Lawmakers head to Portland for presidential visit

People pick up tickets Wednesday, March 31, 2010, in Portland, Maine, for President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Portland. Supporters waited in the rain for hours to get tickets for the event, where Obama will discuss health care. (AP Photo/Joel Page)
AP
People pick up tickets Wednesday, March 31, 2010, in Portland, Maine, for President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Portland. Supporters waited in the rain for hours to get tickets for the event, where Obama will discuss health care. (AP Photo/Joel Page)
Posted April 01, 2010, at 2:30 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine – State lawmakers were among those on hand as Maine prepared for a Thursday afternoon visit from President Barack Obama.

People lined up for seats hours ahead of Obama’s arrival the Portland Expo, where he will talk about how his health care overhaul will help small businesses.

Among the crowds in line, enjoying the sunny weather, were Democratic Reps. Emily Cain of Orono, John Piotti of Unity, and Benjamin Pratt of Orrington, as well as Sen. John Martin of Eagle Lake.

Cain said about 70 House members and 20 senators – all Democrats – were expected to attend the rally.

“Everyone had the same opportunity, but I don’t think any Republicans are making the trip,” Cain said. “It’s exciting that he’s coming to Maine, especially because in Maine were either in line or more progressive in our health care policy than the law that just passed.”

Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell and the House chairwoman of the the Legislature’s insurance committee, was waiting for a White House staff member to escort her to a reserved seat.

Treat said she and House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, were scheduled to meet personally with the president following his speech.

Treat said she made several trips to Washington, DC during the drafting of the health care legislation, working to strengthen consumer protections and other aspects of the bill. Treat said Maine has been active in guiding the federal legislation and should play an important role ass the new law takes effect.

Her message for the president?

“States will make or break this legislation,” she said. “We want state legislators and policy makers to be involved in rolling it out and if you’re looking for a state to partner with you early on, we’re it.”

Congressman Michael Michaud of Maine’s 2nd district, hustled through the crowd just after noon on his way to greet the Fort Fairfield girls’ basketball team, winners of the class B state championship playoffs.

“They got on the bus at 6 o’clock this morning,” Michaud said.

Ashed if he expects Obama to campaign for him in northern Maine his fall, Michaud said he believes either Obama or Vice President Joe Biden will visit the University of Maine in Orono later this year to tour the wood composites program.

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