Monthly Archives: March 2014

Legislative report: Performance pay for legislators, gambling, and non-ionizing radio frequencies

Monday, March 3:

The Legislature’s Select Committee on Workforce and Economic Future formally voted to recommend my bond bill which would benefit development projects at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory and the Jackson Lab.

The Education Committee’s ongoing work to improve college affordability got urgently redirected into a letter to Appropriations opposing proposed cuts to higher education funding including:

  • diverting casino revenue statutorily dedicated to scholarships
  • “across the board” percentage decrease to Community College, University System, Maine Maritime, and Maine State Grants for scholarships administered by the Finance Authority of Maine
  • Eliminating the sales tax exemption on purchases made by private colleges

The Education Committee opposes because these measures work in opposition to our current efforts to improve college affordability for Maine students via the Senate President’s bill LD 1703 and my ‘Pay Forward, Pay Back’ college tuition bill, LD 1702.

Afternoon, I participated in a panel discussion about charter schools taped for The Maine Event with Hannah Pingree and Senator Roger Katz. The other panelists were Senator Brian Langley, Representative Karen Kusiak, and charter school advocate Cheryl Clukey. The program, Pingree & Katz The Maine Event, will broadcast on Time Warner cable on March 25th.

In the afternoon our Committee had hearings on two bills: LD 1768 An Act To Allow All Veterans To Be Eligible for In-state Tuition Rates and LD 1747 on the teacher evaluation rules.

The Marine Resources Committee voted unanimously in favor of LD 1602, the bill to study ocean acidification which I have co-sponsored.

The state Charter School Commission rejected two charter school application including one of the two virtual charter school applications operated by K12 Inc.  The Commission approved the other virtual charter application, the one operated by Connections Academy.

And here is the most recent research on learning at virtual charters which outlines many of my reservations::

Tuesday, March 4:

In the morning, Adjutant General James Campbell addressed a joint session of the Legislature to report on the state of Maine’s National Guard.

In the afternoon, the Education Committee worked on the portion of the school funding model that indexes local school funding on the basis of local labor markets.

This is one of the perennially contentious parts of the formula because it suggests that it’s appropriate to have lower teacher salaries in regions which pay their teachers less.  However, there is also an argument to be made that, because it’s a regional average, the same mechanism provides the poorest districts with proportionally more state subsidy than it does to their wealthier regional neighbors.

In the end, our committee concluded that the labor market indexes should be updated and maintained to reflect the most current salary data and to separate the matter of how better to ensure that adequate state resources are directed to schools with higher numbers of economically-disadvantaged students.

Wednesday, March 5:

In our morning session, the House debated LD 1541: An Act To Ensure That Legislators Share the Sacrifice with Civil Servants in the Event of a State Government Shutdown

As the title indicates, this was a bill freighted with more politics than reasoned policy and support divided along nothing like party lines.

Proponents argued that if legislators are unable to settle on a state budget and state government shuts down, then it’s only fair that legislators should have their compensation proportionally reduced.  Much of this sentiment was born out of resentment against the US Congress during the federal shut-down last fall.  And, as with many populist themes, a vote on this inspired fear among many legislators that a vote against this bill would be used against them in fall campaign mailers.

On the other hand, implementing the bill would have little practical effect because legislative pay period lasts only through the regularly schedule session.  So, if there is a personal financial incentive for legislators to complete the budget, it’s already in effect as no one is getting paid after the first week of June.

Moreover, as the State Constitution protects the Governor’s salary, making legislative pay contingent on a budget agreement would only put the Legislative branch at a greater tactical disadvantage in relation to the Executive branch in the event of a budget veto by the Governor.

Last, and most compelling to me, it seems wrong to suggest that better policy would result from linking it directly to lawmakers’ compensation.  Legislators should be making policy decisions on the basis of their consciences, their constituents, and the best interests of the state — not by how much money their votes put in their pockets.  It seems a short leap from this proposed policy to one that links legislative pay to how many (or, perhaps conversely, how few) bills get enacted in a session.  Ultimately, legislators should be answerable to their constituents, not the benefit to their bank accounts.

