The Coastal Packet

Friday, March 24

Collins votes to breach Internet privacys

Demand Progress - Today, the Senate voted 50-48 to kill rules the FCC put in place last year to prevent internet providers from selling their customers' private information without permission. That means a green light for Comcast, Time Warner Cable, or GCI to spy on you, and sell private information about you to the highest bidder. Whether you like it or not.  Susan M. Collins, was a swing vote on this issue, and ended up siding with the big cable companies.

Maine's cod fishermen have worst year in history

Wednesday, March 22

Lyme disease survey

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Maine has left $2 billion in federal funds on the table over past five years

Manie Public Broadcating - Maine has left nearly $2 billion of federal funds on the table over the past five years, according to a progressive think tank, which attributes half of that amount to a decision to not expand Medicaid. The Maine Center for Economic Policy says it undertook the study to bring together scattered reports about grants not sought and available funds not accessed by the state. Center Director Garrett Martin says that in addition to the loss of Medicaid expansion funds under the Affordable Care Act, the state missed out on matching highway funds estimated at $196 million. Martin says both of those programs would have required state funds to be spent to access federal funding.

Tuesday, March 21

Amazon to pay Maine sales tax

Bangor Daily News - Online retail giant Amazon plans to start collecting sales tax April 1 on items sold to Maine residents, according to a report by WMTW.

State officials with the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development confirmed the decision late Monday, saying it would put Maine businesses on a level playing field with sellers on the online marketplace.

“Amazon’s decision to collect and remit sales tax to the state of Maine is an important first step in leveling the playing field,” George Gervais, commissioner of the department, said.

The change will add 5.5 percent to the price of items sold through Amazon, and the decision follows similar moves in other states. Maine is one of only six states where Amazon does not collect and send sales tax to state government.

Sunday, March 19

Mainers could pay up to seven times more for insurance under GOP Don't Care

Press Herald - More than 25,000 older Mainers who have Affordable Care Act insurance could pay up to seven times as much for health insurance under the proposed Republican health care bill under consideration in the House.

Mainers in their 50s and early 60s living in the state’s poorest, most rural counties would be hardest-hit by the Republican bill to replace Obamacare, according to a Maine Sunday Telegram analysis of data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Kaiser Family Foundation, with premiums that could soar from a couple of hundred dollars monthly to more than $1,300 each month. Health care town hall Sunday in Portlan

Saturday, March 18

Maine second in voting turnout

WCSH - Maine had the second highest voter turnout in the country for a presidential election. A new report says 72.8 percent of Maine's voting eligible population cast ballots in the 2016 election. Maine is second only to Minnesota, which reached nearly 75 percent.

Friday, March 17

Organizing a credit union for farmers

Press Herald - A Maine-based project to create a new credit union for farmers and food entrepreneurs has reached an important milestone with the formation of an expert panel that includes one member with a famous grandfather who helped create the modern credit union system. On March 6, Maine Harvest Credit Project hosted its “organizer event,” a critical part of obtaining a charter and achieving recognition as Maine’s 59th credit union. State and federal law requires a new credit union to form a group of organizers to review and adopt its by-laws and appoint the first board of directors

How Trump budget would affect Maine

Thursday, March 16

Maine employment reaches all time high after minimm wage increase

Maine Beacon - Average hourly earnings for private-sector Maine workers increased to $22.70 an hour and total employment increased to an all-time high, with a gain of more than 4,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs from December.

Significant employment gains were seen among Maine’s restaurants and hotels, with the accommodation and food service sector gaining 700 jobs.

Maine’s minimum wage increased from $7.50 to $9 an hour in January, with the sub-minimum base wage for workers who receive tips, like restaurant servers, increasing from $3.75 to $5 an hour. The minimum wage will continue to increase on an annual basis until it reaches $12 an hour in 2020. The tipped wage will reach $12 in 2024.

“Governor LePage, the restaurant lobby and other corporate interests made apocalyptic predictions about the minimum wage increase. These numbers make it pretty hard to claim that the sky is falling,” said Mainers for Fair Wages campaign manager Amy Halsted, who led the successful effort to raise the minimum wage by ballot measure in November. “These are very early numbers, but so far they indicate that the result will be the same as for every other minimum wage increase: workers will make a little more and spend it locally, benefiting both their families and our local economy.”

