Welcome to my web site, where it is my intent to keep you current with the happenings of the 126th Maine legislature, at least from my perspective. I feel honored and humbled to once again have earned your trust and support at the polls as I enter my final two years of public service in Augusta as the voice of House District 81 (Leeds, Livermore, Livermore Falls and Wayne). Having survived the Democrat wave where the majority Republican party was basically thrown out after only two years in control of the legislature, my role will be somewhat different but nevertheless just as important as I continue to advocate for the good citizens of my district and the greater constituency of the citizens of the state. Much good was accomplished over the last two years and, despite all the rhetoric of the campaign season, I believe both parties recognize that fact. We now must continue to collaborate and cooperate with each other as well as with the executive branch to make our great state a better place to live for all.
Immediately below these introductory comments you will find a weekly synopsis of some of the vital news events occurring in the capitol. These are essentially the same as those distributed through my weekly e-mails for those of you who have asked to receive same. I invite anyone who wishes to receive my weekly communications to call or e-mail with the appropriate address.
Other sections of the site provide data on how to reach me should I be able to assist you in some fashion. Frankly, that is one aspect of serving you that I particularly like. As your liaison with the myriad state agencies with which you might want to contact, I can assist you through what many see as a labyrinth of great challenge. That should not be the case and I invite you to call upon me when your personal search seems too unwieldy.
Since my first election I sat down every weekend to write a news column on some salient feature of the legislative workings. This article is printed in the LF Advertiser and a copy is provided to the town managers of the four communities weekly so that they might include it on the town's website should they wish. All citizens can visit my website if they do not have access to the newspaper or their community does not reprint it on its own site.
Finally, there are sections showing the bills that I have personally sponsored or co-sponsored. Efforts will be made to tie this website to the state's so that all legislative bills will be available to you.
Thanks for visiting my website. Should you have any questions whatsoever or need my assistance in any state matter, please let me know. It will be my privilege to serve you!
April 12, 2014 - Newsletter from the House
More Than 7,100 Real Jobs on Maine's Job BankMaine's Job Bank, at http://www.mainecareercenter.com, has added more jobs in the beginning of April to bring the total to over 7,100 openings available. The job bank, a service of the Maine Department of Labor, is an online job board that is free for both employers and job seekers.
"The staff of the Maine Job Bank and CareerCenters work hard to ensure real jobs with real companies are available for Maine\'s citizens," said Governor Paul R. LePage. "I urge job seekers and employers to learn more about this recruiting tool."
Employers on the job bank have a variety of opportunities, entry level to professional, with some of Maine\'s most high-profile companies and small businesses throughout the state. A few of the recent business to join include MedWorks Staffing, hiring a Nurse Practitioner-Psychiatric, S.A. Risk Management, LLC in Bangor, hiring six part-time security guards, and Veillieux Concrete of Belgrade hiring full-time concrete laborers.
The Maine Job Bank includes a custom matching system that connects the requirements of the job opening with the skills and experience of a job seeker. Job seekers who register for a free account will be able to add their resume, enter their skills and experience, and create email alerts to receive jobs that are the closest match to their profile.
Maine CareerCenter staff can help employers and job seekers connect with the Job Bank. CareerCenters offer a variety of workshops and services to help people find employment or upgrade skills. Each center provides several public-access workstations with Microsoft Office software, resume writing and cover letter software, Internet access and O*Net software for skills assessment. All CareerCenter services are free of charge.
Maine High School Graduation Rates Continue to Climb
Maine's high school graduation rate continues to climb with 86.36 percent of all students who entered the ninth grade in the fall of 2009 earning their diplomas on time in 2013, but State education officials stress that proficiency must be the top priority.
That rate is among the top 15 in the nation, which reflects a rise of more than a full percentage point each year since it was at 80.3 percent in 2009-2010 when the current calculation method was first used.
