Democrats call LePage’s efforts to help senior citizens hypocrisy

Good morning from Augusta. 

Two days of intense focus on fighting drug addiction kick off today when U.S. Sen. Angus King hosts a roundtable discussion at Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems in Brewer. King will be joined by Michael Botticelli, who is the director of National Drug Control Policy, as well as recovering addicts, families touched by drug abuse, health care providers, law enforcement officials and others. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st Congressional District, announced Tuesday that she will also participate. 

Bringing Botticelli, who is President Barack Obama’s point man on fighting addiction, to Maine is a bit if a coup for King, though it will be interesting to see if he’s here to help usher new ideas or just to tout a new initiative announced recently by Obama. The new initiative involves the creation of a Heroin Response Strategy among 15 states, including Maine. The feds have released $2.5 million to fund it.

King’s event, which is open to the media, comes just one day before another summit being hosted by Gov. Paul LePage in Augusta, which is not open to the public or reporters. Though the two events are different in design and slightly different in focus — King’s event will be heavy on treatment and recovery while LePage’s will focus on law enforcement strategies — two days of prolonged discussions about drug addiction should cast light on a heroin problem that’s as bad as it’s ever been in Maine.

Hopefully, the talk will be backed with tangible new initiatives and more resources. Stay tuned. — Christopher Cousins 

DHHS rerouting federal cash from young families to senior citizens; Democrats call it hypocrisy

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew is touting the shift of federal welfare money from needy young families to the elderly.

According to Mayhew, Maine has saved more than $3.2 million in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program since LePage and Republicans led a successful effort to impose a five-year lifetime cap on the program, which benefits mostly single or pregnant mothers and their children.

The money is being re-routed to help predominantly senior citizens:

  • An additional $131,539 for the Meals on Wheels program statewide, which will assist local agencies in eliminating waitlists;
  • Funding is being increased for home-based care services, including about $1 million for a contract held by Alpha One; $900,000 for Seniors Plus and $1.3 million for Catholic Charities of Maine.

“For too long before this administration, able-bodied young adults were given priority in Maine’s welfare system,” said Mayhew in a written statement.

Democrats from the Legislature supported spending more on senior citizens but said it shouldn’t come at the cost of cutting benefits for struggling young families. They also highlighted that in the past, LePage has proposed cuts to the Medicaid Savings Program, which helps pay for doctor visits, preventative care, ambulance services and prescriptions with deductibles, and the Drugs for the Elderly program, which helps senior citizens with annual incomes of $21,774 or less, pay for medicine.

Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, said she finds it “ironic” that LePage is supporting Meals on Wheels after vetoing a bill she sponsored earlier this year to expand the program for home-bound seniors.

Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, said senior citizens and others would have seen a range of cuts to services they need under LePage’s original biennial budget proposal, which was amended by the Legislature over the governor’s objections.

“It’s about time that the LePage administration paid attention to the needs of the state’s senior citizens and Mainers with disabilities rather than just proposing brutal cuts,” said Gattine, House chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. “The Legislature stopped him, increased funding for these programs and overrode his veto to do so. The Legislature did this without taking food and shelter away from poor Maine children or pulling the rug out from underemployed Mainers getting back on their feet in Maine’s languishing economy.”

Mayhew said shifting the federal funding around is another success in the administration’s goal of repurposing existing resources in the state’s social services program.

“We are pleased to be able to announce that we are moving forward with this repurposing of federal and state funds to continue our important missions of reforming Maine’s welfare system,” said Mayhew.

Dems choose late rep’s widow to run for his seat in District 19 special election

Jean Noon, a longtime farmer, conservationist and teacher, has been chosen by local Democrats in the Sanford area to run for her late husband’s House of Representatives seat. Rep. Bill Noon passed away in July, while in office, after a battle with cancer.

More than 60 Democrats caucused Monday evening at the Nasson Community Center to choose Noon, according to a press release from the Maine Democratic Party. The election for the District 19 seat, which covers Sanford and Springvale, is scheduled for Nov. 3.

Noon said she will fund her campaign as a Maine Clean Election candidate.

The Maine Republican Party has not responded to questions from the BDN about who they will choose for the special election. — Christopher Cousins

North Berwick selectmen back Eves, call for LePage’s impeachment

The North Berwick Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to condemn Gov. Paul LePage for blocking the hiring of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick as the president of the Good Will-Hinckley organization in Fairfield. In July, LePage threatened to withhold $500,000 in state funding to the organization, which among other things runs a charter school for at-risk kids, unless it rescinded an employment offer to Eves.

In a letter to the Bangor Daily News, the board said LePage’s actions “threaten the ability of elected representatives of the state of Maine to advocate for the interests of the voters in their districts, thereby denying the people fair and full representation and undermining the fabric of our democratic process, for fear of retribution if their position on any issue is in disagreement with the governor’s position.”

The five-member board said that if an ongoing investigation confirms the allegations against LePage, that the Legislature begin the process of impeaching him. — Christopher Cousins

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Deez Nuts are is not real

A fictional (I’m pretty sure) independent presidential candidate calling himself Deez Nuts, it turns out, is fake despite winning surprising support in recent polling. According to Slate, a handful of other “candidates” have popped up with even more offensive names, but decorum prevents me from listing them here.

Aside from decorum, I have grammar to think about so I asked my editor if Deez Nuts is singular or (are) plural. Here’s how he responded:

“I would say ‘Deez Nuts isn’t real.’ It is a name, even if it is a fake one. The guide I use is ‘Chris Cousins is awesome, not Chris Cousins are awesome.’ The latter might be construed as creepy.”

I guess there’s no arguing with that. Deez Nuts isn’t real. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.