Another jump in Maine tourism

Press Herald - Maine’s tourism industry saw its revenue increase for the fourth straight year in 2016, growing to $6 billion, a 6 percent bump over 2015. The 35.8 million visitors who fueled the growth included a resurgence of Canadian vacationers...

Mid-Atlantic metropolitan areas such as New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have become a rich vein for Maine tourism, particularly for first-time visitors who tend to stay longer and spend more money. The state hosted about 5 million first-time visitors in 2016, half a million more than in 2015.

Wednesday, March 15

Lewiston's new common ground: French language

Maine Public Broadcasting - There’s an old French saying, Lose your language, lose your faith. But in one part of Maine, both are being revived with the help of hundreds of French-speaking African immigrants who are connecting with local Franco American residents in ways neither ever expected. That’s changing the dialog in a community where the “language of love” was often suppressed.

Cecile Thornton of Lewiston is what’s known as a Francophone. She grew up speaking French at home and in parochial school. Classes were taught half the day in French and the other half in English. That wasn’t unusual in towns in Maine and around New England where French-Canadian immigrants came to work in factories beginning in the late 1800s. But their language and culture were not readily embraced. And even in the late 1960s Thornton says she still didn’t feel accepted.

“In my high school years I have to say that I was a little embarrassed and possibly, you could say, ashamed of being a Francophone,” Thornton says. “A lot of ‘dumb Frenchmen’ jokes were going around back then. So I worked really hard actually to lose my Franco accent.”

By the time she was 20 and married Thornton says she had dropped French almost entirely. She raised her kids. Moved away. Came back. And about a year ago she found she deeply missed her identity as a Francophone. So she started going to the Franco Center in Lewiston and joined a club that meets twice a week to converse exclusively in French.

What Thornton wasn’t expecting is that half the members of the French club come from Francophone countries in Africa. Over the last decade several hundred refugees and asylum seekers from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have settled in Lewiston and Auburn. Thornton says speaking with them has improved her French dramatically. And she’s become close with the new Mainers, so close that a few months ago she traveled to Rwanda to attend a wedding. She says the personal connections wouldn’t have been possible if she didn’t speak the same language.

“It’s meant a lot,” she says. “We’re like family. And for me family is important because my family is away. My two daughters live on the West Coast so it’s nice to have a family.”

“We definitely do talk about the politics. The Americans try to comfort us and tell us, hopefully, it’s going to be okay. And I choose to believe that it is going to be,” says Bright Lukusa, she was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo 19 years ago. French Club meeting. Credit Susan Sharon/Maine Public

Until she arrived in Lewiston with her mother and brother late last year, Lukusa had lived most of her life in South Africa. It’s been a struggle to keep up with her French which she learned as a child, but she says it’s important.

“I’m a strong advocate of being proud of where you come from and never being afraid of who you really are,” she says.

As asylum seekers and new Mainers, Lukusa says she and her older brother and mother are determined to make a new life here. In addition to French club, they take classes, attend Catholic church, volunteer at the immigrant resource center and socialize once a month at “La Rencontre.” or “the gathering.” It’s a luncheon at the Franco Center that typically draws about 200 people interested in speaking French as they break bread together.

Uenmployment rate at new low


Times Record -  The state’s unemployment rate in January was Maine’s lowest since 2001. Preliminary Maine Department of Labor figures show a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in January. That’s lower than the U.S. unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, and down from Maine’s 3.8 percent unemployment rate in January 2016.

Tuesday, March 14

Angus King on how GOP Don't Care wil hurt Maine

The Hill - Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) is raising warnings that the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill will hammer his home state.

“If you were designing a bill to hammer my state, it would be this bill,” King, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, said at a press conference Thursday.

King warned that a 60-year-old living in rural Aroostook County, near the Canadian border, will see “their support for their healthcare coverage diminish 70 percent.”

