are a win-win for Maine people, Maine businesses, and ultimately, Maine’s economy.
The success of this measure is borne out of the input from education, labor, and business leaders.
Putting Mainers back to work and helping businesses find the talent they need to grow is a shared priority.
While political divisiveness might exist elsewhere, Democrats, Republicans and Independents worked together to strengthen our middle class and grow our economy.
Community College President, John Fitzsimmons said that in his twenty-five years of working with the Legislature, this measure is the result of some of the most impressive and thoughtful work he’s seen come out of Augusta.
That’s something to be proud of.
However, we know that a skilled workforce isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take a sustained and focused effort. But, this is a great start to getting workers on a road to economic security and helping businesses remain competitive and grow.
Our priority will continue to focus on helping our economy grow so that people can get back to work, businesses can grow and every Mainer has the opportunity to succeed.
I am confident that as we near the conclusion of this legislative session in June, that with the passage of this measure, Maine’s workers and Maine’s businesses are one step closer to being on the high road economy where we all thrive.
Thank you for listening. This is Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall. Have a great weekend.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Senate Majority Leader Goodall Introduces LD 644, An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Wholesale Liquor Business (Video; Text)
Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall (D-Richmond) introduced before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee public hearing his bill, LD 644, “An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Wholesale Liquor Business”. The following summary of the bill was provided to media by the Senate Majority office.
In addition to paying back the hospitals, the specifics of Senator Goodall’s liquor plan, LD 644, is as follows:
- It retains the business within the private sector–eliminating all financial risk to the state and without adding any additional costs to state government.
- It stipulates a strict timeline for issuing the RFP, including an award date by July 15, 2013.
- It mandates an open and transparent RFP bidding process to ensure the best value bidder is qualified with necessary financial, technical, management, operational, and marketing capacity.
- It provides two options on how to bid: either through one upfront payment or multiple upfront payments but both with additional annual payments growing over the length of the ten year contract plus profit sharing with the state as the business grows. Specifically, the bidder could choose between an initial payment of $200 million to be paid no later than June 30, 2014 or payments totaling $200 million to be paid within the biennial budget with at least $100 million being paid before June 30, 2014.
- The bill corrects the longstanding inequity with the state’s retail partner, the agency liquor stores, in terms of price and return of products. It will raise an additional $6.1 million for the state’s 480 liquor agents.
- The bill prevents a disruption of service to the state, consumers and liquor stores if for some reason the state is unable to properly administer the RFP process by allowing the existing contract to be extended for one year for not less than $34 million.
- The bill appropriates $100,000 annually to the Department of Substance Abuse to help reduce underage drinking by funding the Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program.
Here is Senator Goodall’s testimony as prepared:
Testimony of State Senator Seth Goodall
LD 644 – An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Wholesale Liquor Business
Chairman Tuttle, Chairman Luchini and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, I am State Senator Seth Goodall and I am here today to introduce LD 644 – An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Wholesale Liquor Business.
Beginning today, your committee will consider two options for operating the State’s $400 million liquor business. Governor LePage has put forth his plan and I am now introducing mine. We may disagree on our approaches, but let me be very clear – I agree with the Governor, we must pay our bills and pay back our hospitals.
I also agree with the Governor’s urgency. Now is the time to pay our hospitals and our liquor business provides us the funds to do just that. But we must get the liquor contract right. We cannot rush to judgment as was done in 2003. By getting the liquor contract right, we will ensure timely payment to our hospitals.
Prior to 2003, the State operated the liquor business and by all accounts it was underperforming. The complaints about service, delivery, and product-selection were endless. When the contract went out to bid, the value of the business was not well known. It was negotiated under pressure to fill a budgetary hole and as a result we did not capture the appropriate value for our asset, an asset owned by the people of Maine.
Since then, the business has significantly increased in value, the number of agency stores has nearly doubled and complaints are nearly non-existent. To be clear, as a Democrat, I believe strongly that there are many things that state government does better than the private sector, but in this instance, history proves otherwise.
My proposal unequivocally keeps the management and operation of the state’s wholesale liquor business in the private sector, with the experts. It eliminates all financial risk for the taxpayer and incentivizes the private sector to partner with the state to grow the business.
