Andre Cushing
P.O. Box 211
Hampden, ME 04444

(207) 358-9447
andre@andrecushing.com
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If you are planning a visit while the Legislature is in session, please let me know. I would enjoy the opportunity to meet with you.

State House
Tours are offered daily from 9am to 1pm. For more information, call 287-2301.

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Tours of the Governor's official residence are also available. Please call 287-2121.

Legislative Sentiments

Legislative Sentiments are significant expressions of the sense of the Legislature. They are a public declaration in honor of a personal achievement.

Legislative Memoriam Resolutions may be requested to express sympathy regarding the death of a prominent local or state figure.

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On November 2nd the citizen’s of Maine decided to change the direction of Maine government by selecting Paul R. LePage as our next Governor and by electing a majority of Republicans to the Maine Legislature. This election resulted in historic changes with 77 Republican members of the House of Representatives and 20 members of the Senate. This will allow Republicans to control both the Governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature for the first time since 1964.

Below is a news release issued by the Maine Republican Party

MAINE GOP: UNITED AND READY TO LEAD
Republicans Control House, Senate, and Governor’s Office for First Time Since 1964
AUGUSTA – The people of Maine Tuesday called on Republicans to lead the way out of a crippling economic downturn, and Republicans are ready to answer the call.
“Our victory Tuesday came because, united, we made it clear what we are here to do: fix this economy and get Maine working again,” said Governor-Elect Paul LePage. “The people of this state have honored us with their votes, and we are humbled by the responsibility we now face. ”

“This election was an unmistakable endorsement of the principles of bringing fiscal responsibility to state government, and creating an environment for economic growth through lower taxes and less regulation — ideals espoused by our Republican candidates,” said Senator Olympia Snowe. “Maine people spoke decisively that they want to change the direction of Maine, to foster desperately needed job creation and secure a brighter future for our state.  My congratulations and appreciation goes out to the candidates and to all those who worked tirelessly to make this extraordinary victory possible.”

“It’s clear that Maine citizens want a new direction for our state.  I campaigned with Republican candidates all across the state, and everywhere we went, people told us they want more jobs, less spending, lower taxes, and more accountability in their state government,” said Senator Susan Collins. “I congratulate our candidates, our hard-working volunteers, and Chairman Charlie Webster and his team at the Maine Republican Party.  This is an historic win for Republicans, and it’s an exciting opportunity to lead Maine to a new, more prosperous future.”
“What happened Tuesday was amazing. The people of Maine stood up and took back control of their government, and we are both humbled and honored by this opportunity,” said Maine GOP Senate Leader Kevin Raye. “Our party came together as one to fight this battle, and we stand together, stronger than ever, as we begin the process of making Maine the best place in the nation to live and work.”
“What the people of Maine told our candidates this year was clear – go to Augusta and fix it,” said Maine GOP House Leader Josh Tardy. “Now that we’ve moved through this election, we are wholly focused on doing just that. We have some difficult work ahead of us, but we are ready, willing and able to get Maine working again. We have the talent, we have the passion- and we will deliver.”

I was honored to be asked by members of the Hampden-Newburgh Little League to give welcoming remarks to the teams. During the opening ceremonies Dewey Martin was honored with a plaque for his many years of faithful volunteer efforts on behalf of the Little League program in the Hampden area. Dewey tirelessly gives of his time and talents to raise funds, organize teams and schedule the games. Also recognized for his efforts of over twenty year on behalf of Little League in central Maine was Bob Stephenson.

I also was asked to throw out one of the first pitches. Although not known for my athletic prowess I delivered a pretty good pitch right across the plate which was deemed a solid strike. 

Little League is a great program. Founded by Carl Stotz in 1939 as a three-team league in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Little League Baseball encourages local volunteers to organize and operate Little League programs that are annually chartered through Little League International. Each league can structure itself to best serve the children in the area in which the league operates. Several specific divisions of Little League baseball and softball are available to children ages 5 to 18. The organization holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code.[1]

(Source of information is Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_League_Baseball )

Memorial Day is a special solemn occasion that was established following the Civil War. It was meant to honor those who had fallen in service to their country and help to heal some of the deep wounds of our nation’s. I had the honor of being asked to deliver an address at this year’s celebration in Hampden. It began with a parade from the Whitcomb-Baker VFW Post to the Locust Grove Cemetery across from the Reeds Brook Middle School. The parade included many community groups; Scouts, Little Leaguers, The Hampden Academy Band, ATA Martial Arts and a number of veterans from our community. After arriving at the cemetery a special service was held with readings by students, and members of the VFW. They presented flags and memorial bouquets each with a simple but, dignified purpose of paying tribute to those who had rendered service to our country. It is a special and at times moving event especially when carried out by those who have previously served our nation. I have included below a copy of my remarks and also a brief description of the evolution of Memorial Day. I truly appreciate being asked to participate in this special day.

