The Coastal Packet

Monday, January 15

Deep freeze may reduce insects

Press Herald - People who know bugs and trees say there could be an upside to the sustained freezing temperatures that have challenged Mainers for more than a month, besides providing ideal conditions for ice fishing and pond hockey.

The devastating winter moth and hemlock woolly adelgid – and possibly the brown-tail moth and spruce budworm – may be especially susceptible to subzero temperatures that set in just after Christmas, said Jim Dill, a pest management specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Saturday, January 13

Delays in heating oil delivery

Maine Public Broadcasting -It’s been a rough start to the new year for thousands of customers who rely on home heating fuel and for the companies that provide it. More than a week after a blizzard and a spate of record-low temperatures, suppliers are still facing a backlog of orders, customers have run out and some deliveries still can’t be scheduled for another two weeks.

Friday, January 12

Maiee now has 11 elected Greens

Eleven registered members of the Maine Green Party now hold elective public office. The newest is Michael Dignan, who was elected to the Oxford Hills School Board last November.

Minimum wage increase worked

Maine Center for Economic Policy - According to MECEP analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, total wages in Maine grew by $587 million in the first half of 2017 compared with the first half of 2016. That’s a 4.7 percent year-over-year increase, the largest such increase since before the Great Recession.

Wage and job growth in the first half of 2017 coincided with the first minimum increase in eight years, which raised Maine’s wage floor from $7.50 to $9 per hour starting on January 7, 2017. The tipped minimum wage also increased from $3.75 to $5.00 per hour. As expected, data from the state’s largest employment sectors indicate that workers in the lowest-paid industries experienced the biggest proportional wage gains. That’s because low wage workers benefitted most directly from the higher minimum wage.

Maine drug overdose deaths rise at half the national average

Figures from the Center for Disease Control found that between June 2016 and June 2017, drug overdoes deaths in  Maine rose 8.3%. This was half the 16.3 percent average for the country as a whole.

Wednesday, January 10

California water board takes action against Nestle

Story of Stuff -The State Water Board confirms allegations made against Nestlé Waters North America that the multimillion dollar corporation is taking water from the San Bernardino National Forest in Southern California to which it has no legal claim. The announcement validates the complaints filed in favor of this investigation by citizens in the San Bernardino region and public advocacy organizations The Story of Stuff Project and Courage Campaign Institute.

The Water Board has directed Nestlé to limit its water take to an annual 8.5 million gallons, what is legally permitted by the company’s water right. Nestlé takes, on average, 62.6 million gallons a year to supply its Arrowhead brand water bottles. To be in compliance with the Board’s conclusion, Nestlé must immediately cease any unauthorized diversions. This includes a series of well complexes in the San Bernardino National Forest from which Nestlé draws the majority of its water.

The investigation substantiates concerns that Nestlé continues to bottle public water taken off public lands in California for private gain without adhering the legal framework established to ensure that water use, in an increasingly drought-ridden state that has been devastated by wildfires in recent months, is reasonable, efficient, and benefits all Californians as well as the state’s natural ecosystems.

Maine's largest solar project

Coastal Journal - A $2.5 million solar array project, constructed by ReVision Energy, had a ribbon cutting on Jan. 9 at Brunswick Landing. With its completion, the solar array – to-date, the largest in the state, containing over 4,500 photovoltaic panels – is providing power to over 100 businesses at the former naval air base. In addition to the Brunswick Landing project, a smaller project at the former Woolwich landfill on Middle Road has also powered up, generating electricity for the town office and other municipal buildings.

Friday, January 5

Storm second worst for flooding

Maine Public Broadcasting - In addition to snow and wind, Thursday’s blizzard brought historic flooding to the southern Maine coast, from Portland all the way into New Hampshire.

John Cannon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, says the combination of the storm and a near full moon pushed water levels to their highest in four decades.

“The flood state in Portland reached 13.79 feet. We haven’t reached that high since the blizzard of ‘78. That’s how significant this is,” he says.

State marine geologist Peter Slovinsky says the blizzard of ‘78 is actually the only storm in state history that overshadows Thursday’s.

“It’s the second highest water level we’ve seen since 1912,” he says.

Cannon says the flooding covered some roadways with a foot or more of water and, in some instances, ice.

