Maine House makes room for more independent lawmakers

 

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A small but growing number of independent state lawmakers who have weakened Democrats' hold on the House hope to promote compromise as independents seek to gain ground nationally in 2018.

The Maine House has its highest number of Independent and third-party members recorded in the last two decades, and several such lawmakers say they hope to maintain their individual independence while gaining a stronger voice in debates. ...

Rep. Henry Bear said Maine residents are issue-driven, not "strictly tied to Republicans or Democrats or unenrolled."

"Mainers for the most part are frugal, very conservative and also they're very independent," said Bear, a non-voting tribal member who represents the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and is running for Congress.

Two Republican representatives and three Democratic representatives left their parties this year in addition to Bear. They join two unenrolled House members who ran as independents. Two — Bear and Rep. Ralph Chapman — registered as Maine Green Independents and say they're among the highest-ranking Green lawmakers nationally.

The lawmakers' reasons for leaving the major parties vary from frustration over partisanship and the influence of lobbyists and corporate donations on Maine policy-making to discontent at Republican and Democratic lawmakers' steps to undo, change and delay several laws approved by voters at the polls in 2016.

Chapman said he's concerned that Democratic statehouse leaders value loyalty to political donors over the common good. ...

Legislative leaders recently approved a request to provide a room at the statehouse for the independent and third-party lawmakers and their staffs. Independent lawmakers said they plan to caucus daily. ...

 

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http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/More-independents-as-Maine-lawmakers-reconvene-in-12456056.php

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The number of sitting lawmakers who don’t associate with a major political party is growing in the Maine House of Representatives, which now has six independents and a Green Independent. In the past few months, three Democrats and a Republican have left their parties.

Aside from the political implications, there’s a question of where to put them and their staff of one, according to Grant Pennoyer, executive director of the Legislative Council, who brought the issue to the board on Thursday. He suggested putting them in the Cross Building, which is attached to the State House and which he called “prime legislative space.”

Republicans and Democrats on the council, who have most of the office space surrounding the House and Senate chambers, agreed that the adjacent building is a suitable location for the independents and the Green.

All this is a grand opportunity for some Huey Lewis. Here’s the new Cross crew’s soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

 

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http://stateandcapitol.bangordailynews.com/2017/12/15/latest-call-to-rein-in-how-maine-pac-money-can-be-spent-fizzles/

Eyed for elimination, estate tax remains controversial on campaign trail

 

Though the so-called “death tax” is on life support these days, some of the candidates vying for a U.S. House seat in Maine’s 2nd District aren’t ready to give up on it.

Fifteen years ago, the federal government taxed more than 600 estates left behind by wealthy Mainers.

During the past five years, the number of Maine estates subject to the so-called “death tax” averaged 42, the consequence of revisions that have pushed ever higher the wealth someone must possess before the government grabs a share.

Put another way, that means the estate tax will apply to only about one in every 2,900 Mainers who dies.

For U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a 2nd District Republican in his second term, that’s still too many. He said recently he remains committed to abolishing the death tax. But the candidates jostling for the chance to run against him next year generally have a sharply different take. ...

Green Party hopeful Henry Bear said the estate tax “does not reward hardworking Mainers. It rewards the lucky.”

Bear said the nation should restore the 70 percent estate tax it had decades ago with a $1 million exemption. At that level, he said, the government could tax “a very small number of very lucky people” and raise $500 billion extra each year. ...

 

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http://www.sunjournal.com/eyed-for-elimination-estate-tax-remains-controversial-on-campaign-trail/

Portland School Board again picks Trevorrow as chairwoman

 

PORTLAND — Anna Trevorrow was chosen Monday afternoon to lead the Portland School Board for a second year. ...

Looking back, she said, it’s “been a privilege to serve as the board chair for the last year,” adding “there are many successes” to celebrate.

Among those successes, Trevorrow said, are “equity resolutions condemning hate speech and asserting a safe haven for Muslim students, state recognition of our exemplary staff, the launch of the TeachPortland program and passage of the (new) transgender policy.”

“I am most proud, however, of having been a part of the launch of the Portland Promise,” she said, “our pledge to the community to … intensify our efforts to ensure that all our graduates are prepared and empowered to succeed in college and career.” ...

In preparing the fiscal year 2018-19 budget, she said, “We will need to make many important decisions to allocate our resources in ways that allow us to make progress toward our goals and enhance the overall student experience.”

“Heading into the next year, I pledge to lead our district’s effort in conjunction with the City Council and our state legislative delegation to ensure that we obtain and steward our resources to the best possible results,” Trevorrow said.

“It takes great schools to have a great city (and) we have been charged with fulfilling this community’s vision for those great schools,” she added. ...

She also noted, however, that “schools are more than brick and mortar” and said the School Board has “significant work ahead to support the implementation of proficiency-based learning, supporting teaching and learning and building our staff’s capacity to serve our diverse student population.” ...

 

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http://www.theforecaster.net/portland-school-board-again-picks-trevorrow-as-chairwoman/

Portland policy provides protections, support for transgender students

 

PORTLAND — The School Board Tuesday was expected to enact an expansive new transgender student rights policy. ...

The board was expected to give final approval to the new protections Nov. 28, after The Forecaster’s deadline.

At the first reading, board Chairwoman Anna Trevorrow said it was especially important to provide support for transgender students after learning that statistically they are more at risk for self-harm, homelessness, harassment and physical violence. ...

The policy defines gender identity as being “a person’s sincerely held core belief of their own gender, whether that individual identifies as male, female, both, neither or in some other way.”

And gender-expansive is defined as being “an umbrella term used to describe people who expand notions of gender expression and identity beyond what is perceived as the expected gender norms.” ...

While the School Department  is required to use a student’s legal name on their official record, the policy adds that “the district shall use the student’s preferred name and pronouns consistent with their gender identity on all other documents including, but not limited to … classroom rosters, certificates, diplomas and yearbook.”

 

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http://www.theforecaster.net/portland-policy-provides-protections-support-for-transgender-students/

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