The Coastal Packet

Friday, April 19

Maine population increases slightly

News Center Maine -As of July 2018, the census estimates the total population of Maine at 1,338,404 people.

The population is up 0.8%, or 10,035 since April 2010.

Maine experienced a net migration in 2018 of 5,039 people. Of those, 570 were international and 4,469 were domestic.

Cumberland and York counties saw the largest population increases. The Portland-South Portland metro saw the biggest population changes, with 3,140 more people in 2018 and 21-thousand more people from 2010.

Thursday, April 18

Why Maine needs to help immigrants

Portland Press Herald -You have probably heard this argument: We can’t afford to help immigrants when there are people who were born here who are also in need.

But the people who say it have got it backward: Because we have people in need, we can’t afford not to help immigrants.

Thats why we support L.D. 1317, a bill which would restore eligibility for basic services administered by the state to people who are in Maine seeking asylum.

.... Maine is one of the few states that records more deaths each year than births. The only reason that our population is stagnant and not actually declining is in-migration. We are also the oldest state in the country based on median age. If people age out of the workforce and no one is there to take their place, our economy will shrink, and we will be less capable than we are now of caring for the people who the last administration labeled “truly needy.”

In the face of hysterical rhetoric from anti-immigration extremists, lawmakers should take the opportunity this bill provides to speak up for Maine’s future.

Monday, April 15

Report: Maine doesn't provide proper care for indigent defendants

ACLU -The 6th Amendment guarantees all people accused of a crime the right to counsel during their proceedings, and the 1963 Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright further ensures that people who can’t afford an attorney – the indigent – will be provided one by the state.

On April 4, the Sixth Amendment Center – an independent organization dedicated to upholding that very right – released a report on the current state of 6th Amendment protections in Maine.l.

The report outlines several ways Maine is failing to meet its obligations under the 6th Amendment. It goes on to make several recommendations for improving Maine’s system and bringing it in line with the Constitution. This includes:
Make sure a defendant’s actual counsel is present at arraignment, and not just the court’s “lawyer of the day.”

Set higher requirements for attorneys able to provide indigent defense, making sure only lawyers capable of providing high-quality defense are on the list.

Require attorneys to keep records of their cases and perform regular audits of these record.

Require lawyers to review discovery and talk to clients before entering a plea. Ensure attorneys are not overbilling for their services.

Ensure attorneys who are not providing adequate counsel are removed from the indigent defense system.

And, improving the supports provided to the system:

Establish a state office of the public defender with staff lawyers that can provide mentorship and training to private attorneys aiding in indigent defense.

Hold regular, high-quality trainings for lawyers providing indigent defense. Increase the pay for attorneys providing indigent defense

Build support for indigent defense through a state official dedicated to addressing criminal defense issues.

Tuesday, April 9

Less than one percent raised last quarter by Collins came from Maine

Maine Beacon -Sen. Susan Collins has so far raised $3.8 million for her re-election campaign, with the vast majority coming from industry groups, Republican PACs, lobbyists and wealthy out-of-state donors, according to her latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.

During this reporting period, Collins took in a total of $1,119,050 from individual contributions and $1,424,645 overall. Only 15 of the individual, itemized donors during this period live in Maine. Of those, nine are listed as executives with local defense industry heavyweight Bath Iron Works.

Contributions from Mainers total less than 1% of money raised this reporting period.

Saturday, April 6

Maine lacks public defenders

Maine Beacon - Maine is the only state in the country that relies completely on hiring private attorneys to represent defendants without the ability to pay legal costs. With a new report warning that the state is failing to protect the legal rights of its poorest residents, pressure is now mounting on the legislature to adopt significant changes.

In other states and cities, representation of low-income defendants is handled by a public defender office, which Maine lacks entirely. That absence means hired attorneys may have a financial incentive to overbill the state and spend less time on their cases, which can result in poor defendants accepting harsher guilty pleas or paying higher court penalties, according to a report issued Thursday to state lawmakers by the Sixth Amendment Center in Boston.

