Gil and I were at the State House last Thursday to take part in the American Legion’s opening ceremonies for the House of Representatives and Senate chambers. On the House side the Kennebec County American Legion color guard advanced the colors; Korean War veteran Ted Towne (Berwick Post 7) offered the opening prayer and Larry LaRochelle (Brunswick Post 20) sang the national anthem. Larry did a great job — there were many favorable comments. On the Senate side the American Legion women’s Auxiliary color guard advanced the colors, their state chaplain, Veronica Rokosny, recited the opening prayer (a very appropriate selection), and Terry Owen (Topsham Unit 202) sang the national anthem (well received and lots of compliments). All in all, both ceremonies were done very well.

Gil commented “it’s amazing, the number of lobbyists present here today.” No wonder, though — taxes, taxes, and more taxes, marijuana, and revenue sharing, dominated conversation outside the chambers. Most legislators I had talked to would not commit one way or the other; “gotta take a look at it” was their only comment. My hope is that they will do what’s right for Maine and for their constituents.

As of last Monday, 199 measures had been assigned a Legislative Document (L.D.) number and committee hearings have been scheduled. Today, L.D.11, an act to exempt the sale of U.S. flags from the sales tax (Topsham’s Rep. Denise Tepler is on the Taxation committee) is to be considered. Tomorrow at 2 p.m., three Resolves will be considered by the Transportation committee: to name a bridge over the Saco River (L.D.1) and a bridge over Machias River (L.D.66) for veterans; and a resolve (L.D.55) to name an I-95 rest stop in Hampton the “Joshua Chamberlain Rest Area”). Rep. Brian Hobart (Bowdoinham) is a member of this committee. On Wednesday at 1 p.m., an act to establish Native American heritage and culture day (L.D.10) will be considered by the committee on State and Local Government. Rep. Jeff Evangelos (Friendship) is on this committee. Veterans from the midcoast area, as well as Legion members statewide, will attend these hearings in support of this legislation.

Sen. Garrett Mason (Lisbon Falls) has submitted a Resolution to urge our federal congressional delegation to be more attentive and proactive on legislation affecting our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Rep. Jared Golden (Lewiston) has submitted this Resolve: To establish the commission to strengthen and align the services provided to Maine veterans. Deo Lauria, American Legion’s state Service Officer, would like a review of property tax relief for Maine veterans who are paraplegics, to also cover veterans of the National Guard and Reserves. Sen. Saviello (Wilton) will take a look at the current law. Folks, things are really moving along. It looks like veterans and their survivors have a friendly relationship with most of our legislators.

On the federal side, things are also looking up. In particular, three House bills of note have been introduced: H.R.333, to permit retired members of the armed forces who have a serviceconnected disability rated less than 50 percent to receive full concurrent receipt of both retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation, including Chapter 61 disability retirees with less than 20 years of service; H.R.303, to authorize the full concurrent receipt of retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation for retirees with regular or Guard/Reserve retirements, regardless of disability rating; and H.R.353, to include licensed hearing aid specialists as eligible for appointment in the Veterans Health Administration of the VA. Neither Reps. Pingree nor Poliquin have signed on to co-sponsor these bills. Call their office and ask them to get on board.

In the Senate, the Clay Hunt Act (S.167) is being considered. This bill would direct the Secretary of the VA to provide annual evaluations of the VA’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs. Both Sen. King and Sen. Collins have co-sponsored this legislation and I thank them for their support.

Stay tuned, I will do my best to keep you updated on what’s going on in Augusta and Washington. Meanwhile, I got word that the Institute of Medicine found that between 1972 and 1982 up to 2,100 USAF Reserve personnel who trained and worked on C-123 aircraft that previously had been used to spray herbicides during the Vietnam War, were exposed to Agent Orange dioxins. Questions? Call the Mid-Coast Veteran’s Resource Center at 406-4103.

The Coffee Crowd has been snowed out, so not much is going on there. We did hear from Dante in Las Vegas, who is “doing okay.” And most of the Crowd has said the Pats are not “deflated.” I’ll leave you with this quote by national taxpayer advocate Nina Olson: “At their core, taxpayer rights are human rights.”

‘Til next time, keep the faith.

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Chick Ciciotte is the legislative chairperson for the Mid-Coast Veterans Council. He lives in Topsham.



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