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Political Media Releases
As we receive them, we'll post political media releases here. Links to websites of those representing our area are below, along with their most recent media releases.

Rep. Jeffery Gifford

May 17 - AUGUSTA – The Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry today heard testimony regarding a bill to abolish the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) and transfer its rule-making authority to county governments.

The legislation, LD 1534, is "An Act To Reform the Land Use and Planning Authority in the Unorganized Territories." The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jeff Gifford (R-Lincoln), said the measure, if passed, would free up landowners to make productive use of their property. "This would be a big economic boost for northern Maine," he said. "The people who own the land have been stifled by LURC. They have no voice in the planning decisions that affect their economy, their heritage and their future."

LURC, established in 1971, is empowered to make planning and development decisions for more than 10 million acres of private property in Maine, concentrated in eight counties. Nowhere else in the United States is there an equivalent of LURC, and Rep. Gifford said residents of rural counties resent that such control over their property is exerted by an un-elected authority from outside the area.

Lead testimony for the bill was provided by Senate President Kevin Raye (R-Washington). "In rural Maine," he said, "the acronym LURC is synonymous with heavy-handed government bureaucracy and overreach." In every other part of Maine, he noted, planning decisions are made by local residents who have a shared stake in the outcomes of their decisions. LURC, he added, "more closely resembles a colonial power able to impose its members' will on any given part of the unorganized territories."

Speaking before a packed hearing room, Sen. Raye said two recent proceedings convinced him that LURC should be abolished and its responsibilities transferred to county government. "Those proceedings," he said, "were the absolutely shameful process surrounding the proposed Plum Creek development in Piscataquis County, and the painful process surrounding the development of a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan. As a resident and a legislator from rural Maine, I was appalled at the repugnant and humiliating nature of both processes."

He went on to say, "The fact is that the LURC model is not worthy of a democratic society. It is a paternalistic anachronism of a bygone era when those who were running Augusta at the time favored central planning and felt that local government was not up to the challenge of running their own affairs."

Forty years of LURC management, Sen. Raye said, have left a sad legacy in the counties that contain most of the unorganized territories, including a 10.7 percent unemployment rate, a high poverty rate and rural out-migration that threatens the region's heritage and future.

Under the terms of LD 1534, major development issues under the jurisdiction of the Natural Resources Protection Act will be handled by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Timber harvesting and forest management in the unorganized territories will fall under the jurisdiction of the Maine Forest Service.

Also, a new Land Use Review and Appeals Board, comprised of representatives of each of the eight countries with major portions of the unorganized territories, will consider appeals of local planning decisions. Current LURC rules will carry over to the counties.

Rep. Aaron Libby (R-Waterboro), one of the Legislature's few full-time farmers, co-sponsored the bill. "That government is best that governs least, and the best government is the one closest to the people," he said. "States are better in that regard than the federal level, and counties and municipalities are better than the state. We should always strive for local control, and LD 1534 will allow for more control in the hands of the counties and the people."



MAY 3 -

Last night, the American Cancer Society sent out a blast email about Rep. Richardson's amendment to LD 1333 that contains a series of inaccurate statements. We are disappointed that the ACS would misinform its membership about the provisions of this bill, particularly since LD 1333 explicitly guards against increased rates or denial of coveragefor those with chronic illness. Direct review of the legislation will show that the ACS has no factual backup for the claims they have made.

Following is a point-by-point review of the claims made by the ACS:

"The Maine legislature is about to vote on a bill that would be devastating for cancer patients. It would allow health insurance companies to:

Deny coverage for cancer survivors due to "pre-existing conditions"
FACT: LD 1333 explicitly forbids insurance carriers from denying coverage. Every Mainer has guaranteed access to individual health insurance plans.

Force cancer survivors to pay higher rates for health insurance
FACT: LD 1333 copies strategies that have been proven in other states to reduce costs for everyone, including the elderly and chronically ill. Insurance companies cannot charge different premiums based on health, just like current Maine law.

Require cancer patients living in rural areas to drive to Bangor, Portland or Boston for treatment
FACT: LD 1333 does not put any geographic mandates on anyone, particularly cancer patients. LD1333 does allow patients access to local care, but removes restrictions that deny patients access to more affordable care in other parts of the state. This will reduce premiums charged to businesses and individuals in rural areas.

