Progressive nightmare

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  March 16, 2011

Another proposal, part KK of the budget, eliminates eligibility for MaineCare, TANF, food supplement, and other benefits for LEGAL IMMIGRANT NON-CITIZENS for the first five years of their Maine residency. The state Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about 2500 people will be affected.

"It's taking away every single piece of security these people had," Gagné-Holmes says.

Not to mention the potential (il)legality of such a proposal. "Provisions denying benefits to immigrants who are here legally also violate the spirit of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states that no person shall be denied equal protection under the law," according to the Maine Civil Liberties Union.

Immigrants are under fire in other arenas, too. Representative Kathleen Chase, a Republican from Wells, has proposed legislation based on the controversial Arizona law that allows government officials to ask for proof of citizenship if they suspect someone may be an illegal immigrant. Other proposals that would eliminate same-day voter registration or require voters to show photo identification at the polls could also disproportionately affect immigrants — as well as students and seniors.

"This effort is based on myth and fear" of voter fraud, says Ben Dudley, executive director of Engage Maine, a coalition of progressive policy and advocacy organizations. "I can see no goal for repeal [of same-day voter registration] other than a strictly partisan one."

Traditionally, Democrats see voter-ID requirements as an attempt to limit voter participation among people who lean to the left, including minorities, low-income citizens, and college students.

"They can buy politicians, they can buy elections, but they can't buy one person's vote," says Portland Democratic representative Diane Russell, of groups that stifle VOTER RIGHTS. "So they're trying to structurally change the right to vote."

Health Care

On top of the statement the LePage administration made by signing onto the lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of certain provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, other proposals attack fundamental pieces of Maine's existing health-care system (one that shares similarities with the national law much-vilified by the GOP). There are efforts to:

• Eliminate Maine's "MODIFIED COMMUNITY RATING" system, which limits the different amounts that insurance companies can charge policy-holders based on certain factors (not health status, but family size, wellness-program participation, or smoking status, among others). Another proposal would strike Maine's "guaranteed issue" provision from state law, which similarly protects consumers from being denied coverage based on their age or health status. "If those were to be eliminated we would see . . . a lot of people who need coverage being denied coverage, plain and simple," says Mitchell Stein, policy director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, which advocates in Augusta. "And many small businesses would see drastic increases in their premiums."

• Sell OUT-OF-STATE HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS in Maine. Such proposals, like right-to-work, are one of the Maine Heritage Policy Center's top goals — "I think those will get a lot of support," MHPC's Bragdon says. Proponents say that insurance is cheaper elsewhere and people should be allowed to purchase less expensive coverage. "It's one of those things that has a tremendous amount of face validity," Stein admits. But it would ultimately amount to "fewer younger and healthier people in our pool" and therefore more uninsured people in Maine. Plus, allowing people to buy plans in other states "basically evades Maine's consumer protections," says Ben Chin of the Maine People's Alliance.

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