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June 5, 2014

The Maine Legislature has completed their work for the Second “short” Session. The House and Senate have adjourned.

EBT Use Begins to be Blocked at ATMs in Liquor Stores, Strip Clubs and Bars Governor Paul R. LePage announced that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has started blocking EBT cards from being used in ATMs at prohibited locations. It is illegal to use the EBT card, which is used to access taxpayer-funded welfare money, in certain locations as a result of legislation signed by Governor LePage in 2012.

In May of 2012, Governor LePage signed into law “An Act to Strengthen the State’s Ability To Investigate and Prosecute Misuse of Public Benefits.” This law mandates that an EBT card may not be used in “a retail establishment where 50 percent or more of the gross revenue of the establishment is derived from the sale of liquor; a gambling facility, except that use of the electronic benefits transfer system is permitted in any portion of the premises of a gambling facility that is set aside separately for the sale primarily of staple foods; or a retail establishment that provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment.”

DHHS has already blocked EBT card use in 44 ATMs around the state. The Department is blocking as many of these ATMs as possible and anticipates that more than 200 locations will be blocked by August. By law, if an individual uses an EBT card at a prohibited location, it is considered an intentional program violation and results in removal of that individual from the program for one year. A second violation results in a two-year suspension. If there is a third violation, the individual will be permanently disqualified from the program.

Some of the locations that have already been blocked include:

  • PT’s Showclub, Portland
  • Diamond’s Gentlemen’s Club, Bangor
  • Styxx, Portland
  • Bayside Liquors, Bar Harbor
  • Foreplay Sports Pub, Portland
  • Joka’s Discount Beverage, Waterville

“This initiative is designed to protect public funds by blocking inappropriate and illegal use of state and federal welfare benefits,” said Governor LePage. “This is not about politics – it’s about making sure that each public dollar spent on welfare is used appropriately. These tax dollars are designated for daily necessities like diapers and healthy meals that vulnerable families and children need to survive. To think these dollars may have been spent on liquor and adult entertainment is incomprehensible, and this administration will not tolerate it.”

California and Massachusetts have also blocked the usage of EBT cards at illegal and questionable locations to ensure appropriate use of publicly funded welfare funds. Maine contacted California to discuss their program while creating this initiative. DHHS has a contract with the EBT vendor Xerox to process this work. Maine pays roughly $92 for each machine location that is blocked. This is similar to the work done by California and Massachusetts with the same vendor.

Richard Rosen Named Acting DAFS Commissioner
On May 29th, Governor LePage announced the appointment of Deputy Commissioner of Finance Richard Rosen as Acting Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. This appointment is effective June 1st, the day after the retirement of the current Commissioner, Sawin Millett.

Rosen has served in a number of capacities in state government, mostly centered on the state budget, which is helpful preparation for this new position. Rosen served in the Legislature for a number of years, serving his last term as Senate Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. From there, he held the role of Director of the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management, an office devoted to identifying cross-agency efficiencies and budget savings. Most recently, Rosen joined the Department of Administrative and Financial Services as Deputy Commissioner of Finance.

June 10th Elections Next Week
June 10th is a statewide election day in Maine. The biggest contests on the 10th are the primary elections of candidates for the open second congressional district seat. State Senators Troy Jackson and Emily Cain are challenging each other to be the Democratic nominee in this election and former Senate President Kevin Raye and former State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin are squaring off in the Republican primary. There are five contested primaries for State Senate seats and almost twenty contested primaries for State House seats that will also be decided that day. Additionally, there are some bottom of the ballot primary contests for county offices and municipal elections, and local ballot questions to be decided on June 10th.

Eliot Cutler Submits Signatures to Gain Access to November’s Ballot
On May 29th, Independent Candidate for Governor Eliot Cutler delivered signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office in order to qualify for November’s ballot. As an Independent candidate, Cutler does not face a primary election. The Secretary of State’s office will now review the signatures presented by Cutler, and upon verifying sufficient valid signatures, will place him on November’s ballot.

Fairs, Festival and Summer Events
With the nice weather starting to arrive, that’s a great indicator of summer fun. Maine has a strong tradition of agricultural fairs and festival held throughout the state. For a list of the agricultural fairs, please follow this link: http://www.getrealmaine.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/home.showpage/pageID/40/index.htm
For more fun in the sun, you can check out the list of state festivals by following this link: http://www.visitmaine.com/things-to-do/events/

Bear Referendum Ballot Question
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap released a draft of the bear hunting citizen referendum question that will be presented to Maine voters on the November 4, 2014 ballot. The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed wording of the ballot questions. The official deadline for submission of comments is the close of business on June 16, 2014. The proposed wording of the initiative question that voters will decide on, along with a link to the text of the initiated legislation, is as follows:
Do you want to ban bear hunting using bait, traps or dogs except to protect property, public safety or for research?
http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/display_ps.asp?ld=1845&PID=1456&snum=126

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