For Immediate Release September 26, 2011
Contact: Jodi Quintero
Democratic leaders issue statement on new GOP redistricting map
AUGUSTA - Democratic leaders in the Maine State Legislature released the following statement in response to the new GOP Congressional map made public this afternoon. The new Republican proposal only moves a number of communities in Kennebec County, which is slightly different than the Democratic plan.
"We are glad to see our Republican colleagues publicly release a reasonable plan," said Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House Democratic leader. "We would have preferred to get to this level of negotiations earlier in the process, but Democrats remain serious about compromise."
The GOP's new plan is a deviation from the GOP's initial radical plan that proposed to move 360,000 people, seven counties, and 139 communities to a new district. On Friday, the Republicans announced they would likely ignore the law and force this radical plan through with a majority vote.
"Democrats are continuing talks with the Republicans now that they have moved to a more negotiable position," said Sen. Barry Hobbins, the Senate Democratic Leader. "The new map is more consistent with the public will and the law."
Democrats have presented a plan that shifts fewer than 20,000 people. It follows the current lines, which were drawn by the Maine Supreme Court nearly 10 years ago.
The bipartisan commission charged by the Legislature to draw Congressional district lines narrowly endorsed the Democratic plan in August.
The Legislature must vote to endorse one plan tomorrow during a special session.
Augusta, Maine - Governor Paul LePage proclaimed September 25, 2011, as a Maine Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims during a ceremony held at the University of Maine in Augusta Sunday. The Governor issued the proclamation in support with the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.
"This observance pays tribute to the hundreds of Maine citizens who have been murdered, and acknowledges the impact on family and friends who are the survivors," said Governor LePage. "While Maine is considered a safe place, we do experience senseless tragedies. There have been 18 homicides this year, 9 of them domestic violence related. These are not just numbers; these are mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters that are gone forever."
Arthur Jette has been involved with the Maine Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, the group that sponsored today's event, since 1999, after his two-year old grandson was murdered. "We believe that it is important that we honor the memories of victims of homicide and acknowledge the unimaginable anger, pain and grief families and communities are left to contend with," says Jette.
Parents of Murdered Children provides support and assistance to all survivors of homicide victims making a difference through on-going emotional support, education, prevention, advocacy and awareness.
Nearly one hundred friends and relatives of murder victims gathered at Jewett Hall for the ceremony. In addition to Governor LePage, speakers included Maine State Police Chief Col. Robert Williams, Augusta Mayor and Criminal Division Chief of the Office of the Attorney General William Stokes, advocates of domestic violence prevention and family members of murder victims.
The text of the proclamation follows:
WHEREAS, in 2010, twenty-four homicides were reported in Maine; and
WHEREAS, there have been 18 homicides reported in Maine through August 2011; and
WHEREAS, the death of a loved one is a devastating experience, and the murder of a loved one is exceptionally difficult; and
WHEREAS, the family and friends of murder victims cope with grief through a variety of services including crisis intervention, professional referrals, counseling, and assistance in dealing with the criminal justice system; and
WHEREAS, the Maine Chapter of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children is dedicated to helping families and friends faced with the death of a loved one by providing ongoing emotional support, individual assistance, education, advocacy and information about and guidance through the criminal justice system; and
WHEREAS, the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims on September 25 of each year provides an opportunity for the people of Maine to join with the rest of the nation, to honor the memories of murder victims and recognize the impact on surviving family members,
NOW, THEREFORE, I, PAUL R. LEPAGE, Governor of the State of Maine, do hereby proclaim September 25, 2011 as
MAINE DAY OF REMEMBRANCE FOR
throughout the State of Maine, and urge all citizens to recognize this observance.
For Immediate Release: September 23, 2011 Contact: Jodi Quintero
Maine to receive $30 million for at-risk infants and toddlers
One of nine states to qualify based on quality planning
AUGUSTA - Maine will be one of only nine states to receive federal expansion grants to expand proven home visitation programs for the families of at-risk infants and toddlers, the Obama administration announced Thursday. Maine's share will total $30.1 million over four years, and will supplement state and local efforts.
