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.