Thursday, March 29, 2018

State Senator Justin Chenette: This Feels A Bit Like Highway Robbery

The Maine Senate voted 25-9 for corporate welfare to benefit General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works in the form of $45 million tax giveaway yesterday. Bruce Gagnon was on hand and reported:

Sen. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) told his fellow senators that while serving on the Taxation Committee, that had responsibility for LD 1781, he asked BIW V-P Fitzgerald five times for financial information that would prove the company needed the support.  Fitzgerald repeatedly refused to do so.  Chenette asked, "How can we make informed decisions without the facts?  This feels a little bit like highway robbery."

The campaign run by General Dynamics targeting Maine's elected officials amounted to: pay up, or else we shut down and throw thousands of people out of work.

I've always had a problem with caving to bullies. Maybe it's the Irish in me. Or the logical girl who considered going to law school. It seemed to me even as a child that, if I let someone bully me, I was indicating that they could do it again anytime they felt like it. So standing up for myself was the best choice in the long run even if painful in the short term.

Some of the other stars of yesterday's bullying session were Sen. Ben Chipman, a progressive from Portland who probably passes homeless people every single day on his way to work. Chipman said, "We could use this money to help alleviate poverty in Maine."

Also Sen. Mike Carpenter who pointed out, "There is no suggestion this company needs our help. This company is exploding with money."

Mark Roman, who was on hand to witness the senate's capitulation, described the day as "like watching a slow motion robbery happen."

Here's the roll call. Nine votes against the bill are more than we expected. But weasly words like Sen. Brownie Carson's to constituents -- where he concedes the truth of their arguments but ends with "I will vote my conscience" -- generally signal that a legislator is in the pocket of the guys in expensive suits.


BELLOWS of KennebecDN
BRAKEY of AndroscogginRY
BREEN of CumberlandDY
CARPENTER of AroostookDN
CARSON of CumberlandDY
CHIPMAN of CumberlandDN
CUSHING of PenobscotRY
CYRWAY of KennebecRY
DAVIS of PiscataquisRY
DIAMOND of CumberlandDY
DILL of PenobscotDY
DION of CumberlandDN
DOW of LincolnRY
GRATWICK of PenobscotDN
HAMPER of OxfordRY
HILL of YorkDY
JACKSON of AroostookDY
KATZ of KennebecRY
KEIM of OxfordRY
LANGLEY of HancockRY
LIBBY of AndroscogginDY
MAKER of WashingtonRY
MASON of AndroscogginRY
MILLETT of CumberlandDN
ROSEN of HancockRN
SAVIELLO of FranklinRY
VITELLI of SagadahocDY
VOLK of CumberlandRY

Organizer Gagnon was surprised to find that progressive leader Sen. Troy Jackson voted for the bill. Then he found out that Jackson has an ambitious son who works for Preti Flaherty, the lobbying law firm that racked up hundreds of billable hours in reponse to strong citizen resistance to LD1781. 

Because of citizen resistance and a few brave legislators and journalists, the original ask of $60 million was reduced to $45 million (albeit in a shortened timeframe that would send them back for more in 15 years instead of 20). 

I'll be sending a personal message to each of the senators who found the courage to vote no on the bill. Probably General Dynamics/BIW will attempt to punish them for it, either financially or otherwise. That's how bullies work.

Cynics say I'm wrong. They say the legislative process permits a handful of representatives or senators to put on a good show for angry consituents as the need arises. As long as the bill ultimately passes, who cares if a few no votes are recorded in the process? Those same cynics would argue that participating in citizen lobbying is a huge waste of time and that the people who do it are "useful idiots." Myself, I see these efforts as powerful communication opportunities. Our messaging travels beyond our own group to reach even those who "don't follow politics" and contributes to their education a little bit.

Citizen lobbyists against LD1781 present in the State House for the Senate vote.

Also, you meet the nicest people in these movements.