So I was in the minority that voted consistently against this bill.  The Senate felt less compunction than the House majority, however, and killed it outright.

Shortly afterward, I found myself again in the minority on a vote on LD 1521: Resolve, Directing the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry To Create a Pilot Program To Support the State’s Small Food Processors.

This bill had prompted some constituents to write to me expressing their support and I agreed that the bill’s concept which sought to assist small local food processing businesses with developing business plans.

The House also failed to find the supermajority of votes necessary to advance LD 156, a Constitutional amendment which would have streamlined early voting in municipalities which wish it.  Bar Harbor’s Town Council had officially endorsed this bill.

The House also advanced LD 1230, the bill to expand the services that dental hygienists may provide under the supervision of a dentist.

Afternoon, the Education Committee heard hearing testimony on LD 1780: An Act To Prohibit Providers of Cloud Computing Service to Elementary and Secondary Educational Institutions from Processing Student Data for Commercial Purposes.

Unusually for our committee, this bill drew lawyers from both Microsoft and Google and it quickly seemed evident that this was part of a larger battle between corporations whose concern about student privacy was secondary to their respective business visions.

Late afternoon, I joined in a video conference with staff from ILearnOhio, a public consortium that makes virtual learning available through Ohio public schools in a way that seems similar to what Senator Langley and I are proposing for Maine.  The content includes market rate virtual courses from charter school providers like K12 Inc and Connections Academy.  But it also includes simple individual lessons and units aligned to Ohio’s learning standards and available to all at no local cost.

For me the telling figure was that Ohio makes these lessons available to 1.8 million students at an annual operating expense of $1.5 million.  Compare this to Maine’s proposed virtual charter school which proposes to make similar content available only to several hundred Maine students at a cost of about $3 million.

Thursday, March 6:

Breakfast meeting with Women, Work, and Community an organization to which a surprising number of local constituents have attributed the success of their own home business.

I continue to have breakfast and lunch meetings with representatives of Maine School Management and the Maine Education Association to discuss concerns they have regarding the proposed teacher evaluation rules.

In our morning caucus, we were briefed on the Appropriations Committee’s process and expectations regarding adjustments to the FY14 and FY15 budgets.

The legislature has a slew of gambling bills before us including:

As a state, Maine has had a particularly haphazard approach to gambling and no comprehensive planning to ensure prudent public outcome. Instead, gambling facilities have been approved and disapproved sporadically by referendum.  Licenses that the state has subsequently issued have been resold at enormous private profit and many promises of public benefit remain unfulfilled.

Because of this, there is a strong argument that, rather than approving more individual gambling facilities as proposed in these bills, the state should first develop a comprehensive plan and vision that ensures consistent public benefit.

This essentially was the position of the majority of the oversight committee, a perspective which I largely share.

But there is a countervailing argument of economic fairness against the status quo in relation to the Passamaquoddy and Maliseet proposals in Washington and Aroostook Counties.

Had Maine not already licensed gambling facilities in Bangor and Oxford, I would have found it easy to vote against all of these individual gambling bills.  But given the present disproportionate regional assignment of these locally lucrative licenses and the economic hardship already faced in eastern Washington County and Southern Aroostook County, I ended up voting in support of LD 1520 and LD 1298.

Both these facilities will still be subject to local referendum and both will provide revenue to the state on the same terms as the Bangor and Oxford casinos.

As the other gambling proposals require no referenda and propose to return different amounts to the state, I oppose them.  Advocates for the two bills connected with harness racing framed the proposals as subsidizing local agriculture.  But harness racing already receives a share of the proceeds from the Oxford casino — approximately $10 million dollars per year — while the state’s General Fund receives only about $8 million from the same source.  The harness racing advocates with whom I spoke couldn’t explain how that subsidy is currently directed and used. So I am not inclined to support additional subsidy.

