PORTLAND — The School Board has expanded from four to six the number of community members who will be invited to serve on its new building committee. ...

The building committee will also include three board members and two city councilors. It will be co-chaired by a School Board member and a councilor, chosen by board Chairwoman Anna Trevorrow.

The committee’s purpose is to ensure there’s opportunity for broad public input and engagement in the elementary school construction process. It will be primarily responsible for making decisions on the $64.2 million school capital improvement bond approved by voters last November, including the order in which the buildings will be constructed.

The bond is will be used to renovate and upgrade Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools. ...

In addition, this week the board also intended to take up Superintendent Xavier Botana’s recommendations for the creation of individual Building Level Advisory Committees, which would have input on “specific design elements” for each school. ...

Between the building committee and the individual advisory panels, Botana said the School Board hopes to create “a clear line of decision-making,” while also “preserving Portland’s unique commitment to collaborative building projects.”

The building committee would be a separate entity from the school board and would have ultimate authority over the spending on each school project, as well as hiring general contractors and other construction project personnel. ...

The work needed at Lyseth Elementary is expected to be the most costly under the $64.2 million bond, according to information provided by Oak Point Associates, the design firm hired by the school department to review the capital needs at all of the district’s schools.

Construction at Lyseth is expected to cost nearly $18 million and would include new classrooms, gymnasium and cafeteria, along with additional space for the school’s pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and gifted and talented programs.

At Longfellow, the work is estimated to cost close to $15.4 million and would include making the building fully ADA compliant, as well as a full asbestos abatement.

The needs at Presumpscot include new classrooms, a gym and cafeteria, along with a “more functional” student drop-off and bus loop. In addition, the school requires “adequate space” for music, art and library programs. The construction cost there is expected to be $13.6 million.

At Reiche, which is estimated to cost $17.2 million, construction would focus on enclosing classroom corridors while continuing to provide open space for collaborative learning and on creating “right size art, music and reading spaces.”

The school board hopes to make appointments to the new building committee no later than its first meeting in February. Once that happens, the committee’s first task would be to hire an architect to create building specific construction documents.

 

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http://www.theforecaster.net/wide-input-sought-for-portland-school-construction-projects/

 

AUGUSTA — A caucus of independent lawmakers is likely to have an outsized influence in the Maine House of Representatives in 2018 given that it could wield seven coveted votes in a chamber closely split between 74 Democrats and 70 Republicans.

The group of six independent lawmakers, bolstered by their own office space and part-time staff, includes three former Democrats and two former Republicans. A member of the Green Independent Party also is caucusing with the group.

Among the hot-button issues in the upcoming 2018 legislative session, lawmakers will have to figure out how to fund a Medicaid expansion in Maine, make the retail sales of recreational marijuana work and pass laws to address the state’s ongoing opioid crisis. ...

... Also caucusing with the group is Rep. Ralph Chapman of Brooksville who is a member of the officially recognized Green Independent Party. ...

The group of independents and Chapman have been working together for several months now, and having dedicated staff will be helpful, she said, pointing out that the office space the Legislative Council approved for them will be shared with American Sign Language interpreters who use the space once a week. ...

COHORT REFLECTS STATE’S MAKEUP

Maine has an independent streak, with about 40 percent of its voters registered as unenrolled, picking no party to affiliate with, according to data from the Maine Secretary of State’s Office. ...

A RETREAT FROM PARTISAN POLITICS

The group, if they do end up voting as a block, will hold significant sway not only in bills that need a majority of votes to pass out of the House, but also votes that require a supermajority of two-thirds, including overrides of possible vetoes by Republican Gov. Paul LePage and bills that would be enacted as emergency legislation. ...

 

 

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http://www.sunjournal.com/independent-lawmakers-gain-clout-in-augusta-with-staff-office-space/

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

...

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/

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