Home visitation helps parents meet the needs of their infants or toddlers through direct visits by qualified professionals such as nurses or social workers.
"All parents want to give their kids the best possible start in life," said Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. "Quality home visitation makes sure they know how to do so."
Maine's application for these funds was driven by a measure sponsored last spring by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham.
Signed by the Governor in mid-June and entitled "Resolve, to Ensure a Strong Start for Maine's Infants and Toddlers by Extending the Reach of Quality Home Visitation," Berry's bill required that Maine's Department of Health and Human Services develop a comprehensive three-year plan for quality home visitation, and seek all available federal and private funds.
"Research shows home visitation to be one of the best means of improving outcomes for children from birth to three, when 85-90 percent of brain development occurs," said Rep. Berry. "With this grant, Maine takes an enormous step towards helping our kids get the best possible start."
An additional $1 million per year was granted to Maine to sustain ongoing programs based on documented need. According to census figures also released yesterday, roughly one in four Maine and U.S. children from birth to age five live below the poverty level, which is $18,300 for a family of three. Both in Maine and in the U.S., infants and toddlers are twice as likely to live in poverty as adults.
A member of the Maine Children's Growth Council, Berry also credited Council members; the grant writing team directed by DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, comprised of Maine Families Coordinator Pam LaHaye and the State Administrator of Maine Families Home Visiting Sheryl Peavey; U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and the Legislature and Governor, who not only passed his bill but also rejected proposed cuts to existing home visiting programs in last year's budget process.
Had the Legislature accepted the proposed cuts to existing home visiting efforts under Maine's Fund for a Healthy Maine, Berry pointed out that Maine's application would not have been accepted.
Republicans set stage to ram through radical new Congressional map
Maine GOP to ignore public, law for national political gain
September 23, 2011
AUGUSTA - Republican state lawmakers will likely force through their radical plan to draw Maine's congressional map during a special session of the Legislature on Tuesday.
The majority party will ignore the current law that requires congressional maps to gain 2/3 support from the Legislature or be drawn by the State Supreme Court. The Republican bill released today, LD 1590, includes a technical "Notwithstanding" clause in Section 2 stating that their proposal can be passed without the two-thirds support required by Maine law.
"I'm very disappointed, especially since we have found compromise on the toughest issues this session like the budget and regulatory reform," said Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House Democratic Leader. "It is wrong to change the rules in the middle of the game just because you can't win."
This year Republican leaders in the legislature championed a Constitutional amendment to prevent this abuse of the process. The Constitutional amendment makes it impossible for the ruling political party to pass a reapportionment plan by majority vote. Voters must approve that amendment in November.
But before that provision can take effect, the Republicans are now planning to push through their radical redistricting plan without any bipartisan support.
"The Republicans support the bipartisan rule as long as it doesn't apply to them this one time," said Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, who served on the bipartisan reapportion commission that rejected the radical Republican plan. "They will have to answer to Maine voters."
Republicans have proposed a radical, partisan plan that would move 360,000 people, seven counties, and nearly 140 communities to a new district.
It breaks up communities that share the same interest. It splits the shipyards, the mill communities, the coastal interests, and puts competing cities like Portland and Lewiston in the same district. This plan worsens the problem of the "two Maines" by creating one district that is mostly urban and another that is almost entirely rural.
The Republican plan has been widely criticized across the state. Four out of five people that came to the State House for the public hearings on the two proposals testified against the radical plan. Five thousand people have signed an online petition against a radical plan.
The bipartisan commission charged by the Legislature to draw Congressional district lines narrowly endorsed the Democratic plan. Democrats have presented a plan that shifts fewer than 20,000 people. It follows the current lines, which were drawn by the Maine Supreme Court nearly 10 years ago.
"Once again Maine Republicans have shown that they are puppets of special interests from away," added Rep. Martin. "Make no mistake this is a gift to Kevin Raye and the National GOP, who want to put the Second Congressional district in play and potentially gain an additional electoral vote for the presidential race."
