In a State House news conference Tuesday, Gov. Paul LePage unveiled a bill that would make some of his administration’s welfare policies state law.

Updated 1:20 p.m.: Gov. Paul LePage unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would enshrine a smattering of welfare changes enacted and proposed by his administration in Maine law, putting his stamp on state policy by making them harder for a future governor to undo.

The Republican governor’s bill would shorten the lifetime limit for Maine families under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from five years to three years, also codifying a work requirement for the same program and establishing a $5,000 asset test on certain households that get food stamps.

Many of the components are familiar, representing new versions of past LePage initiatives: The limit change under TANF is in LePage’s current two-year budget proposal, and he has long advocated reinstating work requirements in the program that were waived in Maine and other states during the recession.

In a State House news conference Tuesday, LePage took aim at Democrats in the Maine Legislature who have blocked many of his proposals to trim the state’s welfare rolls, noting that many of the proposed changes were enacted as rules imposed by his Department of Health and Human Services.

“They can also be reversed by the next governor,” he said. “That is why it’s so important to make these common-sense reforms permanent in state law.”

The bill hasn’t been written yet, but the proposed changes — packaged as the Welfare Reform for Increased Security and Employment Act and sponsored by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport — will include the following:

— Placing photographs on electronic benefits cards

— Banning or suspending parents not cooperating with child support services from receiving food assistance

— Disqualifying lottery and gambling winners of $5,000 or more from receiving food assistance

— Requiring education programs paid for with TANF money to be for jobs with average or better outlooks

— Banning repeat felony drug offenders from receiving food assistance

— Disqualifying all adults in a household from receiving TANF if an individual is convicted of welfare-related theft or fraud

LePage has long sought changes to social service programs in Maine that he says push more people off public programs and into the workforce.

“These reforms have restored confidence in Maine’s welfare system for the taxpayers who fund them,” LePage said during a news conference at the State House. “An able-bodied, 30-year-old man without kids should not be able to collect food stamps.”

The LePage administration has had some success moving welfare proposals through the Legislature, such as limiting the TANF program to a five-year lifetime cap and preventing the use of TANF funds for alcohol, but many others have been rejected by the Legislature.

Democrats have argued that his initiatives led to increased poverty and hunger in Maine and have pushed up the infant mortality rate, and they’ll likely stand in the way of this proposal.

“These so-called ‘reforms’ by the administration have created lasting damage,” Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said in a statement. “We’ve driven children and families deeper into poverty, increased childhood hunger and removed basic health care from struggling families. If this is what their definition of reform looks like, I’m not interested in expanding them any further.”

Dozens of members of the Maine Council of Churches, Maine Equal Justice Partners and other organizations stood silently outside the news conference, many of them holding signs that read “I support a moral budget.”

Jacqueline Berry, a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Bath, was among them. She said Maine needs more funding to help people in need.

“This is not a deficit budget. We do not need to reserve those funds,” she said. “Some of the budget requests before us are unreasonable. We want to feed more children, not less. Our churches and nonprofits are doing as much as they can in the state but the need is growing.”

Updated 12:21 p.m.: AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday unveiled a bill that represents his latest effort to incorporate tougher welfare policies into Maine law.

Many of the bills components are familiar, representing new versions of past LePage initiatives. The proposed changes, packaged as the Welfare Reform for Increased Security and Employment Act, include the following:

— Require non-disabled adults to work or enrolled in an approved vocational training program 20 hours per week or volunteer as little as one hour per day to receive assistance.

— Place photographs on EBT cards.

— Codify a $5,000 asset test on certain households that receive food assistance.

— Ban or suspend parents who are not cooperating with child support services from receiving food assistance.

— Disqualify lottery and gambling winners of $5,000 or more from receiving food assistance.

— Require education programs paid for with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to be for jobs with average or better outlooks.

— Ban repeat felony drug offenders from receiving food assistance.

— Disqualify all adults in a household from receiving TANF assistance if an individual is convicted of welfare-related theft or fraud.

— Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News

Updated 9:27 a.m.: Gov. Paul LePage is to release a welfare-reform proposal Tuesday morning. 

LePage, Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, have scheduled a 10:30 a.m. news conference to unveil a new proposal to build on self-sufficiency measures of the past. 

It’s unclear what the Welfare Reform for Increased Security and Employment Act will do, but advance material from the governor suggests that the bill would make permanent some of his initiatives that were launched as pilot projects, such as putting photographs on electronic benefits cards.

Welfare-reform isn’t the only thing on LePage’s mind. He also suggested Tuesday morning that Maine create a health insurance company.

During his weekly appearance on WVOM, LePage predicted that health insurance companies providing Affordable Care Act coverage in Maine were headed for financial troubles.

“They just can’t sustain themselves,” said LePage. “They will go down, as well as the ACA. It’s just not a sustainable model.”

LePage suggested that he might have to go to the Legislature to “go it alone” to create a safety net for what he sees as the inevitable collapse of Obamacare, possibly following the example of MEMIC, a private company created as part of reforms in the era of Republican Gov. John McKernan serving as the guarantor of workers’ compensation insurance for Maine companies. 

— Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News

Comments are not available on this story.