THUMBS UP to the Legislature’s overwhelming support for a bill that would help protect Maine’s valuable lakes.

L.D. 568 last week passed the Senate unanimously and the House with all but one vote in favor. It would ban the use of fertilizers within 25 feet of the high-water mark.

The broad support is not a guarantee of passage, however. A similar bill passed overwhelmingly last year only to be vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage, who called out that bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan, in his veto letter, saying the representative asked too much of the Department of Environmental Protection and then criticized the agency when it couldn’t meet his standards.

This year, the bill is sponsored by unenrolled Rep. Ben Chipman of Portland, but that doesn’t mean it is a sure thing.

Oversight of lake health has taken a hit during LePage’s administration, according to a number of critical reports from lakes groups and environmental organizations. That is dangerous at a time when lake health is in decline and in peril. A study by the University of Maine showed that lake water clarity, particularly in the northeastern and western lake regions of the state, fell consistently from 2005-2010.

A lot of that has been caused by the increased amount of sediment and pollutants, including fertilizer, that gets washed into lakes, opening the way for destructive algae blooms. Once a problem appears in a lake, it is very difficult to reverse.

That’s no way to treat a resource that generates an estimated $3.5 billion per year and sustains 52,000 jobs.

THUMBS UP to the families who make the brave and difficult decision to go public with the devastation caused by drug abuse following the death of a loved one.

The obituary of Molly Parks, who grew up in Old Orchard Beach and died April 16, pulled no punches, saying the 24-year-old “fought her addiction to heroin for at least five years” before it killed her.

Similarly, the obituary of Ryan Bossie, a 26-year-old from Caribou who died Jan. 30, as reported in the Bangor Daily News, says he died “after losing a hard-fought battle with addiction.”

People with addiction need help and support. Their deaths should bring sympathy and reflection, not condemnation or shame.

By being honest about addiction, rather than saying someone died “unexpectedly” or “suddenly,” these kinds of obituaries treat drug addiction and mental illness as they diseases they are. They push shame aside and make it more likely that other families will be more open about dealing with a loved one’s illness before it is too late.

THUMBS DOWN to the rapid increase of students needing special services — 35 percent in seven years — at Mt. Blue Regional School District, mirroring an increase statewide that presents a costly challenge.

Schools have a moral and legal obligation to serve these students, but it is expensive — it is often the second-highest budget line for a district.

Schools have two options: placing the students in an outside program, or establishing local public programs.

The outside programs are effective, but they take students far from home. The experience at Mt. Blue is a reminder that it is best to serve these students near home whenever possible, and that the challenges facing schools continue to increase, while financial support is constantly threatened.

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