Letter to the EditorJune 03, 2008 - TRCTo The Editor :Earlier I sent out a survey to my constituents. I try to gather opinions from those I represent. With the results of the survey, I can use this information when it comes time to vote on a particular bill. Then I can truly represent my district.I try to select questions, among the many hundreds offered, that pertain to my district. There are certain bills that could possibly hold no interest to area residents.There were 5 initial questions, which the Legislative staff selected, regarding the budget shortfall and how best to resolve the budget with various cuts. Question 1 asked about cutting programs. 48% said yes. Question number 2 asked about raising taxes. 12% said yes. Question number 3 asked about decreasing the number of state employees. 58% said yes. Question number 4 asked about decreasing the state budget by a certain percent. 50% said yes. Question number 5 asked about having state employees share in the cost of their health insurance. 75% said yes. Some of the respondents suggested as much as 20% of the cost of the state employee’s health insurance should be shouldered by the employee. It’s interesting to note that there was a recommendation from the Legislature to have Legislators and the Legislative staff share in the cost of their health insurance. But the majority party quickly decried the suggestion as not worth consideration. Currently, state employee health and insurance benefits cost the taxpayer $192.2 million. Of course this includes all employees and retirees and the family members who pay a portion of their insurance. All Legislators are considered employees.The question that would repeal the school consolidation program was not addressed in the Legislature. There were many amendments brought forth modifying the original intent in the supplemental budget. The bill accepted by the majority of the Legislature, LD 2323, will remove some of the financial barriers the school districts have run into as well as give the Education Commissioner the ability to approve reorganization plans that may not fill all of the consolidation law’s requirements. Respondents to the survey voted down the consolidation plan with a 72 to 28 percent vote.One bill favoring the merging of all jails throughout the state received a resounding no vote by 78% of the respondents. However, the bill did pass with the acceptance of those involved such as the county Sheriff departments and county commissioners. Basically, the law creates an oversight board instead of governmental control. Another bill asking for the ending of incandescent bulbs to be replaced by fluorescent bulbs by 2010 received a resounding no vote of 82% by the respondents. The bill died in the Legislature. The small wind power bill passed the in the Legislature and had the support of the respondents by a 72 to 28 percent vote. A bill to allow a tax credit for an employer who supported a wellness program such as exercise facilities, smoking cessation died in the Legislature. However, respondents supported the measure with a 51 to 49 percent vote. A free breakfast program for all children K-12 who are eligible and reduced price meals was passed in the Legislature. Responders supported the bill with a 54 to 46 percent vote. There will be no more novelty lighters designed to look like a toy, featuring a flashing light or making musical sounds. Responders supported the Legislature’s termination of these kinds of toys with a 65 to 35 percent vote. An effort to amend Maine’s Constitution to prohibit transfers from the highway fund for any other purpose than those purposes specifically related to highways died in the Legislature. This was in spite of respondent support of such a Constitutional change by a vote of 67 to 33 percent. If you have a question about any bill that went before the Legislature, please call me. I’ll see what I can do to get you the information you need. I can be reached at 564-0820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Rep. Jim AnnisDistrict 26Dover-FoxcroftNOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.