AUGUSTA -- Health care providers serving in the Legislature and from the Maine Medical Association strongly endorsed a bill that would allow Maine to accept federal health care dollars to cover more Maine people.
AUGUSTA -- Democratic lawmakers on the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee said Monday they shared the concerns parents and students expressed during a public hearing on Gov. Paul LePage’s budget cuts to education. Students, parents, teachers, and community leaders testified in opposition to the cuts and spoke in favor of fairer tax alternatives.
Augusta - Legislators take up a bill to reform the Clean Elections system and to cap PAC contributions for all candidates...again.
Rep. Justin Chenette has introduced LD 410 an act to revise the Maine Clean Election Act regarding participation in political action committees. This bill would prohibit a certified candidate under the Maine Clean Election Act from establishing a political action committee for which the candidate is a principal officer, fundraiser or decision maker. Then-Rep. Linda Valentino introduced similar legislation last session where it ended up being a divided minority report out of committee and failed in the House.
Chenette might seem like an unlikely advocate for Clean Elections as he himself was a traditionally financed candidate accepting no tax dollars to run his campaign. “I will not sign my name to a program that has blatant back-door loopholes that allow individuals to create an entire network of completely legal fraud,” says Rep. Chenette.
The bill would directly impact candidates for leadership in the House and the Senate who often have PACs on the side to fundraise to help boost their chances of securing those positions. Between 2010 and 2011, there were 13 Republicans and 21 Democrats who were Clean Candidates in their own right, while raising a combined $978,501 in PAC money.
“When candidates double dip by accepting money from two hands at the same time, we are creating generations of dirty politicians or at the very least creating a very negative public perception of the campaign finance process,” says Rep. Chenette.
During the public hearing, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections opposed the bill citing a lack of reform for PACs of traditionally financed candidates in the bill. After several meetings and negotiations, Rep. Chenette and the advocacy group compromised on a final piece of legislation that both sides can support.
This newly amended bill leaves in the previous language regarding Clean Elections candidates while adding language to ensure that any state legislator or candidate for legislator could not raise more than $350 from any one source into PACs with which they are affiliated.
“This bill with the proposed amendment, would allow us to further reduce potential corruption and the appearance of corruption in our campaign finance system,” says Andrew Bossie, Executive Director for the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.
LD 410 will be decided on in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee Friday March 15th at 10am in room 437 before it heads to the floor. Committee members could choose to move ought to pass as is, pass with amendment, or move not to pass.
To view the full language of the bill and supporting documents visit http://www.justinchenette.com/7/post/2013/03/pacreform.html.
AUGUSTA -- Democratic leaders on Friday denounced Governor Paul LePage's threat to halt the work of the Legislature by abusing his veto power and shutting down state government until his hospital repayment plan becomes law.
"In one week we've heard ongoing threats to shutdown state government if Republicans don’t get what they want. Today, the Governor promised to veto every bill that comes across his desk if he doesn't get what he wants. This is not governing. This is not leadership. It is the type of political gamesmanship that doesn't belong here in Maine,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “I suspect the people of Maine want leaders not schoolyard bullies. We have serious challenges facing our economy and we should be focused on finding solutions not making threats."
During a radio appearance early Friday morning, the Governor promised that he will veto all bills that cross his desk until the Legislature passes his borrowing scheme to make the final payment to Maine hospitals. Republicans have failed to acknowledge that the hospital debt has been continuously and increasingly paid back, thanks largely to a plan developed by Democrats. The Governor’s threat to shutdown state government follows Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette's prediction of a shutdown last week. "First, Republican leaders start throwing around the possibility of a state government shutdown and now the Governor is threatening to go on a veto spree. This type of brinksmanship is even worse than what we're seeing from the GOP in Washington. Maine people deserve better than this from their leaders," said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.
Democrats are focused on legislation to strengthen Maine's workforce, public schools, and the middle class. The Governor is threatening those and other important efforts.
