Legislature passes bonds and Riverview plan

6:28 PM, Aug 29, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine voters will get to decide on a package of bonds in November, which supporters say will create jobs, rebuild roads and make big improvements to the state's colleges and universities.

Lawmakers met Thursday in a special session to vote on the $149.5 million bond package. Governor Paul LePage has said he will also approve it. It would borrow $100 million for transportation projects, more than $35 million for higher education projects and $14 million to repair National Guard armories.

Leaders of both parties praised the plan today, saying it will create jobs, make big improvements in highways and bridges and expand science lab and other critical teaching facilities at the University campuses, Maine Maritime Academy and Maine Community Colleges.

Legislators also passed a last-minute bill to deal with some of the problems at the Riverview Psychiatric Hospital. The details of that proposal were worked out by the Appropriations Committee, and then sent to the House and Senate for votes.

Riverview is facing a possible loss of millions of dollars in federal funding if a plan for operational changes isn't approved by federal regulators next week. Supporters of the bill passed today say it doesn't address all the issues, but hope it will show federal officials the state is serious about complying with their order.

A federal investigation of Riverview in the spring found many problems, the most serious of which dealt with the use of tasers and handcuffs by police to sometimes control aggressive patients. The bill passed today will allow some of those patients, who have been committed to Riverview by the courts, to be moved to a special mental health unit at the Maine State Prison.

Opponents argued the plan does not address the actual problems, and is the wrong approach to care for the mentally ill.

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