Maine House votes to end non-medical exemptions for childhood vaccines

A bill that could end non-medical exemptions for routine childhood vaccines required by schools and certain health care facilities, got one step closer to a reality Tuesday.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that could end non-medical exemptions for routine childhood vaccines required by schools and certain health care facilities, got one step closer to a reality Tuesday.

The Maine House passed the vaccination bill by 78-59 Tuesday, April 23.

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Jackie Mundry

@j_mundry

The legislature has voted 78-59 to PASS the vaccination bill

The Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee held a work session and heard from the public earlier in March. 

RELATED: Hundreds of Mainers descend upon the State House to testify about vaccine bill

Multiple studies have debunked claims that measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations increase the risk for autism. Maine has one of the nation’s highest rates of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

But opponents argue that Maine parents should remain able to opt-out on religious or philosophical grounds. Meanwhile, a Republican’s bill would leave medical exemptions at the “sole discretion” of anyone authorized to administer vaccines.

RELATED: Pertussis is widespread in Maine

Federal data shows Maine had among the highest rates of non-medical vaccine exemptions in 2017-2018.Oregon and Washington are also considering bills to end non-medical exemptions for childhood vaccines.

LD 798 Vaccine public hearing bill

Maine: Legislative Update from Senator Brownie Carson

Banning disposable Styrofoam dishware 

This week in Augusta, the Maine House and Senate voted unanimously to ban disposable cups, plates, and other products made of polystyrene, otherwise known as Styrofoam. On the Senate floor on Tuesday, I spoke in favor of the bill, LD 289 “An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers,” sponsored by Rep. Stanley Zeigler:

“I think we all know the perils of polystyrene, how it stays in the environment if not forever, for hundreds of years; how it can’t be recycled; and the other problems that it has. I want to report that I had a brief conversation with the plant manager of Huhtamaki, the former Keyes Fibre plant in Waterville yesterday. That plant has been in business putting Maine people to work since 1903. Huhtamaki makes recycled and recyclable paper products including single use food containers.

They buy newsprint on the open market, bring it to Maine, make pulp out of it, and make trays for multiple cups of coffee or other beverages. They make food trays that are both from recycled material and compostable, and importantly they make some, but not all, of the single use food containers such as paper plates. They are safe, they are made from recyclable material, they are recyclable themselves, and Huhtamaki in Waterville, Maine puts 500 men and women to work with good paying jobs. I urge you please to follow my light and vote ought to pass.” The bill faces a final vote in the Senate before it is sent to Governor Mills.

Expanding mental health education in Maine schools 

One of my top priorities this session is to ensure that health education in Maine schools includes lessons about mental health. A bill I sponsored, LD 1024 “An Act To Include Mental Health Education in Maine Schools,” was approved by the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on April 8.

It is rare that we pick up a report on children’s health today that does not reference mental health.

Teaching our kids how to be more conversant about mental health will surely bring this subject out of the shadows. It will help kids who are experiencing mental health problems to recognize them and seek counseling or peer support more often. LD 1024 would require health education instruction in elementary, middle, junior high and high schools to include lessons in mental health and the relationship between physical and mental health. The bill now faces votes before the Maine House and Senate.

Lowering the cost of prescription drugs 

This week I also testified before the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee in support of legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs in Maine. Getting prescription drug prices under control is critically important because prescription costs drive up overall health care costs. In order to provide relief to Maine people, we must properly regulate pharmacy benefit managers — companies that are taking advantage of Maine people by manipulating the prices of drugs to their own benefit.

The cost of prescription drugs is one of the biggest drivers of rising health care costs in the country. In the U.S., one in four Americans struggles to pay for their prescription medication while one in ten Americansdoes not take their medicine as prescribed to stay afloat. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, about 200 bills have been filed in 42 state legislatures to address the cost of prescription drugs. Of those bills, 88 have to do with pharmacy benefit managers, 25 are related to wholesale importation, and 13 are related to drug affordability review or rate setting.

Studying the proposed CMP Corridor 

On Wednesday, the Environment Committee voted in favor of my bill to require a study of the CMP Corridor’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The bill, LD 640, was approved by a 10-3 vote. It now heads to the House and Senate. I feel that this study is absolutely crucial as legislators, regulators, and the public consider whether this project should move forward or not.

Creating a paid family and medical leave program 

Finally, I testified as a cosponsor this morning on Speaker Sara Gideon’s paid family and medical leave legislation, LD 1410. I believe this legislation is important for many reasons. This program will provide employers with a higher likelihood of experienced employees returning after time off because of illness or family leave-making for a more stable and seasoned work force for that employer. Maine workers will also feel more valued and respected: paid family and medical leave will allow them to tend to important responsibilities without having to leave, or be fired from, a job because they need to care for a new child or an aging parent.

