(UPDATED x4) BREAKING: LePage Relieves Adjuntant General Brigadier General James D. Campbell of ME Nat’l Guard Command- On National Guard Day

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

UPDATE x4: The Legislature’s Veterans’ Caucus has released a statement about this morning in the State House (emphasis added):

    “As veterans serving in the Maine Legislature, recognizing we do not have all the facts, we are profoundly concerned by the announcement about the Maine National Guard’s leadership. Today is National Guard Day at the State House, a day that drew many men and women in uniform to our Capitol. It is a time to honor the National Guard, all our servicemen and servicewomen and all our veterans. We, as the Veterans Caucus, salute them for their service and their achievements.”

UPDATE 3: Bolduc has been sworn in by Governor LePage.

UPDATE x2: Brigadier General James Campbell spoke before Appropriations and Criminal Justice Committees just last week regarding the budget. His portion starts at the 2:40 mark.

UPDATE: Governor LePage has now postponed a scheduled 12:30 press conference and BDN has more information on Campbell’s firing

    “Based on an internal review of General Campbell, I have lost faith in his ability to lead Maine’s soldiers and airmen who serve so proudly in the National Guard,” LePage wrote in a statement. “Effectively immediately, I have relieved him of his command.”

    Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the internal review had been happening for some time, but did not say who conducted it. She said the decision to fire Campbell came this morning.

Brigadier General Gerard Bolduc of Bangor has been named acting Adjuntant General.

=====

Maine’s Adjuntant General Brigadier General James Campbell, who spoke recently before the Appropriations Committee, has apparently been shown the door by Governor Paul LePage this morning. This news comes as quite a surprise, given that Campbell was scheduled to address a joint convention of the 127th Maine Legislature this morning (PDF OF SPEECH).

ME Adjunct General Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell speaks before Approriations Committee

ME Adjuntant General Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell speaks before Approriations Committee

This via Rep. Matt Pouliot (R-Augusta), moments ago on FB:

    “Gen. Campbell was relieved of his command this morning, so there will be no Joint Convention. Gen. Campbell, who also served as the commissioner of Maine’s Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, was to brief lawmakers on the state of the Maine’s National Guard, Emergency Management Agency and Bureau of Veterans Services.”

Confirmation of the news has come by means of a short message to the media from Speaker Eves’ office:

“This morning the Legislature planned to hold a joint session to hear from the Adjutant General of the Maine National Guard. Given the breaking news that Governor Paul LePage relieved Brig. Gen. James Campbell this morning prior to the address, the Joint Session has been cancelled.”

No official word yet from the Governor’s office as to the reasons for the decision nor further information at this time.

From the House Calendar:

    ORDERS

    (4-1) On motion of Representative TEPLER of Topsham, the following Joint Resolution: (H.P. 741) (Cosponsored by Senator SAVIELLO of Franklin and Representatives: ALLEY of Beals, BABBIDGE of Kennebunk, BEAVERS of South Berwick, BICKFORD of Auburn, BROOKS of Lewiston, BRYANT of Windham, BUCKLAND of Farmington, BURSTEIN of Lincolnville, CHACE of Durham, CHENETTE of Saco, COOPER of Yarmouth, DAUGHTRY of Brunswick, DAVITT of Hampden, DEVIN of Newcastle, DILLINGHAM of Oxford, DOORE of Augusta, DUCHESNE of Hudson, DUNPHY of Old Town, EVANGELOS of Friendship, FARNSWORTH of Portland, FARRIN of Norridgewock, FOLEY of Wells, FOWLE of Vassalboro, GERRISH of Lebanon, GILBERT of Jay, GINZLER of Bridgton, GOLDEN of Lewiston, GOODE of Bangor, GRANT of Gardiner, GROHMAN of Biddeford, HICKMAN of Winthrop, HOBBINS of Saco, HOGAN of Old Orchard Beach, HYMANSON of York, JORGENSEN of Portland, KINNEY of Limington, KORNFIELD of Bangor, KRUGER of Thomaston, LONG of Sherman, LONGSTAFF of Waterville, MALABY of Hancock, MARTIN of Eagle Lake, MARTIN of Sinclair, MASTRACCIO of Sanford, McCABE of Skowhegan, McCREIGHT of Harpswell, MELARAGNO of Auburn, MONAGHAN of Cape Elizabeth, NADEAU of Winslow, NOON of Sanford, PETERSON of Rumford, PICKETT of Dixfield, PIERCE of Dresden, ROTUNDO of Lewiston, SAUCIER of Presque Isle, SCHNECK of Bangor, SEAVEY of Kennebunkport, SKOLFIELD of Weld, STUCKEY of Portland, SUKEFORTH of Appleton, TIMMONS of Cumberland, TIPPING-SPITZ of Orono, TUCKER of Brunswick, TUELL of East Machias, TURNER of Burlington, VEROW of Brewer, WELSH of Rockport, Senators: ALFOND of Cumberland, BAKER of Sagadahoc, BRAKEY of Androscoggin, BURNS of Washington, CUSHING of Penobscot, DAVIS of Piscataquis, DIAMOND of Cumberland, GERZOFSKY of Cumberland, GRATWICK of Penobscot, HASKELL of Cumberland, JOHNSON of Lincoln, LANGLEY of Hancock, LIBBY of Androscoggin, McCORMICK of Kennebec, MILLETT of Cumberland, PATRICK of Oxford, VALENTINO of York, VOLK of Cumberland, WILLETTE of Aroostook)