Wednesday, December 27

Coldest days in Portland

 

Nestle ripping off water in California, too

Desert Sun -  California water regulators told Nestlé that the company doesn’t appear to have valid water rights for much of the water it’s been piping out of the San Bernardino National Forest and selling as bottled water. ...

Friday, December 22

The year in Maine

BUSINESSES
Maine restaurants and hotels had a record-breaking year in 2016, bringing in more than $3.6 billion in combined sales, according to estimates from the Maine Restaurant Association and Maine Innkeepers Association. Overall, lodging and restaurant sales rose 7 percent from 2015

ECOLOGY & FARMS
Maine has 8174 farms (Up fro 7196 in 2002)
Since 2006, the number of small farms has increased by 13%.
Nearly 40% of Maine’s farmers are under age 34.
Agricultural sales have risen by 24 percent since 2007. - Press Herald 2017



EDUCATION
Maine has least educated workforce in New England 2017

EMPLOYMENT
The Maine Department of Labor said the November [2017] rate is down slightly from 3.5 percent for October and 3.8 percent from a year ago. It is the 26th consecutive month that the unemployment rate has been below 4 percent.

FOOD
Beacon-A report from the US Department of Agriculture found that while the nation as a whole has continued to make progress against hunger, over the last year Maine has dropped from 9th worst in the country to 7th worst in food insecurity. Over the past decade, food insecurity in Maine has increased by 27%. Maine ranks even worse, third in the country, for the percentages of households falling into the even-more dire category of “very low food security.” Food insecurity in Maine is now 25% worse than the national average, with 16.4% of households are food insecure compared to 13% nationally

HEALTH
Sun Journal - New U.S. Census Bureau figures show that the number of Maine residents without health insurance stayed steady from 2015 to 2016. According to a new federal report released Tuesday , Maine's uninsured rate of 8.6 percent is a drop from 11.2 percent in 2013. About 106,000 Mainer residents lacked health insurance last year, down from 147,000 residents in 2015

HOUSING
The Maine Association of Realtors says sales of single-family existing homes increased 11.5 percent in November 2017 compared to a year earlier. According to an association report, 1,576 homes were sold in Maine in November. The median home sales price also increased in Maine over the past year by 4.2 percent, to $200,000.


MONEY & WORK
Maine’s economy grew sluggishly in the final three months of 2016, expanding just 0.7 percent, making Maine the slowest-growing state in New England and 43rd nationally. Figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis suggest that contractions in real estate, rental and leasing activity, along with a decline manufacturing of non-durable goods – items expected to last less than three years – were the biggest drags on the state’s economy.

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.

TRANSPORTATION
MPBN - A report focusing on rural roadways finds almost one 1 of 5 in Maine in poor condition and around 1 in 6 rural bridges to be structurally deficient.

MORE

Maine house sales up 11.5%

Maine Public Broadcating - The Maine Association of Realtors says sales of single-family existing homes increased 11.5 percent in November 2017 compared to a year earlier. According to an association report, 1,576 homes were sold in Maine in November. The median home sales price also increased in Maine over the past year by 4.2 percent, to $200,000.

Tuesday, December 19

Ranked choice vote petition two thirds finished

Ballot Access - Maine supporters of ranked-choice voting believe they are two-thirds finished collecting enough signatures to put ranked-choice voting on the 2018 primary ballot. The voters already passed an initiative for ranked-choice voting in 2016, but in 2017 the legislature virtually repealed it. The current petition, if it gets 61,123 valid signatures, will suspend the legislature’s action, at least until there is another vote of the people. The petition deadline is February 2.

Monday, December 18

Collins to sell out Mainers and vote for GOP tax scam

How voters feel about ranked choice voting

Fair Vote - Since 2000, the number of American cities using single-winner RCV has dramatically increased.  More than ten cities now use single-winner RCV including four cities in the Bay Area in California, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, and Portland, Maine. .

