Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bond Issue Ballot Questions

As our Nov. 5, Election Day approaches, I wanted to give you some information about the $149.5 million bond package you will see on the ballot.  This comprehensive, bipartisan bond package was passed by the Legislature in late August.  It aims to inject money back into our economy and to produce jobs for hard-working Mainers.  It is also about making important investments in our higher education system, our public infrastructure and our people.
Here are the five ballot questions:

Question 1: Bond Issue 
Do you favor a $14,000,000 bond issue to provide funds for the State's share of maintenance, repair, capital improvement, modernization and energy efficiency projects for Maine Army National Guard readiness centers and support facilities and the purchase of land for training and to draw down federal matching funds?

Question 2: Bond Issue
Do you favor a $15,500,000 bond issue to enhance educational and employment opportunities for Maine citizens and students by updating and improving existing laboratory and classroom facilities of the University of Maine System statewide?

Question 3: Bond Issue
Do you favor a $100,000,000 bond issue for reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities or equipment related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation and transit, to be used to match an estimated $154,000,000 in federal and other funds?

Question 4: Bond Issue 
Do you favor a $4,500,000 bond issue to provide funds for a public-private partnership for a building project for a new science facility at the Maine Maritime Academy to be matched by other funds?

Question 5: Bond Issue
Do you favor a $15,500,000 bond issue to upgrade buildings, classrooms and laboratories on the 7 campuses of the Maine Community College System in order to increase capacity to serve more students through expanded programs in health care, precision machining, information technology, criminal justice and other key programs?

If you would like more details, please contact me at 377-3276 or

Friday, October 11, 2013

State News Update

Federal Government Shutdown

I trust that you have been closely following the mess that is the federal government shutdown. I find it a reckless, irresponsible failure of our elected federal officials to properly govern a nation at a crossroads. Certainly not a shining example of governance for the rest of the world to witness. Certainly not the best way to protect the public health and promote the well-being of our citizenry.

The lives of too many Americans have been negatively affected by the cessation of vital programs and services, our struggling-to-recover economy will be potentially forced to the brink, and here in Maine, hard-working families have already felt the pain. All 52 state employees at the Disability Determination Office at the Carleton Mills building on Route 202 in Winthrop were temporarily laid off without pay. Uncertainty rules the day.

Recently, Gov. Paul LePage declared a civil emergency in Maine due to the federal shutdown, a declaration that has led to many people -- in our district and outside of it -- contacting me to find out what this all means.

Historically, Maine governors have used the civil emergency powers during disaster relief to respond to a crisis. Gov. John Baldacci declared a civil emergency in response to the H1N1 outbreak to expedite flu vaccinations. Gov. Baldacci also issued a civil emergency in 2007 when the price of diesel went up by $1. Gov. John McKernan declared a civil emergency during the shutdown of state government in 1991.

The Civil Emergency Proclamation grants authority to the governor to not follow the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with state employees who are facing layoffs resulting from the shutdown.

The governor has said that he is doing so to reduce the financial impact to state employees so that they can receive unemployment benefits and health insurance. He has also said that the layoffs will terminate at the conclusion of the shutdown.

During a meeting with the governor and Republican leaders, Democratic leaders proposed an amendment to the proclamation which would clarify the scope of his power so it would not suspend the state's labor relations law and not circumvent the CBA and also provide an end-date. The governor refused to do this.

More than 2,700 state employees' jobs are at risk.

No other state or governor in the country has declared a similar civil emergency in the wake of the federal shutdown.


Food Supplement Impacted as Stimulus Package Expires
The expiration of the federal stimulus package, which temporarily increased funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will reduce the monthly benefit provided through the Food Supplement program to all recipients beginning November 1.
The SNAP benefit, still commonly referred to as “food stamps,” was temporarily increased in 2009 with the passage of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, often referred to as the stimulus package. The temporary increase expires on November 1 and all SNAP recipients will see a reduction.
The SNAP, a federal program of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is fully funded by the federal government and administered by the state. In Maine, more than $30 million in SNAP benefits are distributed each month.
Adding confusion to this benefit decrease is that in October, many SNAP recipients will actually see a small increase in benefits due to the annual cost of living adjustment. The Office for Family Independence (OFI) has sent notifications to the more than 132,000 households that currently receive SNAP benefits to explain the changes.
“Due to the ARRA sunset, States must adjust all SNAP allotments twice this year: once on October 1, 2013 and again on November 1, 2013,” wrote Bonnie Brathwaite, Director of the USDA’s Northeast Region of SNAP. “Because these are statutory provisions, they cannot be waived or consolidated into one effective date.”
The reduction in benefits will range from $1 a month for those who receive the minimum monthly benefit, to an average of around 5 percent for those who receive the maximum benefit. As an example, a family of four receiving the maximum benefit of $668 per month in October will see a $36 reduction. In Maine, the average monthly benefit for a family of four is $351.
Another OFI mailing will follow in mid-October that will tell members the exact amount of the reduction beginning November 1.