Some Maine workers have paid family and medical leave now through employer-designed programs or collective bargaining agreements. But many do not. All Maine workers should have this benefit.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at Brownie.Carson@legislature.maine.gov or (207) 287-1515. You can also follow me on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/BrownieForMaine/. I look forward to serving you in the coming year.

Best regards,

Maine: Bill to ban foam food containers in Maine passes Legislature, heads to Gov. Mills

If a proposed bill is signed into law by Governor Janet Mills, Maine would become one of the first states in the country to ban the use of disposable foam food containers.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that would ban the sale or use of disposable foam food containers in Maine is advancing in Legislature, despite divided opinions among various state organizations.

Rep. Stanley Zeigler (D-Montville) is sponsoring LD 289, “An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers”.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2020, this bill would prohibit stores from selling or distributing any disposable food containers that are made entirely or partially of polystyrene foam, or styrofoam.

The bill would also require the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules that would implement these provisions.

“With the threats posed by plastic pollution becoming more apparent, costly, and even deadly to wildlife, we need to be doing everything possible to limit our use and better manage our single-use, disposable plastics — starting with eliminating the use of unnecessary forms like plastic foam,” said Sarah Lakeman, Director of Sustainable Maine. “There are affordable alternatives to foam that are less wasteful and less harmful to the environment we can be pursuing.”

On Tuesday, April 16, the bill was approved by the Senate. It faces a series of procedural votes and will then head to Gov. Janet Mills for review.

If signed into law, Maine would become one of the first states in the country to ban the use of disposable foam food containers.

RELATED: Maine house advances bill on statewide foam ban

The support behind this bill, however, is largely divided. In the 87-51 House vote earlier this month, the Portland Press Herald reported that all Republicans opposed the bill, while all Democrats and Independents supported it.

“The Maine Chamber of Commerce is skeptical about legislation that bans products in the market on a state by state basis,” said Ben Gilman, Senior Government Relations Specialist at the MCC. “We prefer market decisions to be based on consumers driving decisions.”

Gilman added that the impact of a state by state ban could create an unbalanced playing field for business in Maine, as compared to other states.

Other groups, like the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association and the Maine Tourism Association, also oppose the proposed ban, saying it would hike up prices for Mainers.

“We continue to express concerns as this bill moves through the Maine legislature,” said Christine Cummings, Executive Director of MGFPA. “If the bill passes, it would make Maine an outlier as the first in the nation to pass such as a ban on polystyrene for food service containers. Increased product costs will occur, and our Maine residents, the customers, will inevitably incur the price of banning polystyrene and sourcing alternatives.”

Still, those in favor of the bill say that styrofoam can’t be recycled in the state and is costly to towns and cities. They also say there are affordable alternatives to styrofoam, which could help prevent pollution.

According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, more than 150 municipalities or regions have already banned disposable foam food containers, including 14 towns in Maine. They have also been banned in state facilities and functions since 1990.

Susan Rice says she won’t challenge GOP Sen. Collins in 2020

Rice told former Obama administration official Alyssa Mastromonaco at the 10th annual Women in the World Summit on Thursday in New York that she loves Maine and that her family has deep roots in the state. But she said she decided with her family “that the timing really isn’t right for us.”

NEW YORK — Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser under President Barack Obama, won’t be challenging Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in 2020.

Rice told former Obama administration official Alyssa Mastromonaco at the 10th annual Women in the World Summit on Thursday in New York that she loves Maine and that her family has deep roots in the state. But she said she decided with her family “that the timing really isn’t right for us.”

Rice tantalized Democrats in October when she expressed interest in Collins’ seat during the contentious confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She said at the time that Collins “betrayed women across this country” by supporting Kavanaugh.

Rice said during the event on Thursday that her daughter is going into her junior year of high school and that her family has already sacrificed for her.

“I’ve given this a lot of thought, and in the course of weighing it all, I’ve decided with my family that the timing really isn’t right for us,” she said.

Her announcement could free other Democrats to enter the race.

So far, no high-profile Democrat has announced a challenge to Collins next year. But the race is still early, and Collins herself hasn’t formally announced she’ll seek re-election.

Collins’ office had no immediate comment Thursday.

Collins is a self-described centrist in an era of increasingly polarized politics. First elected to the Senate in 1996, she’s now the last Republican member of Congress from New England.

Rice’s maternal grandparents emigrated from Jamaica to Maine in the 1910s. Her grandfather, David Augustus Dickson, worked as a shipper, porter and janitor. Rice’s grandmother, Mary Dickson, a maid and seamstress, was named Maine State Mother of the Year in 1950.

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Maine: Legislative Update from Senator Brownie Carson

Dear friends and constituents,

As you know, Central Maine Power (CMP) and Hydro-Quebec have proposed a transmission corridor through western Maine, which would bring electricity from Canada to Massachusetts. Proponents of the corridor argue that the project will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about those claims. Dear friends and constituents,

Whether the CMP transmission corridor would result in actual greenhouse gas emissions reductions is the issue here, and is a question that must be answered.

