Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By Michael Shepherd firstname.lastname@example.org
"As Maine's Senate majority leader, we passed every reform with bipartisan cooperation: regulatory, welfare, health insurance, pension reform."
BY MICHAEL SHEPHERD
It's clear that state Sen. Jon Courtney, the Springvale Republican looking to knock off U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, is running his race on the record of the 125th Legislature.
The Senate majority leader released his first campaign ad Tuesday, saying he can help bring the bipartisan nature of the Republicans' work in Augusta to a deadlocked Washington, D.C. As an example, he gives a number of "bipartisan" reforms as an example.
He's almost exactly right, but there's an outlier -- a big, contentious one including a reduction in the MaineCare rolls.
To pin down what bills comprisd these "reforms," we used two types of sources: Maine Republican Party "policy briefs" and statements from state officials. He has to meet a high standard: A Democrat must have voted with Republicans on each of the bills comprising the reforms. We're not evaluating the effect of these reforms.
S. Donald Sussman, a financier, frequent Democratic donor and Pingree's husband, is the majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and other media outlets in Maine.
For this item, we're checking votes on nine bills referenced in a recent "policy brief" from the Maine Republican Party. Seven of those bills passed in concurrence in the Legislature, meaning lawmakers had little opposition.
One other bill went to a roll-call vote, but was nearly unanimous in both chambers. L.D. 1 was a large package of smaller reform items, including weakening the Board of Environmental Protection and allowing legislative committees to review and change agency rules. It passed in the House, 147-3, and in the Senate, 34-0.
The last bill in this package is much closer. L.D. 281, which reduced the statute of limitations for Department of Environmental Protection violations, passed in the Senate 23-10, with three Democrats joining the Republican majority. The House vote to accept an amended minority report on this issue was far closer, at 74-69. That was just about a party-line vote, but two Democrats went with Republicans on it.
We rate this statement true.
This is the only item in which Courtney errs. Perhaps the most contentious piece of welfare reform, as defined by another Maine Republican brief, wasn't bipartisan. On the other four bills referenced, he's right.
All Democrats in Courtney's chamber went against a supplemental budget for the Department of Health and Human Services containing Republican-advocated changes to MaineCare, most notably eliminating coverage for 19- and 20-year-olds and certain childless adults. It was a 19-14 vote on party lines, with Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, absent. In the House, Republicans got two Democratic votes.
An earlier, less controversial DHHS supplemental budget, which notably moved MaineCare eligibility from 200 percent of poverty to 133 percent, passed by a two-thirds majority of legislators in both chambers.
Welfare changes, including a five-year cap on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits, also were adopted under a 2011 biennial budget that passed 123-19 in the House and 29-5 in the Senate, with most Democrats voting for it.
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