The Coastal Packet

Friday, July 21

Lewiscton and Bates College students aren't hitting it off

Portland mayor wants more low income housing in developments

Press Herald  Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling wants to require developers in the city to include more low-income housing in their projects.

Strimling announced Wednesday a proposal to raise the percentage of low-income housing to be included in large residential projects to 20 percent, as well as lower the income eligibility requirements for tenants seeking access to those units.

The city already has a nearly two-year-old ordinance requiring new developments with at least 10 housing units to set aside 10 percent of those units for low-income tenants, and the mayor’s proposal would amend that.

Thursday, July 20

Maine forms Socialist Party

Press Herald Socialist Party of Maine held its founding convention at the Viles Arboretum, during which they unified the Socialist Party of Eastern Maine and the Socialist Party of Southern Maine into a statewide party and started to map out strategies for running for office.

“Because we believe in democratic socialism, we take both the democratic and the socialism very seriously,” said Tom MacMillan, one of the organizers of Sunday’s event. Democratic socialism means putting people in communities in control of their lives, he said.

“In their workplaces that means promoting worker-owned cooperatives. That’s a good example. Democracy at work, democracy at the ballot box and democracy in society. We think that regular people can control their lives better than their bosses can or by the owners of big companies. If factories are owned by their workers, they are not going to be sending jobs overseas, because that’s their jobs. They (are) not going to be displacing themselves.”

Tuesday, July 18

Print media monopoly increases in Maine

Press Herald -  The owner of the Portland Press Herald is buying Sun Media Group, the company that publishes Lewiston’s Sun Journal and a host of weekly newspapers.

Reade Brower of Camden has entered into an agreement for an undisclosed price with the Costello family, which has operated the company that publishes the Sun Journal since the 1890s. The sale to Reade Brower of Camden will end more than a century of Costello family ownership of Lewiston newspapers.

The sale dramatically expands Brower’s holdings, bringing many of Maine’s newspapers, including most of its dailies, under his ownership.

GOP proposes budget that will increase poverty and deaths

Press Herald - House Republicans unveiled a 10-year budget blueprint that would dramatically increase military spending while putting the Republican Party on record favoring Medicare cuts opposed by President Trump.

The Republican plan, authored by Budget Chairman Diane Black, R-Tenn., would also pave the way for overhauling the U.S. tax code this fall, and would pair that effort with cuts to benefit programs such as food stamps.

Medicare is the second largest mandatory program after Social Security, and the House Republican plan again proposes to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program in which future retirees would receive a fixed benefit to purchase health insurance on the open market.

The plan, in theory at least, promises to balance the budget through unprecedented and unworkable cuts across the budget. It calls for turning this year’s projected $700 billion or so deficit into a tiny $9 billion surplus by 2027. It would do so by slashing $5.4 trillion over the coming decade, including almost $500 billion from Medicare, $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and the Obama health law, along with enormous cuts to benefits such as federal employee pensions, food stamps, and tax credits for the working poor.

Monday, July 17

Maine Socialists re-organize

Ballot Access - The Socialist Party now has a state organization in Maine. See this story. The last time any nominee of the Socialist Party was on the ballot in Maine was 1952. Back then Maine only required 1,000 signatures for a statewide independent or the statewide nominee of an unqualified party.

Sunday, July 16

New Maine voter registration data

Ballot Access - The Maine Secretary of State has released new registration data as of June 2017. The percentages: Democratic 31.89%; Republican 26.92%; Green 4.23%; Libertarian .52%; independent and other 36.43%.

GOP healthkill act would be especiall bad for rural Mainers

Beacon -US Senate Republicans are still pushing to pass their latest version of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, despite analysis from the Congressional Budget Office and others that shows that the Better Care Reconciliation Act would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose access to health care. MECEP’s own report details the effect on Mainers, including the loss of health insurance for more than 100,000 Mainers, and a significant decline in the economy, as measured by Gross State Product. A deeper dive into the numbers reveals that these effects would be felt across the state, but would be especially devastating for rural Maine, where insurance is more expensive, access to care is already limited, and where hospitals are the largest employers in many communities.