"More uninsured cancer survivors."
FACT: LD 1333 will provide more access to the 130,000 Mainers currently without coverage, by offering lower-priced health insurance plans, especially to the most vulnerable.

"Less access to cancer treatment."
FACT: LD 1333 provides wider access to cancer treatment, both through removal of geographic monopolies and through lower health insurance premiums.

"Unreasonable and unaffordable rates for health insurance."
FACT: LD 1333 allows more competition and a wider array of products for all Mainers. LD 1333 is modeled after the Idaho guarantee issue reinsurance plan. By comparison, a 40 year old in Maine pays $897 a month for the same plan that would cost $222 a month in Idaho. According to the Maine Bureau of Insurance's own analysis, this plan will reduce health insurance premiums across the board.

LD 1640 Hearing On May 17th
Governor Announces Staff Changes
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Augusta, Maine – The LePage Administration announced Wednesday several staff changes that will take effect.

Commissioner Darryl Brown will be moving from the Department of Environmental Protection to the State Planning Office. Mr. Brown has accepted the position of Director of the State Planning office, and will be a valuable asset there bringing with him decades of business experience. The Governor has asked Mr. Brown to reorganize the State Planning Office which is part of the Executive Department providing planning assistance, policy development, program management, and technical assistance to build a sustainable future for Maine's communities, businesses, and residents.

In lieu of a letter issued by the Maine Attorney General's office Wednesday, which cites a potential disqualification under Maine law of Darryl Brown, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Governor LePage has sent a letter (see attached) to members of the Board of Environmental Protection requesting all information related to their individual sources of income from 2009 onward. "Regrettably, this step is required to allow me to meet my constitutional obligations to faithfully and equitably execute the laws," Governor LePage said.

The LePage administration intends to submit legislation that, going forward, will allow qualified and experienced people to serve the State. As noted by the Attorney General, while federal law allows potential conflicts to be addressed through recusal and delegation, such flexibility is not allowed by current state law.

"It is unfortunate that Maine law is so inflexible that it can be read to prevent good people from serving. This is another example of the costs of Maine going beyond federal standards. I have discussed this issue with legislative leaders and am pleased that there is support for legislation to fix this problem," said Governor LePage.

Meanwhile, Jim Brooks, Director of Bureau of Air Quality will become Acting Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Governor LePage also announced Wednesday that former Republican U.S. Representative David Emery has been selected as Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Mr. Emery grew up in Rockland before attending college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he received a B.S. degree in electronics engineering. He was a two-term State Representative, a four-term Congressman, and Deputy Director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Reagan Administration. After returning home to Maine, Mr. Emery served for a brief period as the Interim President of Thomas College in Waterville, Maine. In 2005, he declared candidacy for Governor in the 2006 election.

On Wednesday, the LePage Administration released that Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Phil Congdon resigned. Commissioner Congdon took the post in January.

In addition, Governor Paul LePage announced Wednesday that he intends to nominate Lieutenant General Robert Winglass (retired) as Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor.

General Winglass graduated from Springfield College, where he earned a B.S. degree in Education; and holds an M.S. degree in International Affairs from George Washington University. General Winglass joined the Marine Corps upon graduating college and eventually became Chief of Staff for Installations and Logistics, Headquarters Marine Corps Washington, D.C. His decoration and awards are extensive which include the Distinguished Service Medal and Meritorious Service Medal.

General Winglass retired in 1992 and was elected to the Maine House of Representatives where he served for four years as a member of the transportation committee and health and human services committee. He subsequently was employed by the IBM Corporation as the Director of the Strategic Business Relationships Team in the Software Division.

"General Winglass has devoted most of his career to public service with the Marine Corps and as a State Representative," said Governor LePage. "I am looking forward to collaborating with General Winglass to increase economic stability for both job creators and workers in our State."

The Maine Department of Labor promotes the safety and economic well being of all individuals and businesses in Maine by promoting independence and life-long learning, by fostering economic stability and by ensuring the safe and fair treatment of all people on the job.

Taxation Committee Passes $203 Million Package
Income tax liability eliminated for 70,000 low-income filers

April 14 - AUGUSTA - The Taxation Committee yesterday approved major legislation that lowers Maine income taxes across the board and makes more than a dozen other changes to improve the state's tax environment. Income tax reductions would average $343 in 2013.

