Here’s a link to a nice profile of Judy Kahrl, founder of Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (aka GRR!) in today’s Bangor Daily News. You’ll also see some other familiar Sag Dem faces in the video. Check it out!.
A measure that could provide immediate tax relief for some students who consolidate their college loans cleared the Legislature Friday. The vote in the House was 132-12 and 32-0 in the Senate. It now goes to the governor for his signature.
The proposal from Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, would prevent students who consolidated their loans from being cut off from the Opportunity Maine tax credit. McCreight’s measure was recently incorporated into a larger student debt relief bill sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and the governor.
The Opportunity Maine credit, enacted in 2008, was designed to make post-secondary education more affordable and reduce the burden of monthly student loan payments. Students who incur debt at a Maine institution are eligible for the credit, but some have lost access after consolidating their eligible loans with loans from out-of-state schools.
“Students who get part of their education out of state and then come back to Maine should be welcomed with open arms,” said McCreight. “If this bill is signed, we will stop discouraging a smart financial choice like consolidation, and more young people will be better able to support themselves and prosper.”
McCreight’s reform would restore access immediately, allowing people to claim the Opportunity Maine credit on their 2015 returns and receive immediate relief.
McCreight submitted her original bill after hearing from Emma Burke, a former student who said she and many of her peers are finding it more difficult to get by or plan for major life expenses like buying a home or having children, even with a good-paying job.
“My monthly student loan payments simply make it impossible for me to have any type of savings,” said Burke at the bill’s public hearing last month. “Mainers who have gone to school out of state, or who have pursued an advanced degree, should not be punished for doing so.”
McCreight is serving her first term in the Maine House and represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick.
Here’s a message from the Maine Women’s Lobby about LD633 and expanding healthcare in Maine:
We expect the legislature to vote on LD 633, An Act To Improve the Health of Maine Citizens and the Economy of Maine by Providing Affordable Market-based Coverage Options to Low-income Uninsured Citizens, this week.
Please contact your legislators today and urge them to support LD 633. It’s long past time for Maine to accept the federal health care dollars that have been set aside for our state to provide health coverage to those who desperately need it.
Accepting federal funds will protect rural hospitals and health clinics throughout Maine, improve access to preventive and life-saving health care, help our state address drug addiction, and create savings in our state budget.
For more information, check out the fact sheets on the Cover Maine Now! coalition website.
Use the links in this excellent message to get the facts and to ACT. Contact your Legislators, tell your friends to contact them too, and write a Letter to the Editor.
Susan arrived in Augusta today accompanied by her family and friends ready to serve her district, but apparently Governor LePage was not of like mind. Governor LePage’s spokewoman said he would not be swearing in State Senator-Elect Susan Deschambault today after her victory on Tuesday. In so doing, the Governor has decided to deny the people of District 32 representation until he sees fit to give it back to them. That is not how democracy works.
The Bangor Daily News reported that LePage’s spokeswoman explained the Governor’s actions are due to his nominee to the Unemployment Insurance Commission being shot down by a 7-6 vote. So Governor LePage’s reaction is to disenfranchise over 38,000 people of District 32 by denying them representation in our State Senate?!
We cannot let this outrage go unanswered. Sign our petition to Governor LePage, and tell him that he cannot simply choose to silence the voices of District 32.
P.S. Let your friends, family, coworkers all know what is happening in Augusta today, and forward this email (Forward To A Friend)
A roundup of LePage’s Town Hall meeting last Thursday in Bath, courtesy of the Portland Press Herald.
Governor Paul R. LePage has announced he will hold his next town hall Thursday, March 10, in Bath where he will deliver remarks about moving Maine forward and answer questions from residents.
Morse High School, 826 High St, Bath, is the location for the town hall. The forum will begin at 6:00 p.m. concluding at 7:00 p.m. and it is open to the public.
The town hall meeting will focus on the Governor’s vision for Maine, including further reducing the income tax; reforming welfare by strengthening the State’s safety net for the most vulnerable; cutting energy costs; and addressing Maine’s high student debt burden.
Sen. Geoff Gratwick released the following statement in response to reports that the LePage administration has rejected a $2.5 million grant from the federal government that would have helped pay for colorectal cancer screenings.
The funding was awarded to Maine as part of a competitive grant process after the state applied for the funds. According to MPBN, the LePage administration felt the funding was “not a good use of taxpayer funds.”
