from April/May 2011
Previous month's news
- Department of sad misunderstanding: The Gov is quoted in the BDN (05/21):
On protecting an eagles' nest from the proposed Wiscasset bypass:
I'm a big believer that people pay taxes and eagles don't.
On his budget proposal to cut $4 million from MPBN:
In good conscience, you cannot ask a governor to go cut welfare on individuals and then keep corporate welfare on the books.
- LD1333 changes Maine health insurance rules after rancorous debate (and lack thereof) in the leg. A reasoned analysis of the consequences appeared in the weekend BDN (05/21). The bottom line is that we can't have fairly priced health insurance coverage until everyone is covered, whether through mandates like those stipulated in the federal Affordable Care Act, and Massachusetts and Vermont laws, or through universal single-payer health care. Without universal coverage, only the sickest and oldest pay, while the young and healthy gamble they won't need health insurance. LD1333 doesn't change that dynamic.
- News from Augusta is grim. The Republican-domination Legislature is pushing:
- Amended child labor laws, among them allowing high-school-age children to work four additional hours per week, up from 20 hours.
- New health insurance legislation, allowing out-of-state (unregulated) insurers access to Maine customers and creating a state-funded high-risk pool. Rancor in committee caused the Republican chair to resign. The LePage administration's lack of support for insurance regulation caused the long time insurance commissioner to resign.
- Relaxation of laws that currently regulate DeCoster egg farms as an industrial operation, rather than as a farm. Among other things, current law requires DeCoster to pay work over 40 hours per week at overtime rates; farm workers are exempt from overtime provisions.
- A tax revision that would essentially do away with the progressive income tax, and would not raise needed additional revenue.
- An accounting trick in the budget that would seem to show the state providing school revenue sharing to municipalities at the 55% level. The trick: count money that municipalities already receive (in different accounts) as school funding. The result: short-changed towns and higher property taxes.
- An amendment to conflict-of-interest laws that prohibited developer Darryl Brown from serving as the Governor's Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.
- Elimination of LURC, the Land Use Regulation Commission, often called the planning board for the state’s 10 million acres of the Unorganized Territory.
- Elimination of funding for Maine Public Broadcasting.
With collegiality long gone, prospects are poor for civil negotiation of the state budget. The Governor has already threatened to veto any legislative result that differs from his proposed budget. Stay tuned.
- News from Montpelier is good! The Vermont legislature passed and the Governor promises to sign, a new health care law that takes the state down the path to universal, single-payer health care.
Detailed explanation at American Medical News. Follow this link to the state's page on Vermont's Health Care Reform.
In contrast to the Maine Legislature's recent efforts, Vermont will be fully compliant with Federal law as it phases in over the next six years.
The NYTimes (05/22) has an interesting piece on the law's primary advocate, her methods, and how long she persisted.
- News from Boston is good! Romneycare is working out; 98% of the population is insured, costs to the state are about 1% of the Massachusetts budget, and most people are satisfied with the plan. Control of medical costs is the major problem remaining. Republicans will have a difficult job making Obamacare a 2012 election issue, especially if Romney is their presidential candidate. NYTimes editorial (05/21) has more...
- Our last meeting was Tuesday, May 10th, at Stella Maris House in Rockland. Speakers included Gerald Weinand, publisher of Dirigo Blue, and representatives of Emerge Maine. This was the last meeting chaired by Hugh Magbie, who has resigned the chair in order to pursue business interests outside Knox County. The agenda is here. Highlights of the meeting:
- About 30 people were in attendance.
The Chair reported that our local legislators asked that we not change our regular meeting day to suit them.
- MDP's Diversity and Outreach group reports that we are finding increased support from Hispanics, the NAACP, and unions.
- MDP's Rules Committee is working on rules for the 2012 caucuses and convention.
- The Lobster Bake, our major fundraiser, is scheduled for Saturday, August 20, 4 to 7 p.m. Volunteers welcome.
- OFA (Diana Beach) reports a good Camden meeting, virtual phone banking on Republican attempts at Voter Suppression.