On Thursday, the Senate voted 24-11 on my bill LD 1736 Resolve To Provide Maine Students with Access to Online Learning through Their Existing School Districts.  Within an hour the Governor vetoed it.

Afternoon, our Committee continued to work on our committee school funding bill, reviewing the discussion on regional cost adjustments, grants for professional development, and increased subsidy for economically disadvantaged students.

In the afternoon a majority on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee endorsed LD 1744, An Act To Protect Maine Lakes and opposed the state’s proposed new mining rules proposed in LD 1772.  These are both bills in which many constituents have expressed interest.

Friday, March 7:

In the morning, I sat in on the Appropriations Committee’s hearing on ‘across the board’ cuts proposed by the ‘Rosen Report’.

In the afternoon, I attended Appropriations’ briefing by Sawin Millet and Commissioner Rier on the Governor’s new proposal to replenish the state’s budget stabilization account.

After that, I met with Commissioner Rier to discuss ideas for state funding of state-approved charter schools and my proposed amendments to the teacher evaluation rules.

I also discussed my teacher evaluation amendments with Maine School Management.

Monday, March 10:

Morning, Committee work sessions on our Government Evaluation Act Review of the Department of Education and the State Board of Education.

Work sessions followed on LD 1774: Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Portions of Chapter 115: Certification, Authorization and Approval of Education Personnel, a Late-filed Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education and LD 1768: An Act To Allow All Veterans To Be Eligible for In-state Tuition Rates

Afternoon, brief work session on our Committee bill to recommend ways to improve higher ed affordability followed by a hearing on LD 1638: An Act To Improve Educational Outcomes for Students in Poverty in Maine’s Public Schools, a bill promoted by the Maine Education Association.

Tuesday, March 11:

My bill clarifying the terms of non-resident student transfers, LD 1591, became law without the Governor’s signature.

Morning, represented the Education Committee at the morning meeting of Committee chairs.

In our morning session, the House Voted 95-47 in favor of LD 1252: Act To Improve Maine’s Economy and Energy Security with Solar and Wind Energy, a bill which had interested many constituents.

The House also spent much time debating LD 1013: An Act To Create the Children’s Wireless Protection Act which seeks to require warning labels on cell phones about potential danger from radio frequencies.

This was another bill for which support cut across party lines.  Essentially, proponents favor labeling cell phones as potentially hazardous on the basis of the ‘precautionary principle’ even though evidence of such dangers have not been established.

Opponents argue that requiring such labeling will almost certainly make the state liable for significant court costs from likely judicial injunction against the bill on Constitutional grounds of interfering with the First Amendment and the Commerce Clause.

I voted against the bill because of its basis in bad science.  At 68-71, the House vote was close and I was in the minority.  The bill now goes to the Senate.

Afternoon, we had a final work session on the Education Committee’s funding bill.  We also discussed my proposal for state charter school funding.  The Committee will take further recommendation on this from Commissioner Rier and expects to put forward a separate bill on the topic.

Wednesday, March 12:

The Maine School Boards Association voted in support of my proposed amendment to the teacher evaluation rules.. I asked our Committee’s analyst to re-draft my amendment to reflect a composition of local stakeholders’ group that assures both teachers and school districts with effective voice.

In the morning session, the Senate held a long debate on LD 1487: An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program, the MaineCare expansion bill.  The bill passed but the vote total was short of the two-thirds required to override the Governor’s expected veto.

The House will debate and vote on this bill on Tuesday.

Thursday, March 13:

Snow day…

Friday, March 14:

Morning, I attended the Government Oversight Committee’s quasi-judicial hearing with Maine Center for Disease Control officials about allegations of document shredding in relation to last year’s grant awarding process for Healthy Maine Partnerships.