“When it comes to Mainers’ health, there is no room for playing politics,” said Sen. Gratwick, a Bangor Democrat and retired doctor. “We know that colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease and we know that prevention and early detection save lives. That is what is important — not this administration’s ideological aversion to accepting federal dollars — and that is what should dictate whether the state accepts this grant. I will continue working every day to make sure Maine patients get the care they deserve.”
Routine screening makes colorectal cancer mostly preventable, but the disease remains the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women combined, according to the Maine Public Health Association. It is the third-leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in Maine.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 610 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and that 240 people will die from the disease in Maine this year.
From David Farmer in Today’s BDN:
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is violating federal law and now ranks last among all states for its administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program, or food stamps.
A sharply worded, Dec. 7 letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture put DHHS on notice.
“The State’s chronically poor performance in timeliness is in direct conflict with the application processing statutory and regulatory provisions meant to protect low-income household’s right to receive nutrition assistance benefits in a timely manner,” wrote Ken Messner, the acting regional administrator for the USDA’s northeast region.
Click here to read more.
There’s a casual thoughtlessness that made a post on state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce’s personal Facebook page so disturbing. On Dec. 3, Pierce, who represents Dresden, Arrowsic, Georgetown, Phippsburg and part of Woolwich, reposted a graph that looks to “connect the dots” between the terrorists behind killings in Boston, Paris, Madrid, Chattanooga, and other places and their religion — Islam.
The repost included the statement (not written by Pierce): “Its time to deport all muslims ,. Its them or us !” (sic)
The post, of course, conveniently ignores crimes and mass-shootings perpetrated by non Muslims, including some notable acts of domestic terrorism (the Oklahoma City bombing comes to mind).
The post also represents an ugly prejudice that is sadly shared by many Americans, including one presidential candidate who recently called for blocking all Muslims from entering the U.S. The post is, simply put, unbecoming of an elected official, no matter how high the office.
The self-proclaimed Islamic State, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram and their ilk are all a putrescence on this earth, and there’s no guarantee that our measures, whether through force or diplomacy or some combination therein, will either wipe them out or convince them that it’s time to lay down arms.
Extremism, by its very nature, doesn’t adhere to reason or logic.
Those terrorists listed above number in the thousands, yet are not representative of 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today any more than Dylann Roof is representative of white Americans, any more than Jason Van Dyke is representative of all law enforcement, any more than Robert Dear represents all in the pro-life movement.
Pierce didn’t return repeated calls for comment on the post, but finally spoke when approached by a reporter last week, when he admitted that, no, he didn’t think every Muslim in America ought to be deported.
“It’s a ridiculous statement,” he said.
Yes, Mr. Pierce, it is.
What’s also ridiculous is that Pierce said he didn’t bother to read the message about deporting all Muslims before posting the graph.
Pierce said there are other issues — such as drug addiction and foreclosures — the media ought to focus on (although, neither Pierce’s personal page nor his official house district page address those issues). “And you look at a Facebook post that might have made people feel uncomfortable? Go back to your safe space,” said Pierce.
As a lawmaker, Pierce occupies a position of power and trust. That Pierce does not appear to vet needlessly combative, racist, yet public statements makes us more than “uncomfortable.”
Meanwhile, the House Republican office seems content to let this one go, with a spokesman declining to comment, citing the fact that the post — now removed — appeared on a member’s personal page.
Other Republican house members are going after Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, for political pandering. It was McCabe, the outgoing house majority leader, who likely smelled the blood in the water when he was alerted to the post, and issued a press release demanding that Pierce apologize.
Now McCabe has incurred the wrath, again via Facebook, of Reps. Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) and Joel Stetkis (R-Canaan).
Stetkis’s response to McCabe, which accuses the outgoing legislator of “failing to put Maines citizens (sic) safety ahead of his own political career,” warns that “Muslim jihadists are a clear and present danger” to Americans. However, Stetkis’s response fails to make a distinction between the jihadists hellbent on killing Americans versus Muslims living in this nation peacefully, who are part of the fabric of modern American society.
Lockman goes to a further extreme on a diatribe on his own Facebook page, stating that “Lewiston has been overrun with ‘new Mainers,’ but don’t worry, they have all been assimilated,” referencing, one would assume, Somali refugees. (By the way, anyone who has been to Lewiston recently knows that the city is far from being “overrun.”)