Saturday, July 15

Portland mayor-city manager feud heats up

Press Herald - The ongoing feud between Portland City Manager Jon Jennings and Mayor Ethan Strimling boiled over Friday, the two trading accusations of lying and blocking access to city employees.

Wednesday, July 12

Maine is only the sixth most native state

Maine has a wealth of jokes about people from away but according to this analysis, the state is only sixth in terms of percent of native born residents. 64% of Maine residents were born here while Louisiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all have percentages over 70%.

Saturday, July 8

Great thoughts of Paul LePage

Paul LePage characterized the Maine media as “vile,” ”inaccurate” and “useless.” He says “the sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be.”

Friday, July 7

LePage admits he lies

Salon - Maine Gov. Paul LePage has made a career of making controversial statements — and this latest one is surprising, even by his standards. On an interview Thursday with WGAN radio, the blustery Republican said he lies to the press in order to call them out on “fake news.”

“I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they’ll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid, it’s awful,” he said, perhaps with a hint of sarcasm.

Thursday, July 6

Maine's public schools ge $162 million in budget

Press Herald - Maine’s 240 public school systems will soon learn how they will share $162 million in new educational funding in the two-year state budget signed by Gov. Paul LePage early Tuesday. The budget, which resolved a partisan stalemate and ended a three-day government shutdown, will provide an additional $48.4 million to school systems in 2018 and another $113.6 million in 2019. But how much districts receive depends on whether they choose to collaborate with other districts. The budget also aims to send more funding to poorer districts and allow districts to tap a fund for unexpected special education costs that arise during a budget cycle.

Monday, July 3

Maine won't hand over records to vote commission

Sun Journal - The state won’t comply with a request to hand over voter registration information to President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and Attorney General Janet Mills determined Monday that the state couldn’t provide the data without violating its own laws protecting voter privacy. “Maine citizens can be confident that our office will not release any data that is protected under Maine law, to the commission or any other requesting entity,” Dunlap said in a prepared statement.

Trump wants to kill heating aid that has helped 77,000 Mainers

Press - Herald - President Trump has proposed eliminating heating aid for low-income Americans, claiming it’s no longer necessary and rife with fraud. People needn’t worry about being left in the cold, he says, because utilities cannot cut off customers in the dead of winter.

But he is wrong on all counts.

The heating program provides a critical lifeline ... and officials close to the program don’t see any widespread fraud. Guidelines for winter shutoffs by utilities vary from state to state and don’t apply to heating oil, a key energy source in the brittle New England winter.

The proposal to kill the program, which has distributed $3.4 billion to about 6 million households this fiscal year, will face strong opposition in Congress.

In Maine, the poorest state in New England, the program helped nearly 77,000 people over the past winter, and those numbers represented less than a quarter of eligible households, said Deborah Turcotte of MaineHousing, which helps to run the program.

Sunday, July 2

Portland condemns apartment for police visits, forcing landlord to evict tenants

Press Herald - Portland officials have condemned an apartment building in East Bayside because of frequent police visits, forcing the landlord to evict all of his tenants until he fulfills his court-ordered obligations to tighten up management of the property.

It’s the first time the city has taken such an extreme measure to get a landlord to address issues under its disorderly houses ordinance – a designation that’s given to a building based on the number of police visits in a 30-day period.

Pine Tree Legal Assistance, a nonprofit that provides free legal services to low-income people, received a temporary restraining order against the city to prevent the evictions of three tenants until a court hearing next month.

Saturday, July 1

Partial state government shut down

Reuters - Part of the state government in Maine was shuttered on Saturday after lawmakers were unable to send a two-year budget to the liking of Republican Paul LePage, who promised the shutdown if he sent a fiscal plan that did not include spending cuts.

The governor's order for a partial shutdown of non-essential government services went into effect at 12:01 a.m. local time after a bipartisan effort in the state legislature failed to send a $7.055 billion two-year budget that included no new taxes to the second-term Republican.

The proposed budget repealed a measure that voters approved in November to impose an additional 3 percent income tax on state residents who earn more than $200,000 a year. The proposed budget also increases public education funding by $162 million.

