Monday, March 17, 2014
Morning, good committee work session on LD 1747 Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 180: Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education. After a few refinements to broaden the endorsement of the teachers on the stakeholders’ group and to specify the default consequences if the stakeholders’ group fails to reach consensus, the committee unanimously adopted my amendment as the committee amendment which ensures that teachers have a voice in developing their school’s evaluations system.
Student data privacy in cloud computing and data storage
The committee also worked LD 1780 An Act To Prohibit Providers of Cloud Computing Service to Elementary and Secondary Educational Institutions from Processing Student Data for Commercial Purposes and recommended amending Judiciary Committee bill LD 1194 to include this in Committee’s study.
Afternoon Committee work sessions
School funding and college affordability
Continued work sessions on committee’s school funding bill, LD 1850 Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Strengthen the Adequacy and Equity of Certain Cost Components of the School Funding Formula and the committee’s college affordability bill, LD 1849 Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Study College Affordability and College Completion
Review of commissioned education studies
Committee presentation and discussion of three new CEPARE/ MEPRI reports:
- Challenges Faced by Maine School Districts in Providing High Quality Public Education.
- What Can Educators and Policymakers Learn from High-Performing Countries on International Assessments?
- Maine Educators Describe Innovative Technology Uses in K-12 Education
Tuesday, March 18
- Maine budget panel reaches compromise on LePage’s rainy day proposal, $17M amendment, Bangor Daily News
MaineCare Expansion, Managed Care, accepting federal dollars
- Maine House passes bipartisan health care proposal
- In Maine House, Medicaid expansion passes easily, but still falls short, Press Herald
- House advances Medicaid expansion bill, but ultimate passage still unlikely, Bangor Daily News
Expanding online learning
Senate roll call to override Governor’s veto of my Resolve, To Provide Maine Students with Access to Online Learning through Their Existing School Districts fell one vote short of an override. Unfortunately, this means this bill is now dead.
- Maine Senate fails to override LePage on virtual school bill, Press Herald
- Multinational giant set to run first virtual school in Maine, Press Herald
Afternoon Education Committee work sessions
LD 1797 An Act Expanding Access to Early Postsecondary Education. Committee voted unanimously Ought to Pass as Amended.
Legislative review of the Department of Education
Concluding our review of Maine’s Department of Education via the Government Evaluation Act, our committee expressed concern about number of unfilled positions in Department and asked to be updated on progress on filling these.
Wednesday, March 19
Appropriations Committee update on closing FY2014 supplemental budget:
In a remarkable display of good bipartisan hard work, the Appropriations Committee unanimously closed the supplemental budget for the current fiscal year.
- AFA Update: Tuesday, March 18, 2014- Closing the FY14 budget and final action on the “Rainy Day” Fund
- Maine budget panel reaches compromise on LePage’s rainy day proposal, $17M amendment, Bangor Daily News
On the child labor bill LD 1698: An Act To Streamline the Work Permitting Process for Minors and To Conform Allowable Places That Minors May Work to Federal Law, I voted with the majority in an 85-58 vote to accept the committee’s report of Ought Not To Pass.
Early tax abatement for destroyed buildings
On the municipal property tax abatement bill LD 1610: An Act To Allow a Municipality To Abate Taxes Assessed on Property That Is Destroyed, I voted with the majority on an 89-49 vote to accept the committee’s report Ought Not To Pass because I believe it would be inconsistent to impose altered municipal commitment dates and because I believe adequate allowances already are in place for abatements based upon financial hardship.
Afternoon committee work session
Cost components of virtual education
In the afternoon, our committee had a work session on LD 1617: An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Approval Process for and the Operation of Virtual Public Charter Schools in the State. I think it unfortunate that the bill’s sponsor framed this as a charter school bill as I believe the committee discussion would have gone farther specifically as an investigation of the relative appropriate costs of virtual education as opposed to regular education, independently of the school governance structure. But, as it was the committee vote divided along party lines which likely damns any prospects the bill might possibly have had for enactment.