A 60 year-old earning $30,000 in Cumberland County — the home of Portland, Maine’s biggest city — would see a 48-percent reduction in federal assistance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The average cut across my entire state for a 60-year-old is 48 percent,” King said.

Sunday, March 12

Down East Notes: Blizzard prep

Bangor Police Department - Mr. Positive is here to tell you the plus side of the impending winter doom.

1. 12" to 24" of snow will fill in most of the potholes (except for that deep one on Hammond Street hill) which will make your commute through Friday smoother and less jarring.

Additionally, the Slim Whitman "Home on the Range" 8-Track cassette will skip far less while you are on the off ramp to Union Street.

2. The talking heads (not the band) on television will be speaking about something other than political mayhem for a few days.

They will be hollering at us about the track of the storm and to take more than a light jacket. That is-if the satellite and cable doesn't go out.

3. There is a chance that the kids will be off from school again this week. That's always fun this time of year. Especially if your daycare facility closes as well. Plan on some well deserved time off the job. Why would anyone want to use their vacation days in the summer when you can use them right now?

See, there is an upside to all this.

Life goes on in the 207, and while it's fun to make light of it, make sure that you prepare for a couple of days of cold and snow.

You don't have to mention bread and milk in the comments, that is actually a problem away from Maine. We can eat all kinds of stuff that we have stored up around the house.

If you don't already have several cans of Spam, you shouldn't even be allowed to get a Maine driver's license.

Check on elderly neighbors and shut-ins, make sure heating equipment ventilation outlets are free from ice, snow and/or debris during the weather event. Put the boots by the door and try to find the matching glove that went missing last week. You have time.

Monday, March 6

Maine lobster industry hits record

Press Herald - The Maine lobster industry is bigger and more lucrative than ever, with fishermen landing more than 130 million pounds of lobster valued at $533.1 million in 2016. That is a record for both landings and industry value, according to Commissioner Patrick Keliher of the Department of Marine Resources, who announced the results Friday at the annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum.

Sunday, March 5

Portland to test jobs program for street people

Portland officials are working on a 36-week pilot program to offer day jobs to street people. A city social worker would drive a van around to busy intersections and offer panhandlers a chance to earn $10.68 an hour cleaning up parks and other light labor jobs. They would be paid at the end of each day.

Saturday, March 4

Janet Mills joins GOP in opposing ranked choice voting

Bangor Daily News - Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and legislative Republicans told the state’s high court on Friday that the ranked-choice voting system approved by voters in 2016 is unconstitutional, setting up a fight with advocates for the law.

The system would apply in gubernatorial, congressional and legislative races with three or more candidates. A winner would be declared if a majority picks a candidate as their first choice, but if that doesn’t happen, the candidate with the lowest share of first-place votes is eliminated and second-place votes for that candidate are reallocated. That process that would be repeated until a majority is won.

Maine Med turning away non-emergency patients

Sun Journal - Maine's largest hospital has had to turn away ambulances with non-emergency patients this week because it's overwhelmed with sick patients. Maine Medical Center says it's the largest number of patients the hospital has seen in 38 years. Other Maine hospitals are nearing capacity as well.

Doctors tell WGME-TV that part of the problem is that there are a lot of sick people right now, but there's still the issue with inadequate capacity. Maine Med has 637 beds but it's not enough.

Tuesday, February 28

Mainers already being hit by new federal ID law

Sun Journal - Mainers will be grounded next year if legislators don't update driver's licenses to comply with federal requirements. Share E-mail this story Print this story Save this story

State and federal representatives are scrambling to fix the situation, which stemmed from fears over a 12-year-old federal act that critics say would create a national database of personal information.

But states are starting to comply with the law because starting this year, federal agencies aren't accepting driver's licenses that don't meet security standards. If your state isn't compliant, your driver's license won't get you on board a commercial aircraft starting next year.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005. Under the act, in time, federal agencies wouldn't accept state licenses that didn't meet heightened security standards and requirements like the state agreeing to share its motor vehicle databases with other states.

