|Dear friends and constituents,
On Monday, Feb. 11, I gathered with my colleagues in the State Senate and House as Governor Janet Mills delivered her State of the Budget address. I’m pleased to see the governor has prioritized health care, education funding and property tax relief.
The governor’s proposal is a good first step in our budget negotiation process. I look forward to working with my colleagues and other experts from around the state to craft a biennial spending plan that is responsible, smart, and puts the needs of hardworking Mainers first. And I still want to hear from you. If you haven’t reached out to my office already about your concerns or priorities, please don’t hesitate to do so. The more we know about what our constituents want, the better prepared we will be as we go through the budget process.
I’m happy to report that one of my bills, LD 68, “An Act To Improve the Record Keeping of the Public Utilities Commission,” was approved by the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee (EUT). This bill addresses a problem brought to my attention by a constituent. It turns out that while the PUC is a specialized court for utilities, it does not always keep permanent records of cases that come before it. LD 68 changes that. EUT held a public hearing on the bill, then a work session, and recommended the bill be passed by the full Legislature. I hope my colleagues in the House and Senate pass this bill and Gov. Mills signs it into law.
I’m also working on LD 698, “An Act to Authorize Maine Courts to Award Attorney’s Fees and Costs to Citizens Who Prevail in Civil Litigation against the Executive Branch.” This bill goes back to my lawsuit against the LePage administration when the executive branch refused to hire public health nurses. This bill will help hold the executive branch accountable to the people. There will be a public hearing on this bill next week.
Finally, an important bill we’ll be considering soon is LD 798, “An Act To Protect Maine Children and Students from Preventable Diseases by Repealing Certain Exemptions from the Laws Governing Immunization Requirements.” This bill would remove religious and philosophical exemptions to the requirement that children be vaccinated to attend public school. After hearing from many of you and researching this issue thoroughly, I would like to take a moment to discuss why I support this bill.
As it is for many people, this issue is personal for me. Our granddaughter was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia in March of her kindergarten year. She was hospitalized for several weeks, and started chemotherapy. When discharged, we were careful about where we took her because of her suppressed immune system. There was whooping cough around at that time, and a relatively high rate of un-immunized children at her school. Our pediatrician gave us information to read, and advised against sending her to school. We followed the doctor’s advice. She has fully recovered, and we are grateful.
Low vaccination rates put kids like my granddaughter and other vulnerable people at risk. People who are immunosuppressed due to transplants or chemotherapy are put at higher risk for contracting deadly diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chicken pox, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
Currently, there is an outbreak of measles in Washington state. As of February 21, there were 65 confirmed cases, many of which are people who had not been immunized. Measles can be deadly and is very contagious – someone who has not been vaccinated has a 90% chance of catching measles just by being near someone who has it. In 2017, Maine had its first case of reported measles in two decades. When the rate of immunization falls below a certain level, there is greater risk to all people.
One of the best resources I have found for information about contagious diseases and vaccinations is the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital: https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/resources. It has useful flyers about different diseases.If you would like to comment on this or any other issue, I can be reached at Brownie.Carson@legislature.maine.gov and my office phone is (207) 287-1515. Please allow some time for a response, as our agenda is packed.
Thank you for the honor of representing you.