The Republican plan adds approximately 10,000 Republican voters to the Second Congressional District.
GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENTS TO TASK FORCE ON EARLY POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES
For Immediate Release: Monday, September 19, 2011 Contact: Adrienne Bennett
Augusta, Maine - Governor Paul LePage announced today that 19 people have been selected to serve on a task force that will make recommendations on expanding early college and other postsecondary education opportunities for high school students.
The Governor appointed 15 of the 19 task force members. They include representatives from higher education; K-12 education; non-profit organizations focused on expanding educational opportunities; and associations representing teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members.
The President of the Maine Senate and the Speaker of the Maine House selected two members each from their own chambers to serve on the task force.
"The members of this task force have agreed to take on important work," Governor LePage said. "Our students need more options in high school to get a head start on their postsecondary education and gain the skills they need to be successful in the workplace. Maine's future economic prospects depend upon the state having qualified workers who can help our businesses, both old and new, grow and create jobs."
The Governor made the following appointments to the task force:
· Stephen Bowen, Commissioner of Education
· Scott Voisine, Dean of Community Education, University of Maine at Fort Kent, representing the Chancellor of the University of Maine System
· Charles Collins, State Director, Early College for ME, representing the President of the Maine Community College System
· James Libby, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Business Administration at Thomas College in Waterville, representing private colleges and universities
· Susan Hillman, Professor, Department of Education at the University of New England in Biddeford, representing private colleges and universities
· Joan Macri, Associate Director, LearningWorks in Portland, representing educational opportunity-focused non-profit organizations
· Stephen Joyce, Director of Student Aid, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, representing the Maine Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
· Carlena Bean, Director of Admissions, Husson University in Bangor, representing the Maine College Admissions Association
· Maureen King, President, Maine School Boards Association
· Roger Shaw, Superintendent, AOS 99 of Mars Hill, representing the Maine School Superintendents Association
· Fred Woodman, Director, United Technologies Center in Bangor, representing Maine Administrators of Career and Technical Education
· Carrie Castonguay, Director, MSAD 61/72 Adult and Community Education of Casco, representing the Maine Adult Education Association
· Don Reiter, Principal, Waterville Senior High School, representing the Maine Principals' Association
· Grace Leavitt, Spanish Teacher, Greely High School in Cumberland, representing the Maine Education Association
Senate President Kevin Raye made the following appointments:
Sen. Nancy Sullivan, Democrat of Biddeford
Sen. Brian Langley, Republican of Ellsworth
House Speaker Robert Nutting made the following appointments:
Rep. Joyce Maker, Republican of Calais
Re. Mary Nelson, Democrat of Falmouth
"I look forward to getting to work and finding out in a comprehensive way what early-college options are already available in our state," said Commissioner Bowen. "We need to make those options available to more of our students and find a way to grow our early-college offerings."
Governor LePage formed the 19-member Task Force on Expanding Early Postsecondary Access for High School Students in Maine by executive order. The Task Force is expected to submit a report to the Governor and to the Legislature's Education Committee by December 1, 2011.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, MAINE GOVERNOR PAUL LEPAGE ANNOUNCE FUNDS TO SPUR $132 MILLION IN NEW LENDING TO MAINE SMALL BUSINESSES, HELP CREATE JOBS
For Immediate Release: Friday, September 16, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett
Washington, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Maine Governor Paul LePage announced the approval of Maine's State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) application. Maine's planned use of the SSBCI funds will help create new private sector jobs and spur more than $132 million in additional small-businesses lending in the state. The SSBCI program, which supports state-level, small-business lending programs, is an important component of the Small Business Jobs Act signed into law last fall.
Under the Small Business Jobs Act, Maine can access $13.2 million in SSBCI funds. Maine expects to leverage at least $10 in new private lending for every $1 in federal funding. As such, this $13.2 million allocation for Maine is expected to support more than $132 million in new private lending in the state.
