Maine Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee Unanimously Votes to Investigate Governor Paul LePage

Posted on July 1, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

On the heels of yesterday’s citizen rally at the State House (LePage Admits To Threatening Good Will-Hinckley Re: Eves Hiring, Denies Actions Were “Blackmail”) came news late in the afternoon that the Maine Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee (GOC) would be meeting today to take up the investigation requests by Republican State Senator Tom Saviello of Wilton and a trio of Representatives, Independents Jeff Evangelos of Friendship, Ben Chipman of Portland and Democrat Charlotte Warren of Hallowell.

DSC_0019Committee Members

Senate: Roger J. Katz, Chair (R-Kennebec)
David C. Burns (R-Washington)
Paul T. Davis, Sr. (R-Piscataquis)
Christopher K. Johnson (D-Lincoln)
Stan Gerzofsky (D-Cumberland)
G. William Diamond (D-Cumberland)

House: Chuck Kruger, Chair (D-Thomaston)
Robert S. Duchesne (D-Hudson)
Anne-Marie Mastraccio (D-Sanford)
Michael D. McClellan (R-Raymond)
Richard H. Campbell (R-Orrington)
Deborah J. Sanderson (R-Chelsea)

Governor LePage through his legal counsel Cynthia Montgomery sent a letter to the committee, questioning their authority to conduct any sort of investigation into the chief executive officer.

The 12 GOC members met with Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) Director Bath Ashcroft for almost an hour, decided that they did indeed have sufficient authority to look into the serious allegations, and proceeded to discuss the scope of the investigations to be conducted by OPEGA.

Here is video of the meeting, with the sole agenda item for GOC being “NEW BUSINESS- Requests for an OPEGA Review of Matters Relating to Funding for the Goodwill- Hinckley School”.

After almost an hour of discussion, the committee agreed by an unanimous 12-0 vote to have OPEGA look into the concerns. Specific goals and parameters were set by the committee as to the scope.

Afterwards, some of those involved were willing to issue quick statements.

The committee will meet again at 9 am on Friday, July 17.

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CJPS Committee Hold Public Hearings on LD652 “Constitutional Carry” (Concealed Weapons w/o Permit), 6 Other Firearm Bills (VIDEOS)

Posted on April 9, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The 127th Maine Legislature’s Criminal Justice & Public Safety aka “CJPS” Committee, headed by Senator Kim Rosen and Rep. Lori Lister Fowle, conducted a six plus hour long session Wednesday on the forwarding bills:

    1. LD 415, An Act To Promote the Safe Use and Sale of Firearms
    Rep. Dion of Portland (SPONSOR)

    2. LD 535, An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Concealed Handguns Permit Application
    Rep. Dunphy of Embden

    LD 653 lead sponsor Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) discusses bill with CJPS committee

    LD 653 lead sponsor Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) discusses bill with CJPS committee

    3. LD 548, An Act To Provide a Concealed Handgun Permit for Active Military Members
    Rep. Ward of Dedham

    4. LD 600, An Act To Conform Maine Law Regarding Persons Prohibited from Possessing Firearms with Federal Law
    Rep. Pickett of Dixfield

    5. LD 652, An Act To Authorize the Carrying of Concealed Handguns without a Permit
    Sen. Brakey of Androscoggin

    6. LD 823, An Act To Upgrade the Concealed Handgun Permit Law
    Rep. Shaw of Standish

    7. LD 868, An Act To Remove Limitations on Reciprocity for Concealed Handguns Permits
    Sen. Davis of Piscataquis

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Weekly Legislative Update by Rep. Justin Chenette (D-Saco): Overview of Kennebec County Jail, Riverview Pyschiatric Center

Posted on January 24, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

This week, Representative Justin Chenette, now serving in his second term, recorded his first video legislative update and kindly gave permission to share:

As he remarked within the clip, some of the members of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee has started to tour some of the state’s correctional facilities. His observations of the Kennebec County Jail and Riverview Psychiatric Center are below.