As the Committee narrowed in on questions about who directed both the rescoring of the award-granting methodology and the subsequent destruction of supporting documents, answers increasingly trailed off into the passive voice: “…There was concern” “…There was no expectation.” “…There was a belief.” “…Attention was brought.”

Some staffers described the destruction of documents as merely “version control” a term that’s new to me and which rings more of NewSpeak than DocumentHygiene.

Afternoon, I attended the Appropriations work session at which the majority voted to amend the the Governor’s recent bill  LD 1807: An Act To Restore Funding in the Maine Budget Stabilization Fund through Alternative Sources.

The amendment accepts the Governor’s proposal whole and also restores some of the funding cuts proposed in the ‘Rosen Report,’ including the cuts to public college scholarship grants and cuts to General Purpose Aid to education.  The amendment accomplishes this in part by using casino revenue initially directed to supplement education in order to eliminate the GPA cut proposed by the Governor’s report.

Legislative report: Jan 21 – Feb 28

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Morning, House session.

Afternoon, committee briefing from Department of Education on Committee bill re responses to Picus report on Maine school funding and priorities to improve EPS school funding model.  Department also presented its efforts to support and strengthen prekindergarten and other early childhood education programs.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Breakfast with Independent Schools Association

Morning, committee briefing from Maine’s STEM Council. Briefing from Dept of Agriculture on implementation of LD 409: An Act To Establish a Veteran-to-farmer Training Pilot Program

Morning, committee briefing on committee bill for Baxter School for the Deaf transportation issues.

Morning, committee work session on LD 1361: An Act To Strengthen the Teaching of Writing and Mathematics and Improve Maine High School Graduates’ College and Career Readiness. Committee voted Ought Not To Pass.

Morning, committee briefing from DoE on unfunded mandates.

Afternoon, committee briefings on new reports from MEPRI/CEPARE:

Thursday, January 23:

Morning, House session.

Lunch meeting with the Maine Islands Coalition.  Discussed concerns about impact of dredging at the Searsport marine terminal (which I support) and localized problems with propane supply.

Afternoon, committee hearing on LD 1591: An Act To Amend the Process Controlling the Transfer of a Student between School Administrative Units,  my non-resident student transfer bill.

Afternoon, committee work session on LD 1530: An Act To Establish a Process for the Implementation of Universal Voluntary Prekindergarten Education

Afternoon, Judiciary committee work session on LD 1194: An Act To Protect Social Media Privacy in School and the Workplace prohibiting employers’ and schools’ requirements to disclose social media passwords.  Committee voted ought not to pass.

Monday, January 27

Morning, committee language review on Baxter school for the deaf transportation bill; committee letters on LD 409 An Act To Establish a Veteran-to-farmer Training Pilot Program; committee bill language review on LD 1530: An Act To Establish a Process for the Implementation of Universal Voluntary Prekindergarten Education.

Morning, committee work session on LD 1361 An Act To Strengthen the Teaching of Writing and Mathematics and Improve Maine High School Graduates’ College and Career Readiness (Committee voted Ought Not To Pass.)

Morning, committee hearing on LD 1716: An Act To Increase the Rate of Reimbursement for Providing Career and Academic Advising and Counseling Services to Adult Education Students

Afternoon, committee hearings on LD 1684: An Act Regarding Eligibility of Children Placed in Guardianship for the School Lunch and Milk Program; LD 1699: An Act To Fund the Maine HIV Prevention Education Program within the Department of Education; and LD 1630: An Act To Increase Transparency of Administration Costs within the University of Maine System

Tuesday, January 28

Visit from 18 College of the Atlantic students from professor Ken Cline’s Introduction to Legal Process class who visited with individual legislators working in areas of the students’ interests and attended work sessions.

