Issues in the House this week - And what a week it was. As we near the end of the session, perhaps tensions run high, and politics is seen at its weakest point. Some people create and use issues to gain what they think is poolitical leverage. For me, the truth always wins out and I trust the people of Maine to know the difference.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
This issue was discussed both in caucus and on the floor of the House at least two times.
No one approves of female genital mutilation, regardless of its culture roots.
Our Republican colleagues wished to pass a bill which would specify FMG as an illegal activity. It is already an illegal act, an example of child abuse, and punishable as a Class A crime.
It is also important to note that there have been no cases of FMG in Maine. None. Not one.
So it seems that the bill offered by Republicans is a punishment looking for a crime.
That is not to say that the potential for FGM doesn't exist - it does, but we must work to address the education of cultural communities where this may (may but hasn't yet) happen.
What it starts to look like instead is that the Republicans sponsoring this bill are looking for an opportunity to punish people and then return them to their country of origin. And the manner in which this bill was presented leaves lots to be desired.
Not a single case in Maine has been reported. Not one.
And, the current
legislation already in force, puts FGM under the auspices of a Class A
Felony. The bill proposed actually makes the crime less important.
Viable Fetus -
We heard for the second time a bill
regarding the legal ability of a viable human fetus to have legal rights.
This assumes that the fetus is at least 24 weeks old, and that its death
was in part caused from negligence, accident, or even intent. At
first look, this was a sensible bill, as a fetus at 24 weeks has the
chance of viability.
At the same time, there is no guarantee that a fetus at 24 weeks is in fact viable. Second, if the fetus is not viable, but has legal rights implied by the bill, then who would work to oversee those rights? Is that an appointed lawyer?
The bill claimed that such a fetus and its heirs would have the right to sue for wrongful death. While that's a completely understandable situation, how can anyone determine heirs of an unborn fetus?
State Wide Teacher Contract
Floating all about the House is the rumor that the current administration will refuse to sign a budget unless it contains provisions for a statewide teacher contract.
A statewide teacher contract is simply not a good idea. While we all want to see that teachers have a reasonable salary, that salary is really dependent on two factors - the ability of the local school to pay the teacher, and the living costs of the area in which the teacher lives.
If property taxes are the basis of fundamental building block of school funding, then a statewide teacher contract can not account for the extreme variability in the real estate market across Maine. A house in Falmouth simply does not have the same value as the same house in Millinocket. It's just a fact of life.
To assume that the state has a role in mediating the variability of real estate values lays a huge burden on the Department of Education, (DOE) a burden they are not ready to accept. All during the session, we have heard reasons why the DOE is unable to meet current needs.
Finally, the state has not earned the trust of many teachers. On two separate occasions, the state has taken money from the teachers' retirement account and not repaid that money. The state has also has also not been responsible in giving teachers the required COLA payments as promised. Finally, the state has yet to meet an original promise made some ten years ago to meet the retirement health benefit needs of its teachers.
How can teachers in the state of Maine trust the state to negotiate a teacher contract in their best interests?
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As always feel free to contact me with qustions or obsesrvations.