Evening House session:
Forestry permits in the shoreland zone
On LD 1673: An Act To Further Delegate Permit-granting Authority to the Bureau of Forestry, I voted with the narrow 79-60 majority to accept the committee’s majority Ought To Pass As Amended report. The bill seeks to consolidate and simplify forest harvesting permitting under the Natural Resources Protection Act to a single agency instead of dividing it between the Bureau of Forestry for the Unorganized Territories and the DEP for municipalities. Those who voted against the committee report did so largely out of suspicion that the state Bureau of Forestry is likely to be less diligent than the DEP about enforcing the rules. But, as the rules themselves are unchanged and there is no evidence that the rules are inadequately enforced in the UT, I voted in favor of simplified oversight.
Thursday, March 20
Charter funding and teacher evaluations
Morning, met with Commissioner Rier about my charter funding bill which the Commissioner remains eager to move forward. Also discussed the language in my amended bill regarding teacher evaluations towards which I understand the Department has no substantial objection.
Cell phone labeling
On LD 1013: An Act To Create the Children’s Wireless Protection Act, I voted in the narrowest of minorities, 68-69, on the motion to indefinitely postpone. The bill’s proponents support the proposed requirement that cell phone packages carry warning labels about radio frequency radiation. Opponents object that such warnings are not justified by science and are likely to subject the state to a losing lawsuit for violating Constitutional provisions of free speech and commerce. Holding the latter view, I voted with the minority.
- After 50 years, Searsport Harbor infrastructure requires upgrade, Bangor Daily News
Rehiring retired teachers
The Senate joined the House in overturning the Governor’s veto of a bill that allows retired teachers to return to teaching without jeopardizing their retirement benefits.
Friday, March 21:
FY 2014 budget report
- Unanimous Committee Report on LD 1843, FY14 Supplemental Budget
- After Legislature approves budget fixes, LePage says he’ll release bonds, Bangor Daily News
- LD 1843: An Act To Make Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government To Address Supplemental Funding Needs Projected for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2014 and To Adjust Funding for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015
- LD 1807: An Act To Restore Funding in the Maine Budget Stabilization Fund through Alternative Sources
Afternoon Committee hearing and work session
Student hunger task force
Education Committee held a public hearing and work session on LD 1819: Resolve, To Create the Task Force To End Student Hunger in Maine. Committee vote was unanimous Ought To Pass.
Penalizing schools for remedial education costs
We followed this with a work session on the Governor’s bill, LD 1812: An Act To Reduce the Burden Placed on Students as a Result of Requirements To Take Remedial Courses. Holding the consensus that it is wrong to penalize school districts for the post-secondary performance of their students, the committee voted unanimously Ought Not To Pass.
Income-based property tax credits
Monday, March 24:
Transitional mental health services for young adults
LD 1367: An Act To Require Health Insurance Carriers and the MaineCare Program To Cover the Cost of Transition Services To Bridge the Gap between High School and Independence requires the MaineCare program and health insurance carriers to provide coverage for care coordination and assertive community treatment services for eligible persons who are 26 years of age or under who meet the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis and experience significant impairment in function as determined by a licensed mental health provider. By a vote of 90-48, the House voted to accept the committee’s majority report of Ought To Pass as Amended. I voted with the majority because I believe that these services are necessary and cost-effective and that excluding them creates unfair hardship for many families.
Healthcare insurance provider networks
LD 1676: An Act To Strengthen Access Requirements and Review Standards for Health Insurance Plans requires a health insurance carrier to disclose information about its provider networks, including whether there are any hospitals, health care facilities, physicians or other providers not included in the provider’s network and any differences in an enrollee’s financial responsibilities for payment of covered services to a participating provider and to a provider not included in a provider network. The House voted 92-48 to accept the committee report of Ought-To-Pass-As-Amended. I voted with the majority because I believe that insurance purchasers should understand which providers are included and excluded from their plans.
