Friday, March 28, 2014

Back At The State House

Dear Neighbor,

Because of family losses, I was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from Saturday, March 22 to Wednesday, March 26.

My godmother, Frenchie Bell Mitchell, the woman who promised to take care of me if something ever happened to my parents, passed away after a long battle with diabetes and kidney disease. She was 89 years old. Her passing came only weeks after her son, Gary Mitchell, my younger god brother and close childhood friend, died suddenly and unexpectedly of an enlarged heart caused by untreated high blood pressure. He was 44 years old. My 86-year-old mother, who was my godmother's best friend, has been very ill for quite some time in a nursing home in Milwaukee and I had an opportunity to visit extensively with her. She was unable to attend the funeral. 

It was an intense and extremely difficult time for my family. I was blessed to be able to be there. I thank Rep. Lisa Villa of Harrison who gave me a guest pass on the airline she works for so I was able to afford the journey.

Unfortunately, I missed floor votes on those three days. I don't like missing votes, as I take seriously my work as your representative. Many of you corresponded with me about many of the votes on those days. I sincerely apologize for not being able to follow through on those votes. I hope you understand.

After a day and a half of travel, I returned home to Maine safe and sound and happy to be back in my seat.

I remain honored to serve you.

Take care of your blessings,

Craig Hickman

Saturday, March 22, 2014

New Electricity Rates

Dear Neighbor,

I write to you today because you will likely notice an increase in your electricity bill at the end of this month. That is because as of March 1, a new standard offer rate of 7.6 cents per kilowatt-hour went into effect.  This is a 10.8 percent increase from last year's standard offer price.

This increase is a result of the lack of natural gas pipeline capacity coming into New England.  Natural gas is the dominant fuel source used to generate electricity in New England and becomes increasingly expensive as we simultaneously increase our use of natural gas for heating fuel.  It is important to understand that the cost of natural gas is still low as it comes out of Pennsylvania and New York.  Because of legislation that originated in the Maine Legislature's Energy Committee last year, the New England governors are now working together to solve this problem in the coming years.   

Given that, I wanted to share some information that will help you understand electricity service in Maine and the industry structure.  Hopefully, this will put you on the path to being more in control of your electricity costs.
You will notice that your electric service is made up of two parts: supply and delivery.

In 2000, Maine became a national leader in Electricity Restructuring.  Today, electric utility companies own and operate the distribution (wire) infrastructure bringing electricity to customers (DELIVERY).   

The electricity itself is supplied by something called the standard offer, or by other competitive electricity providers (CEP) that a customer may choose (SUPPLY).

In Maine, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), regulates the utilities that provide electricity everywhere....street lights, ballparks, malls, homes, and offices. In our neck of the woods, that utility is Central Maine Power (CMP).  

Maine's residential customers' supply comes through something called the standard offer. The standard offer is the default option for consumers who don't choose a competitive electricity provider, and is created by taking a three-year average of the cost of electricity the Maine Public Utilities Commission sources through a competitive bid process among electricity suppliers. 

Today, residential and small commercial customers are seeing competitive retail supply offers from a variety of companies.  Here is some information to help you understand this market so you can decide if you would like to keep your standard offer or go with a CEP.  

Remember, customers who make no choice will continue to receive standard offer service. For those customers who choose to go with a competitive option, they need only make arrangements with their new supplier who will then work with the utility to make the switch, and the new service be put in place around the time of the utility's next monthly billing cycle.

Nine questions to ask when choosing a supplier

1. What will I pay per "kilowatt hour" (kWh) of electricity?
2. Are there any additional customer charges or other recurring fees?
3. Is this offer a fixed-rate offer? If not, how can it change, and how do I find out when, and by how much, the rate will change?
4. Is there a contract? If so, how long is it for?
5. Is a deposit required? If so, how much?
6. What are my payment options?
7. What happens when my contract period expires?
8. What if I miss a payment?
9. Is there a penalty if I break the contract?

This table lists CEP offerings as of March 1, 2014.