The state Republican-controlled Senate passed the proposed budget with a 34-1 vote, but the Democrat-controlled House failed to reach the required two-thirds vote later in the day, leading to no budget measure being sent to the governor.

Thursday, June 29

Nearly 118,000 Mainers would lose healthcare on GOP bill

MPBM - Progressive health care activists are expressing concern about Mainers they say will lose health insurance if the Senate health care bill is passed. “This bill would cause 22 million Americans to lose their coverage, including 117,900 right here in Maine,” says family medicine Dr. Cathleen London of Milbridge, who spoke during a teleconference organized by the Center for American Progress. London and other critics of the GOP bill say it does not preserve as much coverage as the Affordable Care Act, and that the Senate should reject it. She says many self-employed workers in Washington County, including lobstermen and blueberry farmers, rely on Medicaid as their sole option for health insurance.

Maine rural roads, bridges in poor condition

MPBN - A new 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. The report was prepared by the Washington-based group TRIP, which represents insurers, road builders, transport companies and workers. “Worn out pavements, oftentimes cracking or rutting of those pavements, there can be potholes, but as a motorist, what you’re feeling is a rough ride and certainly that’s beating up your vehicle,” says TRIP’s Rocky Moretti, asked what they categorize as a road in “poor” condition. Moretti says it has been estimated the country, as a whole, needs to be spending 50 percent more a year on road construction in order to bring roads and bridges into good shape and keep them there.

Ranked choice voting still law in Maine

Portland Press Herald - A voter-approved law making Maine the first state in the nation to used ranked-choice voting for statewide elections will stay in effect until at least next year after two legislative efforts to repeal it were unsuccessful.

The Legislature was attempting to respond to a May advisory opinion from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that found the parts of the law that applied to races for the governor’s office and Legislature were unconstitutional.

A House bill would have left ranked-choice voting in state primary elections and those for Maine’s congressional seats, but not for legislative and gubernatorial races unless the Legislature approved a constitutional amendment to allow ranked-choice voting and state voters ratified it.

The Senate version, which had Republican and Democratic support, would have repealed the ballot law completely.

Under Maine’s current voting system, candidates who get the most votes win are declared winners, even if they receive less than 50 percent of the vote in a race with three or more contestants.

Under the ranked-choice system, voters would rank candidates in order of preference. If no one had more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process would continue until one candidate had a clear majority and was declared the winner.

Living in RVs in Silicon Valley

What will happen if Maine government shuts down

Tuesday, June 27

Maine Senate votes to repeal ranked choice voting

Ballot Access News - On June 27, the Maine Senate voted 21-13 to repeal ranked choice voting. That bill is LD 1625. One difficulty for supporters of ranked choice voting is that the Maine Secretary of State, a Democrat, opposes ranked choice voting. A few hours later, the House voted 78-58 to pass LD 1624, which says that Ranked Choice Voting would survive for primaries, and for general elections for Congress.

Appeals court says Oxford comma is necessary

The Write Life - An appellate court recently ruled in favor of Maine dairy drivers in a labor dispute that hinged on the oft-debated piece of punctuation. For anyone who’s ever wondered what all the fuss is about over Oxford commas, the circuit judge’s opinion says it all: “For want of a comma, we have this case.”

Older, rural Mainers would be hit hard by GOP healthkill bill

Press Herald - Older, rural Mainers purchasing individual health insurance would be socked with massive premium increases if the Senate version of the replacement to the Affordable Care Act becomes law. For a 60-year-old living in Aroostook, Washington or Hancock counties making $43,875, premiums would soar from $373 a month if the ACA remained intact to $1,757 a month by 2020 if the Senate bill became law, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Collins to vote no on Senate health bill

WCSH = Sen. Susan Collins announced on Twitter Monday she would be voting no on a motion to proceed to debate on the Senate Republican health care bill, citing the release of the Congressional Budget Office  score. Without advancing past the initial procedural hurdle, the Senate legislation would stall.