Morning, House session debate on dental bill

And George Mitchell addressed the legislature:

Afternoon, committee work session on LD 369: An Act To Redesign Maine’s School Funding Model.  Committee referred this bill along with a committee recommendation to the Taxation Committee which will also hear my other bill, LD 1751: An Act To Provide Property Tax Relief to Maine Residents.

Afternoon committee work session continuing on school funding bill components of early education costs.

Late afternoon, facilitated a meeting with legislative leadership and administrators from the MDI Bio Lab to convey the Bio Lab’s expanding vision for research and development particularly related to tissue regeneration and commitment to education and development of an entrepreneurial scientific community.

Wednesday, January 29:

Morning, committee panel discussion of college affordability with members of the New England Board of Higher Education.

Morning committee hearings on LD 1703: An Act To Increase College Affordability and the Rate of Degree Completion; LD 1702: Resolve, Directing the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System To Study the Establishment of a Pilot Program Based on Oregon’s “Pay Forward, Pay Back” Model of Funding Public Postsecondary Education

Visit from Linda Fuller’s College of the Atlantic class on Negotiating Educational Policy

Afternoon, committee briefing on State Board of Education’s Government Accountability Act report.

Afternoon, committee work session on my bill LD 1591 An Act To Amend the Process Controlling the Transfer of a Student between School Administrative Units. Committee unanimously voted Ought To Pass as Amended.

Thursday, January 30

Morning, House session debate on LD 156: RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine Concerning Early Voting and Voting by Absentee Ballot a constitutional resolution to allow early voting — would simplify and streamline the process of voting early, easing work for town clerks who now must process all absentee ballots on election day.  Would allow, but not mandate, municipalities to use this practice.  The Bar Harbor Town Council passed a resolution in favor of this bill and I voted for it.

Lunch with Child and Family Opportunities, a Head Start program providing high-quality early care and education for Hancock and Washington Counties

Afternoon, committee work session on  early education components of committee’s school funding bill.  Also briefed on Jobs for Maine Graduates based on last session’s LD 370 Resolve.

Monday, February 3

Morning, attended Select Committee on Workforce and Economic Future’s informational hearing on LD 1756: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support the Growth of and To Build Infrastructure for the Marine and Biotechnology Sectors of the State’s Economy in Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future with representatives from the MDI Biological Laboratory and the Jackson Lab.

Morning, committee hearings on LD 1681 An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Gambling and Criminal History Record Checks. Work session on LD 1635 An Act To Clarify the School Budget Development Process in Certain Charter Municipalities which, at the request of the sponsor, we voted Ought Not To Pass.

Afternoon, committee hearings on LD 1726: An Act Directing the Department of Education To Formulate and Implement a Citizenship Educational Component for the School Curriculum; LD 1727 An Act To Establish Guidelines for the Stocking and Administration of Epinephrine in Schools; LD 1728 An Act To Prohibit Possession of a Replica or Simulated Firearm on or near School Property.

Tuesday, February 4

Morning, House session.

Lunch meeting with Maine Conservation Commission workers associated with marine surveys at the MDI Bio Lab and trail building on the Schoodic peninsula.

Afternoon, committee hearing on my bill on creating a public virtual learning collaborative, LD 1736: Resolve, To Create a State-run Virtual Academy Providing Maine Students with Access to Online Learning through Their Existing School Districts.

Here is my supporting testimony: Testimony in support of LD 1736 and implementing a public virtual learning collaborative

Afternoon, committee work session on school funding in relation to economically disadvantaged students and federal Title 1 funding.

Evening, Governor’s State of the State Address.

Wednesday, February 5

Snow day.

Thursday, February 6:

Morning, House session. Debate and vote on restoring $40M in municipal revenue sharing via LD 1762.  I voted in favor.

Afternoon, committee work session on components of committee’s school funding bill related to Title 1 federal funding and targeted funding for economically disadvantaged students.

Friday, February 7

Monday, February 10

Morning, meeting with Speaker Eves to discuss upcoming bills.