"The Governor is telling us it's his way or the highway. His obstructionist bullying will derail important legislation on domestic violence, public safety and economic development," said Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. “We call on our Republican colleagues to reject such do-nothing politics.”
The LePage administration is pushing a convoluted plan that pulls the state's wholesale liquor business into a deal that would put Maine in debt to Wall Street to make the final payment to hospitals. The plan gambles the value of the liquor contract and is being used to hold hostage other bonds that already have approval from Maine voters.
“Today the Governor told the people of Maine that the hospitals are more important than they are. I disagree,” said Assistant Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash. “I think the people of Maine want lawmakers focused on getting folks back to work, earning more money and improving our schools.”
Maine has paid more than $3.7 billion to hospitals over the last decade.
Jackson added, “We need to get the best deal for Maine and that requires us working together. I think everyone agrees that ten years ago we rushed this deal and could’ve done better. Now, we cannot gamble the future of Maine because the Governor is having another temper tantrum.”
February 28, 2013
Attorney General's Office
Augusta, Me – Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills has agreed to sign on to two separate friend-of-the-court briefs that urge the U.S. Supreme Court strike down laws that discriminate against same-sex couples. Maine has joined an amicus brief, filed today, asking the Court to declare California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Maine has also signed on to a second amicus brief that will be filed tomorrow, urging the Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“Equal protection under the law is the bedrock on which America’s legal foundation is built,” said Attorney General Mills. “I am troubled by the notion that a state might declare that one group of Americans can be accorded the benefits of civil marriage, but another group of Americans is not. I was proud that Maine voters were the first to approve marriage equality at the ballot box last November and I am proud to join this effort to ensure that more people in America can have the freedom to marry whomever they choose. I hope the Supreme Court will grant all married couples the benefits of federal tax, retirement, social security and other benefits.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether Proposition 8’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The amicus brief was filed today by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry (12-144). The brief contends that Proposition 8 does violate the Equal Protection Clause and that the Court should declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The case is scheduled for oral argument on March 26.
Proposition 8 amended the California state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. California voters approved the measure by ballot initiative in November 2008 after a California Supreme Court decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry. The amicus brief includes a total of 13 states and the District of Columbia. The state are: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The Attorney General of California filed a separate brief in support of equal marriage rights.
The brief refutes speculation offered by the proponents of Proposition 8 as to the negative effects of allowing same-sex couples to marry. The brief also argues that Proposition 8 actually harms families by denying the multitude of legal and social benefits of marriage to same-sex couples and their children.
The brief argues that “Proposition 8 deprives the children of same-sex couples of the benefits of being raised in a secure, protected family unit with two married parents. In doing so, it works against the states’ efforts to ‘strengthen the modern family in its many variations,” citing the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s 2003 decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. Maine is also joining a brief to be filed Friday by Attorney General Coakley, along with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, in the case of U.S. v. Windsor urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. DOMA defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman for the purposes of all federal laws. That case has been scheduled for oral argument in the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013.
This amicus brief is being joined by at least 16 other states, including New York, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
The case was brought by New York resident Edie Windsor, who was married in Canada in 2007 to her partner, Thea Spyer. Following Spyer’s death two years later, the federal government denied Windsor the estate tax exemption available to surviving spouses. Windsor filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DOMA and seeking a refund of the estate taxes she was forced to pay as a result of the federal government’s refusal to recognize her marriage.
The amicus brief argues that DOMA is a significant departure from Congress’s more than 200 years of deference to all state marriage determinations and warrants closer review by the Supreme Court. In addition to highlighting many examples of DOMA undermining other federal laws by excluding protections to same-sex spouses, the brief contends that none of the arguments offered by those defending DOMA are legitimate bases for sustaining it.
“DOMA is an unwarranted intrusion into states’ rights and denies equal protection under the law,” said Attorney General Mills. “The State of Maine has declared that same sex couples have a right to civil marriage under the law and the federal government should not subject these people to discriminatory treatment.”
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.