Voters' Experiences with RCV

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, with Professors Caroline J. Tolbert and Todd Donovan, conducted two rigorous independent opinion polls exploring voters' experiences in local campaigns and elections in 2013 and 2014. These polls show:  
  • Ranked choice voting was supported by a majority of voters with an opinion. In both 2013 and 2014, a majority of voters in RCV cities supported the use of RCV in local elections. In the 2014 survey of California cities, a majority of voters with an opinion in cities that use plurality voting supported the adoption of RCV in their local elections. Click here for more about voter support of RCV

Candidates' Experiences with RCV

In a survey of more than 200 candidates for city office, Professor Todd Donovan found that candidates in cities using RCV were:
  • more likely than candidates in non-RCV cities to report hiring paid staff and relying on volunteers.
  • slightly less likely to report using TV or radio ads.
  • more likely to report praising their rivals.
  • less likely to say their election was negative.
  • less likely to report that their campaign or their opponent's campaign portrayed candidates in negative terms.
For more information, read Todd Donovan's conference paper: Donovan, Todd. Candidate Perceptions of Campaigns under Preferential and Plurality Voting. Presentation prepared for the Workshop on Electoral Systems, Electoral Reform, and Implications for Democratic Performance. Stanford University, March 14-15, 2014.

Traditional and Social Media under RCV

Professor Martha Kropf, at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has used content analysis techniques of newspaper articles and candidate tweets to show that newspaper coverage of local contests in RCV cities was significantly more positive (and less negative) than in cities using plurality during the 2013 election campaign. Kropf also shows that mayoral candidates in Minneapolis addressed other candidates on Twitter more often and more civilly than did mayoral candidates in non-RCV cities.

Sarah John reports on Prof. Kropf's work on the 2013 elections in Ranked Choice Voting in Practice: Content Analysis of Campaign Tone in Newspapers and Twitter Feeds in 2013 RCV ElectionsSee also: Kropf, Martha. "Impact of Ranked Choice Voting on Election Cooperation and Civility: Measuring Public Sentiment through a Content Analysis of Campaign-Related Communications." Presentation prepared for the Workshop on Electoral Systems, Electoral Reform, and Implications for Democratic Performance. Stanford University, March 14-15, 2014.

Voter Turnout and Understanding under RCV

Voter turnout in cities that have adopted RCV is comparable to, and often higher than, turnout in other cities.  In elections using RCV in the Bay Area in 2014, voter turnout decline was less than in other parts of the state and voter turnout was generally higher than past non-RCV elections.
Professor David Kimball, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, has studied voter turnout under RCV. His study finds that RCV in American local elections has a limited impact on turnout, with more important influences on turnout including a competitive mayoral election, other races on the ballot (including initiatives) and the use of even year elections. However, Professor Kimball's study shows that, when compared to the primary and runoff elections they replace, RCV general elections are associated with a 10 point increase in voter turnout.

For more research into RCV and voter turnout and understanding, visit the Voter Turnout and Understanding page.

Voter Preferences, Spoilers and Majority Winners under RCV

Some of the key advantages of RCV include its tendency to limit the spoiler effect, so long as voters rank candidates, and to elect the winner with the support of the majority of voters. In the "Voter Preferences, Spoilers and Majority Winners" section, we explore FairVote research on how voters express their preferences under RCV, the operation of the spoiler effect in practice, and the election of majority and Condorcet winners under RCV.

Saturday, December 16

Maine joins fight for net neutrality

Maine Public Broadcasting - Maine Attorney General Janet Mills says her office will join the multistate lawsuit seeking to reverse a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to eliminate net neutrality rules. Mills says the suit will be aimed both at the procedure used by the FCC to roll back the 2015 rules, as well as the substance of the rules, which she says set up a toll highway compared to the current freeway approach. “It’s like taking way the pulpit — the soap box — at Hyde Park, saying you can no longer speak, or if you do speak we’re going to charge you. It’s a toll road kind of concept instead of an open highway,” she says. Mills says bogus public comments were filed with the FCC, faulting the agency’s process. She says Maine residents have contacted her to say their names were used without permission. “It’s kind of bizarre and unprecedented that anybody would fake two million names to file comments of a fictitious nature in support of the rollback of any rule in any agency,” she says.

Collins votes for judge the bar association opposes

MaineBeacon - Lost amid the uproar over Senator Susan Collins’ support for the GOP’s tax plan was another highly controversial vote cast by the Republican lawmaker this week.

On Tuesday, Collins voted to confirm Leonard Steven Grasz, one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees and an opponent of abortion rights and laws protecting LGBT Americans, to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. 

Collins, a supposed pro-choice moderate, cast her vote for Grasz despite the fact that a committee appointed by the American Bar Association (ABA) unanimously determined him to be “unqualified,” largely due to the fact that the conservative Grasz appeared unable to detach himself from his “deeply-held social agenda and political loyalty to be able to judge objectively.”

