NEWS from March 2013
Previous month's news
Move to Amend update (Friendship):At [Friendship's] Town Meeting March 21, a resolution in support of overturning Citizens United by means of a constitutional amendment passed by enthusiastic voice vote. No opposition was expressed.
Friendship joins Camden and Thomaston in Knox County in petitioning the Maine Legislature to call upon Congress to pass and send to the states for ratification a 28th amendment to the U. S. Constitution for the purpose of overturning the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision of January 2010.
Voters who would like to send similar resolutions from their towns or organizations in favor of this nonpartisan movement may contact BJ McCollister at Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (BJ@mainecleanelections.org) or Carmen Lavertu in Thomaston (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Parade Honchos needed! Diane Smith reminds us that she and Amy Fischer, who have ably marshalled us for the Thomaston 4th and Lobster Festival parades for the past three years, have retired from their posts. Diane says, in part:
...We stepped forward three years ago after participating in a poor Democratic showing during a 4th of July Parade where Tea Party supporters marched in strong numbers. The parades since then, averaging 50 to 95 participants, generated enthusiasm amongst our volunteer base and parade viewers; offered visibility for our candidates; and showcased our Democratic values. The TV coverage and positive word-of-mouth comments passed around the county after the parades were additional benefits..."
Diane has prepared an outline of the organizers' tasks and has offered to prepare a manual.
Who will take up the baton? Who will lead the charge, now? Our sincerest thanks to Diane and Amy would be to carry on with the same gusto.
The Maine Budget process. Representative Dickerson points us to:
"an important link on a Wordpress blog that Speaker of the House, Mark Eves, has set up, so that we can have at-a-glance information on the unfolding budgetary process at the State House:
If you have testimony that you would like to provide concerning any portion of the budget, please contact me at email@example.com or call 207-287-1400, or send your testimony to Representative Elizabeth Dickerson, 2 State House Station, Augusta, Maine, 04333-0002."
The GOP's Bachman Problem Charles Blow, writing in the NYTimes (03/22), provides several laughs as he goes over the recent squabbling within the Republican party (McCain calling Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Justin Amash 'wacko birds'; Donald Trump calling Michelle Malkin a 'dummy' who was 'born stupid'.)
But he's serious when he points to Michelle Bachman's lies at the recent CPAC meeting that earned her a 'Pants-on-fire' rating from PolitiFact, and a four Pinocchios rating from the WaPo, and says:
"...People like Bachmann represent everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. She and her colleagues are hyperbolic, reactionary, ill-informed and ill-intentioned, and they have become synonymous with the Republican brand. We don’t need all politicians to be Mensa-worthy, but we do expect them to be cogent and competent. ..."
Ranked Choice Voting
"Ranked choice" (or "Instant runoff") voting is a way to avoid the spoiler effect in three-way contests. We are all sweating the LePage vs. Cutler vs. [insert Democratic candidate] race in 2014 - but there is no way to make that happen anytime soon in statewide contests. The lack of machine-counting in every town is one significant hurdle.
However, Rita Moran (chair, Kennebec Dems) writes:
"At our last meeting, the Kennebec Dems voted overwhelmingly to work to bring about the passage of IRV as a ballot initiative, and it will be a great organizing effort for us. The thing is, this really shouldn’t be done in isolation from other groups. For example, I am also chair of a subcommittee of MUUSAN (Maine Unitarian Universalist Social Action Network) which is also garnering support from UU congregations throughout Maine for IRV; this would be a great volunteer push, as we saw when marriage equality was on the ballot and members of those same congregations worked so hard to bring about a win in November.
The quickest way to bring this about (and, according to Matt Dunlap, the only way that would affect the 2014 general election), would be if the legislature passed one of the bills now in the hopper, and if it were signed by the governor. Even given the fact that there are some Republicans who believe that Charlie Summers would now be a US Senator if IRV were in place in time for the 2012 general election, my best guess is that the legislative route will probably not be successful, so we’re talking about starting now for a longer process to be on the ballot in time for 2016, but still worth it in the long run.
So, the reason I am posting this is because I would appreciate any information on other groups working on the same thing, on any coalitions that are already forming, and so forth..."
Legislators' forum in Rockland, Thursday, March 14th.
The earlier February meeting was postponed due to weather.
Venue: Rockland City Hall
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Who: Sen. Ed Mazurek and Reps Dickerson, Kruger and Welsh.
Legislators' forum in St. George, Saturday, March 16th.
Venue: St. George fire station
Time: 9:30 to 11:3o a.m.
Who: Sen. Ed Mazurek and Rep. Chuck Kruger.
Carmen Lavertu announced a public forum on Public Banking to be held Thursday, March 14th, 5:00 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of St. John Baptist, Thomaston. [More here...]
Clean Elections hearing Wednesday, March 20th, Augusta.
BJ McCollister called this morning, finally. There will be a public hearing next week on Wednesday before the Appropriations Committee. This will be the bill to save Clean Elections and not cutting off the fund as the Governor wants to do. MCCE is calling for people to come and testify. Who would like to do that? We should have someone from Knox County. I haven't had time to think about this yet. The PDF is very interesting.
Can we car pool? Let me know. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our March meeting was Tuesday, the 12th at Stella Maris House in Rockland. The agenda is here.