    JOINT RESOLUTION HONORING THE MAINE NATIONAL GUARD AND ALL ACTIVE DUTY PERSONNEL FOR THEIR SERVICE TO THE STATE AND NATION

    WHEREAS, patriots from the District of Maine first mustered to form a militia to fight for the colonies in the Revolutionary War and for the nation during the War of 1812; and

    WHEREAS, the Maine National Guard has proudly served the citizens of the State during natural disasters such as forest fires, floods and storms and has bravely defended the United States of America during times of war since Maine first entered the Union in 1820, and over the years the highest percentages of volunteers have been Maine people; and

    WHEREAS, nearly 12,000 members of the Maine Army National Guard and the Maine Air National Guard have faithfully answered the call to duty in America’s Global War on Terror; at times the State has had a larger percentage of personnel mobilized in support of that mission than any other state in the Union; and

    WHEREAS, members of the Maine Army National Guard and the Maine Air National Guard continue to defend freedom and democracy around the globe, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they are playing a vital role in protecting the safety and security of all Americans; and

    WHEREAS, the people of Maine have the utmost respect for the members of the Maine Army National Guard and the Maine Air National Guard for putting their lives in danger for the sake of the freedoms enjoyed by all Americans; and

    WHEREAS, the people of Maine are appreciative of the countless personal and professional sacrifices that the active volunteers of the Maine Army National Guard and the Maine Air National Guard and their families have made in order to protect our freedoms; and

    WHEREAS, since the tragic events of 9/11, countless Maine citizens have made sacrifices to serve and defend our country through the National Guard and to fight for our freedom, and 55 brave Maine citizens have answered the final call; now, therefore, be it

    RESOLVED: That We, the Members of the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Legislature now assembled in the First Regular Session, on behalf of the people we represent, take this opportunity to express our solidarity with the men and women on active duty in the Maine Army National Guard and the Maine Air National Guard and their families; and be it further

    RESOLVED: That suitable copies of this resolution, duly authenticated by the Secretary of State, be transmitted to the Adjutant General of the Maine National Guard.

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Governor LePage, Maine Legislature Work to Establish Tax-Free Military Pensions

Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

DSC_0130Governor Paul R. LePage and a large number of Maine veterans met with press in the governor’s Cabinet Room this past Tuesday to discuss elimination the tax on military pensions, as part of the administration’s FY 2016-17 biennial budget proposal.

If the 127th Legislature passes the measure, Maine will join 22 other states that have already passed similar exemptions for veterans.

According to the governor, about 8,000 Maine veterans would benefit from the exemption. He further added that young military retirees would be encouraged to to come to Maine to begin second careers and that the state’s economy would benefit as retired military members have much to give back to the community when they leave the service.