Saturday, March 23

Corrections chief pushes jobs for ex-prisoners

WGME -“I believe in redemption. I believe we have all fallen short in one way or another. The people that I’ve worked with within county and state correctional facilities are redeemable. There are a lot of good employees there, and a lot of good opportunities for you employers,” Maine Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty said during a Maine Development Foundation forum in Rockland titled “Hiring Workers from the Justice System.”

Maine has five adult correctional facilities statewide. They house about 2,400 inmates serving an average sentence of about 18 months, according to Deputy Corrections Commissioner Ryan Thornell. The number of new inmates entering the system each year is about equal to the number of inmates who are released.

Throughout their incarceration, inmates have access to a range of vocational, educational, substance abuse and criminogenic programs. Thornell said the department’s ability to provide this programming, which the DOC intends to increase under the new administration, positions the department to tackle some of the big issues facing the state, such as addiction and maintaining a skilled workforce.

“We have an interest in ensuring public safety, addressing addiction needs, providing meaningful programming and opportunities that hopefully make [inmates] successful,” Thornell said. “We also have an opportunity and a willing population to train in certain skill sets and connect them with employment opportunities that directly impact Maine’s economy.”

Friday, March 15

Maine Republicans tweet against immigrants

Press Herald -The Maine Republican Party issued a series of tweets late Thursday falsely blaming immigrants for outbreaks of infectious diseases that health officials say are actually caused by reduced vaccination rates among U.S. residents.

The tweets, which also target the city of Portland and immigrants seeking asylum there, were condemned by Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling and some members of the Republican Party.

One tweet read, “We need a serious talk not only about vaccination but migration. Portland, & many US cities, have homeless crises driven by asylum claims & a record number of migrants crossing the border from countries lacking vaccination causes certain diseases to return.”

Thursday, March 14

Fentanyl Prescriptions Down 31 Percent In Maine

Maine Public Broadcasting -Doctors in Maine have made the sharpest reductions in the country in the amount of fentanyl they prescribe. Fentanyl prescriptions from Maine physicians fell by almost 31 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Wednesday, March 13

Maine Green Independent Party convention

2019 Green Independent Party Convention!

Sunday May 19th 9AM – 4PM

At Viles Arboretum
153 Hospital St,
Augusta Maine

Tuesday, March 12

Maine has most women in high political positions

Amy McDonald, Press Herald -This March, in celebration of Women’s History Month, it is worth noting that Maine’s newly elected governor, Janet Mills, recently made Maine arguably the “pinkest” state in the union. Her final Cabinet appointment represented – like the governor herself – the first time a woman has held that particular office (agriculture, conservation and forestry commissioner) – and also ensured that more than half of the governor’s Cabinet comprises women.

As of the last election, Maine now also has a state Legislature that is 38 percent female and a congressional delegation that’s half women.

Only one other state governed by a woman – Oregon – comes close. But while Oregon has more women in its state Legislature (40 percent), only half of its Cabinet-level offices are held by women. And it has no U.S. senators, while only one of its five U.S. House representatives is a woman.

So what is it about Maine that enables women to seek (and gain) political office?

Part of the reason is its long history of female role models. In 1933 (March, fittingly), Frances Perkins broke a glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to fill a U.S. Cabinet post, as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of labor. And in the 1950s, Margaret Chase Smith became the first woman to be elected to both the House and the Senate and (in 1964) to be nominated for the presidency by a major party. She has been often cited as an inspiration by both Sen. Susan Collins and former Sen. Olympia Snowe. (All three are Republicans.)

Getting women to the polls is the final step in electing women. Here again, Maine often takes top honors. The most recent data (from 2010 through 2012) rank it third in getting women to register (76.8 percent) and second in getting them to vote (64.3 percent). Oregon, by comparison, ranks 15th and 6th respectively.

Coastal Packet - We also credit Maine's standing in part to its maritime and farming tradition, both trades that left women in more powerful family positions.