"Many small businesses are still struggling to access the capital they need to invest, expand and create new jobs," said Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios. "These critical funds will provide a powerful incentive for lending to small businesses, spurring additional job creation and further strengthening our nation's economic recovery."
"Maine job creators need access to credit and capital in order to create jobs and hire new employees," said Governor LePage. "Maine's economic recovery is driven by small businesses and their vision for growth. In partnership with the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and the Finance Authority of Maine, small business owners will now have more resources for that growth."
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, in cooperation with the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), will use these funds to support the Economic Recovery Loan Program; the Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program; and the Small Enterprise Growth Fund (SEGF). Maine's Economic Recovery Loan Program provides direct loans of up to $1 million for businesses with insufficient access to credit in order to remain viable and improve productivity. The Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program provides loans to Maine's regional economic development agencies for the purpose of creating or retaining jobs. The Small Enterprise Growth Fund is a state-run venture capital fund that invests in Maine companies that demonstrate a potential for high growth and public benefit.
Under the State Small Business Credit Initiative, all states are offered the opportunity to apply for federal funds for state-run programs that partner with private lenders to increase the amount of credit available to small businesses. States must demonstrate a reasonable expectation that a minimum of $10 in new private lending will result from every $1 in federal funding. Accordingly, the overall $1.5 billion federal funding commitment for this program is expected to result in at least $15 billion in additional private lending nationwide.
For more information on FAME and the Economic Recovery Loan Program and the Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program, please visit www.famemaine.com. For information on the Small Enterprise Growth Fund, please visit www.segfmaine.com.
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett
Augusta, Maine - Governor Paul LePage learned late Tuesday evening that his request for three Maine counties to be declared a major disaster area was approved by President Obama.
On Friday, September 9, Governor LePage sent a letter requesting the declaration for Franklin, Oxford and York counties for response costs and damage done by heavy rains, high winds and flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.
"These counties and towns dealt with downed trees and power lines, heavy rains and flooding, and incurred extraordinary costs," Governor LePage said. "The President's declaration will help us to repair the damages, recapture a portion of the response costs, and be better prepared for dangerous weather in the future."
The Federal assistance will reimburse State and local governments 75 percent of the costs for emergency response efforts and to repair or replace storm-damage public property and infrastructure, including roads and bridges.
Governor LePage Selects Nearly 100 Appointments to
Boards and Commissions
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett
Augusta, Maine - Governor Paul LePage announced Monday the nominations of 91 appointments to boards, commissions and other positions throughout our State. The Governor appoints over two thousand Maine citizens to serve on over three hundred boards and commissions.
"Finding individuals of the highest quality who represent the best interests of the people of Maine was a priority," said the Governor. "Overseeing these boards and commissions is a responsibility I take very seriously and I am grateful we have found so many willing to serve on behalf of the citizens of our great State."
The 91 nominations are confirmable appointments.
Confirmable appointments require a public hearing to be held before a joint standing committee of the State Legislature for the purposes of confirming the Governor's nomination. These appointments also require final Confirmation by the Maine State Senate. View a complete list of these appointments and boards.
The Maine State Senate is expected to vote on these nominations during the special legislative session scheduled for September 27, 2011.
Maine State Employees Combined Charitable Appeal
Launches 32nd Season of Remarkable Generosity
MSECCA Volunteers to be Recognized for Extraordinary Service
During Thursday's Special State House Event
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Doug Dunbar
Augusta, Maine - Governor Paul R. LePage and Commissioner Anne Head will recognize and thank volunteer leaders from throughout State government at a special ceremony this Thursday, September 15th, as they kick-off the 32nd Maine State Employees Combined Charitable Appeal (MSECCA). Representatives from charities that benefit from this major annual fund raising campaign will be on hand to greet State employees and share information about their charitable work.
Date: Thursday, September 15th
Time: 12:00 Noon (Program Begins at 12:30)
Place: Hall of Flags, State House, Augusta
"The generosity of Maine people is unsurpassed. Through MSECCA and other initiatives, State employees create hope and opportunity for their neighbors and for communities throughout Maine," Governor LePage commented.