Governor’s draft veto of evaluations bill
Lunchtime meeting with Governor’s policy advisor Tom Desjardins regarding teacher evaluations. Desjardins informed me that the Governor plans to veto this bill (which hasn’t yet been printed) and, as a courtesy, shared with me the Governor’s draft veto letter which objects to allowing teachers to have a voice in developing their evaluations system.
Committee confirmation hearings
Afternoon our committee held confirmation hearings for the Governor’s nominations to the boards of the Community College System and University of Maine System. The nominees included former gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody who operates a large and successful auto body repair business and whom the Governor was nominating to both boards. Although some committee members had reservations about Moody’s qualifications to serve on both boards, I voted in favor of his nomination. Probably would have supported him anyway, but what clinched it for me was Moody stating his belief that it makes good business sense to empower employees.
Tuesday, March 25:
Instead of delaying by referring the bill to committee this late in the session, the House voted to indefinitely postpone consideration of the citizen-initiated bill LD 1845: An Act To Prohibit the Use of Dogs, Bait or Traps When Hunting Bears Except under Certain Circumstances in order to send to voters at referendum as quickly as possible — as that almost certainly would be the ultimate outcome of the legislative policy debate anyway.
Troubled MaineCare rides program
LD 1663: Resolve, To Terminate a MaineCare Transportation Contract. MAJ OTP-A: (86-56 party lines, prevails)
- Maine House approves canceling MaineCare rides contracts, Press Herald
- Bills to End MaineCare Rides and Medicaid Study Contracts Advance, MPBN
On LD 1660: An Act Regarding Bad Faith Assertions of Patent Infringement, a bill which seeks to provide needed protections for community credit unions and banks from having to defend against expensive and frivolous claims of patent infringement, the House voted 74-68 in favor of the minority committee report of Ought-To-Pass-As-Amended. I voted in the narrow majority because I support protecting community financial institutions and also object to the other committee amendment which unexplainably carves out an exception for big pharmaceutical companies.
Curtailing contract of controversial Medicaid study
On LD 1794: An Act To Cancel the No-bid Alexander Group Contract To Produce Savings in Fiscal Year 2013-14, the House voted 80-60 in support of the majority committee report of Ought-To-Pass-As-Amended. I voted with the majority on this because reports suggest that this study is substantially flawed and behind schedule and because the study was improperly commissioned.
Fixing charter school funding tax shift
Met with Commissioner Rier and subsequently with our committee analyst to review draft language for my bill to remove the local burden of funding state-approved charter schools by advance state-level funding of state-approved charters.
University of Maine budget cuts
Afternoon meeting with UMS Chancellor Page and USM President Kalikow to understand the student protests in response to the budget cuts in the University System and particularly at the University of Southern Maine.
- If it’s going to have a shot, USM has to be integral to community, Greg Kesich, Press Herald
- With $183M in reserve, UMaine System pressured to either save money or faculty, Bangor Daily News
- Students, faculty say USM public policy program threatened by controversial cuts, Bangor Daily News
- Crisis at USM manufactured or real? Here’s a deeper look, Press Herald
Wednesday, March 26:
In order to gain broader support for the legislation, the House amended LD 1252: An Act To Improve Maine’s Economy and Energy Security with Solar and Wind Energy to restrict the solar rebates to state residents and to extend some rebates, on the basis of income, for the installation of heat pumps. I voted with the substantial majority 109-30 because I believe renewable energy production is essential to Maine’s future..
On LD 1247: An Act To Expand Coverage of Family Planning Services, which extends contraceptive and disease-prevention services under Medicaid to low-income adults and adolescents, I voted with the 92-48 majority to accept the committee’s Ought To Pass as Amended report.
Independent living for the disabled
On LD 1757: Resolve, To Establish the Blue Ribbon Commission on Independent Living and Disability, which establishes a blue ribbon commission on independent living and disability, I voted with the 101-36 majority.