Saturday, March 9

Collins suppports another bad judge

Maine Beacon- In a confirmation decided along party lines, Senator Susan Collins voted to appoint 37-year-old Allison Jones Rushing to a lifetime seat on the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, despite Senate Democrats raising concern over her past arguments against marriage equality as well as her affiliation with a Christian group accused of promoting homophobic and transphobic policies. The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday 53-44 to seat Rushing, who will now be the youngest jurist in the federal court system.

Wednesday, March 6

Pay increase not hurting Maine restaurants

Maine Beacon -While opponents of the state’s minimum wage law continue to claim that restaurants are unable to pay workers higher wages, publicly available labor and tax data shows that Maine’s restaurant and bar industry continues to flourish and has grown significantly even as voter-approved wage hikes have been implemented.

At beginning of 2017, as the minimum wage increased to $9 an hour, Maine’s bar and restaurant workers also got a raise in their non-tip pay. The wage floor for tipped workers rose from $3.75 to $5 an hour, a 33-percent hike and by far the largest in state history.

Later that year, the legislature repealed part of the minimum wage referendum, slowing but not completely halting wage increases for tipped workers in future years. The base wage for tipped workers increased again at the start of this year, from $5 to $5.50.

Friday, March 1

Collins' environmenal score continues to plummet

Maine Beacon -Senator Susan Collins’ support for environmentally responsible policies has withered under President Donald Trump, according to the League of Conservation Voters, which pointed to the senator’s backing of “extreme judicial and executive nominees” as the reason for her precipitous decline in the organization’s annual legislative scorecard.

Collins scored just 21 percent for her votes in 2018, according to the scorecard, which was released on Wednesday, falling from 32 percent in 2017, 76 percent in 2016, and 60 percent in 2014. Maine’s senior senator has a lifetime average score of 61 percent.

Food stamp benefits to triple

News Cetner Maine -A SNAP benefit [aka food stamps] for working families in Maine is set to increase by more than three times starting in March, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would bring the Working Families Supplement benefit from $15 to $50 per month for some 13,000 Mainers in need.

"Too many Maine families who receive SNAP and TANF are still going hungry because their level of aid is simply inadequate," DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a statement.

Thursday, February 28

The mind of Paul LePage

Maine Beacon - Speaking to the hosts of the WVOM morning show this week, former Governor Paul LePage lambasted a bill being considered by Maine’s legislature to join with other states to essentially bypass the Electoral College and ensure that the President is elected by the national popular vote.

“Actually what would happen if they do what they say they’re gonna do is white people will not have anything to say. It’s only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida,” said LePage.

The former governor, calling into the show from his home in Florida, also labeled the proposal “an insane process” and warned that “we’re gonna be forgotten people.”

Monday, February 25

UMaine students pay more for food than average citizen

Maine Campus -First-year students at the University of Maine are required to buy an “unlimited” meal plan with the lowest possible price being $2,511 per semester. This is more than twice as much as the average American pays for meals every day.

Saturday, February 23

Maine-New Hampshire bridge rebuild to cost $17 million more

Press Herald- Work on the Piscataqua River Bridge, which connects Kittery and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is likely to cost $52.6 million, almost $17 million over initial estimates. The bridge on Interstate 95 is Maine’s principal artery for commuters, freight and tourists. About 74,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day, and on busy summer weekends daily traffic balloons to at least 130,000 cars and trucks.

Unprecedented measures to keep that traffic moving while construction crews resurface the nearly mile-long, six-lane bridge means the project will cost more than anyone expected. Related Major construction planned for I-95 in southern Maine likely to cause headaches for years

Resurfacing the 46-year-old bridge will require fixing issues with its concrete deck, installing a new waterproof membrane and repaving. Last year, the Maine Department of Transportation estimated the project would cost $36 million and take about three years.