- We were fortunate to have State reps Liz Dickerson and Chuck Kruger attend and share some thoughts with us, including:
- Governor is fumbling with LURC appointments in needless reorganization.
- Chief Justice Saufley was impressive in her State of Judiciary address.
- Guv trying to paint Dems as not wanting to discharge hospital debt, but former Governor Baldacci actually started the effort to clean up the mess. Guv wants to borrow to pay the state share of the debt ($185m), pay the bond plus interest from annual return on re-negotiated state liquor contract. Leg is proposing an upfront payment (of unknown magnitude) from a new liquor contract with no additional bonded debt.
- Evangelos listed high hospital CEO salaries. Are hospitals really hurting? Steve Brill's Time Magazine story documents the weird pricing structure [HuffPost story here]
- On-going support from constituents really important to legislators.
- NRA sent attack mailer to 11 legislators voting against the concealed carry bill.
- Mike Duffy will do a test mailing of Clynk bags to active Dems in a few towns with low participation in the program. We authorized a small expenditure to support the mailing.
- Perhaps we could staff the returnable bin at the St. George transfer station this summer to bolster our Clynk program.
- Reapportionment work continues at the Committee level. No big changes foreseen in Senate districts yet.
- Our July 4th food booth will see competition this summer, when East Coast Midways brings carnival rides and food sales to the Thomaston festival. We can potentially remain set up for two evenings after the 4th (Fri and Sat this year). Ideas for new food items?
- Our Program and Event committee is working on speaker topics for upcoming meetings and polled those present for interest in several topics.
- An excellent letter by Bill Michaud on the Move to Amend was recommended here.
- Here's a link to a calendar of the legislature's hearings and work sessions. Thanks Carmen.
CLYNK is now in Camden.
The recent renovation/expansion of the Camden Hannaford store includes a CLYNK returnable bottle drop-off. The drop-off is now open near the store exit (week of 02/25). It's easier than ever to unload your bottles and contribute to the KCDC treasury.
New bag pickup points:
More info about CLYNK here...
- Camden: Amy Fischer (236-0616).
- Friendship: Bill Michaud (975-0205 or 832-5197).
Gun Control vs. the NRA
Gun control is a front-burner issue after the shootings in Connecticut last fall. The National Rifle Association is adamantly opposed. Their Wayne LaPierre infamously called for more guns:
...The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away ... or a minute away?...
...I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school...[Full text at NY Daily News, 12/21/2012]
The issue is complicated by the three constituencies lobbying for "gun rights:"
Our own Ed Dodge suggests "Common Sense Firearms Laws for Humans". He says:
- Advocates for personal self-defense.
- Advocates for violent overthrow of the government
(like U. S. Representative (!) Louie Gohmert, of Texas, justifying citizen assault weapon ownership:
...a free people should be an armed people. It insures against the tyranny of the government. If they know that the biggest army is the American people, then you don't have the tyranny...The New Yorker (01/13/2013))
I am an avid hunter of 64 years, supporter of the 2nd amendment, gun enthusiast and owner, a military vet, believer in Maine's hunting laws, and a believer in sensible gun laws to protect humans.
Ed points to several sections of Maine's existing hunting laws and suggests that these should be generally applicable (not just to hunting animals):
I am not a member of the NRA or SAM, nor have I ever been. I do not agree with their philosophy on firearms...
It is unlawful to...
Complete text of Maine hunting laws.
- possess any auto-loading firearm which has a magazine capacity of more than 5 cartridges...
- possess any firearm fitted with [a silencer].
- use cartridges which contain tracer bullets or explosive bullets...
- hunt with or possess for hunting any automatic firearm...
- hunt any migratory game bird with a shotgun...capable of holding more than 3 shells...
Maine Budget Woes. About the supplemental budget, Andy O'Brien says:
On Thursday, February 21, the Maine Legislature handily passed a $153.2-million stop-gap measure, known as the "supplemental budget," to hold the state over until the fiscal year ends on June 30. The plan addresses $35.5 million in revenue decreases due to the struggling economy and an $87-million budget hole in the Department of Health and Human Services. ... The vote on the supplemental came after a unanimous bipartisan vote by the 13-member Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs, which negotiates the budget amongst themselves before sending its recommendations to the full Legislature....[more at Freepress 02/28]
But the biennial budget won't be so easy. Again Andy has the word:
...Appropriations Committee members have yet to dig into all the details of the biennial budget, but the budget's most controversial proposal so far is to completely suspend revenue sharing and other aid to municipalities - amounting to an estimated $425 million loss to Maine cities and towns. ...
"Our main position is that the state has two means of revenue available to it," said Conrad [Maine Municipal Association spokesman]. "There's income tax, which they cut last year. That action is a significant contributor to the state's current problem. [The state] also has state sales tax available and it can cut its own budget. What we don't think should happen is that local property-tax payers, whose money goes primarily to run towns and city services, pick up the tab."...
Maine Municipal Association recently set up the website http://mainetaxshift.memun.org to track the budget and highlight the organization's stance that the proposals may be savings for the state, but are a tax shift to municipalities. The MMA and the progressive Maine People's Alliance have been encouraging towns to pass resolutions opposing the revenue-sharing cuts. Facing a loss in revenue sharing of between $653,500 and $882,472 and an increased burden to fund teacher's retirement, last week Belfast became one of several towns to pass such a resolution....
[more at Freepress 03/06]