Saturday, June 24

Giving in Maine

Maine Philanthropy
  • Change in foundation assets, 2004 to 20015: 191% ...  National change: 70%
  • 364 Maine foundations agave $160 million in 2015
  • 21% of Mainers make charitable donations reported on their tax returns
  • 32% of Mainers volunteered in 2015, contributing about $1 billion time. Maine ranks 10th in country on per person volunteering. 

The strange thing Mainers like to drink

Atlas Obcura - Maine, unlike most states, is a “control state,” meaning the state government maintains some level of monopolistic control over the distribution and/or sale of alcohol. What this also means is that Maine has extremely precise records of exactly what Mainers are drinking. It’s how we know that of the 10 most popular bottles of alcohol sold in the state in 2016, three of them are just different sizes of the same booze.

It would be reasonable to expect that brand to be, say, Jack Daniels or Smirnoff or Bacardi, something like that. It’s not. The most popular liquor in Maine by an extremely large margin—nearly two-and-a-half times as popular as the second-most, in terms of number of cases sold—is a coffee-flavored liqueur called Allen’s Coffee Brandy.

Allen’s is not a brandy, exactly; strictly speaking, a brandy is a spirit made by distilling wine. Allen’s is technically a liqueur, a neutral grain spirit like Everclear that’s been mixed with flavorings and sugar. Coffee-flavored liqueurs are not particularly popular in most of the U.S. In other control states, like Oregon and Pennsylvania, the only liqueur to make the top 10 list during the last two years is Fireball, a cinnamon-whiskey liqueur (it ranks fourth in Maine).

Even weirder, Allen’s isn’t even from Maine—it’s produced in Massachusetts, just outside Boston. And yet, the manufacturer tells me, 85 percent of the Allen’s they produce is sold in Maine. So why is a Massachusetts-produced coffee liqueur more popular in Maine than any vodka or whiskey?

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Maine drivers ranked 6th rudest in country

WCSH - A recent survey found Maine drivers ranked 45th among U.S. states when it comes to being courteous on the road.

The survey, conducted by nonprofit Kars4Kids, queried a total of 2,500 respondents to determine the rankings. It contained questions including, "How aggressively do you respond to slow driving?” and “Would you steal someone’s parking spot?”

Maine's neighbors New Hampshire and Vermont ranked 10th and 9th, respectively, and the infamous Massachusetts came in 21st, surprisingly — New York took the spot for dead last.

Thursday, June 22

Maine medium age is 44

NPR - the median age in Maine is now 44.6 — six years older than in 2000. It's one of five states where the median age is 42 or above; the others are New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia, and Florida.

Tuesday, June 20

Former Maine AG suggests ranked choice compromise

Ballot Access News - Maine State Senator Michael Carpenter (D-Houlton) has this op-ed in the Bangor Daily News. He is a former Attorney General of Maine. He believes that the legislature should pass a compromise bill this week concerning Ranked Choice Voting. He would pass a bill that provides for Ranked Choice Voting for congress, and for primaries for congress, Governor, and legislature. There would be no state constitutional problem with that idea; the state constitution is only an impediment for general elections for state office. Under Carpenter’s proposal, general elections for Governor and legislature would not use Ranked Choice Voting.

Maine approves local food sovereignty

Sun Journal - With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Paul LePage last week enacted landmark legislation putting Maine in the forefront of the food sovereignty movement. LePage signed LD 725, An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems, Friday legitimizing the authority of towns and communities to enact ordinances regulating local food distribution free from state regulatory control. According to food sovereignty advocates, the law is the first of its kind in the country.

Sponsored by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, LD 725 does not include food grown or processed for wholesale or retail distribution outside of the community from which it comes. Supporters of food sovereignty want local food producers to be exempt from state licensing and inspections governing the selling of food as long as the transactions are between the producers and the customers for home consumption or when the food is sold and consumed at community events such as church suppers.

Thursday, June 15

Ranked choice voting heads for showdown

IVN - The fate of ranked choice voting in Maine will soon be decided. The State Senate could vote as early as Friday on bills that call for full repeal or a constitutional amendment that would bring ranked choice voting in full compliance with the state constitution.