Maine became the first state to reject the act in 2007 by refusing to implement the law. Critics called it an unfunded mandate and federal overreach, with concerns over the act's requirements for facial recognition technology on license photos and retention of copies of birth certificates.

Maine is now one of five states — and the only state in New England — that is not compliant with the law. Currently, 21 states and five U.S. territories have received extra time to comply from the Department of Homeland Security.

A Maine-issued driver's license can no longer get you into military bases, nuclear power plants and other federal facilities — though Maine licenses are accepted at federal courthouses. Driver's licenses can still be used to receive federal benefits, vote or enter federal facilities that don't require an ID.

Starting next year, the IDs won't allow you to board commercial planes. Airports would only accept identification like U.S. passports, which cost $135 for first-time applicants.

Monday, February 27

Declining worm harvest

It’s a dirty job, but digging for blood and sand worms along the Maine coast can pay well, particularly in areas of the state where it can be hard to make a living. Maine’s annual harvest of these popular bait worms, however, continues to decline, posing a quandary for marine biologists who cite climate change and predation as possible factors.

Constitutional issues in governor's budget

Maine Resistance Summit in Augusta March 5

Friday, February 24

Chin running again for Lewiston mayor

Maine Public Broadcasting - Ben Chin, the political engagement director for the Maine Peoples' Alliance, has become the first candidate to announce he's running for mayor of Lewiston this November. Speaking to a crowd at Museum LA in Lewiston,

This is Chin's second run for the office. He lost a close race to current Mayor Robert MacDonald in 2015. This time MacDonald is termed out. And Chin says he plans to do things a little differently. To demonstrate his commitment to running what he calls "a people's campaign," Chin says he won't accept any contributions over $100.

Wednesday, February 22

The positive impact of immigrants on Maine

Maine Public Broadcasting - As President Donald Trump prepares to rewrite his controversial travel ban, a coalition of 500 business leaders and mayors is calling for meaningful immigration reform. The group, New American Economy, has released an interactive map with state and congressional district-specific data about the economic contributions of immigrants. Supporters are hoping that it will bolster the argument for expanding immigrant worker visas. According to New American Economy’s report, Maine has nearly 49,000 new immigrants who make up 3.7 percent of the population. The data were gathered using publicly available sources. What they show is that Maine immigrants have a combined spending power of $953 million. They also pay taxes. In 2014, the most recent year for which the data are available, they paid close to $362 million in federal, state and local taxes. Beth Stickney, who represents a new group called the Maine Business Immigration Coalition, points out that the city of Portland and Maine’s 1st

Tuesday, February 21

Medicaid expansion to be on Maine ballot next November

Sun Journal - Mainers will vote in November on whether the state should expand its Medicaid program, following the validation Tuesday of a petition to do so. The citizen-initiated bill, An Act to Enhance Access to Affordable Health Care, seeks for Maine to provide Medicaid services through MaineCare to qualifying people younger than 65 years old, whose income is below 133 percent plus 5 percent of the non-farm income official poverty line.

Sunday, February 19

Poland Spring trying to take more Maine water

Sun Journal - Spurred by strong sales, Poland Spring is looking for two additional spring sites and a home for its fourth bottling plant in Maine, a $50 million construction project.

Mark Dubois, a geologist and natural resource manager for Poland Spring, said this week the company is ready to start looking for the site of its fourth bottling plant in Maine along with two new springs, increasing capacity by about 50 percent of what the company bottled last year.

The company bottled nearly 821 million gallons of water in the state last year. The new trio of projects could give it capacity for 400 million more.

The brand is the No. 1-selling bottled spring water in the U.S.

... Nickie Sekera, a Fryeburg Water District trustee and co-founder of Community Water Justice, which opposed Poland Spring's long-term contract in Fryeburg, said she wasn't surprised at the news, given Poland Spring's fevered marketing push.

She agreed with Dubois that Maine is a water-rich state, but said it's a matter of getting the most value for it locally as well as protecting it for the future. Sekera anticipated community push back as the company looks for sites.

"When resources bypass the full benefit of local people wholesale for the benefit of multinational corporations, we create a situation on the ground where money is funneled up and out," she said. "Maine, with our water, it's something to be very cautious about how we move forward and who gains control over our water and how we can always be sure that local people will come first."