The following day, the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation unanimously threw their support behind a similar bill to provide an income tax exemption for pension benefits received under a military retirement plan, including survivor benefits. LD 280 “An Act To Exempt Military Pensions and Survivor Benefits from Maine Income Tax” is sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Ginzler (R-Bridgton), who spoke to her bill’s purpose before the committee.

    Rep. Phyllis Ginzler (R-Bridgton)

    Rep. Phyllis Ginzler (R-Bridgton)

    “Exempting these pensions from income tax is the least we can do for these brave men and women,” Rep. Ginzler said. “These are exactly the type of people we want to attract to Maine to live, work or start a business. These are highly skilled people that are sorely needed here and would make a great addition to our state.”

Many veterans spoke in favor of the bill and no one in opposition. As there is overlap between LD 280 and the governor’s budget, it is expected that Taxation will table the bill until it is determined whether or not that portion will pass the Legislature via LR 1852 (the budget). If that does indeed come to pass, Ginzler’s bill will be a duplication and most likely be killed in committee. Taxation Committee members have already expressed a willingness to advance LD 280 as a stand alone measure, if needed.

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Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: The Character of a Nation Demands Action from its People

Posted on May 28, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

(NOTE: Governor LePage is completely incorrect regarding his claims that LD 1839, “An Act To Increase the Deduction for Pension Income”, was “killed along party lines”. The roll call vote shows all Senate Democrats voted in favor of the bill (34-1), the one nay being Independent Sen. Dick Woodbury. The House enacted it “under the hammer,” or by unanimous consent.)

—–

Audio link here.

The Character of a Nation Demands Action from its People

The character of a Nation is within its people.

small lepage officeHello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

Our men and women in uniform have courageously defended our country for more than 250 years and continue to do so to this day. Along with our Nation’s history of patriotism and honor comes an expectation of commitment and care to our veterans long after they leave the battlefield.

This is where America’s character shines through.

The Veterans Affairs scandal is disappointing, to say the least. I have urged the federal government to fix these systemic problems. We need leadership in Washington that is helping our veterans, not hindering their support services.

America takes care of the men and women who have so bravely fought and sacrificed to defend the freedoms we share. As a people, it is our duty to demand our federal government follow through on its promises.

In Maine, we have the distinct honor of having one of the highest numbers of veterans by population among all states. We have nearly 128,000 veterans, each one deserving more than empty promises of accessible, quality health care.

Our Administration has worked hard to fight for veterans. We have enacted laws to ensure our veterans are given full credit for their military training and experience when they apply for an occupational license from the state.

We continue to provide workforce training to veterans through Maine’s CareerCenters. This week in Bangor, we’re inviting veterans to meet one-on-one with our staff to help them find a job. Career counselors will be on hand to help veterans apply for jobs in the trades and transfer military skills into civilian careers.

Our Administration thanks veterans for their service with more than words. We provide these services to show our appreciation and commitment for them.

I am also proud to say that when I took office in 2011, we reduced taxes on military pensions. We did so by increasing the income deduction to 10-thousand-dollars. We tried to further reduce taxes on military pensions during this past session, but my bill was killed along party lines.

We cannot give up on our veterans. They deserve better.

As President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Our veterans fought to protect our freedoms. Now we must fight to protect the benefits and services they deserve. They have certainly earned it.

Thank you for listening.

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Federal Government Shutdown Having Major, Immediate, Widespread Effect On Maine

Posted on October 8, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

In the days leading up to the federal government shutdown, some of Maine’s Congressional members warned constituents of the approaching crisis, with Rep. Chellie Pingree stating that the September 29 vote by the House GOP linking the budget to removing funding for provisions of the Affordable Care Act was “a reckless and irresponsible move on the part of House Republicans that has taken us one step closer to a government shutdown”.

A sign at the entrance of Blackwoods Campground in Otter Creek informs campers on Tuesday of the campground's closure because of the federal government shutdown. (photo credit to BDN)

A sign at the entrance of Blackwoods Campground in Otter Creek informs campers on Tuesday of the campground’s closure because of the federal government shutdown. (photo credit to BDN)

The Congresswoman also set up a web page (“Government Shutdown FAQ”), describing the potential effect on federal agencies and programs, if such a shutdown were to occur.