Supporters are pushing for a middle-of-the-road approach that asks the legislature to move forward with ranked choice voting in primary and federal elections, where there is no constitutional conflict, and then amend the constitution for state general elections (30% of elections under ranked choice voting).

“I think the more lawmakers focus on this [approach], the more they are going to see the merits of moving forward in that direction,” said Kyle Bailey, campaign manager for Yes on 5

RCV Maine has generated over 1,000 calls, emails, and conversations with state lawmakers in the last few weeks in support of preserving ranked choice voting, which garnered the second-largest referendum victory in Maine history. Nearly 400,000 voters said yes to ranked choice voting (Question 5) on Election Day in November.

Wednesday, June 14

Anti-lobbyist donations bill defeated

Pine Tree Watch - Maine lawmakers have killed a proposal to ban legislators, the governor and Constitutional officers — and candidates for those positions — from accepting donations from lobbyists. Members of both parties, in both chambers, voted against the measure. Sen. Justin Chenette (D-Saco), who sponsored the bill, said he was disappointed though not surprised by the outcome. Both Republicans and Democrats, he said, receive money from lobbyists who are attempting to influence their votes.

Maine House approves minimum wage increase

Beacon - Most of Maine’s new minimum wage law survived a series of repeal attempts in the Maine House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon, just seven months after more than 420,000 voters approved Question 4, raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour this year and to $12 an hour by 2020. Measures to cut the overall minimum wage, eliminate cost of living increases in future years and cut wages for younger workers were all voted down. A bill to repeal the more gradual increases to the subminimum wage for tipped workers passed, however, and will likely become law.

Tuesday, June 13

Ranked choice voting update

League of Women Voters of Maine - Since the adverse opinion from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on May 23, the Maine legislature has been considering how to reconcile the Ranked Choice Voting law with the constitution and to reconcile the constitution with the RCV law passed by Maine voters. Two new RCV bills are moving forward: one introduced by Senator Cathy Breen (D-Falmouth) would amend the constitution to eliminate the obstacle to full implementation of RCV; the other introduced by Senator Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon) would repeal the RCV law in total.

These two bills got their public hearing in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on June 2, where public support was universally in favor of RCV. Last Friday the Committee held a work session on these bills, and we anticipate three-way divided reports from the committee on both bills.

Here's the bottom line:
  • On LD 1624, we support a constitutional amendment to permit ranked choice voting in state elections. We expect a VLA committee amendment to that effect based on League testimony, and once we have seen final language, we expect to endorse it.
  • On LD 1625, we strenuously oppose efforts to repeal the RCV law in total. We expect a VLA committee amendment, again based on League testimony, to allow RCV to go forward in primary elections and in general elections for federal office, while suspending application of RCV to general elections for state offices until such time as we have a constitutional amendment to permit them. Once we have seen final language, we expect to endorse it. We strongly urge the legislature to amend the RCV law to allow implementation in 2018 for those elections that are permitted by the Supreme Court's advisory opinion.

Sunday, June 11

If Lewiston and Auburn merge, their name wiil be....

Bangor Daily News -And the winner is: Lewiston-Auburn. During a public meeting Thursday night, supporters of a Lewiston-Auburn merger picked what the city would be called in the event that voters approve merging the cities.

Friday, June 9

Legislature passes law to help families facing foreclosures

Maine Senate Democrats - Mainers undergoing foreclosure will be protected from being prematurely evicted from their homes under a bill by Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, that became law this week.

“Families undergoing foreclosure are already in a stressful situation,” said Sen. Chipman. “They deserve the time necessary to line up new living arrangements so that they can move on with their lives as best as they’re able, without the fear that the rug will be prematurely pulled out from under them. We cannot allow shady actors to prey on families in these situations.”

There is typically a 90-day period after the entry of a foreclosure judgement during which the lender cannot begin the foreclosure sale process. This period allows homeowners to make new living accommodations if they’re unable to salvage their mortgage. This bill would codify that practice into law.

King opposes repeal of ranked choice voting

Maine Public Broadcasting - Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine Tuesday urged lawmakers send the question of ranked-choice voting back to the voters for a final decision.

