"There's a great feeling of anger and sadness," says Carol Baker Roux, a Sanford junior high school teacher and secretary-treasurer of the Sanford Federation of Teachers. She points out that teachers are already being asked to make concessions on the local level — accepting pay freezes and taking furlough days.
"This is a disturbing attack on ordinary working people," representative Hinck says of LePage's budget priorities. "It's a little like an orchestrated effort to have people turn on each other. When you look at the landscape in Maine, to turn to people who have made relatively modest money for all the cuts needed to balance the budget is shameful."
Still another bill, LD 516, is being blasted by the Maine Women's Lobby as gutting CHILD LABOR PROTECTIONS. The bill would permit employers to hire teenage workers and schedule them for unlimited hours during the school year and summer vacation. Current law limits working hours for 16- and 17-year-olds.
MWL public policy director Laura Harper says this bill would harm efforts to make sure that "kids stay in school and when they're in school they're awake," and could particularly affect teenage girls, who, according to the Department of Labor, comprise a larger portion of the 16-to-19-year-old workforce.
"Folks who advocate for women didn't need to pay as much attention to these types of particular labor bills in the past," Harper says, because they wouldn't have gotten far in the legislative process. "It's really an area where I'm noticing my job has changed a lot."
When Governor LePage joined the Maine Right to Life Committee's "Hands Around the Capitol" anti-abortion event in January — held each year to mourn the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion — it foreshadowed a struggle over reproductive rights in Maine, a state that has traditionally backed away from abortion-related scuffles. The Maine Family Planning Association is watching four bills related to abortion rights and women's privacy, says Kate Brogan, a lobbyist for the organization, and two others that chip away at young women's health care.
• LD 116, which would require a 24-HOUR WAITING PERIOD prior to an abortion. Pro-choice advocates, who bristle against "burdensome" requirements that interfere with a woman's private medical decisions, say that such waiting periods are simply one more way for abortion foes to limit abortion access. "The reality is, in a rural state like Maine, there are only three places that perform abortions — Bangor, Augusta, or Portland," Brogan points out. Longer waiting periods for women who live far away entail childcare and lodging costs that can make the procedure even more expensive.
• LD 924, An Act to Educate Women on the Medical Risks Associated with Abortion — the "education" would be provided by a physician both orally and in writing, and presumably goes beyond what Maine law already requires: "INFORMED CONSENT" on the part of the woman undergoing the abortion (her physician must convey the physical and psychological risks of the procedure, the approximate time elapsed since conception, and abortion alternatives if requested).