Friday, December 15

Maine loses health ranking big time

Maine Public Broadcasting - Maine’s national health ranking is slipping, according to a new report. America’s Health Rankings now places Maine at No. 23, falling from an all-time best of 8 back in 2010. The report , which is based on Centers for Disease Control data, cites a number of factors, from drug deaths to diabetes and infant mortality. Maine got kudos in the report for its low violent crime rate and reductions in air pollution. But then there’s the bad news: diabetes has increased 12 percent in the past two years, drug deaths increased by more than 50 percent in the past three years and infant mortality has seen a slight improvement, but overall in the past five years, it has increased 20 percent.

Thursday, December 14

Collins staff locks her office doors before GOP tax scam vote

Share Blue - With the GOP tax scam being debated in conference and set for a vote next week before Doug Jones can take office, all eyes are on Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Collins, a Republican, voted for the original Senate bill, which includes an individual mandate repeal similar to the one she voted down in July. She did so with the assurance that two other bipartisan bills would be passed to offset any coverage losses, even though neither bill would do any such thing — and Paul Ryan never committed to pass them anyway.

Collins’s constituents are furious and demanding to meet with her on the issue. But not only is she nowhere to be found — her staff actually locked protesters out of her Senate offices in Maine, in the middle of regular business hours.

According to one protester, over 50 people gathered at the office in below-freezing temperatures to make their voices heard, only to be met with a locked door and cold silence from their senator.

After a long wait, a member of Collins’s staff finally turned up — to threaten them with arrest:

Friday, December 8

A guide to where Maine politicians' money comes from

For citizens who want to understand how the Maine Legislature works, Pine Tree Watch provides a guide to the private financial interests of lawmakers, the bills they have sponsored and what committees they sit on. You'll find here the sources of income for legislators and their family members, what businesses they own as well as the bill numbers and summaries of legislation on which the lawmakers were primary sponsor in the current two-year session.

Thursday, December 7

Collins snookers her supporters

Daily Kos - Remember when Maine Sen. Susan Collins was pretending like she really didn't want to pass a massive tax bill to reward Republicans’ big corporate donors? When she was extracting promises from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, promises that everyone knew he could not keep? But he made them, all right. And then promptly broke them.

The link there is to the House’s short-term funding bill that Congress is going to pass—or try to pass—before the final vote on the tax bill. Remember when we said that McConnell couldn’t make promises for the House? Yeah, that. You already know what’s not in it: everything that Collins said McConnell promised was going to happen in exchange for her vote.

Collins isn’t stupid, she knew there was no value in any of what McConnell was promising, and probably also knows that even were the fixes to the Affordable Care Act that are in Alexander-Murray and reinsurance passed, they wouldn’t counteract the dire impact that repealing the individual mandate is going to have on the law.

No, she’s not stupid, but she hopes the American people are. She hopes that we’re dumb enough to believe that she was dumb enough to be snookered by McConnell. We’re not.

Saturday, December 2

More Mainers seeking affordable housing

Maine Public Broadcasting - A nonprofit organization that owns 2,200 affordable housing units in southern Maine and southern New Hampshire says it has seen a large increase in the number of people seeking those accommodations. Avesta Housing Development Officer Greg Payne says, through the first three quarters of this year, nearly 3,000 households have contacted the organization looking for an affordable place to live. “But in that same period of time we were only able to help 278 households move into an apartment, and that’s because the housing that we do have is filled, for the most part, and there’s very limited turnover and there’s so few dollars available to create new housing,” he says. Payne says the number of people calling Avesta looking for affordable housing is growing significantly year to year, something he says reflects what’s going on in the community as a whole. “From 2014 to current we’re talking about a 30 percent increase in the numbers of people seeking an affordable home from Avesta,” he says

Wiscasset and state vary on Maine's top traffic jam

Colin Woodard - If you've visited Midcoast Maine in the past quarter century of summers, you're probably aquatinted with the state's most notorious traffic bottleneck: Route 1 as it passes through the historic village center of Wiscasset and then over the bridge crossing the Sheepscot River. There's not much way to avoid it -- unless its backed up for miles, in which case even an extra twenty minute diversion up to Sheepscot Village in Alna and back around again is worth it.

The Maine Department of Transportation has a fix in mind. But in today's Portland Press Herald I report on how the town has just filed a suit against the agency, asking a judge to block the plan which they allege breaks state law as well as local ordinances. The project, critics have said, will destroy the downtown, level a 101-year old building, cost Maine taxpayers a load of money, and won't improve the traffic delays.