As chair of the 2011 campaign, Department of Professional and Financial Regulation Commissioner Anne Head commented on the importance of MSECCA to families across Maine. "Contributions from State employees during the past three decades have made a world of difference in the lives of children, seniors and countless others. Now, more than ever, donations to MSECCA will help to ensure that a hand is extended to individuals and families who need our assistance."
During last year's campaign, State employees contributed $330,000 to charitable organizations to assist people throughout Maine. Since 2000, MSECCA has raised nearly $5 million to support the outstanding work of charities. Beginning Thursday, September 15th, State employees will be able to contribute to the 2011 campaign online at www.maine.gov/msecca.
For Immediate Release September 13, 2011
Contact: Jodi Quintero [Beck, Longstaff]
Local reps issue statement on T-Mobile layoffs in Oakland
Oakland, ME - Democratic local-area state representatives said layoffs at the T-Mobile Call Center in Oakland will hurt the local economy.
"Workers have reported that T-Mobile is laying off more employees despite tax breaks they received to create jobs in Oakland," said State Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville. Beck represents parts of Waterville and Oakland. "T-Mobile received tax breaks to invest in job creation in our local communities. If these incentives aren't working, then we must work together to find better alternatives."
Citizens of Oakland and local workers gathered today outside the T-Mobile Call Center to urge the company to create jobs or give taxpayer money back to the community.
T-Mobile was the recipient of a state "Pine Tree Zone" tax credit, which offers eligible businesses the chance to greatly reduce or virtually eliminate state taxes for up to ten years. The goal of the program is to create jobs and expand new or existing business. T-Mobile received the Pine Tree Zone credit in 2005 when it relocated its call center to Oakland.
"Our local economy can't afford to lose more jobs right now," said Rep. Thomas Longstaff, D-Waterville. "These workers are our neighbors and friends; they spend money at our local shops and restaurants, and help keep our communities afloat."
Expect to see a LOT of these formerly disgraced companies coming back home to roost in Maine, thanks to LD 1333. There are many reasons they left Maine markets in the first place, and one would be wise to be skeptical of them as they return, as well as do their own research into the companies before they sign anything.
One of those laws is the major health insurance overhaul Republicans pushed through a few months ago.
We are already seeing the negative effects of this health insurance overhaul. The Ellsworth American reported recently that some small businesses in rural Maine will be seeing their health insurance costs go up more than 60 percent as early as October.
According to the report, small businesses in Hancock, Washington and Aroostook counties will see insurance premiums rise more than 60 or 70 percent. One company in Presque Isle may see an increase of 90 percent.
Premium hikes like these will put the companies at their breaking points. A recent survey of Maine people by Market Decisions found that 21 percent fear losing health insurance coverage in the next 12 months. Nearly 40 percent of those individuals said the top reason for their fear was the new health care law passed by Republicans in Augusta.
It's no wonder they are afraid. The insurance overhaul will allow insurance companies selling individual policies to set rates based on age at up to five times higher than the lowest rate. And, most troubling, there will be no limits on rate changes depending on where you live, or what kind of job you have.
The new law expands that ratio to 1 to 5; that is, if the lowest premium is $500 a month, the highest an insurer can now charge is $2,500. The thought is that that insurers would increase the premiums for their more costly customers while - don't laugh at this - lowering the costs for the young and healthy.
Raise your hand if you can afford $2500 a month for health insurance. Yeah, me neither.
This caught my eye, as I was in the House gallery on May 5th during the first reading of LD 1333:
During the floor debate, I asked this question to all the lawmakers in the House: "What effect will this have on premiums for a 50-year-old, self-employed fisherman living on an offshore island?" No one answered, either because they did not know or did not like the answer.
In fact, Reps. Kumiega, Webster and Russell all had questions of their colleagues that went completely unanswered. Have a look:
This is just getting started and it's going to get much worse before it gets better.