Sunday, February 17

LePage and staff rented more than 40 rooms at Trump hotel

Press Herald -Former Gov. Paul LePage and his staff members paid for more than 40 rooms at Washington, D.C.’s Trump International Hotel during a two-year period, spending at least $22,000 in Maine taxpayer money at a business owned by the president’s family.

Wednesday, February 13

Maine one of two states where deaths outnumber births

Rural Blog -In Maine, the nation's most rural state in population percentage (61.3%), seniors account for a rapidly increasing share of the population; demographers say the trend has reached a tipping point.

"As baby boomers head into retirement, and many young people move away in search of opportunity, Maine is one of only two states, along with West Virginia, where deaths now outnumber births," Brian MacQuarrie reports for The Boston Globe. "That gulf is reshaping life here in myriad ways, from shrinking the workforce to intensifying the demand for services for the elderly, and it will only widen in the coming years, demographers predict.

Monday, February 11

Young hunters decline in Maine

Press Herald - Sales of the licenses to young Mainers have dropped 40 percent, from 17,515 in 2002 to 10,593 in 2017, the last year for which the state has data; sales to out-of-state youngsters have also dropped. The state requires the licenses for hunters age 16 and under.

Saturday, February 9

Maine student loan debt doubled in past ten years

Maine Public Broadcasting -A new study from the credit reporting agency Experian finds that student loan debt in Maine has nearly doubled since 2008.

According to the study, Mainers owed $6 billion in student loan debt in the third quarter of 2018, almost twice what they owed 10 years ago.

The numbers in Maine aren't entirely unusual. Several states saw student loan debt rise sharply rise as well. But recent Maine graduates continue to carry some of the highest levels of student debt in the country. The average borrower from the class of 2017 owed more than $31,000.

Collins atacked over Kavanaugh abortion decision

Press Herald -Democrats and liberal groups Friday pointed to a Supreme Court ruling in an abortion case to argue that Justice Brett Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, focusing their ire on Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who supported Kavanaugh’s nomination last year and faces a tough 2020 re-election.

The outcry from the left follows the court’s 5-4 vote to block a restrictive Louisiana abortion law.

While Democrats hailed the decision, they pointed to Kavanaugh’s dissent as a sign that he is poised to side with conservatives in future rulings on abortion rights. And they are particularly incensed at Collins, who delivered a 44-minute floor speech in October declaring her support for Kavanaugh. At the time, Collins, who supports abortion rights, said she did not believe that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.

Collins’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment

Friday, February 8

King wants more military involvement in drug war

Maine Public Broadcasting -U.S. Senator Angus King is pressing military leaders to provide more information about the resources they need to bolster drug interdiction efforts. King speaks with reporters following a closed door policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Credit Andrew Harnick / AP Photo

“These drugs are killing our people and — one-a-day in Maine — and this is it seems to me a high return opportunity here," King said.

King urged leaders to advise the Committee on what might be needed in the way of ships, aircraft or other resources, as work starts on next year’s budget.

Wednesday, February 6

Portland temperature hits record

Spot On Maine -The temperature soared to a record-breaking 62 degrees in Maine's largest city. National Weather Service meteorologist James Brown said the high temperature Tuesday in Portland smashed the old record for the date of 51 degrees, set in 2005.

Working to spread ranked choice voting to state spots

WGME - A Maine advocacy group is working to get both federal and state races determined through ranked-choice voting. The League of Women Voters hopes to have a constitutional amendment passed that would allow for future Maine governor and legislative races to appear on a ranked-choice ballot.

Tuesday, February 5

Lobster business hit hard by Trump-China trade war

Press Herald -Maine lobster dealers are struggling to manage the fallout from the U.S.-China trade war. Before the tariff, China was the second biggest importer of U.S. lobster, buying $128.5 million worth of it in 2017. The U.S. was on track to double its lobster sales to China before the tariff initiated by President Trump hit in July, according to trade data. Since then, U.S. lobster exports have all but dried up.