Maine Education Commissioner Jim Rier congratulated Maine schools and students for the continued improvement in the graduation rate, but stressed the state's focus must be on ensuring students are truly college and career ready when they leave Maine public schools.
As of 2018, Maine high schools will award proficiency-based diplomas that require students to demonstrate mastery of the state's learning standards in critical content areas like math and reading. The gap between the percentage of students who graduate and those who are proficient in math and reading is now around 37 percent, and a third of graduates who go onto college in Maine need basic remedial courses.
Of Maine's 133 high schools, 73 improved their four-year graduation rate from 2012 to 2013 and 60 did not.
The State is working toward a goal of having a 90 percent graduation rate, and 45 high schools met or exceeded that in 2013.
The five-year graduation rate for the 2012 graduating class cohort was also up slightly to 87.39 percent.
The Class of 2013 was the smallest in recent years, down to 12,792 students from 13,042 in 2012, which mirrors declining overall public school enrollment.
To see Maine high school graduation data, visit the Maine Department of Education's transparent online Education Data Warehouse at http://www.maine.gov/doe/dataresources/.
Maine Wildlife Park Opening For 2014 Season
The Maine Wildlife Park, located on Route 26 in Gray, will open for the 2014 season on Saturday, April 19th at 9:30am - just in time for school vacation! Even though there is still some snow on the ground and it's a bit muddy, the wildlife park will welcome visitors a bit later than usual, due to heavy snow cover, on the 3rd Saturday of April this year. Visitors will be happy to note that for the 6th year in a row, the park's admission fees remain the same!
The Wildlife Park has a variety of NEW things to see and do this year! A brand new native snake and amphibian exhibit is taking shape in the Visitor's Center using the space formerly occupied by the restrooms. There are new games, puzzles and exhibits in there as well. The turtle ponds have been completely reconstructed to ameliorate leaking ponds and predation. The Friends of the Wildlife Park are funding the construction of a new lynx exhibit, on which work has already begun. The park also has a new resident, an unreleasable merlin, which can be viewed in the raptor exhibits.
New events are planned for several weekends beginning Saturday May 3, starting with a snake and turtle event. Raptor programs, an LLBean Camping Demo, a Tailgate Yard Sale, Summer Solstice Farmers Market, 'Meet Donn Fendler Day', Fish on Ice, Wildlife Encounters and Enchanted Forests will all be new and different! Favorites like Mad Science, Pow Wow, Chainsaw Artists, Northwoods Law Day, Rick Charette and Halloweenfest will all be back as well. Plan to purchase your family pass now so you don't miss any of the fun; and be sure to pick up an Event Calendar! Keep up with current photos and stories on Facebook too.
The Maine Wildlife Park has over 30 species of native wildlife on display, plus wildlife gardens, nature trails, a fish hatchery and other interactive exhibits and displays. The park is open daily from April 19th through November 11th from 9:30am-4:30pm; visitors must leave the premises by 6:00pm. Admission to the park is free for ages 3 and under; $5.00 ages 4-12; $7.00 for adults, and $5.00 for seniors. Groups of 15 or more are $3.50 per person. Bring a picnic and spend the day!
For more information about any of these programs, please call the Maine Wildlife Park at 207-657-4977; or visit them online at www.mainewildlifepark.com.
Work Zone Safety
Employees working in work zones are continuously exposed to distracted drivers and drivers traveling at high speeds. The Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) understands the exposure these employees face on a daily basis and will be heightening the department's awareness of this issue throughout the year. Improving work zone safety is critical to MaineDOT's Mission and Goals and a new Statewide Capstone will measure the number of accidents, injuries and fatalities in work zones. Maine is one of the few states in the country with ZERO Work Zone Fatalities in 2013.
A news release from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) points to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics showing that 609 people died in highway work-zone crashes in 2012 -- 19 more fatalities than the previous year. Nearly 80 percent of victims in work zone crashes in 2012 were drivers or passengers, AASHTO notes.