Let’s set aside the sad state of civil discourse — and its alarmist xenophobia — on the right side of the aisle. And let’s set aside the partisan rancor on the left.
The most basic function of our legislature is to make laws in adherence to the state and federal constitutions, both of which provide equal protection to citizens under the law as well as freedom of religion.
If a legislator can’t fulfill that function, then voters ought to look for an alternative during the next election.
Calling for the deportation of 2.75 million people, 81 percent of whom are U.S. citizens, based solely on their religion is both un-American and an extremist position.
Like we said, extremism doesn’t adhere to reason or logic.
From today’s Times Record:
Frustration grew among local residents as state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, R-Dresden, addressed the status of the Land for Maine’s Future bonds on Wednesday night in Woolwich.
According to Todd Martin, outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Legislature will convene on Jan. 12 to attempt to override an anticipated veto by Gov. Paul LePage on LD 1454, a bill that will release a $6.5 million LMF bond that was approved by Maine vot- ers in 2010.
Pierce had voted in favor of LD 1454.
LePage is withholding the voter-approved bonds as leverage in order to get the Legislature to acquiesce to demands that revenue from timber harvested on state lands be used to fund an energy program.
Another bill, LD 1378, would have released the bonds, but was vetoed. The House then sustained LePage’s veto.
Pierce opposed that bill, and on Wednesday explained why.
“When 1378 first came out, I’m a freshman legislator … and I had not completely read the bill,” he said. “Shame on me. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.”
When asked why he had cast a “no” vote, Pierce explained that “if I can’t read the bill because they changed it or there’s an amendment, I have no choice but to vote no, whether it’s a good bill or a bad bill.
“If it’s a one pager — five or six lines, you can read it. But if it’s a two page, and they’re calling for the vote and you don’t have time to read it, it would be irresponsible of me to vote on something I didn’t read,” he added.
Some residents spoke out, encouraging Pierce to remain neutral by leaving the chamber, rather than taking a negative stance on a bill he hadn’t fully read.
Pierce responded: “What if I voted yes on a bad bill? I’d be in just as much trouble as voting no on a good bill. It’s a Catch 22 either way. Yes, you can get up and leave the room, but sometimes you’d be leaving the room a lot. I’m just being honest. There’s no guidebook to your first term and how to sort all this out.
“I’m not making excuses,” Pierce added. “But like I said, it’s a learning curve.”
Eventually, Pierce said he would vote to support releasing the LMF bonds come January.
“If 1454 comes up and (LePage) vetoes, I’ll vote to override the veto,” he said.
Martin also clarified that while LD 1454 would release the 2010 bonds, it would not reauthorize the bonds that have already expired.
“We need to pass another bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Pouliot to reauthorize that money,” Martin said. “It’s not enough just enough to pass LD 1454 and override the governor’s veto. That’s the most important vote, but we also need to pass Rep. Pouliot’s bill to reauthorize that money for five years, and five years gets us past the LePage administration.”
Pierce also commended Pouliot’s work on the bill, and said he would also be in support of Pouliot’s bill as well.
After thanking Pierce for his willingness to talk to the community, Sandy Jaeger of Georgetown also shared her thoughts on the impact of his negative vote.
“We voted overwhelmingly to pass that bill and I wish you could have taken our word for it,” said Jaeger. “What about all those who were promised the money and either have to sacrifice it, or have to borrow money? I mean, what about all those people, because you hadn’t read the bill and didn’t take the word of the people sitting here? … I’m so proud that all these people are here. It means so much to me — it really does. And when you didn’t vote to override, it meant a lot to me too and it was painful.”
“Well, I think (Pierce) has gotten a strong message,” Charlie Durfee of Woolwich told The Times Record. “And if he flips his vote again, I’d be very surprised because that would be a clear signal that he’s not paying attention to his constituents.”
From David Farmer at the BDN:
Gov. Paul LePage’s harsh view of the world is guided by anecdote, misinformation and half-truth.
Basic, knowable information eludes him, or he can’t be bothered to get it right. He repeats information that’s incorrect over and over again.
Somehow he’s immune from math and science.
Visiting Portland Tuesday night, the governor continued an argument he’s been having with people around the state during his current roadshow.
Read the entire piece here.