    “What an eye-opening experience. Sometimes you just don’t realize the negative sides of society until you see it firsthand (and this was just a narrow focus). Alongside Sen. Linda Valentino and York County Sheriff Bill King, we toured the Kennebec County Correctional Facility and Riverview Psychiatric Center to ask questions and actually witness some of the issues plaguing our criminal justice system and mental health facilities. Just a few quick takeaways based on my initial observations:

    Sen. Linda Valentino, York County Sheriff Bill King and Rep. Justin Chenette at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta

    Sen. Linda Valentino, York County Sheriff Bill King and Rep. Justin Chenette at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta

    At the jail, we met a group of women in an innovative program to help actually rehabilitate their lives while in the system. Focusing on support and getting individuals to change their lives for when they get out is better than just sitting in jail awaiting a return to a life that is not only a determent to themselves but the safety of those around them. Gave me hope that we could use it as a model in other facilities, but much like anything else has been reduced and limited due to a lack of funding. Learned the state has over 21 well-organized gangs. Jail officials have to put special care in where they place certain inmates from rival gangs or violence is extremely heightened. The overcrowding problem was apparent, but partly the issue is so many mentally-ill individuals end up being housed there after ping ponging within the system that the jails have become ill-equipped to handle the influx; not to mention the increased need for proper treatment and care that the jails really can’t provide effectively.

    We visited the high risk part of Riverview that tends to have the most attention about patients attacking staff. I have to admit I was a little nervous about being there especially after we were briefed on the protocols in case patients went on a rampage in our presence who were only an arms length away. The staff have a high level of frustration with CMS and the lack of legal willingness or adaptiveness to policies that could enable the facility to be more hands on in restraining ‘patients’ that cause significant physical harm to nurses and others while at the same time not wanting to become something other than a hospital. It seems like the lines between corrections and high risk mental health treatment though are blurring and clashing at the same time.

    As you may have seen in the media, issues surrounding our county jails and corrections system will be hot button topics as we navigate challenges of overcrowding, control, and funding. Not to mention a huge monkey wrench from the Governor in not appointing members to the Board of Corrections out of protest. Without a quorum for the board, it’s almost impossible to tackle the $2.5 million shortfall until a resolution is settled from the Governor’s Office or we find a way around him. More tours are being planned with my Criminal Justice Committee over the course of the next few weeks to continue collecting needed information from boots on the ground rather than just those at the very top.”

Link here to Chenette’s website for signing up for future updates.

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Ralph L. Tucker of Brunswick Holds 10 Vote Lead in Recount, Declared Winner of HD 50 Democratic Primary

Posted on June 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The first of two Democratic primary recounts, that of House District 50 (parts of Brunswick), was conducted at the Department of Public Safety headquarters in Augusta today. When all votes were tallied by volunteer members of the public and overseen by the Secretary of State’s office, Ralph L. Tucker won over Jacqueline A. (Jackie) Sartoris, 432-442, the same result totals as calculated after the June 10th primary election.

Ralph L. Tucker of Brunswick

Ralph L. Tucker of Brunswick

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap praised both candidates for their commitment to the process, and thanked Brunswick town clerk Fran Smith and her staff for an expertly-run election. “Both candidates were gratified by the process and the expertise of state elections officials, and given the clear due diligence shown by Brunswick town election officials, the recount was very smooth with no surprises,” said Dunlap.

Tucker, a retired Maine District Court judge, will now go up against Republican Mark Holbrook in November. House District 50, which includes portions of Brunswick, is an open seat as Rep. Charlie Priest is termed out.

Link here to his Tucker for House website and campaign Facebook page.

Tomorrow at 10 am comes the recount for Senate District 33 between incumbent State Senator John Tuttle and challenger Rep. Andrea M. Boland. Tuttle holds a 20 vote lead currently in that race.

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LD 1656, “An Act To Increase Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence” Has Public Hearing (Videos)

Posted on January 13, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

A public hearing before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety legislative committee was held this morning for LD 1656, “An Act to Increase Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence”, sponsored by Senator Emily Cain (D-Penobscot). The bill builds upon an earlier law sponsored by then-House Democratic Leader Cain requiring law enforcement officers to receive training to use evidence-based domestic violence risk assessments. That earlier law did not specify how the information obtained from the assessments could be used and LD 1656 is meant to clarify how law enforcement, judicial, and community groups share information obtained from the risk assessments in order to plan the most effective response when domestic violence occurs.