Secretary of State Reminds Mainers of new Motor Vehicle Laws Now in Effect
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap would like to remind Maine motorists that new driving regulations, passed into law by the 126th legislature, went into effect on Wednesday, October 09, 2013. These laws are among others that became active 90 days after the close of the legislative session. 
“We hope these laws continue to improve safety on the road,” said Secretary Dunlap.  “Some of the changes are designed to improve convenience and accessibility, while others impose stricter sanctions for dangerous behavior.  Our goal is always to advance the experience of all responsible drivers and others who use our roads.”
The following are noteworthy changes to Maine law that will affect drivers; for additional information please refer to Title 29-A, Motor Vehicle laws, 2013-2014 Edition:
  • A driver who is cited for texting while driving will receive a $250 minimum fine for a first time violation and a $500 fine on a second or subsequent offense within three years. In addition, texting violations will now include a 30-day license suspension on a second offense; a 60-day suspension on a third offense; and a 90-day suspension on a fourth or subsequent violation.  These suspension periods are mandatory, without a right to a hearing. 
  • The minimum practice time for a driver under the age of 21 who applies for a learner’s permit on or after October 9, 2013, has increased from 35 to 70 hours, including an increase in night driving from five to 10 hours.  Drivers completing their practice time must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or licensed driver at least 20 years of age.  Additionally, while the permit exam is administered by the driving school prior to program completion, the law now requires all learners’ permits to be issued only by the Secretary of State.
  • Previously, active duty military personnel had 30 days to obtain a non-military identification card or license after discharge from service; they will now have up to 180 days. 
  • Bicyclists are now part of the definition of “traffic” and a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist or roller skier is prima facie evidence that the motorist violated the three foot law.
  • Police officers as well as the BMV may now accept proof of current insurance in electronic form. 
  • An officer may, at his or her discretion, issue a permit to travel directly home or to the BMV if a driver is found to be operating illegally on an expired license. 
  • The suspension period for an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) offender with three or more previous offenses within 10 years has been increased from six years to eight years.
  • The license of a person with four or more OUI offense may be eligible for early reinstatement after serving four years of the suspension period if an approved ignition interlock device (IID) is installed for a period of four years.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bill Requests For The Second Regular Session

I received no constituent requests for bills for the upcoming session, so I have submitted one bill title for the Second Regular Session of the 126th Legislature:

An Act to End Hunger, Protect Small Farms and Homesteads, and Promote Food Self-Sufficiency for the People of the State

Ending hunger for our people with food grown, caught, trapped, hunted, processed and produced in Maine remains my passion. There is simply no excuse for anyone -- especially children and seniors -- to go without nutrient-dense food for a single day.

We must come together, all hands on deck, to end hunger in Maine no later than 2024.

For a complete list of titles by sponsor, please click here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

State News Update

I apologize for being out of touch for awhile. It's been high harvest at the farm and I've focused most of my time and attention on putting up food for winter.

A comprehensive update is forthcoming here, in your inbox, and in your mailbox. Please send an email to me at if you want to receive future updates via email as well.

For now, I'll share this:

Governor LePage and First Lady LePage welcome Mainers, donations at Third Annual Blaine House Food Drive

Maine’s First Family is inviting Mainers to visit the Blaine House once again this year in an effort to help fellow citizens who are less fortunate. In October, Governor Paul R. LePage and First Lady Ann M. LePage will open their doors for the annual Blaine House Food Drive. The Governor and First Lady started the food drive three years ago and have collected thousands of pounds of food for pantries and homeless shelters across Maine.

The food drives will take place on three consecutive Saturdays during the month of October: Oct. 12, Oct. 19 and Oct. 26. Mainers will have an opportunity to bring a food donation, receive a tour of the Blaine House led by Governor LePage and enjoy light refreshments.

All donations collected at the Blaine House will be given to Good Shepherd Food Bank. Good Shepherd Food Bank will determine the communities that need the food most and distribute the donations.

Doors will be open at the Blaine House for the food drive between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Oct.12, Oct. 19 and Oct. 26.

Secretary of State Warns Consumers About Online Driver’s License Scams

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap would like to warn consumers about websites claiming to provide new driver’s licenses and driver’s license renewals. These websites charge customers, but do not actually issue credentials. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has received complaints recently about a company called

The company implies that a credential can be ordered through the website for a fee; however, once payment is made the customer is simply directed to the BMV website.

A new Maine driver’s license can only be obtained through the BMV at its various offices and mobile units or through AAA New England locations. A complete listing of BMV locations can be found at .

“It’s very important that people know the only valid website for renewing a Maine driver’s license is and the service is only available to customers who have already established proof of residency and legal presence.” Said Secretary Dunlap, “Some of these sites may look like they are affiliated with state government; however, they usually have a disclaimer somewhere on the page noting that they are privately owned and are not operated by any government agency.”

If you believe you have been a victim of a driver license scam, please contact the BMV Investigations Unit at 624-9000, extension 52144 or visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection website at .