Collins an extremist like the rest of her GOP colleagues

Senator Collins voted with her fellow Republicans for what is probably the worst tax bill passed in American history

Thursday, November 30

Fishing crew find lobster with Pepsi imprint

Independent, UK - A lobster with the Pepsi logo imprinted on its claw has been discovered, sparking concern over the amount of debris littering the oceans.

The creature was found by a lobster fishing crew off the coast of Grand Manan in New Brunswick, Canada.

Karissa Lindstrand, who reportedly drinks 12 cans of Pepsi a day, spotted the lobster as it was loaded into crate to be banded.

“It seemed more like a tattoo or a drawing on the lobster rather than something growing into it.”

Ms Lindstrand said she had never seen debris branded onto a sea creature in her four years of fishing off the Grand Manan coast.

“This tells me there is a lot of garbage in the ocean, if that's what's happening to the lobsters we get out from the water,” she said.

Tuesday, November 28

Tax bill could eliminate health insurance for 50,000 Mainers

Maine Beacon - US Senate Republicans’ proposal to reduce access to health care in order to pay for additional tax cuts for the wealthy, large corporations, and foreign investors would drive up the cost of health insurance in Maine significantly, and cause 50,000 fewer Mainers to have health insurance in 2027, according to a Maine Center for Economic Policy analysis. This is because the GOP tax plan now includes a provision to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” – the requirement that every American who can afford it have health insurance, or pay a penalty relative to their income level. This mandate is vital to protecting the health and stability of private insurance markets and reducing health care costs for everyone.

Friday, November 24

Second state legislator turns Green

Henry John Bear, Tribal Member Representing the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in the Maine House of Representatives, officially registered as a member of the Maine Green Independent Party.

The move [came] in anticipation of his announcement as a Green candidate for U.S. House Representative to Maine's Second Congressional District, challenging incumbent Congressman Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine.

In registering as a Maine Green Independent, Bear joins Ralph Chapman, G-Brooksville, as the second legislator in Maine serving in the Maine House of Representatives. Maine now has the two highest elected Greens in the United States.

Bear is a distinguished House member, in his third term representing the Houlton Band of Maliseets. He has been roundly praised for his work on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, helping to move through a bill to provide tuition assistance for veterans, for example, and earning the American Legion's Legislator of the Year Award in 2016. A 15-year veteran of the Coast Guard, Bear works as a designer on the guided missile destroyer program's naval weapons electrical systems at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works.

Now he looks toward serving the tribes and all people of Maine's second congressional district in a federal role, prioritizing issues on the environment, civil rights, strength through non-violent and humanitarian military sophistication, and economic equity.

Thursday, November 23

This is not just a big city problem

Mane Public Broadcasting - Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant has admitted sending a sexually explicit photo of himself to a woman through text message, and is now facing additional allegations of improper sexual conduct by the union representing employees of the sheriff’s office. The new allegations against Gallant surfaced in a published report in the Portland Press Herald. Gallant was first confronted about the sexually explicit photo by Portland TV station WGME, and in a statement admitted that it was taken in his office and that he was partially in uniform. Gallant apologized for the photo and said he would resign as president of the Maine Sheriffs Association. But he also told the Bangor Daily News that what he did was not illegal, but “an adult thing” that occurred two years ago.

Tuesday, November 21

Conference on saving Maine farmland

Maine Public Broadcasting - A recent study indicates that more than 400,000 acres of Maine farmland will change ownership over the next 10 years as farmers age and retire. That’s the focus of the third annual Farmland Access Conference taking place early next month and co-hosted by Maine Farmland Trust and Land For Good. Ellen Sabina, outreach director at Maine Farmland Trust, says the daylong conference will take a look at what happens to that land and how to get farmers onto it. “We expect that a lot of this land will be up for sale. Of retiring farmers don’t have a plan to transfer their land or their farm to another farmer or a family member then there’s a really high risk that a lot of land will transition out of farming” she says. “We want to make sure as much of this land as possible stays in farming.” Among topics to be discussed are using conservation easements, the effect of public policy on the generational transfer of farmland and crafting and maintaining leases. The conference is scheduled for Dec. 4

Friday, November 17

Ending healthcare mandate could leave 50,000 Mainers uninsured

Maine Public Broadcating - About 50,000 Mainers would lose health insurance under the proposed Senate Republican tax bill, according to progressive-leaning state and national policy organizations. They say the tax bill’s provision to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate tugs at a thread that would significantly unravel the federal health law.