King, a two-term governor, says he is very worried lawmakers may repeal the law voters passed at referendum last fall because part of the law is unconstitutional.

He says voters sent a signal with their vote last fall, and they should be given the opportunity to pass a constitutional amendment to allow ranked-choice voting in state elections.

“My fundamental concern is not making worse this kind of distrust of government and politics and politicians,” King says. “To simply say well there is a constitutional problem with this so we are just going to forget it, I think they ought — my inclination would be to give the people a chance to make that decision themselves.”

House fails to overturn LePage's senior bond veto

Sun Journal- The Maine House has failed to override the governor's veto of a bill aimed at forcing him to release $15 million in bonds for senior citizen housing that voters approved two years ago. Share E-mail this story Print this story Save this story

The Maine House vote on Thursday was 89-58, short of the two-thirds necessary to overturn the veto. That followed a Maine Senate vote a day earlier to override the veto.

Thursday, June 8

Meet Mary Mayhew

Grady Burns, Maine Beacon - Mary Mayhew, who served as Gov. LePage’s director at DHHS since 2011 until she resigned late last month in anticipation of the announcement for her candidacy, oversaw a health and human services agency whose mismanagement and propensity for scandal was matched only by its callousness as it diverted, rejected, or withheld federal funds aimed at reducing poverty and childhood hunger.

Her greatest hits at the agency include mismanaging the Riverview Psychiatric Center so spectacularly that it lost—and has yet to regain— its federal certification, fighting tooth and nail against a federally-funded expansion of Medicaid that would have covered over 70,000 uninsured people, and illegally redirecting $13 million in TANF funds to other programs while amassing over $150 million in unspent funds that could have provided immediate relief to struggling Maine families. In short, Mayhew has used her six years in charge of the state’s largest agency to make the lives tens of thousands of Mainers demonstrably worse while on a crusade to make government work as badly as conservatives imagine it does.

For her part, Mayhew seems to be signalling that these atrocities are going to form the backbone of her pitch to Republicans and the Maine people at large, launching a preemptive attack on oft-rumored potential gubernatorial candidate and patron saint of half-hearted political gestures, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, on the grounds that this week Collins came out in characteristically tepid support of a watered-down version of Medicaid expansion. In posturing toward the far right of the Republican base, Mayhew is not only leaning into the legacy of the LePage administration, she is reiterating that she was a key figure in the creation and execution of LePage’s cold-hearted economic agenda. Her careless disdain for the vulnerable families that she was charged with helping for the last six years is a feature, not a bug, in her pitch to voters.

Friday, June 2

Independents now have hold over state house

With two Democratic state representatives leaving their party last week, neither Democrats nor Republicans have an outright majority in the Maine State House –– making it the first legislature in the country where political independents control the balance of power.

What Maine's climate change looks like

Sun Journal - From a rise in the number of ticks to the decline in the number of northern shrimp offshore, the state is seeing the consequences of an increase in the average annual temperature by 3 degrees since 1895.

The frequency of extreme weather events, from ice storms to torrential rains, has been increasing and will likely to become even more common as the world heats up further, scientists warn.

The accompanying rise in ocean levels, caused by melting glaciers, means that salt marshes are in trouble, flood zones are growing and agricultural zones shifting.

“Maine is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, where our environment and economy are so closely linked,” said Lisa Pohlmann, the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s executive director.

A 2015 study by the Climate Change Institute and Maine Sea Grant at the University of Maine that updated an earlier state report on the issue lays out a troubling scenario for a state that depends heavily on tourism, recreation, logging, farming and fishing — all of which are likely to feel the pinch if scientific projections of what’s to come prove prescient.

Already, though, historical data shows warming trends.

For instance, information from the U.S. Climate Divisional Dataset cited by the University of Maine study shows the state’s warm weather season is two weeks longer now than it was a century ago. It’s 34 weeks now, records indicate, compared to 32 in the two decades leading up to World War I.

By mid-century, the study projects the warm weather season, when temperatures are always above freezing, will last 36 weeks.