The nation watched and waited, as the efforts for a “clean continuing resolution” or a “CR” went back and forth between the two chambers in DC, with House Republicans refusing to allow a clean CR to come up for a vote in their chamber and the Senate Democrats voting down each and every House-passed CR with ACA-defunding provisions attached to it. Inevitably, America went into its first federal shutdown in seventeen years, as of midnight on October 1, with an estimated 800,000 workers nationwide immediately furloughed.

Here in Maine, experts announced that there could be “profound effects on businesses” from a prolonged shutdown for the state.

Maine Democratic leaders, who had faced similar gridlock and a potential shutdown locally earlier this year but managed to come together with enough Republicans to avert that situation by overriding Governor LePage’s budget veto (LD 1509) for our state were quick to respond:

Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, right, and House speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, speak to reporters after both the House and Senate voted to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of the state budget, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.  (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, right, and House speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, speak to reporters after both the House and Senate voted to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of the state budget, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at the State House in Augusta, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    “As lawmakers it is always our job to make sure government works for the people. We should question the motives behind those who work against us. The fact that one small group from one political party is blackmailing the rest of the country is shameful,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Because of their actions, here in Maine, some folks will be prevented from moving forward with their home loans, thousands will lose their paycheck, and scores of businesses will be put on hold until this mess is cleaned up. I’m proud that in the Maine Legislature, we don’t behave that way. We show up and do our job—even when we disagree.”

    “The people of Maine and millions of Americans across the country woke up shaking our heads this morning,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “We are tired of Tea Party politicians who are more interested in running our government into the ground than making it work. Now, more than ever, we must collaborate to move our state and country forward. Democrats are committed to doing so as we head into the next legislative session.”

House-of-CardsBut when it was Governor LePage’s turn to respond, he minimized the effect of the Tea Party fueled shutdown with the following statement and mention of 280 furloughed federal employees:

“Although some positions and programs in state agencies are federally funded, all functions of state government will proceed as normal through the end of the week,” Governor LePage said. “The shutdown of the federal government is a result of the failure of leadership in Washington, D.C. A short-term shutdown won’t impact the operation of Maine state government. But if the shutdown continues for an extended period, then it could affect some state agencies. With the politicians constantly fighting over the budget, sequestration and the debt ceiling, in addition to $17 trillion in national debt, we cannot rely on the federal government to pay for public assistance programs or state services for Maine people.”

It has now been a week. Let’s examine the numbers of those directly affected here in Maine, shall we?

Front doors at Maine Department of Health and Human Services Disability Determination Office in Winthrop, 10/8/13.  Sign reads: "The Maine DDS is closed due to the government shutdown."

Front doors at Maine Department of Health and Human Services Disability Determination Office in Winthrop, 10/8/13. Sign reads: “The Maine DDS is closed due to the government shutdown.”

  • More than 200 federal employees at Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor.
  • 280 immediately furloughed Maine Army National Guardsmen. Scratch that; try 400.
  • 44 more administrative Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management employees in Maine.
  • 56 SSDI health workers, with 52 of them, being the entire staff of the Disability Determination office in Winthrop.
  • “Thousands” of state employees”, possibly by the end of this week.
  • Potentially more than 500 employees of Defense Finance and Accounting Services in Limestone.
  • 1500 workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were furloughed last week, with some now returning to work. As many as 2800 received furlough notices.

More layoffs, as provided by Maine AFL-CIO via press release last week:

  • In Cutler, 12 workers at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station are locked out of their jobs.
  • In Limestone, over 500 workers are still working but may be sent home without pay within days.
  • In Bangor and Portland, Professional Aviation Safety Specialists who inspect the planes we all fly on to ensure safety have been told not to come in, and others that are deemed essential are working without pay.
  • Across the state, OSHA inspectors who keep workplaces safe for all Maine workers are wondering when their next paycheck may be and how they will pay their bills.
  • In Augusta, workers who process veteran benefits at Togus in the VBA will likely be sent home within days.
  • In Kittery, thousands of workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are out of work and more are working but unsure if they will be paid.
  • In Bangor and Portland, Air Traffic Controllers are working without pay.