Both the Maine Center for Economic Policy and the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress crunched the numbers from a Congressional Budget Office analysis to get state-specific data on the effect of repealing the individual mandate. They arrived at the same conclusion.

If the individual mandate is repealed, [analyst James Myall] says younger, healthier people will likely opt out of buying health insurance. That will leave older, sicker consumers in the marketplace. To cover the cost of their care, insurance companies will likely raise premiums.

The Center for American Progress estimates the average marketplace premium for a family in Maine will increase about $2,300. Steve Butterfield of Consumers for Affordable Health Care says that will wipe out any benefit the tax bill might provide middle class families.

89% of Maine is covered by forest, the most of any sstate

Monday, November 13

Tick disease more severe than Lyme

Cases of anaplasmosis, an illness with flu-like symptoms that are similar to Lyme but typically more severe, have jumped from 52 a year in Maine five years ago to 433 this year, through Oct. 24, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Of this year’s 433 cases, 113 were hospitalized, according to Maine CDC statistics.

The deer tick, the same tick that’s a carrier for the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, is also a carrier for anaplasmosis.

....  Anaplasmosis responds well to antibiotic treatment if caught early, but it’s difficult to catch early.

Prevention is also key. Wear long clothing and repellents when in tick habitat, such as the woods, and when picking up dead wood or leaves. Check often for ticks, which are difficult to see. Lubelczyk said one of the more common ways to pick up a tick is from your pet. The tick that’s on your pet can drop off after feeding and crawl on you.

People who do find a tick on them should remove it immediately and have it tested. In most cases, ticks need to be attached to a human for 36 hours before diseases can be transmitted. Share facebook tweet email print Read or Post Comments

Sunday, November 12

Ranked choice supporters get over half of needed signatures

Press Herald  Supporters of ranked-choice voting have collected more than half the signatures needed for a 2018 referendum to overturn a law that delays switching to the voting process for four years. Campaign volunteers got approximately 32,000 signatures outside the polls Tuesday, a day after receiving state approval for the petition, said Kyle Bailey, campaign manager for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. The campaign needs 61,123 signatures from registered voters to get a people’s veto on the June 2018 ballot.

Committee for Ranked Choice Voting

Saturday, November 11

Medicaid expansion: The fight ahead

The Hill - Backers of [Maine Medicaid] expansion initiative, which voters approved on Tuesday, said they hope cooler heads will prevail once the legislature reconvenes in January. They believe that despite his defiance, LePage can’t succeed in blocking the expansion from happening.

But if the governor tries, expansion supporters said they will take him to court to force its implementation.

“He can stall it, but the terms of the law call for him to implement [expansion],” said Christine Hastedt, public policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners, a legal advocacy group. “Once there is a law establishing your right to benefits under the program, you have to provide it,” even in the face of a budget impasse.

“[LePage] doesn’t get to pick what laws he decides to observe and not observe,” Hastedt added.

Under Maine’s constitution, a voter-approved initiative that requires the state to spend money will automatically become law 45 days after the legislature next convenes if there hasn’t been money appropriated.

The legislature convenes Jan. 3, 2018, so the expansion would become law in mid-February. The administration then has 90 days from that date to submit the required paperwork to the federal government, and a total of 180 days to start implementing the newly expanded coverage.

If everything happens according to schedule, newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries won’t start getting covered until sometime in August, 2018.

Friday, November 10

Someone left false teeth at Portland voting place

Press Herald - Someone left behind a pair of dentures in a Portland voting booth on Tuesday. The false teeth were discovered by an election clerk at Merill Auditorium. The choppers are now in a plastic bag in the City Clerk’s office at City Hall waiting to be reunited with the owner of the appliance.

Thursday, November 9

Nurse, 26, upsets longtime mayor with ‘grandkids older than she is’

Bangor Daily News- In an upset victory Tuesday night, Belfast’s incumbent mayor, who has held political offices at the state and local level for more years than his challenger has been alive, has been ousted.

Samantha Paradis, 26, a registered nurse at Waldo County General Hospital and now Belfast’s mayor-elect, took on Walter Ash, a 72-year-old retired mechanic and lifelong Belfast resident who was vying for his fifth term as mayor.