Saturday, February 2

Collins gets big campaign funds after Kavanaugh vote

Bangor Daily News - After she delivered a pivotal vote that helped seat Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, Maine Sen. Susan Collins had the best fundraising quarter of her career, shattering her previous best with the help of a flood of out-of-state money.

After announcing her decision to vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s controversial nomination during a speech on the Senate floor in early October, Collins raised $1.8 million in the final quarter of 2018, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. 

Wednesday, January 23

Mills rejects work requirements LePage sought for Medicaid beneficiaries

Good news in house sales

Press Herald -According to Maine Listings, a total of 17,864 homes changed hands in 2018, a 1.3 percent increase over the previous year.

The value of homes jumped 7.5 percent over the previous year to a statewide median sale price of $215,000. The median indicates that half the homes sold for more money and half sold for less.

Monday, January 21

Craft breweries booming in Maine

Bangor Daily News -Breweries and related activities by their suppliers and employees contributed a total of $260.4 million to the Maine economy in 2017, up from $225 million in 2016, according to a report released by the Maine Brewers’ Guild and the University of Maine School of Economics.

That translates into $1.5 million in excise taxes, $168 million in beer sold and 2,560 jobs with a total of $54.8 million in wages. Most of that, roughly 1,910 workers, was direct employment, up from 1,600 in 2016. Another 650 jobs were attributed to the multiplier effect of expenditures by brewery suppliers and employees.

In 2017 there were 114 breweries, up from 85 in 2016.

Friday, January 18

200 Maine inmates to get tablets

Maine Public Broadcasting -Nearly 200 inmates in the Maine State Prison system will soon have access to secure, digital tablet technology and limited texting. It's part of a new initiative at the Department of Corrections to enhance educational programming and prepare prisoners to reenter society.

The tablets are being provided at no-cost to taxpayers, but there is concern about related fees charged to prisoners and their families.

Around the country tablet technology is making its way into jails and prisons. More than 18 states, including Maine, have adopted some form of specialized tablets that are distributed by vendors like Chicago-based Edovo, a private startup that got off the ground six years ago.

Thursday, January 17

Mill orders early release of food stamps

News Center Maine -Thousands of Maine families will receive next month's SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits early on Thursday as the government shutdown enters day 27.

Gov. Janet Mills made the announcement early this week to prepare for the shutdown's impact on federal money coming into the state.

Maine is not alone in this move with states across the country releasing the money to recipients early--federal money Mill's says the state already has.

180,000 Maine families are impacted by this. That is roughly one in every seven people.

Saturday, January 12

Collins opposes national emergency

Press Herald -Maine Sen. Susan Collins, one of a handful of Republicans involved in negotiations to broker a deal that would end a three-week government shutdown, said Friday that she would oppose any plan by President Trump to declare a national emergency to fund a border wall.

Collins said she believes lawmakers can still find a compromise, and said she hopes to persuade some Democrats to join her small group of senators in crafting a solution that will earn White House approval.

Friday, January 4

Report shows 8% drop in space for marine uses of Portland waterfront

Mills’ ‘Executive Order 1’ makes 70,000 more Mainers eligible for health insurance

Maine worst in electric power disruption

Maine Public Broadcasting -Maine electricity users endured the most frequent service interruptions and the longest outages of any state in the U.S. in 2017, according to federal reliability data.

Utilities say that highlights the natural challenges they face here, but critics say the findings also point to the utilities’ failure to rise to the challenge.

Data compiled by the federal Energy Information Administration show Maine electricity customers in 2017 experienced, on average, more than three service interruptions — the highest rate in the country and more than double the national average. And Mainers were in the dark longer than anywhere else — on average more than 40 hours.

Wednesday, January 2

New Portland community center for artists of color

Maine alternative sex website launched

News Center Maine -A new online resource guide for Maine's LGBTQ community is now live online. The website Out In Maine connects Mainers to resources, gay-friendly businesses, as well social events. The free website is connected with resources in all 16 Maine counties including stores, businesses, places of worship, and schools in addition to LGBTQ support organizations.