For Immediate Release September 9, 2011
Contact: Jodi Quintero [Berry]
Democratic sponsor of Maine Bath Salts ban praises federal action
Bowdoinham - Maine State Rep. Seth Berry, D- Bowdoinham, praised the recent federal ban on certain chemicals used to make the dangerous drug Bath Salts. Berry sponsored the law that made the drug illegal in Maine earlier this year.
"The federal ban will help law enforcement officials greatly in their fight against this dangerous substance. Most sales use the internet, so the federal government can have a far greater impact," said Berry.
"In passing Maine's bill, we led the way for federal action. And while I originally pushed for stronger penalties for the drug, I am optimistic that state lawmakers will now act to fill any remaining gaps. Above all, we should also be focused on educating our communities about the dangers of the drug."
The Drug Enforcement Administration announced it would temporarily outlaw three stimulants contained in Bath Salts Tuesday, while the government decides if it should take permanent action. In the past two years, synthetic drugs have been linked to twenty deaths nationwide and reports of abuse of the drug in Maine have been widespread this summer.
Berry introduced legislation in January to criminalize the substance. The original legislation would have made selling bath salts a criminal offense, like cocaine. The bill was significantly watered down in the final days of session due to its cost. The Legislature ultimately banned the drug and imposed civil penalties of $350 for using bath salts and up to $500 for a second offense.
Governor LePage Announces DMR Report Complete
and Available for Public Review
For Immediate Release: Friday, September 09, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett
Augusta, Maine - Governor Paul LePage announced Friday a program review of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) is complete and available to the public. The 90 page report illustrates management and mission based areas for improvement.
Governor LePage seeks to assure a sustainable marine resource base that is utilized to the greatest extent in support of the fishing industry. After review of the report, which was compiled by independent consultants Pete Jensen, David Wallace and David Borden, the Governor believes it to be an excellent tool and set of recommendations to be used going forward with the priority setting and reorganization under zero based budgeting.
Earlier this year, all commissioners including the DMR former commissioner were asked by the Governor to assess all operations, procedures and policies in order to improve department functions. With the Governor's support, the former commissioner chose to seek independent consultants to review DMR which resulted in this report.
With more than three dozen recommendations put forth in the report the administration is unable to comment at this time on each. However, as an example of some of the recommendations the administration is keenly interested in pursuing further are: priority setting, making Maine a more "fish business friendly state", the role of management plans within the department, a better link between science and resource management, attention on opening clam flats, staff training opportunities and others.
The Governor is committed to assure DMR and all state agencies are fully executing their statutory mission, but before any legislative or policy based proposals are made they will be subject to robust review of the administration and will also be subject to the review and consideration of the full Marine Resource Committee of the Legislature.
"The zero based budgeting process will consider these and other ideas for reforms within DMR. Restructuring, reorganization, efficiency improvements will all be on the table," said the Governor. "Staff is dedicated and professional, but it is time to refocus and rethink the direction of the Department."
Governor LePage Requests Major Disaster Declaration
For Immediate Release: Friday, September 09, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett
Augusta, Maine - Governor Paul LePage today requested a major disaster declaration for three Maine counties impacted by Hurricane Irene. A joint Federal-State damage assessment documented over $2.4 million in response costs and damages in Franklin, Oxford and York Counties.
In his letter to the White House, Governor LePage said "I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary."
If the assistance is granted, the Federal Government would reimburse towns, counties and State agencies for 75 percent of costs incurred in response to the high winds, heavy rains and flooding associated with Tropical Storm Irene.
"We were very fortunate that Irene's impact on Maine was not much worse," the Governor said. "But even so, many towns in these three counties incurred crippling expenses from the storm."
The Governor's request includes costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures, as well as repairs to damaged roads and bridges. The Governor added that State officials continue to compile information in support of possible further requests for recovery funds.
Governor LePage declared a State of Emergency on Friday, August 26, 2011 that ensured all State resources would be available for the storm and its aftermath. The State of Emergency was lifted Friday, September 9, 2011.