Remarks at Hampden Memorial Day, May 31, 2010

 Thank you all for being here today. I am honored to say a few words as we pay our respects to those Americans who have given their lives in service to our country. We can never repay them for making the supreme sacrifice, but we can remember and salute them for keeping our nation the land of the free.

 For a long time, Memorial Day seemed at risk of becoming just another day off work, a reason to have a picnic or a barbeque. It meant summer was finally here, the pools were open. But in recent years, there has been a shift in our thinking, a new awareness of the sacrifices our military men and women are making. Part of that shift comes from the shared experience of seeing today’s young men and women fighting in miserable conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of it comes from movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Patriot” that have made those sacrifices much more real.

 Regardless of the reason, something has changed about the way Americans now think about those valiant souls who put their lives on the line for us. And this is very much a change for the better. President Kennedy once said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

 Memorial Day, perhaps more than any other holiday, was born of human necessity. Deep inside all of us lies a fundamental desire to make sense of life and our place in the world. What we have been given, what we will do with it, and what we will pass on to the next generation is all part of an unfolding history, a continuum that links one soul to another.

 Abraham Lincoln pondered these thoughts in the late autumn of 1863. His darkest fear was that he might be the last president of the United States, a nation then in the midst of what he described as “a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” He began his remarks with those words as he stood on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19th of that year.

 It was the site of a terrible collision of the armies of the North and the South.

When the battle was over, the Army of the Potomac had suffered 23,049 casualties. The Army of Northern Virginia had suffered 28,000 casualties. With a total of 51,000 casualties, including more than 7,000 men killed in action, the Battle of Gettysburg is the bloodiest single battle in American history. In an area of 25 square miles, the battle was fought with 172,000 men. 

The brief speech that became known as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address turned into what might be called the first observance of Memorial Day. Lincoln’s purpose was to dedicate a portion of the battlefield as a cemetery for the thousands of men who had fallen there.

 Since that time, America’s sons and daughters have been called upon time and again to defend our freedom and our way of life. As we reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, countless images come to mind. A mother running a finger over her son’s name on the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. A monument of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. The honor guard at Arlington Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown, maintaining his silent vigil. The homecoming of today’s young Americans from far-flung battlefields.

 

These images serve as constant reminders of those who gave their lives to something greater than themselves. The freedoms we enjoy stem from their sacrifices – from the American Revolution to the modern era. Our enemies have learned to their regret about the fighting spirit of free men. Once we Americans have been wronged or attacked in peace, as we were at Pearl Harbor or in the 9-11 terrorist strike, we become warriors. We are a peace-loving people, but when forced to take action, we are dangerous. As the historian Davis Hanson once said, “Thank God we don’t have to fight anyone like ourselves.”

 

I don’t want to glamorize war. War is a terrible thing for all concerned. The soldier does not want it. The generals do not want it. Those who have seen it up close want it least of all. It robs us of our youth and brings untold suffering to families everywhere it touches.

 

But it also serves as a sobering reminder that the cost of liberty was not paid in full by our forefathers. The debt remains with us even today, and the costs are heavy. The world has become a hostile place, with violence that seems contrary to every value we hold true. Our enemies today are not a sovereign nation we can negotiate with. They represent an ideology we can scarcely understand. I salute the fine young Americans who have volunteered for military service in the distant places where we encounter this deadly and determined enemy in a war that could last for many years.

 

At this Memorial Day gathering, we especially want to recognize those who served during World War II. Their generation is now passing from the scene, and we are all the poorer for that loss. It is important that we show our appreciation of their collective sacrifices. Without their strong dedication and perseverance, the cause of freedom, decency and sanity in the world would not have prevailed. We owe them an enormous debt.

 

Gathering together on this day is one way to show our appreciation and gratitude. But how do we extend that reverence we feel through the other days of the year. And more importantly, how do we instill and deepen the tradition of this special day in the younger generation? How do we ensure that Memorial Day is observed with profound gratitude whether we are at war or not?

 

First, we must teach others about the sacrifices that have been made on our behalf so that we might continue to enjoy the liberties and freedoms granted in our Constitution. We must help future generations understand that the act of committing yourself to your country and being willing to fight for the freedom of others is among the most noble of endeavors. This is especially important today. In our schools these days, our children are often taught to be ashamed of their country. Their teachers too often focus on the flaws of America, not on its greatness. It is up to us to pass on the ideals of America. President Reagan said it best: “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.”