A portion of her prepared testimony:

    Today I am here to present LD 1656, An Act to Increase Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence.

    As members of this committee, you know better than most that there is no quick fix, no magic wand, and no miracle cure for domestic violence.

    I sure wish there was. We all wish it.

    Last year, Maine police reported more than 5,500 incidents of domestic violence. State Police total numbers of homicides for 2013 are now available, and the facts are – again – scary and sad. According to the State Police, the number of homicides in 2013 totaled 24, which included one homicide committed in 2012, body discovered in 2013 and a double homicide. Of those 24 homicides, 11 or 46% were the result of domestic violence. In addition, domestic violence homicides were related to 4 additional deaths when murderers killed themselves or were killed by law enforcement.

    Since you and I have been engaged in this topic and this work to end domestic violence for many years, I bet you have the same reaction I do when you watch the news and hear about yet another incident of domestic violence. You take it personally, and wonder – what else could we have done? What else can we do? This has to stop.

    LD 1656 is not about a new approach to keeping victims of domestic violence safe. It does not create new policy changes. Today’s bill is about making the laws we have passed work better and as intended.

    The components in this bill are all improvements to existing laws that are basically working very well. These improvements are badly needed to increase safety for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as to allow the policy, and the coordinated community response to domestic violence, to work the way the legislature intended when we passed laws in prior sessions. These are all changes to existing statute, and I have an additional amendment to the bill that has come to light in the past few weeks.

    The bill builds on current law with the following elements:

    Senator Emily Cain listens as CJPS committee member Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) asks a question.

    Senator Emily Cain listens as CJPS committee member Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) asks a question.

    • A judicial ruling in the Thomas case this past fall, related to the Address Confidentiality Act, provided a new interpretation of several phrases within that act in a way that left an unintended safety loophole. This bill repairs that loophole by clarifying the protection provided to victims at high risk by keeping their home addresses confidential after they have relocated for safety.

    • In 2012, we worked together on important changes to the bail code related to domestic violence. Some of the changes in bail procedures inadvertently left offenders who are now being detained in jail on the most serious domestic violence offenses and waiting for a judicial review of their bail, still able to call and terrorize their victims from the jail. This bill stops the opportunity for dangerous offenders to contact and terrorize their victims from jail before a no contact order can be put in place.

    • This bill integrates previously approved statutes related to domestic violence advocacy and sexual assault privilege with new legislation created in the last legislative session: LD 1493, An Act To Revise the Laws Concerning Criminal History Record Information and Intelligence and Investigative Information Act. This aspect of the bill makes certain that information sharing between criminal justice partners and advocates can continue just as it has been done for years to ensure good risk assessment and safety planning for victims.

    LD 1656 is the result of the hard work and conversations between many people, departments of state government, and organizations. The concerns about bail and advocate privilege have been discussed within the Attorney General’s office, Maine Department of Public Safety, Maine Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse, the Maine Domestic Violence Homicide Review Panel, The Maine Coalition of Domestic Violence, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, The Wabanaki Women’s coalition and in the January CLAC meeting just last week. And the address confidentiality improvements came via the Secretary of State’s Office.

    The work to end domestic violence in Maine is all-encompassing and requires all of these entities, and more, to turn that vision into a reality, and I am grateful for their help.

Senator Rebecca Millett was next to testify in support of the measure:


    “LD 1656 builds upon the good work done to reduce domestic violence in Maine. It strengthens the protection of victims and empowers police officers, victims’ advocates, and prosecutors to create the best plan to keep victims and families safe.”

CJPS Committee Senate Chair, Senator Stan Gerzofsky (D-Brunswick) also rose to address his committee- a rare occurrence, but this bill which he cosponsored and issue as a whole is one that the senator feels very passionately and strongly about (clip to his full testimony here):

    “We keep working on bills, year and year, and trying to get it right. I think we’re doing it right, but I think there is room for improvement; there’s room to tie this stuff together better and to get more protection, and that’s what this bill is going to do.”

Others who spoke in support of the bill included Julia Colpitts of Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Attorney General Janet Mills, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, representatives from the Maine State Police and other advocates.

A work session for the bill will be held later in the session.

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