Senate Republicans Express Disappointment in Welfare Votes by House Democrats
Following a series of votes Monday night in which the Democrat-led Maine House of Representatives voted against or severely watered down several welfare bills, Republicans in the Maine Senate emphasized their support for true welfare reform.
Due to the nature of divided government, many bills this session, including welfare reform measures, have been supported by majority Senate Republicans and opposed by House Democrats who hold the majority in their chamber. Such a posture is known as “non-concurrence,” and results in the failure of legislation.
“Maine Senate Republicans have time and time again stood up for real welfare reform this session. Many votes in the Senate on welfare reform have been bipartisan, demonstrating just how reasonable these proposals are,” said Senator Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin), the Senate Majority Leader. “I am dismayed that Democrats in the House refuse to vote for these reforms the people of Maine have so loudly spoken in favor of. We had the opportunity to stand up for Maine taxpayers in the Legislature this year, but once again Democrats have shown their primary interest is protecting government programs.”
Last week, the Maine Senate voted strongly in favor of Senator Roger Katz’s (R-Kennebec) measure LD 526, “Resolve, To Require the Department of Health and Human Services To Request a Waiver To Prohibit the Use of Food Supplement Benefits for the Purchase of Taxable Food Items." The Maine Senate today refused to accept the House Democrats’ attempt to amend the bill to add yet another government program, rather than simply request the necessary waiver from the federal government to ban the use of food stamps for the purchase of junk food.
“Many of the welfare reform bills that House Democrats refused to support would have improved the integrity of the General Assistance program, lowered burdens on property taxpayers, and had been endorsed by the Maine Municipal Association and many municipal officials,” said Senator Brakey (R-Androscoggin), Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and sponsor of several welfare reform bills. “It is disappointing we will not see these reforms come to fruition this year because of Democrats’ refusal to acknowledge the need for real action.”
Additionally, the Maine Senate today insisted on standing by their votes in support of:
- LD 368, which prevents people from immediately collecting General Assistance benefits after they exhaust the five year limit on TANF benefits
- LD 1035, which creates a 9-month time limit on General Assistance benefits
- LD 1036, which disallows people from refusing to accept other available help in order to qualify for General Assistance
- LD 1375, a Governor’s bill sponsored by Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo), which contains a number of reforms such as work application requirements for receipt of welfare benefits and restrictions on EBT use
The Maine Senate today also voted 27-7 in support of LD 607 and 20-14 in support of LD 1407.
LD 607 requires that replacement EBT cards have a photo of the cardholder, while LD 1407 requires drug testing for certain TANF beneficiaries. Democrats in the House yesterday rejected the proposals.
Maine Senate Approves Constitutional Carry
Augusta – On a vote of 21-14 the Maine Senate today approved LD 652, “An Act To Authorize the Carrying of Concealed Handguns without a Permit,” sponsored by Senator Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin).
“This is a great day for the Second Amendment and a great day for Mainers,” said Senator Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin), the Senate Majority Leader. “Maine has a strong and proud tradition of supporting the right to bear arms. Passage of Constitutional Carry cements and protects that right.”
“I am grateful that my colleagues in the Senate support this commonsense proposal,” said Senator Brakey. “Currently in Maine, you can carry a gun on your person, but once you put on a jacket that covers up that gun you’re carrying illegally if you don’t have a permit. It just doesn’t make sense. This legislation changes that, and in doing so protects our Second Amendment Rights and lessens the burdens on local governments for permitting.”
Though citizens would no longer be required to seek a permit to carry a concealed weapon, the legislation does not remove Maine’s permitting system so that citizens can enjoy reciprocity with other states.
The bill does not change who may carry a firearm, it does not change what kinds of firearms may be carried, nor does it change where firearms may be carried.
The Maine State Police support the legislation.
Several states are already Constitutional Carry states, including Vermont, Alaska, Arizona, and Wyoming.
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. Over half of the membership of the Maine House, including members of Democrat leadership, have signed on as co-sponsors to the legislation.
Senate Democrats Attempt to Ban Styrofoam, Common Construction Material
Augusta – Republicans in the Maine Senate today blocked an attempt by Democrat lawmakers to ban Styrofoam as well as pavement products used by many small, local companies throughout the state.
On a vote of 26-8, LD 468, “An Act to Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable or Polystyrene Food Service Containers,” was rejected in the Senate. The measure would have been the first such statewide ban in the country, requiring businesses to use more expensive, less effective materials to serve coffee or to package takeout food.
LD 1208, “An Act Concerning Pavement Sealing Products,” was also rejected on a vote of 26 - 8.The measure sought to ban refined, coal tar based pavement products. Such pavement products allow Maine businesses to extend the season in which they can sealcoat their property, as well as reduce the frequency with which they have to seal their property.
“Both of these bills are not only unnecessary, they are detrimental to businesses and to Mainers just trying to live their day to day life. Businesses, consumers, residents, and tourists would all suffer the negative consequences of such overreaching legislation,” said Senator Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin), the Senate Majority Leader. “Senate Republicans are committed to loosening Augusta’s grip on Mainers, and rejecting these bills is a step in the right direction.”
Both bills have also been defeated in the House.
Maine Senate Passes General Assistance Reform Bill
Augusta – On a 24-11 vote, the Maine Senate today passed a measure to limit the length of time an individual may receive General Assistance benefits to nine months every five years.
“The Maine people have made it very clear they want real welfare reform,” said Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin). “Senate Republicans have listened, and are taking action.”
LD 1035, “An Act To Create a 9-month Time Limit on General Assistance Benefits,” sponsored by Senator Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), was passed on a vote of 24-11.
Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo) said, “These benefits are not intended to become a way of life. That’s why I think this is bill is a measured, reasonable step to take to help people move from welfare dependency to self-sufficiency.”
Added Senator Brakey, “General Assistance is meant to provide short term, emergency help to those in a desperate situation. Putting a reasonable time limit on the benefits will not only help lessen the burden on municipalities and taxpayers, but helps move us one step further from an entitlement culture while protecting benefits for those who truly need them.”