 

Lest we ever doubt the noble role played by American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, let me quote a short piece written by Army veteran Charles Province, an author and founder of the George S. Patton Historical Society:

 

“It is the Solder, not the reporter,

Who has given us Freedom of the Press.

 

It is the Soldier, not the poet,

Who has given us Freedom of Speech.

 

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer,

Who has given us the Freedom to demonstrate.

 

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer,

Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

 

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,

Who serves the flag, and whose coffin

Is draped by the flag,

Who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

 

Thank you very much.

MEMORIAL DAY

By 1865 the practice of decorating soldiers’ graves had become widespread in the North. The first known observance was in Waterloo, New York on May 5, 1866, and each year thereafter. The friendship between General John Murray, a distinguished citizen of Waterloo, and General John A. Logan, who helped bring attention to the event nationwide, was likely a factor in the holiday’s growth. On May 5, 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic – the organization for Northern Civil War veterans – Logan issued a proclamation that “Decoration Day” should be observed nationwide.[3] It was observed for the first time on May 30 of the same year; the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of a battle.

to read more about this special day go to the link below

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day

Weatherbee third grade visit

On Wednesday June 19th Weatherbee’s third grade classes visited the Maine State Museum and following their lunch I invited them over for a brief tour of the Maine Statehouse. As we were out of session, students, faculty and parents were able to enter both the House and Senate chambers and take seats were the members are seated. I gave a brief description of the activities which take place, composition of the members and how we vote and are recognized to address the body on an issue. I asked several questions of the students about our leadership and their knowledge of the Legislature and was pleased that several respondents knew that both the Maine House of Representatives and the Senate have women who were elected leaders. Speaker Hannah Pingree and Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell. Many of the students were able to get a chance to view the hall from the rostrum and some even had their pictures taken. I am always pleased to have visitors to our Capitol, especially younger folks who someday may themselves be called upon to serve in elected office.  Getting a closer look at the statehouse may spark an interest in government or at least make them more comfortable in contacting their elected officials.

After their visit I was pleasantly surprised to receive an envelope filled with handmade thank you cards with notes from the students expressing their appreciation and sharing what part of the visit they liked the most. I have view the cards several times and was touched by many of their comments. I too enjoyed their visit and hope  to see more students visit us in Augusta. To those reading this post, we offer an honorary page program and I would be happy to have students join us for a day at the statehouse. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested.

I had the opportunity to present the eigth grade citizenship award to a fine young  man at Reeds Brook Middle School in June. Dustin Ramsay is a someone who I first met when he was in fifth grade at the Weatherbee School and he was spearheading the Green Team. Last year he visited the Augusta to advocate for legislation. I always enjoy visiting school events to recognize students for their achievement and it is even more special when I know the recipient as in Dustin’s case. Below are my remarks and the text of the award.

Secretary of State’s 8th Grade Citizenship Award

Reeds Brook Middle School

June 14, 2010

 The Secretary of State’s Eighth Grade Citizenship Award is presented to students throughout Maine who understand the importance of academic success and who devote time and attention to making meaningful progress.  The award also serves to recognize those individuals who take responsibility for their work, and who strive to make contributions in their community.

 Today’s recipient of the 2010 Secretary of State’s Eighth Grade Citizenship Award for Reeds Brook Middle School is very deserving of this recognition.

 As a student, activist, and athlete Dustin Ramsay has distinguished himself as a young man with diverse interests, creative thinking, and boundless enthusiasm.

 In the 4th grade Dustin was the driving force and founder of The Green Team at Weatherbee school.  This club educated students about the benefits of earth friendly practices and recycling.  He worked hand in hand with SAD #22 to apply for and win a 15 thousand dollar “Green grant.”  With this funding the school was able to install a new photovoltaic system on the rooftop to reduce the school’s electricity consumption.  When his Green Team moved up to Reeds Brook, they joined forces with beloved custodian Larry Hoyt to educate people about reducing germs, staying active, and keeping healthy.

 Dustin’s activist work extends beyond the school halls.  He has been a volunteer in the Penobscot River Cleanup where he has helped remove tons of clothing and trash from the banks of the Penobscot River.  Dustin has also been involved with the National Resources Council of Maine’s Citizen’s Action Day in Augusta for the past 3 years. Dustin learned about what priorities and  proposed initiatives needed public support.  Then he joined the other the activists in lobbying the Maine legislators to pass the bills that would best ensure a healthy planet.  In 2009 he received one of 4 statewide environment awards from NRCM for his lobbying efforts & Green Team work.