Notorious bully Governor LePage must now sign the bill for it to become law. His (or really, his staff's) misunderstanding of how a pocket veto works led to the passage of 65 bills he disliked back in 2015. So, I'm praying for another foul up by his nepotistic staff in the coming days.

In other words, I'm praying for a miracle on behalf of the hungry children of Maine.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Maine Democrats Lie In Caucus About Unions Supporting Corporate Welfare Bill

The dark forces were busy at the Maine State House yesterday as the House of Representatives defied the will of the people and voted yes on a $45 million tax giveaway to weapons manufacturer General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works.

Those of you who have been following the long struggle to defeat the bill may recall my recent post reporting my husband's in person encounter with our own Rep. Bradlee Farrin (R).

Farrin went through the motions of placating a constituent who knew more about LD1781 than he did -- until Mark mentioned that the largest union at BIW had failed to endorse the bill.

(Union S6 has around 3,500 members, and at a meeting about the bill 100 of them split over the endorsement question when it came to a vote.)

Farrin told Mark he would vote yes on a tax giveaway for GD/BIW because we "need jobs," and then he began criticizing the unions driving up the cost of doing business at BIW. This is ironic because workers at BIW have a collective bargaining agreement freezing their wages for the next four years.

Mark told him the biggest union at BIW, S6, had voted not to endorse LD1781. Of all Mark's arguments against the bill, this is the only one that appeared to alarm Farrin. He snapped to attention and began scrolling frantically through his phone before replying that S6 had not endorsed the bill yet -- pending further negotiations.

Yesterday a legislator told citizen lobbyist Bruce Gagnon that the Democrats in caucus received the (false) information that all the unions at BIW had endorsed LD1781.

Just prior to the vote, when Bruce shared the fact that it just wasn't true, there was some scrambling to get the truth out. But the lie had already done its intended job. 

The Maine House voted yesterday on the bill and the Senate will do so soon. Here's the roll call from the House, which passed LD1781 by 117-31. 