"The latest statistics show that speeding was a factor in more than 35 percent of all fatal work zone crashes in 2012," AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright said in a written statement. "This is the start of the roadway construction season and thousands of workers are going to be out there, on America's highways and bridges."
March 27, 2014 - Newsletter from the House
Representative Fredette, Governor LePage Roll Out Welfare Reform Bills
House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport recently joined Governor Paul LePage, Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Mary Mayhew, and Mayor Bob MacDonald of Lewiston in introducing four bills designed to reform Maine's welfare system.
Governor LePage exercised his constitutional authority to submit the bills as Governor's bills to be heard this session.
• Rep. Fredette sponsored LD 1815, the work-search-before-welfare bill. The bill would simply require that job-ready welfare applicants apply for three jobs before receiving benefits. Nineteen other states have enacted the work-search-before-welfare requirement, including liberal states such as Vermont and New York.
• Rep. Mike Nadeau (R-Fort Kent) is sponsoring LD 1820, which prohibits out-of-state EBT card use. Maine EBT has been used in all 50 states and a resort in Puerto Rico.
• Rep. Sharri MacDonald (R-Old Orchard Beach) is sponsoring LD 1822, which prohibits welfare funds from being used to pay for tobacco, liquor, gambling, or bail. It is currently legal to use TANF to buy cigarettes, alcohol, lottery tickets, or bail someone out of jail. This would put a stop to it.
• Rep. James Gillway (R-Searsport) is sponsoring LD 1842, which removes exceptions to work search requirement in the TANF program.
"Even though Maine ranks second in the nation for welfare spending, there are thousands of truly needy Mainers going without the help they need because we have expanded welfare to able-bodied adults again and again while weakening accountability measures within the programs," said Rep. Fredette.
All four welfare reform measures have received public hearings before the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee and will be sent to the entire Legislature for a vote.
Spring Jobs Fairs Scheduled Around the State
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. Two are scheduled for the first week of March.
"Job fairs highlight the different companies and types of jobs a region offers," said Governor Paul R. LePage. "Job seekers who attend can learn which types of jobs are available in their area as well as what skills employers need. With our economy improving and our unemployment rate falling, now is a great time to participate in a job fair as an employer or a job seeker."
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, http://www.mainecareercenter.com.
Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette stated, "For those who might need training to make a career change or get a dream job, the job fairs and the CareerCenters can help people make those connections." She added, "People do not have to try to navigate the job search process on their own. In fact, people can visit a CareerCenter at any time to learn about job search strategies, improve computer skills and learn about training and apprenticeship opportunities."
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.
Grants Available to Enhance Public Recreational Boating
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's Bureau of Parks and Lands is pleased to announce that it is seeking grant proposals to improve recreational boating access to the waters of the State of Maine for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1, 2014 and ends June 30, 2015.
"With 2,300 great ponds, 32,000 miles of streams and rivers and over 3,000 miles of coastline, the State of Maine offers unparalleled opportunities for recreational boating," said Governor Paul R. LePage. "However, with only 460 assured public recreational boat access sites, we need to do more to ensure the public has adequate access to these waters."
The Maine Legislature established the Boating Facilities Fund in 1963, which is administered by the Bureau of Parks and Lands, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and funded with the state tax on gasoline used by recreational motor boats. The Bureau uses these funds to acquire, develop and renovate recreational boat access sites and to place and maintain navigational buoys on nearly 50 inland lakes and ponds. The Bureau's philosophy is that boating access sites are more efficiently managed on the local level and so accomplishes most of its mission of providing boat access through a grant process.
Grants are limited to a maximum of $150,000 and must be completed by June 30, 2016. A cash or in-kind match equal to 50% of approved project costs is required. Project proposals are due June 25, 2014. A pre-application inspection by Bureau staff must be completed before an application is submitted. Requests for pre-application inspections must be made no later than May 14, 2014.
For more information call 287-4952 or see the Bureau's Boating Grant website: http://www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/grants/boatingfacilitiesfund.html.