 Having a healthy planet begins with being fit yourself, and so Dustin supports many programs that spread this idea.  He has participated in the Hoops for Heart program for 3 years, raising hundreds of dollars for research.  For Dustin, running is not just a hobby, but an all out passion. He has run in the Sugarloaf Half Marathon, Portland Half Marathon, Kiwanis 4th of July Run, and The Komen Race for the Cure, a national event that raises funds for research and awareness about Breast Cancer.  At school Dustin was voted to be the captain of the Boys Cross Country team by his teammates.  He was the #1 Runner for the Reeds Brook team and has scored exceptionally high for someone of his age.  His coach has said that Dustin is a great leader who always strives to build up the morale of everyone around him, cheering on his team mates, helping teach the proper forms of stretching, and keeping kids focused on the team goals.  

 His teachers have commented that Dustin is a great student who contributes to every class he attends.  When you ask him to share his thoughts in writing, he always gives an articulate, well reasoned answer that exceeds expectations.  Dustin brings an unusual creativity to competing with the Math team.  He finished in the Top 10 for the year of all students in the Eastern Maine Math league.  His teachers have observed that he’s very intuitive about Math.  Mrs. Simpson has said that Dustin can think outside the box and has a knack for constructing his own methods of learning when faced with a problem.  This quick thinking was a major factor to the school team’s win of the Eastern Main Math League Title in 2010.

 Another community service that Dustin enjoys is volunteer work behind the scenes in theatre programs.  This year he served as the lighting designer for Brewer’s Next Generation Theatre group on several productions.  He worked hard on the weekends to help run and program the lighting board, aim and adjust the lighting so others on the stage could shine.  He also has lent his talents to the Reeds Brook Drama Club, and as a member of chorus.

 For these and other reasons, we are pleased to present the Secretary of State’s Eighth Grade Citizenship Award for 2010 to Dustin Ramsay.

 He has taken important steps forward, and we’re confident that he will continue to achieve great things in the years ahead.

 Congratulations Dustin!  Please come forward to accept your award.

I must say in reflecting back on the second session of the 124th Legislature there was not a great deal of rancor. The Speaker again managed the calendar very well and we spent very few days in session after 4pm. We managed to complete out work so that we adjourned almost a week early which saves the taxpayers of Maine about $40,000 per day according to estimates we have received from legislative sources that track such information. The most difficult issues were handled in committee hearings and work session, for my part on the Labor Committee it was addressing issues like paid sick leave, vacation pay,reworking the issue of independent contractor status and issues related to bonded Canadian labor.  Resolution was found to most of these as I noted in my previous post  about the Labor Committee.

Work on the budget which reduce spending and cut state subsidies  and revenue sharing to municipalities for a long and arduous process ably assisted by veteran Appropriations Committee members Rep. Sawin Millett, Rep. Bob Nutting, Rep. Pat Flood and Sen. Richard Rosen who worked tirelessly with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle, the governor’s office and Commissioner Ryan Low and other key committee members to hammer out a plan that would be reasonable and workable. The Leadership of Appropriation chairs Sen. Bill Diamond and Rep. Emily Cain were instrumental in managing the process and allowing for public in put during the course of the debate, as well as keeping members engaged and on task.  The matter of bonds raised its head again in late part of session and created some challenges. I will address this in more detail in a later post. Best to say that we agreed to disagree and threw it to the body to sort out.  In hindsight the 124th Legislature helped Maine government to weather one of the toughest economic storms most of us have seen in our lifetime and come out of it in a fairly good state. That is not to say we don’t have problems on the horizon.

After much discussion at the Appropriations Committee there was not an agreement so the Democratic majority forwarded a package that included a total of $85 million dollars. Republicans who had reached an agreement last session to bond only $149 million this session declined to support this excessive level of borrowing. The result was after several late night votes on Thursday April 8th in both chambers which failed to reach the required 2/3 vote  the Legislature recessed until Monday April 12th so leadership could negotiate a solution. The final package agreed to and directed by Senate Republicans offered a total of $57 million in new borrowing and a redirection of another $13 from previous approved bond funds towards projects.

Here is a summary of the bond package that was approved:

• Nearly $25 million for highway maintenance and construction statewide.

• $9 million for rail improvements in Lewiston and to restore a western Maine rail line between Portland and Fryeburg.

• $6.5 million for a deep-water ship berth in Portland.

• $5 million for development of offshore wind power.

• $5 million for a new dental school and dental care programs in rural Maine.

Here is a link to the final package details http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/

On Thursday January 21st, Governor John Baldacci delivered his eighth and final state. He noted that Maine was facing some extreme challenges and fiscal struggles. He spoke of the turmoil incumbent in these issues and  the need to seek new solutions and new directions for our state government, our industries and our economy.