Party      Vote
 ACKLEY of MonmouthCN
 ALLEY of BealsDY
 AUSTIN of SkowheganDY
 BABBIDGE of KennebunkDN
 BATES of WestbrookDY
 BATTLE of South PortlandIY
 BERRY of BowdoinhamDY
 BLACK of WiltonRY
 BLUME of YorkDN
 BRADSTREET of VassalboroRY
 BROOKS of LewistonDY
 BRYANT of WindhamDY
 CAMPBELL of OrringtonRY
 CARDONE of BangorDY
 CASÁS of RockportIN
 CEBRA of NaplesRY
 CHACE of DurhamRY
 CHAPMAN of BrooksvilleGN
 COLLINGS of PortlandDN
 COOPER of YarmouthDN
 COREY of WindhamRY
 CRAIG of BrewerRY
 DAUGHTRY of BrunswickDY
 DeCHANT of BathDY
 DENNO of CumberlandDY
 DEVIN of NewcastleDY
 DOORE of AugustaDY
 DUNPHY of Old TownDY
 ESPLING of New GloucesterRY
 FARRIN of NorridgewockRY
 FAY of RaymondDY
 FECTEAU of BiddefordDN
 FOLEY of WellsRY
 FREDETTE of NewportRY
 FREY of BangorDY
 FULLER of LewistonDY
 GATTINE of WestbrookDY
 GERRISH of LebanonRY
 GIDEON of FreeportDY
 GILLWAY of SearsportRY
 GINZLER of BridgtonRY
 GOLDEN of LewistonDY
 GRANT of GardinerDY
 GRIGNON of AthensRY
 GROHMAN of BiddefordIY
 GUERIN of GlenburnRY
 HAGGAN of HampdenRY
 HAMANN of South PortlandDX
 HANDY of LewistonDN
 HANLEY of PittstonRY
 HARLOW of PortlandIN
 HARVELL of FarmingtonRY
 HAWKE of Boothbay HarborRY
 HEAD of BethelRY
 HERBIG of BelfastDN
 HICKMAN of WinthropDN
 HIGGINS of Dover-FoxcroftIN
 HILLIARD of BelgradeRY
 HOGAN of Old Orchard BeachDY
 HUBBELL of Bar HarborDY
 JOHANSEN of MonticelloRN
 JORGENSEN of PortlandDY
 KINNEY of LimingtonRY
 KUMIEGA of Deer IsleDN
 LOCKMAN of AmherstRY
 LONGSTAFF of WatervilleDY
 LUCHINI of EllsworthDY
 LYFORD of EddingtonRY
 MADIGAN of WatervilleDY
 MADIGAN of RumfordDY
 MALABY of HancockRY
 MAREAN of HollisRY
 MARTIN of Eagle LakeDY
 MARTIN of SinclairDY
 Mason of LisbonRY
 McCREA of Fort FairfieldDY
 McCREIGHT of HarpswellDY
 McELWEE of CaribouRY
 McLEAN of GorhamDY
 MONAGHAN of Cape ElizabethDN
 MOONEN of PortlandDN
 NADEAU of WinslowDY
 O'CONNOR of BerwickRY
 O'NEIL of SacoDN
 ORDWAY of StandishRY
 PARKER of South BerwickDN
 PARRY of ArundelRY
 PERKINS of OaklandRY
 PERRY of CalaisDY
 PICCHIOTTI of FairfieldRY
 PICKETT of DixfieldRY
 PIERCE of DresdenRY
 PIERCE of FalmouthDY
 POULIOT of AugustaRY
 PRESCOTT of WaterboroRY
 RECKITT of South PortlandDN
 REED of CarmelRY
 RYKERSON of KitteryDN
 SAMPSON of AlfredRY
 SANBORN of PortlandDY
 SCHNECK of BangorDY
 SEAVEY of KennebunkportRY
 SHEATS of AuburnDY
 SHERMAN of HodgdonRX
 SIMMONS of WaldoboroRY
 SIROCKI of ScarboroughRY
 SPEAR of South ThomastonDN
 STANLEY of MedwayDY
 STEARNS of GuilfordRY
 STETKIS of CanaanRY
 STEWART of Presque IsleRN
 STROM of PittsfieldRY
 SUTTON of WarrenRY
 SYLVESTER of PortlandDN
 TALBOT ROSS of PortlandDN
 TEPLER of TopshamDY
 TERRY of GorhamDY
 TUCKER of BrunswickDY
 TUELL of East MachiasRY
 TURNER of BurlingtonRY
 VACHON of ScarboroughRY
 WALLACE of DexterRY
 WARD of DedhamRY
 WARREN of HallowellDY
 WHITE of WashburnRN
 WINSOR of NorwayRY
 WOOD of GreeneRY
 ZEIGLER of MontvilleDN

Last week, Mark waited as Farrin spoke with a man he recognized as the lawyer from Preti Flaherty who was always by BIW vice president John Fitzgerald's side in taxation committee work sessions for LD 1781

It would be interesting to know how much it cost GD/BIW in legal fees to get the bill passed in the House yesterday. Preti Flaherty lawyers do not work cheap and, really, the longer the legislative battle takes the more hours they are likely to be able to bill.

Taxpayers pay that tab, too. All costs of doing business -- including the state taxes they got a $45 million break on -- are built into their warship contracts with the Pentagon.

But it's nearly impossible to quantify because, as Rep. Janice Cooper (D) noted in the debate prior to the vote,

"The Taxation Committee asked BIW for their financials to prove they actually need the support, but they refused to provide them to us."

The 43,000 children growing up in poverty in Maine were robbed of $45 million yesterday.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate, which is even more infested with corporate servants than the House, and will surely be signed into law by Maine's ALEC-sponsored governor.

Corporate government at the national, state and even local level currently functions to funnel our tax dollars to the wealthy. So much for government of, by and for the people. As Rep. Ralph Chapman (I) bravely stated in the House debate before the vote was taken, "We have a shameless request from General Dynamics."

Citizen lobbyists will be back at in the State House today as the Senate has LD1781 on their calendar.