Today Rep. Pingree’s office announced that nearly 10,000 VA workers have been furloughed nationwide. It remains to be seen what effect this announcement will mean on those workers at Togus or the veterans receiving care. Her statement:

    “The shutdown has already slowed down the claims process and these furloughs can only make things worse. For veterans who have been waiting months or even years for the benefits they deserve, that’s outrageous,” Pingree said. “This is the latest example of the real pain that the shutdown is causing to families all across the country. It’s outrageous that Republican leaders are keeping the government closed because of their obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act, and now veterans are paying the price. The VA has made it clear that if the shutdown goes into late October there could be a delay in disability payments,” Pingree said. “That would be a real hardship for veterans and their families. Not only is this a hardship for veterans, but also for the men and women at the VA who work every day to process claims for our veterans.”

A new study in today’s Bangor Daily News shows that the effects of the shutdown are hitting Maine especially hard, due to our large number of veterans and elderly population:

    The study, put out by the website WalletHub, says Virginia is the state most affected by the shutdown. Makes sense. Washington, D.C., ranks fourth on the list. Makes sense, too. But that’s just one spot ahead of Maine. Maryland — home to numerous federal offices and federal workers — is sixth, one slot behind Maine.

    So why does a shutdown hit Maine harder than it hits Maryland? It’s not because Maine is home to a disproportionately high number of furloughed federal employees — though the state has its share. Rather, it’s the state’s high concentration of seniors and veterans, its businesses’ dependence on loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the role real estate plays in the state economy.

We now enter Week #2 of the shutdown, with no end in sight.

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Weekly Address by First Lady Ann LePage: Remembering and Thanking our Veterans

Posted on November 10, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Audio link here.

Hello. This is First Lady Ann LePage.

I am honored to be speaking to you today about the cause closest to my heart and so often on my mind: our veterans, who we commemorate each November 11, the day in 1918 when our nation’s plan for peace prevailed and World War I was finally ended.

I find it fitting that Veterans Day always follows Election Day and the divisive campaigns that lead to it. Nothing unites all Americans more than the love for our great country and the pride and respect we have for the millions of our citizens who have answered the highest call to defend its honor and promote its ideals.

We are free, safe and strong thanks to the courage and selfless sacrifice of our servicemen and women and their patient, patriotic families.

Our veterans’ commitment to our country and the causes it stands for have not changed as a result of the outcome of this week’s elections.

Our veterans are not Republicans, Independents or Democrats. They are Americans.

They are not from red states or blue. They are from these UNITED States.

Our 22 million living veterans are your fathers and mothers, your sisters and brothers, your sons and daughters. They are your neighbors and teachers and firefighters and the bagger who packed up your groceries and your newly-elected representatives in Augusta and Washington DC. They are educated – with a greater percentage of our vets having earned high school diplomas or higher than the general population – yet they suffer increased rates of unemployment and homelessness.

This should not be. We must come together on behalf of our bravest to make the Maine they return to stronger than the one they were called from to serve. Coming home should not be their hardest tour of duty.

Just as they fought for our freedom, we all will fight to ensure they return to the health and higher education benefits they’ve earned and that growing Maine businesses hire these heroes, who return not only with the skill sets they’ve strengthened during their service, but with the culture of collaboration and communication critical to successful military operations.

Government, companies, communities, colleges, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, friends and family all have an important role in supporting these individuals. However, it takes a cooperative effort. No single person or program has the resources to provide the lifetime care and commitment our veterans have earned. Besides, our debt for their service is one we all must pledge to pay forward.

Our lives are busy, and it is easy to think of Veterans Day as just another day off from work or school. We owe them more than that.

Our appreciation can be expressed in many ways, from a nod of thanks to the driver with the Purple Heart plate to recommitting ourselves to service above self through volunteerism or charity. Visit with veterans at the Maine Veteran’s home, as the Governor and I will be doing over the next few days, or join those friendly Mainers who greet hundreds of thousands of troops –day and night– as they take those first sacred steps back on American soil at Bangor International Airport.

Above all else, never forget that our veterans risked everything so we all could have the freedom to achieve anything. To them, our state says – and shows – our collective thanks–, on Veterans Day and every day.
God bless our troops of past and present, God bless the State of Maine, and God bless the UNITED States of America. Thank you.

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