Friday, March 30, 2018

Legislative update - The choices we face by Rep. Mark Bryant

The legislative session is in full swing. We’re tackling big issues such as combatting the opiate crisis, supporting job creation and protecting Maine’s most vulnerable, including our children and seniors.
We have some significant choices before us this year. Maine must decide whether and how closely to conform to the new federal tax overhaul passed by congress. If lawmakers choose to mirror changes to the federal tax code in our state tax laws, it would hurt Maine’s working families by increasing their taxes by a total of $236 million dollars. 

The current proposal addresses these pending tax increases by replacing the state’s current personal
exemption, which would be eliminated by conforming to the new federal law, and providing a $500 child tax credit, among other measures.  

The governor’s plan would also provide an additional $90 million in tax breaks for corporations and very wealthy taxpayers, including doubling the state’s estate tax exemption, lowering the state’s corporate tax rate and increasing business deductions. is the last New England state to recover from the recession that began in 2008. Over the past seven years, the Legislature has worked carefully to create a tax structure designed to benefit working families. 

The total impact of the tax package is not yet clear and any proposal that could harm either our recovery or working families in Windham will be met with skepticism. There is no requirement for Maine to conform to federal tax changes, especially if they are bad for Maine’s economy. 

I will support a tax conformity package that will strengthen the middle class, make education and training more affordable and encourage businesses to start up and create jobs right here in Maine.
I will continue to update you as we move ahead. 

As spring approaches, campground reservations are now available for the 2018 season at all Maine State Parks. Fees vary from campground to campground. Visit or call 1-800-332-1501 to book a campsite.

It is an honor to continue to serve as one of Windham’s representatives. As always, please feel free to send me a letter at 166 Albion Road in Windham, call me at 892-6591 or email anytime at

Rep. Mark Bryant serves in the Maine House and represents part of Windham. He serves on the Committee on State and Local Government and the Committee on Transportation.

Honoring women in the military by Michelle Libby

Women in the military hasn’t always been an easy topic of discussion. Some people believe that women should be allowed to fight and contribute to our Nation’s military, while others believe that women have no business fighting along side men. 
That being said, females are now able to serve in combat and hold most jobs in the military. In 2017, there were 214,098 women serving in the various branches of the military, compared to the 1,429,036 men. In the reserves there are 118,781 serving. There were close to 2 million female veterans in the United States, according to 

The American Legion Post 148 in Windham, has seen an increased enrollment in female members as has the VFW Post 10643. Army Veteran, Keri Karsten joined and became an officer in the American Legion Post. 

Women veterans struggle with the same issues that men veterans do. They try to get benefits, find out information and live their lives after military service.
Windham Veteran, Susan Downing Walker enlisted to get away from a poor family situation.
She learned from her step-father, an ex-Navy man that “When you saw something that needed to be done you do it,” she said. “I took that into the military when I put up my hand to honor and serve.” 

She took pride in the work she did in the military as an operating room technician at Walter Reed Hospital. As a 19-year-old, she saw things that continue to haunt her. One man told her, “If they’ve got to take my leg, if they can’t help me, don’t let me wake up.” 

“Back then if you were disabled, you had to rely on other people,” Walker said. 

Her experience in the seventies was also filled with traumatic experiences that changed her life. She was raped twice, one of those resulted in a pregnancy. She was discharged from the military within 24 hours of reporting what had happened. 

She went back in to the military, this time in the Air Force at age 26. She was able to fly planes.
Walker tells the story of singing the Lord’s Prayer after lights out every evening and how her superior officers would encourage her and praise her. 

In October of 1989, she returned to Maine with a son that she had with her former husband. To this day, Walker is still fighting to explain what happened and to find the child she gave up for adoption. Looking for answers has been frustrating. “When one door opens, it opens up 74 other doors,” she said. 

Walker is still looking for answers. She does counted-cross stitch and knits scarves for breast cancer patients, while waiting and searching for answers. “My service has been the best of times and the worst of times,” she said.
Not all stories are as challenging as Walkers, but studies by the BBC and, “a woman in the military is three times more likely than a woman in the general population to be raped.” “Sixty-four percent of military women have been subjected to some form of sexual harassment.” women in the military have gone on to help Veterans at the local level; others like Windham Town Councilor, Rebecca Cummings serve their communities. Chief Master Sergeant, Lynn Vajda serves in the Air National Guard and also served four years of active duty in the Air Force. With a total of 32 years of experience, she has been deployed twice and now supervises 20 soldiers. 

“The military is like a second family. We are close knit and we watch out for each other,” Vajda said. She is the first female Chief Master Sergeant in South Portland at the Air National Guard Station. “I really love it.” 

“My goal was to make Chief. There were a lot of hoops and hurdles to get over but I made it two years ago,” she said. Vajda credits her support at home with her husband and son for pushing and reminding her of her goals. She was able to achieve her goals because she had a military spouse, she said.

They served together during Desert Storm. A military wife with a non-military husband might have issues when the wife is deployed over seas with other guys, Vajda said. “It’s still predominately males. We have 115 males to about 20 females.” 

Vajda encourages women to check out the military for the benefits including education and healthcare beyond the time spent in service. “Take advantage of what is offered. Seek assistance from others,” she said. 

The military also offers job skills. Vajda’s unit specializes in computers and Internet security. They have security beyond IT credentials, according to Vajda. 

“I have loved every minute of it. The good outweighs the bad,” she said. She has been able to travel the world while getting paid. 

Vajda and her husband are members of the VFW Post and the American Legion Post in Windham. They feel very much supported by the members. 

