May 23, 2013

Local & State Dispatches

WARREN

Corrections commissioner names new prison warden

The Maine State Prison has a new warden to replace the former warden who was fired earlier this year.

Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte announced Wednesday that he has selected Rodney Bouffard to serve as prison warden.

Bouffard, who has been the prison's acting warden, replaces Patricia Barnhart, 45, who was fired by Ponte in January.

Bouffard is a former superintendent of Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. Ponte said Bouffard "served as the catalyst" that resulted in significant positive changes at Long Creek.

"Rod brings more than 30 years of facility management experience to this position, but more importantly he understands the process that will bring positive lasting change to the Maine State Prison," Ponte said in a statement.

Barnhart was named warden in 2009.

AUGUSTA

House kills bill that would tax political action groups

A bill that sought to raise state revenues by taxing political action committees is dead for this session.

The House on Wednesday went along with the Senate and voted to kill Democratic Rep. Terry Hayes' bill.

The measure sought to impose a tax on 5 percent of the amount contributed to political action committees in Maine.

Hayes, of Buckfield, said the new revenue could have been used to cover expenses to regulate PACs. No other state is believed to have such a tax.

 

Senate sends lobbying proposal on to LePage

Lawmakers who take up lobbying after their state service would be subject to new rules if a bill approved by the Legislature is signed by the governor.

The Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to the bill and sent it to Gov. Paul LePage.

It would prohibit a former legislator from engaging in activities that would require registration as a lobbyist or lobbyist associate until one year after that person's term as a legislator ends.

The restriction would begin with the next Legislature.

The bill does not prohibit uncompensated lobbying.

 

Senate kills bill that would have voided health care act

The Legislature has rejected a move to bar enforcement of the national Affordable Health Care Act.

The Senate on Tuesday agreed with the House and voted to kill a bill that labeled the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 a violation of the United States Constitution, and null and void in Maine.

The bill sought to prohibit federal or state officials from enforcing the law, also known as Obamacare. It proposed fines for enforcing the law.

 

Bill to repeal study mandate for east-west highway OK'd

The Senate has given final approval to a bill that repeals a requirement for a feasibility study on the proposed east-west highway.

The Senate's final approval Tuesday sent the bill to Gov. Paul LePage.

The resolve removes a requirement that the state Transportation Department conduct a feasibility study on the $2 billion project.

The proposal calls for a 220-mile, privately run toll road connecting New Brunswick and Quebec via Maine.

The Legislature last session appropriated $300,000 for the study, but the study was suspended due to insufficient information about the project.

 

LePage signs bill requiring suicide education for schools

Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill Tuesday that will require public school employees to get training in suicide prevention and awareness.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, and co-sponsored by a broad contingent of lawmakers, passed unanimously in the Legislature.

LePage announced Tuesday that he would use $44,000 from his contingency account to support implementation of the bill.

Gilbert said the bill was the most important initiative that he had ever worked on.

"Suicide affects communities and can happen to anyone," he said. "This is going to save lives and I am thrilled to see this become law."

Grace Eaton of Livermore Falls and Nancy Thompson of Cape Elizabeth, who lost children to suicide, attended the signing.

"I believe education is the key to suicide awareness and prevention," Eaton said in a press release. "Since the death of my son Glen, it has been my goal and dream to have all school personnel receive suicide awareness and prevention training."

Said Thompson, "The more people who are educated about the warning signs of suicide, the more people will be saved."

The law requires Maine school staff to get suicide education and awareness training. Training will be done every five years.

 

House sustains veto of bill for rental subsidies study

The House upheld Gov. Paul LePage's veto of a bill calling for a study of rental subsidies for people with intellectual disabilities.

Representatives sustained the veto Wednesday as a motion to override fell short of the two-thirds vote needed.

The bill addressed the state's responsibility to provide room and board for Mainers with intellectual disabilities. Supporters say the state contribution has been shrinking while costs for providers are rising.

In his veto message, the governor said the cost to pay for the study to be done was not addressed in the bill. He also said it was premature to conduct the study.

 

No new license required if Oxford Casino is sold

Maine's Gambling Control Board has ruled that the Oxford Casino won't be asked to apply for a new operator's license if a sale to the company that owns the home of the Kentucky Derby is approved.

Oxford Casino owners announced the $160 million sale in March to Churchill Downs Incorporated Properties, the parent company of Churchill Downs Racetrack.

Oxford Casino Vice President and General Manager Jack Sours told the Sun Journal after Tuesday's board meeting that the sale process is still under way.

Director Patrick Fleming says the board is running a background investigation on Louisville, Ky.-based Churchill Downs.

Churchill Downs is expected to present its plans to the board in July.

The western Maine casino has 814 slot machines and 22 table games and employs 420 people.

NAPLES

Voters OK school budget for Lake Region district

The Lake Region School District's $27.9 million budget was approved Tuesday by voters in Bridgton, Casco, Naples and Sebago.

The total vote was 424-282, with all of the towns voting in favor of the 2013-2014 budget.

The district's spending plan is up almost 7 percent over the current budget, because of a proposed $357,000 shift in retirement costs from the state to the school district and $500,000 budgeted for bond interest payments that the federal government will reimburse, said Business Manager Sherrie Small.

Small did not know Tuesday how the budget would affect the tax rates of the four towns in the district.

All four towns also voted Tuesday, 454-246, to continue holding referendums on the school budget, a question asked of voters every three years.

SKOWHEGAN

Somerset County sues over $280,000 jail payment

Somerset County has sued the state prisons board in an attempt to get payment of more than $280,000 the county says it is owed for operations at the county jail.

The petition for review filed Tuesday seeks to reverse a unanimous vote by the Board of Corrections in April to withhold the county's third-quarter payment as part of the state's consolidated jail system.

County lawyer Lee Bragg said the result of the withheld payment is that county taxpayers paid the jail's bills. Board of Corrections members said the payment was withheld because Somerset County kept revenue from boarding federal detainees. The board contends that the money instead should have been sent to it to help defray the costs of the statewide jail system.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H.

Pease wins bid to receive new air refueling tankers

New Hampshire's Pease Air National Guard base has won its bid to be first in the nation to receive a new generation of air refueling tankers.

Pease bested a field of 88 competitors and four other finalists to secure the new KC-46A tanker, pending an environmental study, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte announced Wednesday. Pease is home to the 157th Air Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard.

"The selection of Pease as the first Air National Guard location in the country to host the KC-46A is a testament to the outstanding support in the defense of our nation by the men and women of the 157th Air Refueling Wing," said the wing's commander, Col. Paul Hutchinson.

Final decision on the awarding of the 12 new refueling aircraft is expected next spring and will bring about 100 new jobs to the base.

Hutchinson said those new jobs represent an infusion of $7 million in payroll to the Seacoast area. In addition, he said, construction to accommodate the new line of tankers would require about $45 million in contracts over the next several years.

 

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