Ensuring business commitment in exchange for tax concessions
On LD 1710: An Act To Retain Call Centers in Maine, a bill which seeks to claw back state grants or tax benefit from call centers which relocate within five years of receiving such a public incentive, I voted with the 78-63 majority to accept the committee’s report of Ought To Pass as Amended because I believe it’s fair to expect commitment from businesses in exchange for favorable tax benefits.
Impeding transfers of private property to the federal government
For the Judiciary Committee’s work session on the Governor’s bill LD 1828: An Act To Limit Consent Regarding Land Transfers to the Federal Government, I relayed testimony against the bill on behalf of Acadia National Park which is concerned that such legislation would disrupt carefully negotiated ongoing agreements the Park has made with private owners within the Park’s established boundaries. In response, the Judiciary Committee voted to turn the bill into a study and refer the study to the Attorney General.
- Bill would give Maine Legislature ‘final say’ on allowing another national park, Bangor Daily News
- LePage’s anti-park bill draws lots of support during first hearing, Bangor Daily News
Wind turbine siting
In an evening session, the House debated a number of bills related to the siting of wind turbines:
LD 1147: An Act To Protect Maine’s Scenic Character seeks to obstruct all wind development within 15 miles of designated scenic resources such as the Appalachian Trail and Acadia National Park. As I understand the agenda of most of this bill’s supporters to be wholly opposed to renewable energy development, I voted in the narrow 70-64 majority opposing the bill.
LD 1323: An Act Regarding Wind Power Siting in the Unorganized Territory seeks to remove the expedited permitting process for wind development as implemented by legislation following the previous Governor’s task force. Again, as I understand the agenda of most of this bill’s supporters to be wholly opposed to renewable energy development, I voted in the minority 56-78 majority opposing the bill. The bill is currently in non-concurrence in the Senate.
On LD 1791: An Act To Expand Benefits from Maine’s Wind Resource, a bill from the Governor seeking to remove the specific goals of installed capacity from Maine’s Wind Act and replace them with non-specific aspirations for Maine jobs and reduced utility rates, I voted in the narrow 69-67 majority to accept the committee report of Ought Not To Pass.
Concealed weapons permitting
During the debate on LD 222: An Act Designating the Chief of the State Police as the Only Issuing Authority of a Permit To Carry a Concealed Handgun which was favored by a bipartisan 12-1 report from the Criminal Justice Committee, I voted in the 76-59 majority in opposition to an amendment which rose abruptly on the floor in an effort to completely remove any requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
- NRA amendment complicates Maine gun-permit overhaul, Steve Mistler
- Maine House approves significant reforms to concealed weapon permitting process, Bangor Daily News
Thursday, March 27:
Charter school funding
Met with Commissioner Rier to discuss mutual goals regarding implementing state-level charter school funding. Commissioner Rier says Governor will veto any proposal which sets charter school funding at the same 97% rate of EPS allowed to public school districts.
Ocean Acidification Study
By a remarkable unanimous roll call vote, the House approved final passage of the ocean acidification legislation that I cosponsored, LD 1602: Resolve, Establishing the Commission To Study the Effects of Ocean Acidification and Its Potential Effects on Commercial Shellfish Harvested and Grown along the Maine Coast
For the afternoon I attended the Appropriations Committee’s public hearings on bond proposals that I have cosponsored and which would potentially bring $23 million in state support to projects on Mount Desert Island. These include:
- LD 1767: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for the Purchase of the Bar Harbor Ferry Terminal
- LD 1709: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Provide Funds To Develop Lobster Processing Capacity in the State
- LD 1756: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support the Growth of and To Build Infrastructure for the Marine and Biotechnology Sectors of the State’s Economy
- LD 1827: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support Maine Small Business and Job Creation
- Committee endorses $73 million bond to grow Maine businesses, Press Herald
- Maine Lawmakers Consider $100 Million in Bond Proposals, MPBN
University system funding cuts
- Bill to stop Maine university cutbacks voted down, Press Herald
- Legislative Council rejects bill to stall University of Maine system cuts, Bangor Daily News
- Legislative Panel Rejects Bill to Halt UMaine System Cuts, MPBN
Final disposition of casino bills
- Maine Senate deals fatal blow to 6 gaming bills, Bangor Daily News
- Tribal Hopes for Washington County Casino Dashed, MPBN
Friday, March 28:
In the morning session, the House debated LD 936: An Act To Authorize Municipalities To Impose Service Charges on Tax-exempt Property Owned by Certain Nonprofit Organizations which seeks to allow municipalities to assess additional charges on certain large non-profit organizations such as colleges and hospitals. While I sympathize with the hardships municipal taxpayers are facing, I understand that most nonprofits already make payments in lieu of taxes and are assessed service charges for water and sewer. Restoring municipal revenue sharing and refueling the circuit breaker program also seem to me to be more direct ways to relieve local tax burdens. Moreover, this bill concerns me because it subjects only colleges and hospitals to additional assessments while inconsistently exempting others such as community and religious organizations. In the 80-57 roll call, I voted with the majority in opposition to this bill.