The Governor’s plan takes back operation of the liquor business, including the financial risk, while retaining the right to issue service contracts to administrate the business.
The differences are stark, the goals are hopefully the same and it is now up to you to get the job done.
The specifics of the proposal:
First, it retains the business within the private sector, eliminating all financial risk to the state and without adding any additional costs or positions to state government by issuing a new RFP on a strict timeline to have a contract awarded by July 15, 2013 and as a result repaying the hospitals by September 30th of this year.
Second, it mandates an open and transparent RFP bidding process that will ensure that the “best value” bidder is qualified with the necessary financial, technical, management, operational and marketing capacity, amongst other qualifications. The qualifications required ensure service optimization and provides security to the State and its taxpayers because they will know that their asset, a $400 million business, will be run with the experience and knowledge and the wherewithal to perform.
This is a very common bidding process accepted by the business community. Today, my brother runs the company that he and I started as teenagers. When he goes out and bids on municipal snowplow contracts, towns have similar, rigorous requirements, in order to insure that the contractor can perform. In fact, they often require site visits to inspect his equipment and financial assurances to minimize risk. Trust me, he is not bidding on $400 million contracts, but I would hate to think that the bidding qualifications to plow snow would be more rigorous than those for our State wholesale liquor business.
I have met all of the bidders that are public to date. In my opinion, they are all qualified to bid and run the business. They all know the value of the current business, almost all the data is public. And because of this pencils will be sharpened, bids should be close and as a result, the state will receive the right and best value for its business.
Third, my proposal provides two options on how to bid, either through one upfront payment or multiple upfront payments, but both with additional annual payments growing over the length of the 10-year contract, along with sharing revenue with the State as the business grows.
Specifically, my amendment allows a bidder to choose between an initial payment of either $200,000,000 to be paid no later than June 30, 2014; or payments totaling $200,000,000 to be paid no later than June 30, 2015 with $100,000,000 being paid before June 30, 2014. Bidders will still be required to specify the amount of the guaranteed fixed annual payment, the formula for sharing revenue with the State during the life of the contract and the minimum profit margin the entity would need to be guaranteed to make its bid feasible.
Fourth, and much to misunderstanding of many, this proposal allows prices to be lowered in order to compete with New Hampshire, but they must be lowered with respect to structure of the contract awarded to the private business. Maine is a control state. We set the prices. We should not be allowed to lower prices below a level that undermines the terms of the deal for which we just signed on the dotted line.
Fifth, this bill corrects the longstanding inequity with our retail partners – the agency liquor stores both in terms of price and return of products. For too many years, agency liquor stores have received an inequitable return for their role as our partner. Floor space in stores is valuable, return on investment is important. Just like with lottery sales, our partners do not receive fair compensation and in turn the system lacks the proper incentive to help our overall business grow. And my bill makes this much needed course correction.
My proposal will raise an additional $6.1 million for our 480 liquor agents. It is not a promise, nor a commitment to fix in rule making. It will be the law. If adopted, it is a statutory and immediate legal commitment of the State. The Governor’s proposal guarantees no return but his administration promises to address it through rule making. I have served on this committee before; I have heard the requests from agents for too long. I have visited their stores. It is time to fix this inequity and we shouldn’t trust rulemaking to get it right, now is the time.
Sixth, this bill creates a contingency for our State, liquor stores and consumers. Too often our State has failed at properly administering RFP processes and as a result potentially jeopardized service and millions of dollars, as is currently the case with the lottery services contract which is costing the state millions and millions due to the challenges. If the State is unable to get a new contract in place by July 1, 2014 then after a public hearing the existing contract may only be extended for one year and only after they have received a value of not less than $34 million. A newspaper recently called this “scary,” I call it prudent planning.
Seventh, my bill as amended appropriates $100,000 annually to the Department of Substance Abuse to help reduce underage drinking by funding the Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program (EUDL). This program will provide grants to agencies to lower underage drinking and increase enforcement to help eliminate the sale of alcohol to minors. I did not include language in my bill to further address enforcement; however, this committee needs to take this issue on and now is the time, and that also applies to tackling substance abuse.