Morning, committee work sessions on LD 1684 An Act Regarding Eligibility of Children Placed in Guardianship for the School Lunch and Milk Program (Committee voted Ought Not To Pass); LD 1699: An Act To Fund the Maine HIV Prevention Education Program within the Department of Education (Committee voted Ought to Pass.); and LD 1681: An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Gambling and Criminal History Record Checks (Committee referred bill to Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.)

Lunch, meeting with Maine Islands Coalition.

Afternoon, committee hearings on LD 1716: An Act To Increase the Rate of Reimbursement for Providing Career and Academic Advising and Counseling Services to Adult Education Students and LD 1630: An Act To Increase Transparency of Administration Costs within the University of Maine System

Tuesday, February 11

Morning, House session with final votes on municipal revenue sharing.  LD 1762 restores these amounts of state revenue sharing:

Bar Harbor: $80,309
Cranberry Isles: $1,457
Mount Desert: $19,297
Southwest Harbor: $33,326
Lamoine: $22,748

Afternoon, work session on my bill LD 1736: Resolve To Provide Maine Students with Access to Online Learning through Their Existing School Districts.  Committee voted 11-2 Ought to Pass as Amended.

Wednesday, February 12

Morning, committee hearing on LD 1657: An Act To Ensure Equity in Teacher Retirement Costs for Private Academies and confirmation hearing for Commissioner of Education.

Afternoon, committee confirmation hearings for Governor’s other appointees.

Thursday, February 13

Morning, after debate, by a vote of 92-45, the House overrode the Governor’s veto of LD 1353: An Act to Further Reduce Student Hunger.  I voted to override.

Afternoon, committee work session continuing discussion of school funding for economically disadvantaged students.

Tuesday, February 18

Morning, by a vote of 84-56, the House gave preliminary approval to LD 168: An Act To Establish Reasonable Restrictions on the Use of Fireworks.  This was essentially a compromise bill in complement to LD 111 which sought an outright state-wide ban on fireworks but failed to get majority support.

Recognizing that towns already have the authority to ban fireworks (as do all the towns within District 35), LD 168 allows further restriction by the state in the event of fire danger and gives law enforcement tools to deal with fireworks usage as a public nuisance.

I voted in favor of LD 168 and against LD 111.

Lunch meeting with Senate President Alfond to discuss upcoming bills.

Afternoon, committee work session on school funding bill components related to economically disadvantaged students.

Monday, February 17

Presidents’ Day holiday.

Tuesday, February 18

Morning, House session.

Afternoon, committee work session continuing on discussion of school funding components for economically disadvantaged students.

Wednesday, February 19

Morning panel briefings on higher education affordability related to my bill LD 1702 Resolve, Directing the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System To Study the Establishment of a Pilot Program Based on Oregon’s “Pay Forward, Pay Back” Model of Funding Public Postsecondary Education and President Alfond’s bill LD 1703 An Act To Increase College Affordability and the Rate of Degree Completion

Morning, attended public hearings at Taxation Committee and presented testimony in favor of my bill LD 1751: An Act To Provide Property Tax Relief to Maine Residents and also LD 369 An Act To Redesign Maine’s School Funding Model, the Education Committee’s bill supporting funding a income-based state-funded property tax relief with an equivalent benefit to the previous circuit-breaker program.

Afternoon, committee work session on same higher ed affordability bills.  After much discussion, requested higher ed stakeholders to return with prioritized list of specific policy recommendations by March 3.

Thursday, February 20

Breakfast with representatives of Students First who wanted to assure that they were interested in more than just charter schools and union busting — and that funding for disadvantaged public school students was also an emerging priority.

In morning session, after lengthy floor debate, by a vote of 89-52, the House voted down LD 1428: An Act To Protect Religious Freedom, which sought to allow, on the basis of religious belief, discrimination currently prohibited under Maine’s Human Rights Act.

