Overflow Crowd in Augusta to Support Religious Freedom Bill
Augusta – Dozens of Maine citizens descended on the State Capitol today to support LD 1428, “An Act to Protect Religious Freedom.” The bill would prohibit state government from infringing on individuals’ religious rights unless there is a compelling government interest at stake.
State Senator David Burns (R-Washington) is the sponsor of LD 1428.
The legislation is similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. It passed with a unanimous vote in the U.S. House and a near unanimous vote in the Senate. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled part of the act unconstitutional, and as a result, 18 states, including some in the Northeast, have adopted their own religious liberty laws.
“Religious freedom is our first freedom that is spelled out in our Bill of Rights,” said Senator Burns. “We are seeing attacks on religious freedoms around the country, including here in Maine. This bill is about assuring the religious liberties spelled out in the First Amendment are protected for all Maine citizens. The goal is to prohibit the State of Maine from burdening Mainers’ free exercise of religion without a compelling governmental interest. This law would give Maine citizens the same protections under federal law and 18 other state statutes.”
UMaine’s offshore wind energy pilot project wins initial OK
The decision clears a hurdle for Maine Aqua Ventus in its path to receive electric ratepayer support as it tests new offshore wind technology developed at the University of Maine. Maine Aqua Ventus is a consortium made up of Emera, Cianbro and Maine Prime Technologies LLC, a spin-off company representing UMaine.
Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine, told the Bangor Daily News that the vote represents “an important step” for the pilot project, which would consist of two six-megawatt turbines off Monhegan Island.
Alexander Report Released
The Alexander Group has released the much anticipated results of its study of Medicaid expansion in Maine. Among the findings: expanding Medicaid in Maine would cost the state approximately $807 million over 10 years and would end up consuming nearly 39 percent of the state budget. The entire Alexander Report can be seen here: maine.gov/dhhs/Alexander/
Senator James Hamper who is a member of the Health and Human Services Committee talks about the impact of expansion on the state budget in this video.
Maine Legislature Back in Session
AUGUSTA – The Second Regular Session of the 126th Legislature began on Wednesday, January 08, 2014.
Legislators will be considering more than 300 bills that are either new or carryover bills from the previous session.
The second legislative session is the shorter of the two and is intended for emergency legislation and budgetary matters. Lawmakers are expected to adjourn in April after completing their work.
Senate Republican Leader Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo) expressed optimism about the new legislative session. “The people of Maine are counting on us to put our partisan differences aside and act in their best interests. In order to do that, we have to make certain that as lawmakers, we make the budget of Maine families a priority over the state budget. That means we need to put a stop to the out of control spending that has led to the recently documented abuses of our tax dollars,” Senator Thibodeau said.
Assistant Republican Leader Roger Katz said, “We are all excited to be back. The state continues to face many serious challenges. It is up to us collectively to start finding solutions. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues from across the aisle and the Governor’s Office to make this an outstanding session.”
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