Preserve Social Security benefits

There is good news for those having Social Security benefits reduced by the Windfall Elimination Provision, or WEP, and the Government Pension Offset, or GPO. Two bills are filed in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 973 — filed by Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Illinois, and Adam Schiff, D-California — calls for the full repeal of the windfall and offset provisions.

Contact Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to ask them to support the filing of a Senate version of H.R. 973.

There also is H.R. 711 — filed by Reps. Richie Neal, D-Massachusetts, and Kevin Brady, R-Texas — that would repeal only WEP and is considered a “compromise proposal.” It is deemed cost neutral and supported by the Social Security Administration because they said it does not add to the federal deficit or require a penny of new tax money. If this bill is passed, the Social Security benefit formula should be reworked to more accurately reflect present and future retirees’ work history.

Contact Reps. Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree about both bills. Also suggest Collins and King support filing a Senate version of H.R. 711. If our senators and representatives decide to support H.R.711 instead of H.R. 973, then there also should be bills filed this congressional session to repeal GPO.

Emphasize how these provisions unfairly reduce or even eliminate hard-earned Social Security benefits. These laws are not applied in all 50 states, which also is unjust. Emphasize things should be changed for retirees already having Social Security benefits reduced or eliminated, as well as for future retirees.

Karen E. Holmes


Science standards needed

There are two bills before the Legislature regarding adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards in Maine’s system of learning results and assessment. LD 464 and 567 have widespread support among educators and the scientific community, but the Maine Department of Education is not actively supporting NGSS adoption reportedly because of Gov. Paul LePage’s opposition to the inclusion of evolution and climate change in the standards.

Maine’s version of learning results for science are outdated and not up to the task of preparing students for the level of scientific literacy required for an educated society nor for preparing them for college and careers in STEM fields. Maine was one of 26 lead state partners in developing NGSS and provided leadership to the standards writing team. Other initiatives, such as the DOE’s Statewide Strategic Plan for STEM and the Maine Governor’s Academy for STEM Education Leadership, recognize the importance of modern, rigorous science standards for our students. Science teachers statewide have put in many hours aligning curricula and assessments to the NGSS as we prepare for proficiency-based education and a standards-based diploma as required by Maine law.

Abandoning the NGSS would devalue much of the work done by Maine educators, result in an inferior education for our students and limit our ability as a state to prepare for high-wage, high-growth employment in STEM fields. I urge our legislators and the governor to support the bills that would enact the Next Generation Science Standards into our system of Maine’s Learning Results.

Glendon Rand II


Maine’s negative branding

At the onset of the Kaci Hickox affair, the reaction of many Mainers was troubling. Mass cancellations at the local hospital simply because Hickox was en route to Fort Kent? Facebook postings hoping Hickox gets Ebola and dies? A letter from a health care worker suggesting Hickox is a modern Typhoid Mary traveling from town to town for the sole purpose of infecting people?

The funniest but saddest comment was from a customer at Rock’s Diner on the eve of Hickox’s arrival in Fort Kent. In a television interview, the customer explained she had just come from the post office and employees there had told that “that woman” was having packages forwarded from Texas that may have originated “over there.” Ebola in a cardboard box!

During his recent campaign for governor, Eliot Cutler talked about the importance of “branding” to enhance the image of Maine to prospective businesses and tourists and to retain young college grads in the state. Maine now has a new brand to go with lobsters, blueberries and potatoes: Ebola in a cardboard box. Now we add the racist rants by a Maine state senator. Is it any wonder Hickox and other well-educated young people are leaving the state in droves? You can’t cut taxes enough to offset the negative branding the state has suffered in the last year.

Dick Langley

Fort Fairfield

Forestry for long-term

I’ve spent most of my adult life involved in forestry, beginning with a lawsuit Bill Butler and I brought in 1972 to stop arbitrary clear cutting of the Scientific Forestry area of Baxter Park. The positive result of that lawsuit led to the long-term leadership of Jensen Bissell as the natural resource director of Baxter Park. I was fortunate to have served on the SFMA advisory for 15 years where I had the benefit of soaking up knowledge from foresters such as Bob Frank, Mel Ames and Bob Seymour. The resulting ongoing exchange of information and experience between Public Lands and the SFMA, I am sure, has led to better forestry for both.

Contrary to the governor’s plan to harvest more wood on Public Lands, we have learned there is no rationale for cutting more wood than the forest can grow over the long term. As Ames taught me on many tours of his timberland, careful management leads to increasing rewards of high-quality wood and high-quality recreational use while protecting our wildlife and water resources. Maine’s lakes, rivers and streams belong to Maine’s citizens. It is for these reasons I cannot accept the governor’s unsubstantiated claims that if we don’t cut it hard now, we’ll lose it all.

These forested public lands also belong to us. We want them to be managed with best forest practices so there always will be a productive forest for our children and our children’s children. In addition, we don’t think it is right for you to raid our bank account. We need that money to take care of our land and enhance its recreational potential for us Mainers.

Charles FitzGerald