This week, Tuesday and Thursday, Gil and I will be back in Augusta. Members of the 127th Legislature will be back in session and we’ll be there to observe and listen. We will keep everyone informed on what’s going on.

This first session has 1,514 legislative bills and resolves submitted, so a busy session is in store for our legislators. Now, if they can get along and take care of the business of the people, many, many good things can be accomplished.

I have read through the Governor’s 2016-17 State of Maine Biennial Budget Briefing. Summary: the state’s tax system is antiquated and long overdue for major reform. A modernization of the tax system, recognizing the challenges of the current economic environment, is vital for the state’s economy to prosper. A shift away from income tax reliance to an end-user consumption tax is a key component of this modernization. While tax relief for Maine families will provide an important boost to the state economy, bold tax reform will encourage businesses to locate and expand here, people to retire here, and individuals to work and raise their families here. It will spark job creation and lead to a prosperous Maine for future generations.

Will our elected legislators be tough enough to accept the Governor’s proposed changes and come together for the good of their constituents, or will they stroke their egos and stick to their partisan party principles? ‘We the people’ can make a difference. Let your local legislators know how you feel — speak up!

Twenty-five bills or resolves affecting veterans have been submitted. Noteworthy are bills asking for state income tax exemption for Maine’s military retirees, more property tax relief for disabled veterans, exemption of state sales tax on the sale of U.S. flags, and others. Veterans, you can help your fellow veterans and our families by contacting your local legislators. Remember, ‘as veterans, we never leave one of our own behind.’

I spoke with Sen. Garrett Mason’s (Lisbon Falls) staff about his Resolution (L.R.1495), asking Maine’s federal delegation to take a more aggressive position for veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan war. I had a long conversation with Sen. Stan Gerzofsky (Brunswick) — he talks the talk and he backs that up by walking the walk — he is a strong supporter of veterans. I also talked to Rep. Denise Tepler (Topsham) to submit a resolution to demonstrated appreciation to military personnel from Maine — active duty, National Guard and Reserves.

In federal legislation, the SAV (Suicide prevention for American Veterans) Act, also called the Clay Hunt SAV Act, was reintroduced and passed by the House. I urge all to contact our senators King and Collins and ask them to support this legislation in the Senate. Same with the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015 — ask senators King and Collins to support the Senate version of this bill. Also, a bill reintroduced by Sen. Collins and Sen. Shaheen (N.H.) will give all veterans with a service-connected disability free lifetime national park passes for hunting, fishing, and recreation. Active duty military members and their families would also receive the annual free passes.

Locally, you veterans who are 100 percent service-connected disabled or at least age 62, don’t forget to register with your town tax assessor for your property tax exemption. The commander of our local Disabled American Veterans chapter, Tim Vaughn, alerted me to a new website (www.Military- DisabilityMadeEasy.com), which will empower disabled servicemembers and veterans to take control of their disability and help ensure that they will receive their due compensation. The staff at the Mid-Coast Veteran’s Resource Center is available to help any veteran with benefits. If you’re in doubt and have questions, call 406- 4103.

Gil and I attended the annual American Legion mid-winter conference this past weekend. In the next column, I will report on any news of interest.

From the Coffee Crowd, Cliff took off for North Carolina; guess what he took down there with him (brrr). Friend Francis is in the hospital with pneumonia and Jim wonders why we have so many state senators. Why wouldn’t one for each county be enough?

In closing, here’s a quote by Winston Churchill: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

‘Til next time, keep the faith.

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Chick Ciciotte is the legislative chairperson for the Mid-Coast Veterans Council.



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