Lots of Mainers are very worried about Lyme disease. And it’s my hope that some of them will show up next Thursday, April 16, at 1 pm, at a legislative hearing by the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee in Room 214 of the Cross Office Building (next to the Capitol), to support and testify in favor of a very important bill.
Sponsored by Representative Russell Black of Wilton, LD 1099 has a long title: An Act to Establish a Fund for the Operations and Outreach Activities of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Animal and Plant Disease and Insect Control Laboratory. But the concept is really simple.
It levies a fee of 20 cents on every container of consumer packaged pesticides (with some exceptions), to provide very badly needed funds for programs that address the many problems we’re having with insects, including deer ticks that deliver Lyme disease. I probably don’t have to tell you that Lyme disease is spreading fast in Maine and is now a major health concern. Personally, I am certain to come home from turkey hunting this spring with deer ticks, if not a turkey.
LD 1099 would create the Animal and Plant Disease and Insect Control Fund to pay for pest management and pesticide safety outreach and education and for operating costs relating to pesticide management and insect control of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s animal and plant disease and insect control laboratory. Maine voters approved a bond issue in 2014 to build a new lab at the University of Maine, where deer ticks can be tested for Lyme. Currently those ticks must be sent to an out-of-state lab, causing a problematic delay in finding out if the tick you removed from your body was carrying Lyme.
If you’d like to read the entire bill, you can do so here. But here’s what you need to know. The Governor, and many legislators, oppose increases in any fees and taxes. Despite the great need for funding for this program, the bill is unlikely to be enacted without your strong support. Please try to get to the hearing. And even if you can’t, please call your own Representative and Senator, and urge them to support LD 1099. I am not exaggerating when I say your life may depend on it.
Action Taken on Lyme Bill
One legislative committee was scheduled yesterday to act on a Lyme disease bill. Sponsored by Rep. Deb Sanderson of Chelsea, LD 422, An Act to Improve Access to Treatments for Lyme Disease, stimulated a lot of testimony at the public hearing, and several amendments for the work session, partly because Governor Paul LePage threatened to veto the original version.
Here is the summary of the original bill: This bill prohibits the Board of Licensure in Medicine from disciplining a physician of revoking or suspending a physician’s license for prescribing, administering or dispensing long-term antibiotic therapy to a patient with acute, persistent or chronic Lyme disease if the therapy was pursuant to a treatment plan recommended by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that considered the patient’s individual circumstance or was in the best judgment of the physician with respect to the particular patient or special clinical situation.
A Portland Press Herald story on the bill included the story of Lisa Lawlor, who “couldn’t find a doctor in Maine willing to treat her chronic Lyme disease, so she traveled to Portsmouth, N.H., to see a physician who prescribed her six months of antibiotics – a much longer treatment than typically recommended.” In a previous outdoor news blog, I wrote the story of my friend Harry Vanderweide, who suffers from Lyme. You can read that story here.
Rep. Sanderson conferred with the governor to try to overcome his opposition, and created her own amendment to the bill. The committee actually had three or four amendments in front of them as they started their work session on the bill. Detailed memos on the issues were also presented from the Maine Medical Association and the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine.
Because of the complexity of the issue, Rep. Herbig, House chair, moved to table the bill for further work. It will be scheduled again for a work session sometime in the future. And Rep. Sanderson told me she’s now working on a new amendment. Stay tuned!