Poland Spring, whose parent company Nestle, headquartered in Switzerland, is among the largest public companies in the world, has nine springs in the state, largely in Western Maine. It employed 900 people at peak last summer, and has bottling plants in Poland, Hollis and Kingfield.

Maine Resistance Summit updates

Saturday, February 18

Maine has second highest pre-school expulsion rate in country

Maine Public Broadcasting - New research shows that in Maine, nearly a quarter of childcare centers have expelled a child in the past year.

Research shows that Maine has the second-highest preschool expulsion rate in the country.

Rita Furlow is the senior policy analyst for the Maine Children’s Alliance. In 2015, her group and the Maine Children’s Growth Council began studying the issue. They surveyed childcares and preschools and found that nearly a quarter of Maine’s center-based providers had to expel a student within the past year.

But Furlow says there is a solution: early childhood mental health consultations.

“Even though we were looking at various topics, that issue just seemed to keep rising to the top in terms of the research and what would be more effective,” she says.

Student oppose anti-voting laws

Maine Beacon - Lawmakers in Augusta heard testimony from Maine students speaking out against Republican-sponsored legislation to restrict voting rights. The two bills, one to require Photo ID to vote and the other to impose new hoops for student voters to jump through were criticized as unnecessary and discriminatory.

Also opposing the bills were Maine’s Attorney General and Secretary of State, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, the Maine People’s Alliance, the League of Women Voters, Maine Student Action and Equality Maine.

Friday, February 17

Action notes

The Maine People's Alliance is convening a summit on Sunday, March 5th at the Augusta Civic Center, where activists and organizations from across the state can come together to strategize about the future, learn basic organizing skills, and cohere around a vision for Maine and our country.

Over 100 organizations from across the state have been invited to share with the broader activist community the work they are currently doing, and explain how people can get involved with their organization. Trainings and workshops will be offered on a variety of topics and skills. Whether the Women’s March was the first time you ever took to the streets or your 100th - there’s something for you.

Click here to view trainings and workshops: http://bit.ly/2lbjT7l

Click here to register for summit: http://bit.ly/2lSLEkn

Click here to register your organization for the summit: http://bit.ly/2llE3O2

Wednesday, February 15

Restaurants for and against minimum wage hike

Here's a list of board members of the Maine Restaurant Owners association that opposed a minimum wage hike in the state, Included are the owners of DeMillo's and Five Fifty-Five.

And here's a list of restaurants that supported the minimum wage hike.

Tuesday, February 14

LePage's food stamp restrictions sending more to food pantries

Maine Public Broadcasting - A new study finds Mainers are increasingly relying on food pantries for survival, and not for emergencies. One in four respondents to a survey commissioned by hunger relief agencies reported being dropped from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program in the past year. The groups behind the study say those kicked off food stamps due to restrictions instituted by Republican Gov. Paul LePage's administration are now relying on overworked charities. LePage claims his administration has gotten welfare recipients into jobs. Maine has reinstituted a three-month limit on food stamps for certain people between the ages of 18 and 50. Social work agency Preble Street said Maine had 40 food pantries when the organization started four decades ago. Now, Maine has at least 400 pantries feeding more than 15 percent of Maine's households.

Sunday, February 12

Maine GOP's war against student voting

Maine Beacon - In what has become a shamefully regular post-election routine from Republican leadership in Maine, we are once again witnessing an explicit attack on the rights of students to vote in Maine elections. This time around, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit thousands of students from registering to vote in Maine: effectively barring students who have moved here from other states from participating in Maine elections.

Going back to 2011 and 2015 Republicans at the state and local level have been attempting to both paint college-age voters as dangers to the fabric of Maine’s democracy and to actively disenfranchise students..

Just last November, in an anonymous —but no less destructive— attempt at student-voter suppression, “Legal Advisory” flyers were circulated at Bates College falsely claiming that students hailing from outside of the state could not register to vote in Maine without paying to register and inspect their vehicles here.