State bonding capacity
Afternoon attended an Appropriations Committee briefing by Mark Cyr from the Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review on the state’s bonding capacity.
Monday, March 31:
Franchisors vs. franchisees
On the highly-lobbied franchise bill LD 1458: An Act To Enact the Maine Small Business Investment Protection Act, the House voted 75-60 in favor of the minority committee report of Ought-To-Pass-As-Amended. I voted with the majority in favor of the minority report because I think it properly extends reasonable protections to local Maine businesses and protects them against hardships imposed by larger out-of-state corporate franchisors.
- Belfast lawmaker says her proposal would ‘level the playing field’ between chains, franchise owners, Bangor Daily News
Unorganized local control
House had extended debate on another wind bill, LD 616: An Act To Amend the Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy Development under the Jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission which seeks to allow residents of the Unorganized Territories to control wind development in their respective regions. As a former resident of the Unorganized Territories, I ended up opposing this bill because I don’t see UT residents as politically disenfranchised by state-level planning any more than residents of a specific neighborhood within a municipality are disenfranchised by decisions made by their greater municipality. I also believe that the state has a greater obligation to support renewable energy in Maine. But my vote was in the minority. The Ought-Not-To-Pass vote failed by a vote of 48-89.
On premises sales of raw milk
In a difficult series of votes on LD 1786: An Act To Allow the Sale of Unregulated Farm-produced Dairy Products at the Site of Production, by a vote of 66-71, the House first failed to accept the committee’s majority report of Ought-To-Pass-As-Amended. While I have severe reservations about unpasteurized milk, I voted in the minority in support of the committee in respect for the hard work that they had done to find a compromise which supported small farmers. After that motion failed, I joined the 71-65 majority in voting Ought Not To Pass.
On the mining rules bill, LD 1772: Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 200: Metallic Mineral Exploration, Advanced Exploration and Mining, a Late-filed Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Environmental Protection, the House voted 98-39 to accept the Majority Ought-To-Pass-As-Amended report which rejects the administration’s proposed new mining rules. I voted with the majority in opposition to the proposed new rules because I believe they inadequately protected ground water from mining operations.
House deals another blow to controversial large-scale mineral mining rules, Bangor Daily News
- Maine House Rejects Proposed Mining Rules, MPBN
- Maine House votes to toss out proposed mining rules, Press Herald
Teacher evaluations move forward
On my evaluations bill, LD 1747: Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 180: Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education, by a vote of 100-34, the House voted to accept a clarifying floor amendment. Essentially, I take this to indicate the current level of support for the bill in the House, a substantial bipartisan majority but not quite sufficient for the two-thirds needed for emergency enactment.
Tuesday, April 1:
Offshore tax havens
After extended debate, by a vote of 86-58, the House supported the Tax Committees report of Ought-To-Pass-as Amended report on LD 1120: An Act To Improve Maine’s Tax Laws which would ensure that multinational corporations no longer shelter their Maine profits in offshore tax havens. I voted in the majority because I think it is unfair for large corporations with the resources to dodge taxes to have a tax advantage over local small businesses.