As with any organization, all people have their own experiences. Veterans are honored and thanked for their service regularly in Windham and surrounding towns. Women might not have a long history in the military, only since 1917 when the first woman enlisted - however, they will be around for a long time, making contributions to our Nation and its security.  

The VFW Post and American Legion Post welcome all veterans and women veterans are no exceptions. The purpose of these organizations is to support all veterans and assist them in finding resources that may be helpful with returning to and living a civilian life.

Research: Some reports show that a woman in the military is three times more likely than a woman in the general population to be raped,[66] and in Iraq are more likely to be attacked by one of their own than an insurgent.[67] In 1988, the first sexual harassment survey was created military-wide which found that 64% of military women have been subjected to some form of sexual harassment. Those found to be affected the greatest were Native-American women, followed by Hispanic and African-American women.[68] There is currently a lawsuit in the US military in which the plaintiffs claim to have been subjected to sexual assaults in the military.[69]
66.   "Americas | Women at war face sexual violence". BBC News. 17 April 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
67.  Jump up^ "Rep. Jane Harman: Finally, Some Progress in Combating Rape and Assault in the Military". 10 September 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
68.  Jump up^ Encyclopedia of Women and Gender Volume Two. Academic Press. 2001. pp. 775–776. ISBN 0-12-227247-1.
69.  Jump up^ Lucy Broadbent (9 December 2011). "Rape in the US military: America's dirty little secret | Society". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 16 November 2013.

News conference at Cooper’s Farm in Windham regarding the weather effecting Maple Sugar Industry

Windham, Maine – At a news conference on Thursday, March 22 at Cooper’s Maple Products, maple producers, a forest expert, a representative from Senator King’s office, and a conservationist described the effects climate change may have on maple syrup production in Maine. In advance of the 35th annual Maine Maple Sunday that happened this past Sunday, March 25, the speakers called on Maine’s Congressional Delegation to fight against budget cuts and rollbacks in Washington, DC, that would threaten our iconic industries, economy, and way of life.

ranks third in the nation for maple production. Last year Maine produced more than 700,000 gallons of maple syrup, but recent studies show the future of Maine’s syrup industry is threatened by increased climate change.

Climate change has led to warmer, drier growing seasons, stunting the growth of sugar maples. Slower growing trees means when the old ones die, we won’t have as many new ones to take their place, resulting in decreased sap production. A University of Maine study found the composition of our forests is also changing, with warming temperatures shifting our forests to have more beech trees and less maple trees.
“Scientists have documented how our winters have warmed and how this has led to shorter maple syrup tapping seasons,” says Andy Whitman, forest scientist at Manomet. “The tapping season in
Maine now starts about eight days earlier and ends 11 days earlier than 50 years ago. This gives producers a season that is 10 percent shorter. And the start of the season has become more unpredictable, so producers are more likely to miss the best syrup of the season or start too early and have their season cut short.” 

On top of these effects on our forests, some farmers have noticed that variability in our climate affects the quantity and quality of their syrup. Unpredictable weather is shifting the tapping season, while warming weather is changing the composition of the syrup, and leading to more uncertainty for maple producers.

“Since stating our maple operation 31 years ago we have seen significant changes that are climate-related,” says Mark Cooper of Coopers Maple Products. “Not on a year to year basis but over 10, 20, 30 years the weather has changed and has had an impact. Our season typically used to start late February to early March, but now sap runs in January and early February seem almost normal. Our season used to end consistently April 6-8, but now we see a much broader range March 24-April 17.

Weather typically was colder in February and gradually warmed as March progressed. The last several years we have been seeing huge swings in daily or weekly temps throughout the season. Production per tap especially in traditional buckets or gravity tubing has dropped considerably here. 

We have used technology to overcome that with the expanded use of a high vacuum system. Unfortunately, all this has done is mask the issue of reduced sap flow. The frequency of high wind weather events has also had a significant impact on tree health.” 

Despite the threat climate change poses for our economy, at the federal level we’re seeing drastic rollbacks of climate protections from the Trump administration. The President’s FY-2019 budget proposes to eliminate almost all of the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate initiatives, including the Clean Power Plan, international climate programs, and climate research, reducing our ability to understand, prepare for, and minimize these impacts that affect our property, businesses, and economy.
“Nothing says spring in Maine quite like the taste and smell of maple syrup,” says Senator Angus King. “Thanks to farmers and producers across the state, Maine’s maple syrup industry provides County, to families in your local communities tapping the trees in their yard, maple syrup is a symbol of what makes Maine, Maine. As we take pride in this important economic engine and its heritage in our state, we must not forget the impact climate change can have on many of our traditional industries that rely on a healthy Maine environment to grow and thrive. Whether it is maple syrup, lobsters, wild blueberries, potatoes, or tourism up and down our coast, protecting Maine’s natural resources is critical to helping our economy and supporting our way of life. This year, Maine Maple Sunday offers an opportunity to both celebrate maple syrup and remember the importance of environmental stewardship, so our children and grandchildren can enjoy and benefit from this Maine tradition for generations to come.”
more than 800 jobs and $25 million to the Maine economy. From large-scale operations in Somerset

“To protect our economy, our environment, and our health, we need climate action at all levels,” says NRCM’s Kristin Jackson. “In light of the threat climate change poses to Maine industries – from maple sugar to lobstering – we are counting on Maine’s Congressional Delegation to stand up and fight against cuts and rollbacks in Washington that would hurt our health, economy, and our way of life.”