Report From the House - Representative Gary Knight - April 24, 2104
REPORT FROM THE LEGISLATURE - Representative Gary Knight
Last week the Legislature wrapped up its work for the 126th Legislature, with the exception of what is expected to be one day at the beginning of May to deal primarily with any vetoes issued between now and then. Per usual, the work was wrapped up late, or should I say early, at about 1:00 AM on Friday, April 18th.
During the day and evening we worked on several issues, though there was little debate. Primarily we dealt with the remaining bills and bonds. Those can take up quite a bit of time even without debate, as roll calls are taken and members are coming and going from the chamber. Another reason late nights happen at the State House is that within the legislative process we have to wait for certain documents to go back and forth between the House and Senate. Earlier in the year it is often possible to stagger legislation so that what the Senate does one day, the House deals with the next, but as we get to the end of the session certain things just need to get done, so lawmakers stick around and wait for paper to move so that we can vote.
One of the few bills to have any debate during last week's marathon day was yet another Medicaid Expansion bill - this one sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Mark Eves. As I have already offered my explanation on where I stand in regards to the issue in this space, I will not rehash it, but will tell you I again voted in opposition to expansion. It is simply a bad idea for our state which already faces constant shortfalls at the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill passed the House and Senate, 94-51 and 19-14, respectively. It is expected that this bill will be vetoed as happened with the previous Medicaid expansion bills lawmakers have considered. It will probably be one of the items on our agenda in May. The Governor has ten days from the enactment of a bill to veto that bill, otherwise it goes into law without his signature.
There were also six bond bills we voted on during the long day last week. One, LD 1827, puts forth $12 million in bonds to fund small business initiatives. Another, LD 1886, puts forth $8 million for funding for the UMaine Cooperative Extension and its agricultural facilities and programs. LD 1756 proposes $10 million for a biometric research facility, LD 1709 proposes $7 million for marine economy investment, and LD 1223 proposes $3 million for a Mount Desert Island Lab. Finally, LD 1455 was the 'water bond' which put forth about $10 million combined for a variety of water-related issues such as culverts, irrigation, drinking water, and wetland restoration funds.
Because the vote on the bonds is to send them to statewide ballot, they require a 2/3 majority vote in favor to pass. All of the bonds did pass both bodies of the Legislature with the necessary 2/3 majority and will now go to the Governor. With his approval, the six bonds will be on the ballot in November for voters to consider.
I do not know what bills the Governor is expected to veto in the coming days, but as we approach our next (and likely final) meeting of the 126th Legislature I will keep you updated.
(Now that the Legislature is adjourned you can reach me at home by calling 897-2489 or by e-mailing me at email@example.com. I welcome your comments or questions on the above or on any matter of interest or importance to you. )
Report From the House - Representative Gary Knight - June 25, 2014
Well, folks, summer's here. The Legislature has been out of session for over a month now, and I have pretty much covered the legislation I think you might find of interest. So, I am going to take a hiatus from writing a column for the reminder of the summer and give both the reader and myself a break from politics. However, as always, if there is an issue that piques my interest or yours, or that I think needs to be discussed I will submit one.
As you are probably aware, I am not running for re-election to the House due to term limits. Members of the Maine State Legislature are not allowed to serve more than four consecutive terms in one body. A member can serve four terms (two years each) in one body, then run for the House or Senate, whichever he was not serving in, and then serve out the full four terms in that body, and so on. Term limits were first instituted in Maine after a 1993 referendum to institute the limits passed.
It has been an honor serving the people of Leeds, Livermore, Livermore Falls, and Wayne for the past eight years. I have gotten to know so many people as I visit homes and businesses across the district, and that is a highlight of legislative service. Thank you to all of you who reached out to me - it really would be impossible to do the job of a legislator without input from citizens.
Serving in the Maine State Legislature is billed as a part-time job, but once you arrive at the State House you realize the time commitment. Committee work, constituent service, and the late nights towards the end of each session add up. However, it is a an opportunity that I would not trade for anything. To be the voice of my community in Augusta has been an honor, and I hope that I was able to make a difference.
