2018-04-14

Weekly summary -

At the end of session, lots of important bills are discussed and moved through the house.  There are some clear “stand out” bills about which you should know.

LD 912 -  "An Act To Clarify the Scope of Practice of Certain Licensed Professionals Regarding Conversion Therapy"

This was a bill that created a great deal of contention on the floor of the house.  After some great rancor, the bill was finally passed.  The concept that a psychologist can alter the gender identity or sexual orientation of an individual is a misnomer in and by itself, but the idea that anyone can compel a person to undergo such therapy is inhumane.  

I hope that the bill passes in the Senate, and that this practice becomes illegal in the state of Maine.  

LD1904 - "An Act To Prohibit the Practice of Female Genital Mutilation of a Minor"

While the bill to discuss conversion therapy was rancorous on the floor of the house, this bill to prohibit female genital mutilation was offensive, and for a variety of reasons.

First of all, this bill is an example of what I call a “Chicken Little Bill."  There have been no recorded cases a female genital mutilation in the state of Maine whatsoever. The sky is not falling. Members of the community who are affected by this practice have not reported any cases and have indicated that the discussion only causes negative attention. They do not want extra attention to be called to this reprehensible practice which in fact does not exist. Again the sky is not falling.

Second, the bill is an example of what I call “A back handed compliment." A back handed complement is one for which no response is ever acceptable. An example of a backend complement might be “I'm so glad to hear you have stopped beating your partner."  There is no appropriate answer. How does one respond to such compliment -  by admitting that he or she has stopped or by confessing that the practice existed in the first place? We do not have examples a female genital mutilation whatsoever and so how can we be glad that it ends?

Third this bill represents what I would call a "political trap bill.”  By not voting for this bill, it seems as if I am supporting the practice of female genital mutilation. Nothing could be further than the truth. The reprehensible practice of female genital mutilation is already covered by both federal and state law and so is not necessary to be covered in a second law. We do not have laws that specifically prohibit hitting our neighbors with a shovel as we clear the driveway in the winter. Such an offense would fall under the regular laws of assault and battery. In this case, politically motivated individuals have created traps for other politicians.  I know this to be true, because I was told by a member of the other party that my reelection campaign would have been affected by my vote on this bill. That threat really didn’t work for two reasons - one, I am not running again, and two - I won’t be threatened.

Fourth, this bill created an entire class of crimes around association. Individuals who have been accused of participating in this crime or in transportation to commit this crime could have been found guilty and jailed or removed or deported without the benefits of due process. This is what I call the “Dreyfus Effect.”  Nowhere in our legal system do we assume guilt before the benefits of a trial. That principle is fundamental to our democracy. This bill is racially motivated to remove unwanted immigrants based on unreliable accusations. At its core are racist assumptions.

 


Looking forward to summer along the Maine coast.


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And in the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, we finally engaged in a work session on three bills related to Proficiency Based Diplomas.

L.D.1898 An Act To Amend Maine's High SchoolDiploma Standards and Ensure Maine Students Meet State Standards uponGraduation

L.D.1900 An Act To Repeal Proficiency-basedDiplomas

L.D.1666 An Act To Ensure the SuccessfulImplementation of Proficiency-based Diplomas by Extending theTimeline for Phasing in Their Implementation

I could write about each of these bills separately; however, it's much easier to treat them as a single bill. The single issue has to do with the continuation of proficiency based diplomas here in the state of Maine.

As a person who worked on the original documents which helped to create the foundations for proficiency-based diplomas, this issue is important to me. Somehow we must move beyond the factory based assumptions about education which assume that every child is identical and is a widget in the mechanical process of education. Nothing could be further than the truth because we know that every child is unique and every child learns in different ways.

At the same time education in the state of Maine has suffered from fractured leadership and incoherent design. More importantly education the state of Maine has suffered from an unclear vision and philosophy of what it means to be educated for the 21st-century. Some say, “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” and I might say, “The Emperor is Wandering in the Field.”

The set of relationships established by current practices regarding education create an unhealthy inter-dependency regarding both leadership and vision. All too often it feels as if the legislature passes laws which are then mandated by the Department of Education and then implemented by local authorities and superintendents. Yet in the state of Maine we have a strong tradition of local control.  We advocate for local control which is often  in contention with state authority. Real leadership and real vision belong to local superintendents and local school boards who are the degree granting authority for all high school diplomas. The state does not granted diploma, the local district grants a diploma. Make them responsible.

For those reasons, I voted to allow local districts to make the decision regarding their own implementation of proficiency based diplomas. I am hopeful that this position puts responsibility where it clearly belongs - on the local administration.  This means local leadership can not use the excuse “It’s the law.” but instead must engage in establishing stakeholder groups, good communication practices, and effective leadership initiatives to make proficiency based diplomas real for all the residents of a district.


NOTE:  The Legislative Session is coming to an end. After the required "Veto Day," and an update here, I will remove this blog as I will not be running in the next election. I will maintain my Facebook page until the election.