The sale of liquor and substance abuse are directly connected and as a control state we must also acknowledge the impacts pricing may have on consumption. In fact, our Director, Gerry Reid, acknowledged this fact in a recent presentation before you, and I quote: “control jurisdictions are able to serve their citizens with a broader and more flexible range of policy options for promoting moderation in the consumption of alcohol beverages and minimizing incentives for predatory pricing that can, and have led to alcohol abuse.”
Lastly, we must use the upfront revenue we receive from the liquor contract to repay the hospitals. If you as a committee and we as a Legislature do this right, our outstanding bills to Maine’s hospitals will be repaid by September 30th of this year, under the watch of this Legislature and this Governor. Now is the time.
We must put this debt behind us, so that we can work together with the hospitals on reform focused on improving and lower the cost of health care for our citizens.
This proposal guarantees payment to the hospitals without borrowing debt to pay off another debt, it avoids any constitutional uncertainty, it makes payment no later than September 30th this year and, as a result saves the state $5 million.
It is a straightforward plan with zero risk to the taxpayer, no borrowing from Wall Street. It is fiscally responsible and a sure way to pay back the hospitals.
The Governor’s plan is risky, constitutional questions remain unanswered, there is no timeline and it costs nearly $45 million more than our plan as a result of interest and fees for borrowing and not paying off the debt before October 1st of this year.
The proposal that I am proposing today gets the job done without question and with certainty.
Lastly, I would encourage this committee to think long and hard about funding other priorities in this state with the annual payments that will still be available after any upfront payment. I support Senator Flood’s long-term efforts to fund water and sewer and roads and bridges. I personally believe that these need to be funded. But we also have to consider other priorities such as education and health care. After we pay the hospitals, I believe we have the opportunity to support Senator Flood’s efforts, along with making investments in education and health care.
This opportunity comes around once every ten years and we must get the liquor contract right so that we can pay and make investments in our future. This isn’t about one party or one campaign, it’s about getting it right and doing our job.
Awhile ago, House GOP hatchet guy, er, communications director David Sorensen shared on Twitter a photo taken of yesterday’s Democratic leadership media availability press conference:
— David Sorensen (@DSorensenME) March 2, 2013
Here again is the entire press conference for context:
And who can forget Dave’s work during the last election cycle? He did such a great job in getting Tom Martin re-elected, huh?
Senator Lachowicz, who is seeing constituents today, sends her love, btw…
Thanks bunches, guy!
Well, such is what happens when one captures a moment of time and tries to make a statement out of it, with none of those pesky supporting facts and such. Certainly we on the left could do the same!
Let’s give it a try.
See how this works? It is cheap political theater at best; mean-spirited nonsense at worst. It does nothing to work on the serious issues at hand; it doesn’t tell the truth of what is being said or done.
To quote the Governor from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2009/2013, “It’s bullshit.”
Goodness knows, Sorensen is quite skilled at shaping conversations even against members of his own party!
Oh- such good times, good times. From last May:
Two individuals have been identified as participating in this attempt to sow convention confusion. One is Maine House Majority Office Policy Aide David Sorensen, who reportedly nominated the fake Paul slate from the floor. Before and during the convention, Sorensen mocked the Paul people, who he termed “Ronulans,” on Twitter and implied that they believe conspiracy theories about the United Nations and black helicopters (which, to be fair, many of them do).
Paul supporters fault Sorensen both for engaging in a dirty trick and for taking precious convention time with his actions and making the entire event take longer, possibly costing the state party extra money in rental fees for the Civic Center.
“A lot of Republicans are making a fuss out of this, at least in Androscoggin County,” said Chris Dixon, a convention delegate who witnessed some of Sorensen’s actions and has written about them on Twitter and on a Ron Paul forum. “A bunch of us really want clarification on it, because here’s someone who’s directly employed by the party who’s doing a deliberate sabotage effort. He’s causing disarray for whatever reason and putting the Party on the hook for $20,000.”
Sorensen, reached for comment, repeatedly and pointedly refused to discuss any aspect of the convention, including the actions of which he is accused.