- Vice Chair, Bruce Hodsdon, took over as Chair on Hugh's departure. We are seeking a new Vice Chair. Hugh was thanked for his service and applauded by all.
- The Candidate Search committee will send an email blast, seeking interested folks to run for office at the County and State level in 2012.
- The need review of our treasurer's books was discussed. The group agreed to accept the reported status of our last two years' accounts at face value. Going forward, we will have an internal committee review the treasurer's books coincident with each report to the Ethics Commission (Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices). The makeup of the internal committee is to be determined.
- The two-year budget leading up to the 2012 elections was briefly discussed. The bottom line ais frighteningly large.
- We will again have a food booth at The Thomaston Fourth of July fest. Volunteers sought for managing, setting up, cooking, and cleaning up. Is anyone working on the Parade?
- Fundraising ideas are sought. A number of ideas were mentioned.
- Bonnie Post is our new representative to the MDP, replacing Moira Paddock who has resigned.
- Our April meeting was Tuesday, April 12th.. Speakers included Ben Grant, MDP Chair; Greg Olson, MDP Political Director; and Sean Smith, Caucus Director for the House Democratic Campaign Committee. The agenda is here.
A brief recap of topics discussed:
- Public financing of Maine's elections is at risk, especially for the Gubernatorial race.
- Likelihood of getting Instant Runoff elections through the current legislature is poor.
- Change in Child Labor Laws is a considerable over-reach by Republicans. Sen. Chris Rector, R, Knox Co., is on the labor committee and will bear the consequences.
- Democratic leadership must offer differences in tax reform policy.
- We need a strong, simple message. For example: Republicans are simply lying about a debt crisis in Maine.
- How can the Maine Democratic Party provide support to our Democratic legislators? Can MDP be their research arm?
- ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is a national conservative group pushing legislation to the states. Gerald Weinand (Dirigo Blue) found several bills pending in the Maine legislature with language nearly identical to that of bills pending in other states.
- Outside money/influence will flood the state during the next election. It could be made a unifying force for us. It could make our clean election system moot. It could require KCDC to raise a lot of money in the next two years.
- A solicitation letter will be made to our email list for general funds through Act Blue.
- Maine BOSS is a group of "Maine Business Owners Standing in Solidarity with Labor, Humanity, & Common Sense! (Let's show LePage who's boss!)" Here is their Facebook page.
- A proposed joint meeting with the Lincoln and Waldo County Democratic committees is on hold.
- Our Candidate Search Committee will meet next on April 21st at Mike Mayo's.
- National Drug Take Back Day is Saturday April 30, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at several locations in Knox County. Dispose of unwanted prescription drugs safely. Details here or contact the Knox Co Sheriff's Dept.
- April is Organ Donor donation month. One donor can save 17 lives. Contact the Secy of State to have your wishes added to your driver's license.
- Our meeting day conflicts with our Knox Co. legislators' duties in Augusta. The Chair was asked to discuss with them to see if a change in our meeting day would encourage their attendance at our meetings.
- The question of voter participation in the last election was raised. One answer is here.
- Budget failure is not about the money. The adults have lost control of the Republican party, who refuse compromise legislation to fund the federal government, risking an April 8th government shutdown with broad economic consequences. The real issues for the Party of No:
- Abortion funding
- EPA regulation of greenhouse gases
- Health care reform
- Banking industry regulation
The NYTimes (04/08) has more...
- Zoe Armstrong worked at headquarters a lot during the 2010 campaign. She is now working with the Peace Corps in Armenia and writes:
The newsletter (PDF) is here. Follow this link to her blog.
Greetings from Armenia
The attached is a newsletter our Gender Awareness Development initiative puts out. I wrote a simple article and also interviewed one of my Armenian colleagues in here. This is a very elementary newsletter meant to distribute to the Armenian English speaking community about Peace Corps and about gender equality related activities. Thought you may be interested to see it.
Hope all is well, Zoe