AUGUSTA – Both state and federal lawmakers are calling for an end to a regulation that is reducing Social Security payments to middle-income people.

The regulation, with the unwieldy name Federal Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision for Social Security, was developed to keep the wealthy from unnecessarily getting Social Security, but has backfired and now about 400,000 middle-income people nationwide are missing out on funds, according to speakers at the State House Thursday.

State Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, presented a joint resolution in both chambers of the Legislature calling on Congress to end these practices.

Later, Gov. John Baldacci and U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud and Tom Allen joined him in support.

“You work your whole life and at retirement age they all of a sudden tell you because of these rule changes we’re going to take two-thirds of your retirement and we’re going to leave it in a treasury in Washington,” stated Gov. John Baldacci in a news release.

Legislation targets lead-based paint

AUGUSTA – About 73,000 single-family homes and 65,000 apartment units in the state contain lead-based paint, and Maine legislators say renters have the right to know about it.

The House unanimously passed a bill Thursday that would require landlords to give tenants a 30-day notice if there will be renovations or activities taking place that would disturb lead paint. Landlords who don’t could face a $500 fine.

Work could be done sooner, however, if all adult tenants sign a waiver form.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, will next go before the Senate.

Lead is found in paint on and in older buildings, and has been linked to a variety of health problems.

Truancy bill could yield parental fines

AUGUSTA – The House approved a bill Thursday that would hold parents responsible for elementary students missing too much school.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Silsby, D-Augusta, passed 105 to 20.

It will go to the Senate for consideration.

Under an amended version of the bill, parents would be subjected to a $250 fine if, after repeated efforts by the school district, the child is deemed habitually truant.

The bill applies to students through the sixth grade, not including those younger than 7.

The proposed statute defines habitually truant as having seven total or five consecutive unexcused absences – not including times when the student is sick or has an approved reason for not being in school.

The bill also would change language in the child welfare statute, adding deprivation of education as a criteria to be used in determining if a parent is putting a child in jeopardy.

Internet neutrality

AUGUSTA – Internet service providers should not be able to block their customers from viewing their competitors’ Web sites, one legislator says.

Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland, has submitted a resolution that, if passed, would direct the Maine Public Advocate to study what the state can do to protect Internet neutrality.

He said Thursday that the bill would protect smaller service providers, such as GWI, a Biddeford-based service provider.

“This resolution helps ensure that investing in an expanding infrastructure will benefit everyone in Maine, not just the big telecommunications companies,” said GWI Founder and Chief Executive Officer Fletcher Kittredge.

The bill parallels one on the federal level, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.

As an example of the problem, John Bartholomew of Common Cause said users of California-based cable company Cox Communications could not access craigslist, a free classifieds ads Web site, for a time. Officials blamed a glitch, but Bartholomew noted that Cox also owns several newspapers, which profit from classified ads.


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