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Tuesday, July 8, 2014: Hobby Lobby decision, trucking safety, Maine caregivers



Lobby work

Why is there no mention in any of the articles about the Hobby Lobby vindication by the Supreme Court that Hobby Lobby offers 16 out of 20 Food and Drug Administration-accepted contraceptives to its employees?

It is not denying contraception. It does not want to have to pay for the four that it deems abortive. The federal government can pay for those as is accepted in the Affordable Care Act. If people really want the company to participate in cost-sharing for those four contraceptives, don’t work at Hobby Lobby.

Ellen Simmons


Pressing issues

Perhaps the frustration so many feel about events over which we have no control — like the assembly of Central American teens on our southern border — is due to the fact that we have overpaid “representatives” who do absolutely nothing effective about the most pressing issues facing the country.

Congress has the power of the purse. We need to cut off aid to the countries sending these children immediately and charge them for their return. Those responsible for this travesty are responsible for breaking up families, not us. Regardless of their country of origin, they came over the Mexican border, which is contiguous with ours.

Where are Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree? We hear from them on the campaign trail, but where are they with ideas to deal with serious problems like illegal immigration and the collapse of our foreign policy?

Patricia Egan


Take the high road

There have been many great improvements in truck safety over the past decade. Sen. Susan Collins supports those improvements and is working to ensure our nation’s roads and highways continue to become safer. To suggest otherwise is simply untrue.

Last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented new rules affecting truck drivers. By the agency head’s own admission, it did so before conducting the proper research, and the result has had unanticipated consequences. Some of these new rules are actually making our nation’s roads less safe by forcing more trucks onto the highways during the congested, daytime hours when roads are crowded with cars and school buses, rather than during the overnight hours when there is far less traffic. Safety statistics show that the incidence of accidents is four times higher during rush hour than during night time.

Sen. Collins proposed a common-sense fix. Her proposal, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 21-9 vote, temporarily suspends two problematic provisions, while a comprehensive study is done to determine if these rules are warranted.

Unfortunately, opponents are misrepresenting the facts. The truth is, as the former head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently wrote, Sen. Collins’ proposal “makes the roads safer.” The National Fraternal Order of Police supports Sen. Collins’ effort because it says, without the study, “it is irresponsible and potentially unsafe to implement the new regulations.”

No one, including Collins, wants to see changes that would result in less safe roads, and it’s disingenuous for opponents to claim otherwise.

Kevin Kelley

Communications director for Sen. Susan Collins

Washington, D.C.

Hobby Lobby

The BDN editorial on the Hobby Lobby case – “Want someone to blame for Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision? Try Democrats” — misses the mark. The BDN let the five-man conservative majority of the Supreme Court off the hook too easily.

It’s those justices who are to blame, not the statute itself. The idea of that statute is that, if government is going to make a rule that ends up taking a substantial bite out of the way that a person practices his or her religion, government should have a really important reason for doing so and should not take any bigger bite than is necessary. It’s a good law, based on the principle of the free exercise of religion that’s part of our First Amendment.

The problem is rather with the way that the conservative majority has interpreted the words of the statute. Is a for-profit corporation a “person” (even though it does not bleed when you prick it, as Shakespeare posed the test)? Yes, says the majority. Is that corporation’s religious observance “substantially burdened” (even though the corporation pays only for insurance, not the birth control, and the person who does use the birth control is the female employee, not that corporate owner)? Yes again, says the five-man majority. And can taxpayers just pick up the tab to subsidize the corporate owners’ refusal to do so (even though that proposition has no limiting principle)? Yes again.

The BDN editorial is correct that the decision “isn’t necessarily a surprise,” but we should still recognize that it’s wrong.

Sol Goldman


Family needs

Recently, I’ve seen multiple news stories about support for Maine caregivers. With our state having one of the highest populations of older adults in the nation, we cannot afford to continue ignoring this critical issue. It is no longer acceptable to only have resources for older adults. There needs to be support for those caring for our aging population as well.

At some point in all of our lives, we will likely know a relative or friend who needs our assistance in everyday tasks as they age, or we might even become the person in need of care.

According to a recent AARP report, 90 percent of older adults receiving care in their communities rely on unpaid family support. Maine seniors relying on a monthly Social Security check as their main source of income may not have extra money to pay a caregiver, no matter how badly they need one. In this case, a family member usually takes on the responsibility in order to make sure their loved one is properly cared for.

Even though caregiving is an extremely important and noble job, in the case of the caring family member, the job comes with no paycheck. The Family Medical Leave Act guarantees most employees a certain amount of unpaid time off to care for older relatives, but going weeks without a paycheck is simply not an option for most families.

This is why I hope legislators and policymakers will take notice and take action when it comes to supporting the caregivers of Maine. Families need access to the tools, resources and support required for properly caring for an aging relative. By supporting our caregivers today, we can help ensure that many Mainers will have a better tomorrow.

Carol Mower

AARP Maine Volunteer Ambassador




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