Here is a clip, as to show the full context and not just a snapshot- it clearly discusses and illustrates the fraud mentioned above:
Memories… ah, back to the present. Another tweet sent out by Dave from yesterday:
If Democrats won’t pay their bills now, then when? #mepolitics
— Maine House GOP (@MaineHouseGOP) March 1, 2013
But here’s the reality that the GOP doesn’t want Mainers to know or remember: The Democrats when in charge of the Legislature HAVE been paying down the hospital debt that occurred under the McKernan and King administrations, have been making solid payments for years and have not let up once on honoring their commitment!
From October 2006, this article penned by former Speakers of the House John Richardson and Hannah Pingree:
- For three administrations – two under an independent and one under a Republican
– state government refused to pay hospitals back payments that were due to them. That was bad for local hospitals, all of which are non-profit and many of which are small community-supported organizations and the life center of health care for their regions.
It was also bad for patients, who rely on hospitals’ continued coverage of Medicaid and Medicare patients. And the trickle-down impact of unpaid debts to hospitals goes even further, affecting the premiums we all pay for health insurance as hospitals have to increase charges to cover unpaid debts and charity care.
Gov. John Baldacci inherited 11 years of unpaid debts on his first day in office. With a structural gap of $1.2 billion, demands for increased school funding, and many other legitimate and pressing needs competing for scant dollars, Gov. Baldacci might have been forgiven if he had let the unpaid debts go unpaid a little longer.
Instead of taking the easy route, the governor showed his typical unrelenting commitment to fiscal responsibility by putting the state on a path to pay off these debts. As of this week, Maine has paid hospitals for all outstanding debts owed from 1992 to 2004. We have moved from 11 years in arrears to less than two years.
And what have the Democrats done since then? Oh, not much- wait a sec…
Via Maine House Democrats comes this information released to media yesterday:
MYTH: Democrats don’t care about paying hospitals
FACT: Maine has been steadily and increasingly paying down hospital debt for the past decade. Democrats strongly believe paying back the hospitals is a priority. That’s why we’ve been doing it for over a decade.
· Maine has already paid back more than $3.7 billion to hospitals over the past decade.
· From fiscal year 2005-2010, the combined state and federal settlement payments to hospitals totaled $742 million, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review. Under the LePage Administration, in fiscal year 2011-2013, hospitals will recoup $274.9 million in state and federal dollars.
· Moreover, in an effort to prevent the debt cycle, Democrats led the change to a “pay as you go” system. The law changing the system was passed in 2009 before LePage took office. The change was fully implemented in 2010.
o The 124th Legislature in PL 2009, Ch. 213 moved to abandon the Prospective Interim Payment (PIP) system of reimbursing hospitals which requires a settling up of bills after the fact with reimbursements based upon DRGs (Diagnostic Related Groupings) and APCs (Ambulatory Procedure Codes). APCs cover outpatient services provided by hospitals, DRGs are related to inpatient services. Both apply only to noncritical access hospitals. Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) continue to be reimbursed on at 107% of the Medicare rate for services. Title 22, § 3174 LL and MM contain the results of PL 2009, Ch. 213.
Hush now, Dave… Ken is sleeping!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Members of the Democratic Majority leadership held a media availability press conference this afternoon to discuss Governor LePage’s threat to halt the work of the Legislature by abusing his veto power and shutting down state government. During a radio interview this morning, LePage “promised” to veto every bill that crosses his desk until his convoluted liquor bill becomes law.
L-R: Asst House Majority Leader Rep. Jeff McCabe (Skowhegan)
Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall (Richmond)
Asst Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (Allagash)
Meanwhile, the Maine Democratic Party shared a clip from this morning where Paul LePage doubled down on his statement reported earlier:
“I made a commitment this morning and the next bill I sign as Governor will be the hospital bill. Whatever it takes. And if they’re not willing to bring it to me fast, why don’t they just pull the session and go home, spend time with the kids and we’ll see ya next January.”
At some point it must be acknowledged that this guy is far more interested in working on his golf game in Florida than actually doing his job. This is not leadership, not by a long shot.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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