I’ve submitted a bill, LD 640, which would require a study of how the corridor will impact greenhouse gas emissions across New England, New York, and eastern Canada. Would the CMP corridor result in new greenhouse gas emissions reductions that would not happen otherwise, or would Hydro-Quebec simply divert electricity to Massachusetts ratepayers who will pay more for it, with no new actual carbon pollution reductions?

Neither Hydro-Quebec nor CMP has been willing to provide the details about what generation sources would deliver power to Massachusetts, whether those sources currently serve other customers, or what type of generation likely would back-fill any power that’s diverted to Massachusetts. This is essential information that LD 640 would provide.

To me, this feels like trying to buy a car from a dealer who won’t let me take a close look under the hood. LD 640 will provide the study we need to determine what’s under the hood. We need to understand if the climate benefits would be real, because the impacts of the CMP corridor on Maine’s environment and landscape would be massive, and very real. This bill is now being worked in the Environment Committee.

In the Education Committee on Wednesday, we passed three bills to end child hunger: LD 359701, and 549. These bills would encourage schools to provide breakfast to students after the start of the school day, make it easier for families to apply for free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch for their children, and help fund these programs in our schools. Children who are hungry have a harder time learning, and I’m hopeful that these proposals will give every young person the chance to succeed.

The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee has been considering important bills to promote renewable energy. The committee passed and the Legislature enacted a bill to restore “net metering” for the benefit of residential solar energy system users. Another proposal would eliminate the cap on the number of utility customers who can invest in and benefit from a community solar farm. I strongly support energy policies that will restore Maine’s leadership on solar energy.

Bills to address other pressing issues, from health care to student loans, plastic pollution to teacher pay, are being considered in various legislative committees. My work in the Education and Environment Committees is challenging, engaging, and rewarding. I’ll do my best to keep you up to date.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at Brownie.Carson@legislature.maine.gov or (207) 287-1515. You can also follow me on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/BrownieForMaine/. I look forward to serving you in the coming year.

Best regards,

Brownie Carson

P.S. Do you know of young people who would be interested in spending a day in the Maine Senate? The honorary page program gives students an opportunity to participate in the Senate and interact with legislators. Honorary pages see what it is like to work on the floor of the Senate and be part of a legislative session. Pages perform such duties as delivering messages to senators and distributing amendments and supplements in the chamber. Students from third grade through high school are invited to serve in the Senate Chamber as honorary pages when the Senate is in session. To learn more about the program, call me at (207) 287-1515. On a different note, we’re also looking for more Mainers to sing the National Anthem for legislative sessions. If you or someone you know is interested, call the Office of the Secretary of the Senate at (207) 287-1540, and let them know you’re calling at my invitation.

Vietnam War Veterans Day at the State House

On Friday, March 29, I joined fellow veterans in the Hall of Flags at the State House for Vietnam War Veterans Day. It was a meaningful ceremony, sponsored by the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services. There were remarks by Gov. Janet Mills and the Adjutant General Douglas Farnham, who I enjoyed speaking with after the ceremony. It was good to catch up with a number of old friends and discuss important legislation to address the needs of veterans across the state.

Brownie Carson | State Senator | (207) 287-1515 |  brownie.carson@legislature.maine.gov | www.mainesenate.org

Maine: State Legislature could crack down on childhood vaccinations, making it illegal for families to opt-out

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A new bill aims to remove exemptions, based on religious or philosophical beliefs, from immunization requirements for students of all ages, as well as employees of nursery schools and health care facilities.

PORTLAND, Maine — As Maine law stands now, families can refuse certain immunizations, based on religious or philosophical beliefs — but one Maine lawmaker is looking to change that.

(not gonna name the “one Maine Lawmaker?”)

The bill, LD 798, would remove those exemptions for students of all ages, as well as employees of nursery schools and health care facilities.

According to the bill’s summary, those who are currently not immunized but are covered by an individualized education plan would be grandfathered, as long as they have written proof from a medical professional that “the medical professional has provided information on the risks and benefits associated with the choice to immunize.”

No public hearing or work session has been scheduled for the bill.

This story will be updated.

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Sexual harassment trainer booted from Statehouse (but why?)

 

AUGUSTA, Maine — State legislators in Maine have asked a woman hired to give lobbyists free sexual harassment training not to come back following complaints over her presentation.

Karen Ryla from the Bangor-based Work Performance Solutions was hired to lead the training sessions as part of a new law passed last year.

Senate Majority Leader Nate Libby said lobbyists told him after Thursday’s session the training was not tailored enough to the power dynamics and work relationships in the Statehouse.

Taryn Hallweaver with the Maine People’s Alliance posted on Twitter that fellow lobbyists had to make corrections and counter “over-the-top” examples provided.

Libby says the remaining sessions will be led by the Legislature’s human resources director, Jackie Little.

(Things that make you go, “hmm..”)