When the votes were tallied, Paradis earned 1,264 votes to Ash’s 959, according to the city’s official election results. She’s expected to take her oath of office during a ceremony Monday.

“I want to foster a culture at city hall that’s welcoming and where people can come in and share their concerns and issues,” Paradis said Tuesday morning.

Dealing with LePage on Medicaid expansion

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - While Gov. LePage continues to oppose [Medicaid] expansion, it’s now state law and must be implemented. Under Maine’s constitution, a voter-approved initiative that requires the state to spend money doesn’t become operable until 45 days after the legislature next convenes (which will happen on January 3, 2018). After that, the LePage Administration has 90 days to submit a state plan amendment to the federal government to implement the expansion.

During this time, lawmakers will need to decide how to fund the expansion. With the federal government paying 95 percent of expansion costs this year, 94 percent next year, and no less than 90 percent in 2020 and the years thereafter, the state’s cost should be modest. (Gov. LePage has vastly overstated Maine’s likely expansion cost.)

All this means that Mainers likely won’t get coverage through the expansion until the second half of 2018.

Across the country, more than 4.5 million uninsured people would gain Medicaid eligibility if the remaining 18 states that haven’t adopted the Medicaid expansion did so. [Maine's] vote should encourage policymakers in these states to do right by their constituents and take another look at expansion during next year’s legislative sessions. It also should boost efforts already underway to pursue similar ballot initiatives in states like Utah, Missouri, and Idaho.

Wednesday, November 8

Introducing Mainers to those from away

Maine Public Broadcasting - For the past several weeks, “new” Mainers have been breaking bread with longtime residents of Lewiston and Auburn, swapping stories about their families and breaking down stereotypes about immigrants and refugees.

It’s part of a national initiative to address the uptick in hate crimes. One focus of the sessions is to teach bystanders how to safely intervene in a bias incident before it escalates.

Building relationships with strangers doesn’t happen on an empty stomach, so part of each conversation involves a meal. In this case, it’s a Somali potluck dinner featuring a savory pastry called sambusa served up in the basement of the Community Concepts building in Lewiston.

This is just one of nearly 20 facilitated discussions that wrap up this month. Each group meets twice, and their discussions span several hours and cover provocative themes about race, religion and prejudice — like the misperception that anyone from Somalia is a terrorist.

Election notes

LePage says he won’t expand Medicaid in Maine unless Legislature funds it
 
Voters turn down measure to make Portland first Maine city to cap rents

Mainers approve transportation bond, pension fund amendment

Close vote kills plan to allow Portland residents to block zoning changes


Lewiston-Auburn residents soundly reject merger of twin cities

Tuesday, November 7

Just a reminder

Don't forget to sign the ranked choice voting petition at the polls today. To get the referendum on the ballot, it needs 61,123 signatures within 90 days.

Saturday, November 4

LePage vetoes voter approve system for handling pot sales

Washington Post - Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed a bill that would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, nearly a year after residents voted to set up a system to sell and regulate the drug. In a letter, LePage said the law would set up a bifurcated system of recreational and medical sales — which are legal in Maine — of marijuana in the state. Allowing all adults to purchase marijuana also would violate federal law, LePage said. The governor said that while the Obama administration said it would not enforce federal marijuana law, the Trump administration has said it has concerns about legal marijuana. LePage said he sought guidance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the matter.

Sunday, October 29

Park Service plans $70 fee to enter Arcadia

Maine Public Broadcasting - Park advocacy groups say they are surprised by the new proposed fee increases for 17 of the National Park Service’s most popular sites, including Acadia.

The NPS said in a written statement Tuesday that it is accepting public comments on its proposed new “peak season” fee of $70 per private, noncommercial vehicle. Weekly passes at Acadia are currently $25 and $50 for an annual entrance pass

60% of Portlanders can't afford average rent

Maine Public Broadcating - A new report by Portland housing staff finds that a majority of city residents do not make enough money to rent a home within what are considered standards of affordability.

The standard rule of thumb holds that to be affordable, a house or apartment should cost no more than 30 percent of household income. By that measure, the report found that last year, more than 60 percent of Portland renters could not afford the average monthly rent of $1,052 dollars for a two-bedroom home in the city.