- Maine lawmakers approve bill to block foreign tax havens, Press Herald
- Maine Bill Targets Profits Channeled Through Offshore Tax Havens, MPBN
- Greetings Maine Legislature from Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Steve Mistler
Single-payer health care
House also debated LD 1345: An Act To Establish a Single-payer Health Care System To Be Effective in 2017 and voted 91-52 to accept the committee report of Ought-To-Pass-as Amended. This bill would commission a study to propose ways to ensure that all Maine citizens have access to quality affordable health care. I voted with the majority because I think the current system is critically unsatisfactory.
- Maine House OKs studying single-payer health care system, Press Herald
- Maine House Gives Initial OK to Universal Health Care Study, MPBN
Teacher evaluations in Senate
Without debate or a roll call, the Senate gave initial passage to LD 1747, the teacher evaluations bill.
Commission reconsiders second virtual charter school application
The Maine Charter School Commission met to reconsider the application for a second virtual charter school.
Wednesday, April 2:
Inflated calculation for education funding
At my request, the Appropriations Committee is keeping alive a carryover bill, LD 25. for further consideration. I have continued to advocate for this bill because it seeks to remove the unfunded actuarial liability for retirement costs from the state’s annual calculation of the total cost of education. I support removing the unfunded actuarial liability because it is a figure that has much more to do with how Maine has financed all state operations over the last 20 years than anything to do with actual teacher retirement costs. The previous legislature voted to add the UAL to the calculation largely just to inflate the appearance of state support for education.
LD 1597: An Act To Clarify Provisions of the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act The veto override vote was 129-12, so the veto was overridden. As this was a unanimous bipartisan report out of committee, I voted with the majority to override.
LD 1685: An Act To Ensure That All Maine Children Are Protected from Abuse and Neglect. The veto override vote was 136-6, so the veto was overridden. As this was a unanimous bipartisan report out of committee, I voted with the majority to override.
LD 1365: An Act To Promote New Models of Mobility and Access to Transportation. The veto override vote was 119-25, so the veto was overridden. As this was a unanimous bipartisan report out of committee, I voted with the majority to override.
Teacher evaluations continuing…
LD 1747: Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 180: Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education. Enactment vote was 97-45, three votes short of those necessary for emergency enactment. Bill tabled for reconsideration as a non-emergency.
After that vote, I met with Minority Leader Ken Fredette to explain reasons to support the teacher evaluations bill and to offer sufficient time for House Republicans to consider, discuss, and get comfortable with the policy.
Late afternoon discussion with Governor’s policy advisor Tom Desjardins on teacher evaluations bill. Desjardins suggested that Governor’s office has no objection to bill as amended as long as Department of Education has no objections. After that, I arranged for a morning meeting with Commissioner Rier and Senator Langley.
Thursday, April 3:
Morning meeting with Commissioner Rier and Senator Langley re evaluations rules. The Commissioner has no fundamental objections to my bill and will communicate that to Republican leadership and caucus.
Afternoon committee session
Committee review of MEPRI policy reports
- Teaching and Learning 21st Century Skills in Maine
- Developing College Readiness Indices for Maine High Schools: An Exploratory Study
- Effective Strategies for Engaging Parents in Students’ Learning to Support Achievement
Committee review and endorsement of MEPRI work plan for 2014-2015
- School funding issues
- Analyze strategies used by other states to address teacher salary gaps
- Analyze type, cost, and effectiveness of different Maine early childhood education programs
- Examine summer learning loss and impacts of summer school programs
- Analyze extent, format, and uses of collaborative professional development time
- Continue monitoring development and impacts of teacher and principal evaluations systems in Maine
- Continue monitoring implementation of Standards Based Education in Maine
Afternoon House session
On LD 1744: An Act To Protect Maine Lakes, the House voted unanimously in support.
Property Tax Fairness Credit
On the bill that I cosponsored with Speaker Eves, LD 1751: An Act To Provide Property Tax Relief to Maine Residents, the House approved the committee report of Ought To Pass As Amended and gave the bill initial passage without a roll call.