Thursday, February 9

LePage plans to raise taxes on many Mainers

Beacon - Governor LePage’s budget proposal offers tax breaks worth $23,000 annually to Maine’s 1%, while asking homeowners to pay an average of $300 more in already historically-high property taxes. The budget proposes elimination of the homestead exemption for Maine homeowners under the age of 65. The exemption provides vital relief from property taxes for more than 300,000 Maine families every year, of whom approximately 213,000 would be affected by the budget proposal.

Collins voted to censor Elizabeth Warren

Wednesday, February 8

Collins and King oppose Devos. . . but Collins a little late

Press Herald - Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King joined all Senate Democrats plus Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont in voting against DeVos, creating a 50-50 tie in the confirmation vote early Tuesday afternoon. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote....

Collins and Murkowski could have blocked DeVos’ nomination when it was before a reviewing committee they both serve on, but they both voted to approve her in a 12-11 party line vote, infuriating some of the nominee’s opponents in Maine. A group affiliated with the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive activist group, started holding “Susan Sunday” rallies to protest her committee vote for DeVos, her championing of Trump’s nominee to head the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions, and other issues.Collins has explained she believes the full Senate should get its say on Cabinet and judicial nominations, noting she also voted for committee approval for two Obama nominees, even though she opposed them in the full Senate vote.

Lies LePage told about the minimum wage

Word

People of : Don't be fooled by Senator Susan Collins "No" with Devos. She could've voted NO in committee & blocked her.

Friday, February 3

Colby art museum gets $100 million donation

Maine drug deaths continue upward

 

Press Herald -  Maine overdose deaths climbed for the fifth straight year in 2016, soaring nearly 40 percent to claim a record 378 people and signal a deepening of the state’s drug crisis. Opioid drugs, especially fentanyl and heroin, caused most of the deaths, according to figures released Thursday by the state Attorney General’s Office. The 378 fatalities surpassed the previous record of 272 set in 2015.

Wednesday, February 1

Things we hadn't started to worry about

Maine Public Broadcasting - State lawmakers held a hearing on a bill that would allow Mainers to buy and own hedgehogs as pets without a permit on Tuesday. Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn sponsored the proposal. He says Maine is one of a handful of states that requires owners to obtain a special permit to own a hedgehog — the same permit required to own a tiger or an elephant. “I hope we can all agree that hedgehog ownership does not require the same level of bureaucracy as tiger ownership,” he says.

Maine tied for first place in best state ranking

For the past four years, we have accumulated the rankings of states by standards ranging from health to jobs, as well as negative or positive actions. For the first time Maine has made it into first place tied with Vermont and Minnesota.

Saturday, January 28

LePage attacks women who marched

Mike Tipping, Bangor Daily News - In an interview on a conservative radio station this week (the only media with which Maine’s governor now regularly interacts), Governor Paul LePage had a message for the women who marched in Washington D.C., Portland and Augusta to protest the election of Republican Donald Trump as President.

“I guess it boils down to they still haven’t believed that the election is over and that President Trump is actually the president,” said LePage. “We endured their guy for eight years and we survived, so get over yourselves.”

One of LePage’s allies was even more direct and dismissive in her assessment of the marchers. In an email to members of the Informed Women’s Network, a conservative organization she leads, activist Susan Dench called march participants “harpies” and railed against their “vile” language and “saucy” hats. “Although many women only seemed to have the vaguest sense of what they were doing there, what they all had in common was victimhood, anger and an apparent hatred of men,” wrote Dench. Dench was nominated by LePage for a spot on the UMaine System board of trustees in 2014, but her bid was rejected by the Education Committee after she was found to have plagiarized a column she wrote for the Bangor Daily News.

Friday, January 27

Maine's real estate sales outpace nation's

WCSH  Maine's real estate market is outpacing the rest of the nation. New numbers show home sales in Maine were up nearly 12 percent in 2016. Nationally, the number was less than 1 percent. According to the Maine Association of Realtors, more than 17,000 single-family homes were sold in the state last year. That's a nearly 12 percent increase over 2015. The median price of a home was just under $190,000, a jump of almost 5 percent