Within this message was a call to address our energy needs and break our dependence on foreign oil. Another component of his address was the need to improve Maine’s home energy needs through weatherization. He spoke of the promising opportunities in wind power and its auxiliary industries.

He also spoke of the importance of changing our state government and his efforts to consolidate services and departments. He referenced the number of jobs supposedly eliminated from state employment and the cuts to funding.  The changes incumbent in this course has set many communities, school systems and counties on a new and uncharted path, the results are yet to be determined but the changes will offer some interesting opportunities for discussions and hopefully creative results.

Unfortunately at one point the governor felt a need to inject a sharply political point into his address and advocate against the upcoming June referendum on the tax package passed by the Democratic members of the Legislature on the final day on last session.  I feel although it was his right to speak to this matter it was an inappropriate moment to inject a political announcement into his address on the state of our state.

The Governor also spoke to some other issues related to health and wellness, the tradgey in Haiti and Mainer’s who have been serving overseas in the mid-East. He touched on the large amount of Maine lands now in conservation and a plan being worked on

Below is a link to read the text of his address:

http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=Gov_Speeches&id=89383&v=Article

During the second session we on the Joint Committee on Labor had a fairly small agenda but, it contained some very large issues.

There were several matters to make technical changes to issues relating to the retirement system and unemployment as it related to federal legislation. We also saw proposals to change the minimum wage, more enforcement authority for the workers comp commission,  changes to how unemployment is paid in relationship to use of vacation time and issues relating to bonded laborers in the forest industry.

Early in the sessio nwe were informed of a problem relating to legislation we approved at the end of last year LD 1468 was a clearer definition of independent contractors. The result was a new form for pre-determination which required far more data, including 3 years of tax returns and a filing on a per job basis as opposed to the prior process which allowed for annual pre-determinations. This caused much consternation and confusion in the construction industry as many saw this as a added burden which did little to improve the process. After much deliberation and several meetings with stakeholder groups a good resolution was found and a committee bill was drafted to correct the problem.

The most visible issue was the discussion of Senate president Elizabeth Mitchell’s bill LD 1665 titles an Act to Prevent the Spread of the H1N1 Virus" which was commonly referred to as "paid sick leave". It generated the largest turnout for a public hearing with many business and industry representatives in attendance. The sponsors and the national group heading the effort lobbied aggressively but failed to bringing compelling evidence of real problems here in Maine. Unfortunately they chose to try and push their way through with a twice amended bill while not reasonably engaging in discussions with the Maine business community. The result was a decision by the Labor Committee to vote it out with a majority report of "Ought Not to Pass". This sent a strong message to the full Legislature that the bill had limited merit in its present form. To me this showed an example of how the business community can effectively express themselves on issues of concern and how the process will work well in limiting legislation that does not respect our state. I feel many efforts like this to use Maine as a platform for social experiments in launching "first in the nation" landmark bills only works when there is a true and broad problem affecting Maine people.

Overall this session’s Labor Committee continued in its efforts to hear legislation and come to a decision in a thoughtful and respectful manner.  My thanks to my colleagues on the committee and my compliments to the chairs for the manner in which they conducted themselves. I want to give special thanks Rep Tuttle for his willingness to take some positions which were difficult but appropriate during these challenging times.

We begin the second session of the 124th Legislature on January 6th. During the coming months we will face some serious challenges. A budget shortfall of more that $400 million dollars, issues relating to school consolidation, the environment, labor and wage bills and the need to correct language on some laws enacted during the first session which have had difficulties in implementation. This is the peril of pushing through legislation to meet a self proclaimed deadline, as opposed to assuring the issue has been properly reviewed and the concerns of various parties have been considered, including those of the end users who must apply the results of the new law.

Two good examples of this were a bill to require all rental units and  homes sold after Oct 31st 2009 to have a functioning carbon monoxide detector installed. There is no doubt that this can be a real and concerning life safety matter, however in the rush to pass the final version many changes were made which left unanswered questions as to how to enforce the new statute.

We also passed legislation to prevent the unauthorized use of information regarding minors, it was to prevent various entities from misusing data acquired from publicsources. The final version of the bill has caused concerns from legitimate organizations such as colleges seeking to work with those applying for entrance and even news organizations seeking to publish students information for athletic or academic accomplishments. We are regularly told by some we can’t let “perfect be the enemy of good legislation” however my thoughts are that we sometimes rush to complete a bill before it has been properly reviewed and considered by many parities who will have to apply the “unintended consequences” of our action.

All in all this second session promises to offer many challenges as we seek to do the people’s business in an uncertain economy.

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