LD 1813: An Act To Hold an Advisory Referendum on Tax Reform was a bill proposed by the Governor to put a referendum question on the June ballot asking if voters want to cut taxes. By a vote of 86-55, the House rejected this bill. I voted in the majority because I believe that similar referenda have been repeatedly defeated at Maine polls and because decisions about spending are what we are elected to negotiate in the legislature.
LD 1829: An Act To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Report Annually on Investigations and Prosecutions of False Claims Made under the MaineCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Food Supplement Programs requires the Department of Health and Human Services to report annually to the Health and Human Services Committee regarding actions taken by the department to investigate program integrity under the MaineCare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food supplement programs. By a vote of 92-52, the House voted to accept the committee majority report of Ought To Pass As Amended. I voted with the majority because I believe that, rather than passing new laws to restrict welfare benefits to poor people, the state already has the tools to detect and prevent welfare fraud. This bill would aid in transparency of the administrations efforts to curtail speculative fraud.
LD 1822: An Act To Increase Integrity in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program through Restriction of Expenditures (Governor’s bill) prohibits the use of the electronic benefits transfer system at tobacco specialty stores. It requires the Department of Health and Human Services to develop an education program for recipients of benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program that emphasizes that those benefits are to be used for supporting dependent children and are not to be used to pay for tobacco products, liquor products, gambling activities, lotteries or bail. By a vote of 83-61, the House voted to accept the majority committee report as amended. I voted with the majority in respect for the committee’s work and because the bill as amended avoids more impractical, unproductive, and potentially unconstitutional limitations on federal and state welfare funds.
LD 1842: An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (Governor’s bill) removes the 24-month limit on education, training and treatment for participants in the Additional Support for People in Retraining and Employment-Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and eliminates the Parents as Scholars Program. By a vote of 85-53, the House voted to accept the committee’s report of Ought Not To Pass. I voted with the majority because I believe that these educational programs have been proven to be highly-effective in helping individuals and families out of temporary hardship.
LD 1815: An Act To Require a Work Search for Job-ready Applicants for Benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (Governor’s bill) prohibits applicants from receiving support through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program until they can demonstrate that they have applied for at least three jobs. By a vote of 70-62, the House voted against this bill. I voted with the majority against the bill because most recipients of TANF funds receive them in crisis situations of sudden job loss or domestic abuse and the law already requires them to look for work.
LD 1820: An Act To Reduce Abuse of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program through Restriction of Electronic Benefits Transfers (Governor’s bill) would prohibit a recipient of benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from using an electronic benefits transfer card, or EBT card, outside of Maine, either at an automated teller machine or for an electronic point of sale transaction. By a vote of 78-55, the House voted to accept the committee’s majority report of Ought To Pass As Amended which requires the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a report on out-of-state access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program benefits. I voted with the majority because I understood from the Attorney General that the original bill was unconstitutional and because the administration’s figures suggest that the details of out-of-state use of TANF are not well understood and that the state has the tools already to prosecute any actual instances of fraud.
- With few facts, LePage wants to restrict out-of-state EBT use, Editorial, Bangor Daily News
- Heavily debated welfare reforms go nowhere in Maine House, Press Herald
- Policy debate around restrictions on cash welfare benefits in Maine caught up in politics, Bangor Daily News
- Bill Nemitz: Welfare war story doesn’t match reality, Press Herald
- LePage’s welfare ‘reforms’ fail Maine families, Bangor Daily News
- Welfare bills move Maine in the wrong direction, Editorial, Press Herald
- Battle Over Maine Welfare Reform Bills Heats Up, MPBN
FY 2014 supplemental budget
- LePage lets Maine budget fix become law without signing, Press Herald
Friday, April 4
Tax shifting General Assistance
LD 1844: An Act To Increase Local Responsibility for General Assistance (Governor’s bill) would reduce state support for General Assistance in excess of 0.0003% of a municipality’s property valuation from 90% to 50%. Without a roll-call, the House accepted the committee’s report of Ought Not To Pass.
