FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 22, 2013
Contact: Ann Kim [Berry], 233-1838; Ericka Dodge [Goodall] 232-5892
AUGUSTA – Democratic legislative leaders on Friday responded to Gov. Paul LePage’s refusal to sign the $153 million supplemental budget.
"The overwhelming majority of lawmakers in both parties agreed that this was a more responsible budget than what the governor originally proposed. Looking ahead to the biennial budget, we hope lawmakers from both parties will reject the governor's tax shift to local communities and come up with a more balanced solution," said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.
The Maine House and Senate passed the budget this week with votes of 129-14 and 33-0, respectively.
The governor announced that he would not sign the budget in a letter to the Legislature on Friday. The bill becomes law with or without his signature.
"The Legislature did its job by paying its bills and restoring balance to the budget as required by our Constitution," said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. "It is unfortunate the governor continues to use rhetoric and mischaracterizations rather than making government work."
AUGUSTA – State lawmakers today will take up an emergency measure to temporarily keep confidential the names of Mainers with concealed carry permits. The measure, which is being introduced by the governor and sponsored by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash and House Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, comes after a Maine media outlet issued a request for the list last week.
The emergency measure sunsets on April 30th, allowing lawmakers to consider this matter and others pertaining to privacy and firearms.
“Democrats and Republicans are working together to resolve this highly sensitive issue,” said Senator Jackson. “This is a temporary measure in order to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to a politicized issue. A vote in support of this legislation will allow for a deliberative and thorough discussion of whether this list should be public.”
While the Maine media outlet maintained it did not plan to publish wholesale identifying information about permit holders and later rescinded its Freedom of Access Act requests, an unknown entity whose plans were not disclosed, filed its own request for the document, underscoring the need for the dialogue about whether the information should be shielded.
Late last year, a newspaper in New York published the names of concealed carry permit holders, causing a public uproar and backlash aimed at those on the list and the publishers.
“We don’t have a ‘what-if’ situation – we know what happens if a list like this is misused,” said Rep. McCabe in reference to the situation in New York. “We need to strike the right balance between the public’s right to know and sensitive, identifying information. Remember these are law abiding citizens – some who have been victims of domestic violence or are former or current law enforcement officials.”
One measure to permanently exempt the list from Right to Know laws and the Freedom of Access Act will be considered by the State Legislature’s Judiciary Committee later this month. The measure, LD 345, An Act To Ensure the Confidentiality of Concealed Weapons Permit Holder Information, is sponsored by Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta. House Republicans held a press conference last Thursday calling for this bill to be fast-tracked to the floor without a public hearing.
“Fast tracking that legislation without a deliberative review wouldn’t solve the problem. We want to keep the politics out of the firearm discussions,” said McCabe. “We have said since Newtown that lawmakers need to proceed with thoughtfulness by carefully considering all sides of this issue.
Jackson and McCabe said that’s why they worked with the governor and legislative Republicans on a temporary exemption.
The State Senate will vote on the bipartisan bill to sunset this temporary measure later this morning. The House will then take up the bill. The bill requires two-thirds support in both legislative bodies, pursuant to Joint Rule 308.
“It is our hope that this decision can allow lawmakers the room they need to be deliberative about this politically-charged issue,” said Jackson.
For Immediate Release
February 19, 2013
Contact: Ericka Dodge [Jackson], 232-5892 and Ann Kim [McCabe] 233-1838
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 13, 2013
Contact: Ericka Dodge [Alfond], 232-5892; Jodi Quintero [Eves] 841-6279; Ann Kim [Berry] 233-1838
Appropriations Committee Unanimously Approves Supplemental Budget
Restores funding for hospitals, seniors, communities and retired teachers
AUGUSTA – The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a supplemental budget to address a $153 million shortfall in the current fiscal year.
The budget shortfall is a result of a downturn in revenue due to a lagging economy and cost overruns in the Department of Health and Human Services.
“We are in a very challenging situation. And we are thankful for the committee’s tireless work to find solutions,” said Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland. “We know the work is not yet done. We still have a two-year budget ahead of us, but tonight we are a step closer.”
Governor Paul LePage proposed eliminating the Drugs for the Elderly Program, eliminating the cost of living adjustments (COLA) for retired state employees, placing a $10 million cap on General Assistance funding to local municipalities, and reducing reimbursement to critical access hospitals and reducing outpatient services by 10 percent.
The committee kept the Drugs for the Elderly program intact, rejected the cuts to the COLA and the general assistance cap.
“Democrats and Republicans worked together to reduce some of the harm caused by the governor’s proposals,” said Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “As we make these tough cuts now we must consider longer-term solutions that will prevent continuous budget shortfalls, including a balance of spending cuts, efficiencies, and a fair tax system.”
The committee also unanimously rejected the governor’s proposals to reduce hospital reimbursement rates and outpatient services, and his proposed cuts to private non-medical institutions, such as assisted living facilities.
Democrats and Republicans were unable to come to an agreement to restore Governor LePage’s $12.5 million cut to General Purpose Aid to education or to fairly disperse the curtailment burden to charter schools.
“We remain committed to more fairly and fully funding our public schools, and revisiting fairness as it applies to charter schools,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. “Strong public schools are critical to putting students first and ensuring a strong middle class in our state.”
The full Legislature is expected to vote on the supplemental budget next week. The Appropriations Committee will begin work on the two-year budget later this month.
Office of the Speaker
Augusta - Maine’s youngest legislator, Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco, 21, has helped form a legislative youth caucus in hopes of bringing Democrats and Republicans together.
A record number of 13 members of the Maine Legislature are under the age of 30, but the caucus will include any Representative or Senator, Democrat or Republican alike, that aims to improve the lives of young Mainers according to Chenette.
“The purpose of this caucus is to bridge the political divide between the parties and set the example of strong bi-partisanship for the rest of the legislature,” says Rep. Chenette. “You won’t have to worry about one of us storming out of a meeting if we disagree. Finding solutions to the issues we face isn’t Democratic or Republican and legislators on both sides generally want to work together.”
The caucus will work on ways of finding common ground with issues most impacting a younger generation including college affordability and jobs to keep young people working and living in the state.
Chenette will serve as Vice-Chair of this newly formed caucus.