Prices can change without notice, so I strongly urge you to go to the website or call the CEPs to confirm before signing up.

Competitive Electricity Provider
Rate for CMP Customers (¢/kWh)
Rate for Bangor Hydro Customers (¢/kWh)
Early Termination Fee
Standard Offer(PUC)
Until 3/1/15
Dec. 2014


6 Months Fixed

24 Months


Fixed till 12/31/14
One year
6-12 Months
12 Months
6 months Fixed
12 months Fixed


6 Months Fixed

12 or 24 Months Fixed
$60 + offset of unused

portion of elec. to others

*Dead River says that its rate will not be higher than the standard offer.
All of these entities have applied for and received a license from the PUC to sell electricity. This means, among other things, that they have demonstrated that they have the technical and financial ability to sell electricity. The PUC does monitor CEPs for adherence to license conditions and to other applicable state laws, but CEPs are not regulated the way CMP and Bangor Hyrdo Electric and other utilities are. We do not have access to the CEPs' business plan or profit numbers, for example. However, the price you get is shaped by competition so regulation is not necessary.

The above table contains a summary of terms. The offerings can change at any time; I strongly recommend that you check the current price and read all terms and conditions prior to signing up for any service. For example, some may require that you allow them to perform a credit check, or to report you to credit reporting agencies in the event that you fail to make payments. Keep in mind that the Terms and Conditions are sometimes not readily found on the website; sometimes you only see it as you get closer to actually signing up.

Take care of your blessings,


Friday, March 7, 2014

State News Update

Annual Tree Tapping Promotes Maple Sugar Season

Governor LePage joined Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walt Whitcomb, Legislators and Maine Maple Producers on the Blaine House lawn for an annual tradition – the tapping of a maple tree. The event coincides with the beginning of maple syrup season and helps promote the industry. This year’s event was buoyed by the results of a new study highlighting the economic impact of Maine’s Maple Industry.

According to the study, Maine’s maple industry contributes an estimated $27.7 million directly to the Maine economy. The new study also shows that Maine’s maple industry has an annual statewide economic contribution, including multiplier effects, of an estimated $48.7 million in output, 805 full- and part-time jobs and $25.1 million in labor income.

Other key findings of the study by University of Maine Professor of Economics Todd Gabe:

Maine has the third largest maple industry in the United States.

Maine’s maple industry is characterized by a relatively small number of farms accounting for the vast majority of syrup that is produced.

Maine’s licensed maple syrup producers have been in operation an average of 24 years, and many of the farms appear to span multiple generations.

Maine’s maple industry—which counts the licensed producers, and sales at retail food stores and businesses impacted by Maine Maple Sunday—generates 567 full- and part-time jobs, and $17.3 million in labor income.

The study was funded through a partnership between the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, University of Maine, and the Maine Maple Producers Association.

The Blaine House tapping event also serves as a prelude to Maine Maple Sunday, which is held every year on the fourth Sunday of March. This year, Maine Maple Sunday will celebrate its 31st Anniversary on March 23, with approximately 100 sugarhouses participating throughout Maine. Sugarhouses will be open for visitors to enjoy syrup and candy sampling, demonstrations of making syrup, sugarbush tours, and a variety of other activities.

Spring Jobs Fairs Scheduled Around the State

Spring is coming, and so are many opportunities to find a new job. The Department of Labor’s network of 12 CareerCenters will be sponsoring or participating in several career fairs. Hundreds of employers will be hiring for both permanent and seasonal positions.

Job seekers who need to update their resume or practice their interviewing skills should contact a CareerCenter for free help. To find more information about jobs fairs across the state or to locate the closest CareerCenter and information about job training programs, visit the CareerCenter website,

Several of the job fairs have a special focus, such as the Occupational Licensing Fair in Portland on March 4, which will match veterans with specific employment resources.

Businesses interested in participating in these events and other free hiring services the department provides, such as Maine’s Job Bank, should contact their local CareerCenter.