Attempt to resurrect Maliseets’ gambling bill
LD 1319: An Act To Authorize a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe in the State To Benefit from the Operation of an Existing Casino. Action: Joint Order to recall from the legislative files. With a two-thirds vote required, the vote was 76-65. So the bill remains dead in the legislative files. While I did vote for this bill originally, I voted in the minority in opposition to resurrecting the bill because the legislature disposed of all the gambling bills this session in favor of a better, more comprehensive planning process for establishing gambling facilities and I think this is a better approach.
LD 1552: Resolve, To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Initiate a New Rate-setting Procedure for Preschool Services for Children with Disabilities under the MaineCare Program. Veto override vote was 91-51, insufficient to override. As this had been a bipartisan majority report out of committee, I voted with the majority to override.
LD 1798: An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force Convened by the Maine Labor Relations Board Regarding Compensation for the Panel of Mediators. Veto override vote was 86-56, insufficient to override. As this had been a unanimous bipartisan report out of committee, I voted with the majority to override.
LD 1642: An Act To Clarify the Law Governing Public Disclosure of Health Care Prices. Veto override vote was 138-4, sufficient to override. As this had been a bipartisan majority report out of committee, I voted with the majority to override.
Local food hubs
LD 1431: An Act To Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy. The vote was 118-23 to accept the committee report of Ought To Pass as Amended. I voted with the majority because I think this bill will benefit both local agriculture and local school food programs.
Cutting public lands for heating assistance
LD 1838: An Act To Expand Affordable Heating Investments with Maine’s Public Resources (Governor’s bill). Vote was 89-53 to accept the committee’s majority report of Ought Not To Pass. I voted with the majority in opposition to this bill because I think that forest harvesting on public lands should be sustainable and based on good silvicultural planning rather than political expedience.
Mandating municipal Inventory of abandoned roads
LD 1177: An Act To Implement the Recommendations from the Discontinued and Abandoned Roads Stakeholder Group. Fails 50-92, indefinitely postponed. Having heard objections from local municipal government about the requirements for each municipality to establish an annual inventory of road statuses going back to 1965,, I voted with the majority in opposition.
- Bill that would make Maine towns inventory roads hits roadblock in House, Bangor Daily News
Costs of virtual education
LD 1617: An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Approval Process for and the Operation of Virtual Public Charter Schools in the State. This bill seeks to review the cost components of virtual education in order to establish what the proper public reimbursement rates should be for them. Vote was 86-55. I voted in the majority in support of the bill.
Reviewing tax loopholes
LD 1463: An Act To Examine Best Practices Relating to Tax Expenditures directs the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation to examine best practices relating to tax expenditures. The committee will examine various approaches to tax expenditures, including but not limited to placing a cap on tax expenditures and developing expenditure budgets, in order to determine the best way to achieve the goals of tax expenditures in the most effective and efficient manner possible and to ensure transparency and accountability. 101-41. I voted with majority in support because currently the state exempts more tax revenue than it collects and there is no annual review of the effectiveness of those exemptions.
Patent trolls revisited
LD 1660: An Act Regarding Bad Faith Assertions of Patent Infringement. The vote to Recede and Concur with Senate version which includes exception for big pharma was 105-28. I voted in the minority because I oppose the amendment to the bill which carves out an exception for big pharmaceutical companies without any explanation as to why the exemption is either necessary or good policy. To me, this seems a plain example of the bad influence of big money in politics. Without the exemption, the bill would provide the necessary and reasonable protections to banks and credit unions. Only fear of a veto by the Governor allowed this exemption to enter the bill and caused this bill to advance in this form.
More discussions on teacher evaluations bill
Afternoon discussions with Minority Leader Representative Fredette, Governor’s policy advisor Tom Desjardins, fellow committee member Representative Pouliot, and Commissioner Rier re evaluations bill. Hope to bring this bill to a vote again in the House with substantial bipartisan support.