One piece of legislation that I was proud to have worked on is that of the tax reforms of the 125th Legislature (2010-2012), which took 70,000 low income Mainers off of the income tax rolls. Another policy that I worked for several times, over the course of a few legislative sessions, was that of changing how Maine's excise tax is calculated to make it more accurately reflect the cost of vehicles to the buyer. That effort was unsuccessful each time, however. I am also proud of my voting record, which, overall, shows a balanced outlook on environmental issues and business issues. That's a practical view of policy that I think works to Maine's benefit. Our environment is essential to our lifestyle and our economy, and we cannot thrive or prosper without policies that encourage business growth.
Probably the biggest disappointment in the last eight years was my effort to re-codify the Maine Tax Code to bring more equity and fairness to the tax system. This reform would have impacted all three legs of the tax stool, to wit: income taxes, property taxes and consumption (sales) taxes. I put together a group of eleven individuals, including leaders from both parties, and an independent who holds a PhD in economics. We threw party ideology out the window and approached our project from a fiscal perspective. We were branded the "gang of eleven" by the press. At the end of the day the R's thought we had a Democrat plan and the D's a Republican plan. The polarization killed an effort to bring meaningful tax reform to the state. Our present code was formulated on conditions of the 1950's and we now are in a new century with the same old code. But, I guess the parties just like to disagree with one another. Elections every two years keep us from working together like we should for the benefit of the state.
One thing is certain - the last eight years have never been dull. Though I am termed out of the House, and the legislative districts are changing, I am still your representative until November. As I've always said, please don't hesitate to contact me. Being your representative is a duty I take seriously and am honored to have had the opportunity to carry it out. Thank you for that.
(I invite you to call me at 897-2489 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org should you have issues that I might be of assistance to you between now and elections this coming November. It is a privilege as I note in my column to be your voice in Augusta. )
Report From the House - Representative Gary Knight - June 11, 2014
Recently Mainers have received news that the unemployment rate has dropped, and also that there are over 8,000 jobs listed on the Department of Labor's job bank (available on their website at www.maine.gov/labor). If you are looking for work, looking to improve certain skills, or to change career paths there are resources for you.
CareerCenters are part of the Maine Department of Labor and are located throughout the state. Each center provides several public-access computer 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. There are several programs at the Wilton CareerCenter in the upcoming weeks. The Wilton CareerCenter is located at 865 US Route 2E, Wilton, ME 04294-6649 and their phone number is: (207) 645-5800 or 1-800-982-4311. There is also a CareerCenter in Lewiston that can be reached at: 753-9000 or 1-800-741-2991.
At the Wilton location, upcoming workshops and events include:
GATEway to Employment: June 18, 9 a.m. to noon This workshop offers an overview of basic information on resumes, interviews and job search skills, as well as CareerCenter and community resources available during a job search.
Essentials of College Planning for Adults: Thursday, June 19, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This workshop covers the basic steps for successful college enrollment: learn about college and trade schools, entrance requirements, readiness and transitional issues of adult students, admissions procedures and financial aid. Review a typical admissions application, request admissions materials and financial aid information from prospective colleges and complete the financial aid form. To register, call 1-800-281-3703. Bring last year's income tax forms to the appointment.
Resumes and Interview Skills: Call to Schedule an in-depth exploration of the job search, resumes, applications and interviews. Learn how to stand out positively by marketing yourself--in person and on paper--in a way that directly matches employer needs. "Tough" interview questions will be discussed so that you can answer them with confidence. Call us at 645-5800 to check our schedule of dates and times and schedule a workshop.
ONet Ability Profiler: Call to Schedule ONet is a career exploration tool that helps individuals plan work livelihoods using a paper and pencil format with optional apparatus parts and computerized scoring. Results can be used to identify strengths for which more training/education is needed and to identify occupations that fit an individual's strengths. This workshop requires five or more participants to run.
Community College Adviser: Discuss your college options and explore college choices based on your interests and career goals. Call Randy Berry at 207-740-0112 or email him at email@example.com for an appointment.
There is certainly still work to be done to improve Maine's economy, but things are headed in the right direction. Use the resources that are out there to your advantage!
(If I can be of assistance, please call 897-2489 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. )