The following job fairs have been scheduled to date around the state:
  • Ellsworth: March 20, 9 a.m. to noon at Mill Mall, 248 State Street. Sponsored by Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce, The Jackson Laboratory, Tri-County Workforce Investment Board, Eastern Maine Development Corporation, Bangor CareerCenter and the Maine Department of Labor.
  • Portland: March 25, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Maine Sunday Telegram/Monster Spring Career Fair at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland. Hosted by Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. FMI call Kim at (207) 791-6135.
  • Machias: March 27, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Lee-Pellon Event Center. Employers, call Dodie at 255-1933 to register, space is limited. Sponsored by the Machias CareerCenter, the Maine Department of Labor and Northern Maine Development Corporation.
  • Springvale: 4th Annual York County Regional Job Fair, March 28, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nasson Community Center, 457 Main Street, Springvale, ME. Sponsored by the York County CareerCenter, the Maine Department of Labor, York County Maine Military Community Network, Sanford Regional Technical Center, York County Community College, Sanford/Springvale Chamber of Commerce and Goodwill Workforce Solutions.
  • Augusta: April TBA, Augusta Armory Job Fair. Open to Veterans and the general public.
  • Lewiston/Auburn: 11th Annual Androscoggin County Job Fair, Friday, April 4, 9 a.m. to noon at Central Maine Community College, 1250 Turner Street, Auburn. Employers should register online at .
  • Presque Isle: April 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Northeastland Hotel. Sponsored by the Presque Isle CareerCenter, the Maine Department of Labor and Northern Maine Development Corporation. For employer registration information, call the Presque Isle CareerCenter at 760-6300 or 1-800-635-0357.
  • Calais: April 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Washington County Community College Gymnasium. Employers, call Dodie at 255-1933 to register; space is limited. Sponsored by the Calais CareerCenter, the Maine Department of Labor and Northern Maine Development Corporation.
  • Lincoln: April 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mattanawcook Academy, 33 Reed Drive, Lincoln. Employers contact Amanda Woodard at 207-794-3372 for registration information.
  • Bangor: May TBA. Spring Job Fair.
  • Pittsfield: May 14, Pittsfield Area Regional Job Fair, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Warsaw Middle School Gym and Cafeteria, 167 School Street. Registration form available at . Sponsored by the Ken-Som (Kennebec-Somerset) Transition Team and the Town of Pittsfield.
  • Augusta: June 17, First Annual State of Maine Government and Maine Municipal Government Job Fair for Veterans at the Augusta Armory.

Classroom Resources Available for Maine Statehood Day

March 15 marks Statehood Day, which according to State statute is intended to “commemorate the admission of Maine as a state into the United States of America and the ideals and wisdom of those men and women who have formed Maine’s history and traditions.”

Maine schools are urged to observe the day and the Maine Historical Society provides a number of online resources to support classroom learning and celebrations, among them:

§  An online exhibit, To Separate or Not to Separate, That is the Question, by Candace Kanes.
§  Maine History Online, which provides information and primary sources to trace the events leading up to Maine’s official separation from Massachusetts in 1820 in the 1775-1820 Tension, War & Separation section and a focus on the years after statehood in the 1820-1850 A New State & Prosperity section.
§  In the “Themes” section of Maine History Online, the work of William King (Maine’s first governor) is highlighted under Leaders & Causes.   Peopling Maine provides a snapshot of Maine’s people.
§  Finding Katahdin: An Online Exploration of Maine’s Past includes primary sources and lesson plans.  Chapter 4, From Revolution to Statehood, includes a collection of primary sources and lesson plans suitable for middle and high school classrooms.

Additionally, the Osher Map Library of the University of Southern Maine provides several lesson plans designed for middle school students yet adaptable for elementary and high school students.  Lessons are available for download and include such topics as Maine Statehood and Comparing Maps of Maine.

The online exhibition, Printed Maps of the District and State of Maine 1793-1860, traces the growth of Maine from the first printed map in 1793 depicting five counties to the formation of 16 in 1860.