I voted against the bill as state and federal law already has statutory and constitutional protections for religious freedom and because proponents could offer no examples in Maine where such freedoms have been infringed.

Afternoon, committee work session on LD 1728 An Act To Prohibit Possession of a Replica or Simulated Firearm on or near School Property.  Divided report from the Committee with 11 members voting Ought Not To Pass and three voting in favor of the explicit civil prohibition.

I voted in opposition to the bill essentially for three reasons:

  1. It is already a criminal offense to brandish or threaten with a replica weapon and this bill sought to criminalize just possession.
  2. School policy already may (and certainly should) prohibit mere possession of replica weapons. And, as a replica weapon doesn’t constitute an actual physical danger, I don’t view their prohibition as a direct matter of public safety.
  3. While the bill’s proponents argued that a criminal or civil penalty would enable school resource officers to place troubled, replica-possessing minors into otherwise inaccessible social services, I believe that mechanism itself is troubling and indirect.

Monday, February 25

Expand access to online learning for all Maine students, Op-Ed authored with Senator Langley

Morning, Committee work session on school funding for professional development and collaborative time.

Afternoon, work sessions on LD 1726: An Act Directing the Department of Education To Formulate and Implement a Citizenship Educational Component for the School Curriculum (11-2 divided report: Ought Not To Pass) and LD 1727: An Act To Establish Guidelines for the Stocking and Administration of Epinephrine Autoinjectors in Schools (Unanimous: Ought To Pass as Amended)

Tuesday, February 25

The House gave an initial vote of 139-7 in favor of LD 297: An Act To Require Forest Rangers To Be Trained in Order To Allow Them To Carry Firearms.

I voted for this because the rangers overwhelmingly testified that they believed they needed firearms for safety and are willing to be subject to the same firearms training requirements through Maine’s Criminal Justice Academy as other law enforcement officers.

House floor speech in favor of LD 1736: Resolve, To Provide Maine Students with Access to Online Learning through Their Existing School Districts

Afternoon, committee work session continuing on school funding for economically disadvantaged students.

Wednesday, February 26

House and Senate enacted my bill LD 1591: An Act To Amend the Process Controlling the Transfer of a Student between School Administrative Units.  This bill was enacted unanimously and  without controversy in the legislature.  We’ll see what action the Governor takes.

The Legislature also enacted another bill that I worked on, LD 783: An Act To Change the Voting Requirements for the Withdrawal of a Municipality from a Regional School Unit which allows school units coerced into reorganization under the penalties of the 2008 legislation to withdraw by a simple majority vote but maintains the present requirement for a high threshold of voter turnout.  Older school districts reorganized under the 1960s law are still required to have a two-thirds vote to dissolve.

Afternoon, committee briefings on assigning financial responsibilities for costs of transportation for Governor Baxter School for the Deaf and the Maine Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Briefings on school security and head injuries.

Thursday, February 27

House voted down amendment seeking to remove virtual charter school moratorium from my bill LD 1736: Resolve To Provide Maine Students with Access to Online Learning through Their Existing School Districts

My floor speech opposing this amendment: Why a moratorium on virtual charter schools is integral to providing Maine students with access to online learning through their existing schools

Afternoon, committee work session on school funding for professional development and collaborative teaching time.

Friday, February 28:

Morning, along with representatives from the MDI Biological Lab and Jackson Lab, I attended the Select Committee on Workforce and Economic Future’s work session on my bond bill LD 1756: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support the Growth of and To Build Infrastructure for the Marine and Biotechnology Sectors of the State’s Economy.

Among other bond components, the committee agreed to recommend the inclusion of $5M for projects at the MDI Bio Lab and $15M for a project at Jackson Lab.

Afternoon, I met with staff at Maine School Management to discuss their concerns around Department of Education’s proposed Chapter 180 teacher evaluation rules which will be subject of a committee hearing on LD 1747 on Monday.