By a vote of 8-4-1, the committee approved most of the tax changes in Governor LePage's budget proposal and made adjustments that eliminate income tax liability for some 70,000 low-income filers starting in 2012. The plan also eliminates the state's 7 percent tax on meals served at retirement homes.

"The tax cuts are targeted to the most vulnerable small businesses and most vulnerable taxpayers, and they shore up the middle class," said Sen. David Trahan (R-Waldoboro), Senate chair of the Taxation Committee. "Tens of thousands of Mainers will be exempted from the income tax altogether."

The $203 million tax-cut package now moves to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee for incorporation into the biennial budget for fiscal years 2012-2013. Further changes to the package are possible as the Appropriations panel assembles the state budget.

The plan simplifies Maine's complicated income tax system by reducing the number of tax brackets from four to two. For the 2012 tax year the rates would be 6.5 percent and 8.5 percent. In 2013 the rates would be set at 6.5 percent and 7.95 percent. Thanks to higher exemption and deduction amounts, however, those rates would kick in at higher income levels.

In 2013, for example, a family of four electing the standard deduction would owe no income tax if their adjusted gross income is below $37,000, versus below $21,400 in the current law. There would be no tax liability for any income below $10,350.

The governor's budget proposal contained about $60 million in corporate depreciation benefits. The Taxation Committee removed the so-called "bonus depreciation" and redirected the money to an assortment of other tax cuts, such as establishing a sales tax holiday each year in October and eliminating the sales tax on fuel used in all commercial fishing vessels in the Gulf of Maine.

"We were able to spread the tax benefits more widely by eliminating the bonus depreciation," said Rep. Gary Knight (R-Livermore Falls), the Committee's House chair. "The thinking was that some of that benefit would go to companies based out of state, and we wanted to preserve the maximum benefit for Maine residents and businesses.

"We maintained the governor's recommended changes to eliminate the marriage penalty and the alternative minimum tax and to increase personal exemptions to the federal levels," he added. "Overall, this is a very positive package for Maine residents. It provides the framework to move to a flat income tax over time and makes significant structural changes to Maine's tax system."

The plan retains the governor's proposal to adopt Section 179 expensing, which allows small businesses to accelerate depreciation on investments. It provides credit for investment in public fishery infrastructure for both saltwater and freshwater. It also eliminates the Low Income Tax Credit by adding a 0 percent income tax rate on the first $10,350 of income.

Rep. Beth Turner

Sen. Elizabeth Schneider

Congressman Michael Michaud

Senator Susan Collins

Local officials praise Senator Collins' efforts

Wednesday, March 30th, 2010 - Senator Collins and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at an October 2010 press conference where they announced the DOT's $20 million investment in the Memorial Bridge replacement project.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, today announced that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called to inform her that his department will sign an agreement with state officials guaranteeing the release $20 million in federal grant funding for the Memorial Bridge replacement project.

Ben Porter of Save Our Bridges said: "I am completely indebted to Senator Collins for all the work she has done in this process to secure and maintain this funding. I appreciate how well she has worked with members of the delegations and from the two states' Department of Transportation to make this happen."

In October 2010, DOT announced it would award $20 million to help replace the Memorial Bridge that links Maine and New Hampshire, and Secretary LaHood traveled to Maine at Senator Collins' invitation to officially announce the grant award. Senator Collins had strongly advocated for approval of the grant. In February 2011, however, the House of Representatives passed a federal funding bill that would have blocked the release of the funds. Senator Collins immediately asked Secretary LaHood to work closely with state officials to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that threatened this funding. As Ranking Member of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins has repeatedly raised the issue with DOT officials during hearings and in private meetings in an effort to ensure that these promised funds were secured. During a subcommittee hearing on March 10, Senator Collins again urged Secretary LaHood to help ensure that his department do all it could to cut through the red tape that was impeding the funding's release. On Monday, she met personally with Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, who assured her that DOT would continue to work to release the funding.

"I am delighted by today's announcement that this critical $20 million will be preserved that will help to rehabilitate a vital link for our states' businesses and people," said Senator Collins. "The replacement of the Memorial Bridge is crucial to the flow of goods, services and people between Maine and New Hampshire and for keeping and attracting new jobs to this region. I particularly appreciate Secretary LaHood's working so closely with me to expedite the process to guarantee this funding."

Senator Olympia Snowe