The report also found that an even larger proportion of city residents could not afford the median price of buying a home in the city. It comes in the wake of a sharp increase in city property values and rents over this decade — and just before a November vote on a ballot item that would limit rent hikes.

Friday, October 27

Two important Maine groups to share a director

The League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections have announced their intention to hire a joint Executive Director to lead the two organizations through 2018 and beyond. Gary Friedmann, MCCE Board President, announced this historic development: “G iven the deep and longstanding connections that bind MCCE and LWVME, and our uniquely complementary strengths and resources, this is an exciting development in our rich history together. This collaboration is an important step toward increasing the scope of our work and our impact as we continue to engage with the many pressing issues confronting our democracy.”

Jill Ward, LWVME Board President, said: “Although our state and nation face profound challenges, organization such as LWVME and MCCE have risen to the occasion, effectively employing tremendous resources of experience, knowledge, and citizen - powered action. Taking our partnership to this new level allows us to build upon decades of successful advocacy and public education work that has distinguis hed both organizations. Pooling our strengths will ensure that long into the future we will continue to provide an ever more effective response to the challenges that confront our system of self - government.”

Both organizations are committed to achieving the full potential of democratic self - government enshrined in our nation’s founding principles , yet to be fully realized.

Thursday, October 26

Wednesday, October 25

Move to save ranked choice voting through people's vet

Maine Green Independent Party co-chairs Riva O’Rourke and Jon Olsen have condemned the Maine State Legislature's actions in special session in passing  LD 1646, “An Act To Implement Ranked Choice Voting in 2021.” This bill, supported by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, “sabotages the citizen referendum on ranked choice voting,” said Olsen and O'Rourke. “This vote severely damages our first-in-the nation statewide effort to initiate RCV, and may have dealt it a fatal blow.”

While the bill in name implements RCV in 2021, in truth it does nothing of the sort, as many dissenting but ultimately unsuccessful legislators noted. Rather, it places obligations on future legislatures. Unless, by Dec. 1, 2021, the constitution is amended, RCV is completely repealed. The MGIP believes this is unacceptable.

“We intend to oppose vigorously those legislators who voted to sabotage the referendum vote,” said Olsen and O’Rourke. Already, in part due to the legislature’s failure to implement the people’s will, State Rep. Ralph Chapman (G—Brooksville) has switched from Democrat to Green Independent. Greens welcome any other Democrats to join us in our efforts.

Further, the Maine Green Independent Party calls for and intends to initiate a people's veto of this law and calls for a coalition of parties and organizations to come together and defeat, for the first time since 2010, a law passed by the Maine State Legislature.

For more information:
Ralph Chapman, Ralph.Chapman@legislature.maine.gov
Betsy Marsano, Green Candidate for Governor, marsanobetsy4973@gmail.com
Jon Olsen, Maine Green Independent Party Co-Chair, joliyoka@gmail.com
Riva O’Rourke, Maine Green Independent Party Co-Chair, rivalynnorourke@yahoo.com
Note: Signatures totaling 10% (61,123) of the votes cast for Governor in 2014 are required. 

Proposalto limit legislatures ablity to change or cancel referenda

Maine Beacon - Most who supported the 2016 ballot measures to raise the minimum wage, create sustainable funding for our public schools, legalize recreational marijuana, or to implement ranked-choice voting will likely recall their elation when these measures all passed in a state election that saw near-record turnout, only to feel that elation turn to frustration when each of these measures saw substantial revision, delay, or destruction at the hands of the Governor’s office and factions within the Legislature.

Despite the 2016 ballot measures shaping the political discourse and the goalposts of the recent state budget fight to the benefit of progressive values, many engaged citizens felt a tangible sense of betrayal when our elected representatives put their thumbs on the scale on our process of direct democracy. Up to this point, most had assumed that the norms restraining legislators from so obviously betraying the expressed will of the voters would be too immense, and for many, the realization that this norm has eroded was truly deflating.  With more citizen referendums on the ballot this year, including measures to expand Medicaid to uninsured Mainers on the edges of poverty, many supporters are approaching the referendum process more skeptically.

Perhaps recognizing that this skepticism breeds the kind of mistrust of government and politics that turns people away from the political process entirely, Saco state senator and fellow Young Democrat Justin Chenette has introduced an amendment to the state constitution that would protect citizen referendums passed by voters from repeal or alteration at the hands of the Legislature for a year, creating constitutional protection for citizen democracy where norms have failed.