SPEAKER UNVEILS PROPOSAL TARGETING SENIORS

At the end of August, Speaker of the Maine House, Mark Eves, announced a $65 million housing bond proposal for affordable housing for seniors, pay increases for in-home care workers and expanded property tax credits for seniors. The proposal is called the “KeepME Home” plan. It is the result of a series of meetings the Speaker has held around the State regarding Maine’s aging population. The Speaker has already indicated that the issue of aging will be one of his priorities heading into next year, and he intends to introduce this package of reforms once the next Legislature convenes.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES REMAINS IN THE HEADLINES

The Department of Health and Human Services has been at the center of many news articles in the recent past and this trend continued over the past two weeks. Most of these stories relate to the Governor pursuing his welfare reform agenda or issues at the Department that have not gone according to plan. In recent weeks, the Administration has continued to pursue its welfare reform agenda, holding hearings on a proposal recently announced by the Department to require TANF recipients with previous drug-related convictions to take drug tests in order to receive cash benefits. Further, The Administration held a hearing on a decision not to seek a federal waiver of work requirements for nearly 12,000 SNAP recipients considered able-bodied adults without dependents. The Department’s efforts to regain federal certification of the Riverview Psychiatric Center and criticisms of how this matter has been addressed has also been widely reported. The Department has appeared to turn a “bad news story” related to ride brokers for MaineCare recipients into a “good news story” when it was reported this week that the Department has observed a substantial improvement in this system over what it experienced one year ago when it launched this new brokering program.

FEDERAL RULING ALTERS CAMPAIGN FINANCE RULES FOR GUBERNATORIAL RACE

On August 22nd, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine granted a preliminary injunction in a case challenging different fundraising limitations on party and non-party gubernatorial candidates. Supporters of Independent Eliot Cutler challenged Maine campaign finance laws that allow supporters of party candidates to contribute up to $3,000 but limit supporters of non-party candidates to a maximum contribution of only $1,500. The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices quickly responded to the ruling by voting unanimously to allow all candidates to receive $3,000 per contributor for the entire election cycle. This policy change, however, will likely have to be ratified in some fashion by the Legislature when it reconvenes.