Legislative Update – March 10, 2023

This was yet another busy week at the Legislature with our team monitoring a number of committees as bills of interest make their way through the process. In addition to our usual legislative duties, we were honored to co-host a legislative breakfast reception this week with the Retail Lumber Dealers Association of Maine on Thursday. Thank you to our members for making this important event possible, and to all who attended. Some photos of the event can be found here on our Facebook page.

On Tuesday of this week, members of the Labor and Housing Committee were briefed by Senator Mattie Daughtry and Representative Kristen Cloutier on the work of the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefit Program. This commission was established by the Maine Legislature in 2021 to develop a paid family and medical leave program, and to determine the best way to implement this new policy. The work of this commission will inform the language of LR 9, “An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program.”

The language of LR 9 has not yet been released, but the full presentation is available here, and an abbreviated two-pager is available here. Senator Daughtry and Representative Cloutier are still considering some final details such as the level of benefit to be received (80% or 90%, tied to 120% of of the state average weekly wage) as well as the breakdown between employees and employers (25%/75% or 50%/50%). If you would like to weigh in on these issues, both Senator Daughtry and Representative Cloutier are encouraging businesses and groups to reach out. You can email them at mattie.daughtry@legislature.maine.gov and kristen.cloutier@legislature.maine.gov.

On Wednesday, the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee voted unanimously in favor of LD 390, the ‘chop and drop’ bill, with an amendment to correct the date this rule change would take effect. The Council supported LD 390. Our testimony can be found here.

Also on Wednesday, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted in favor of LD 400, which directs the Department of Environmental Protections to examine setback requirements for outdoor wood boilers. The Council also supported LD 400, and our testimony can be found here.

The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee held a public hearing on LD 698, “An Act Directing the PUC to Study the State Natural Gas Supply Pursuant to the Maine Energy Cost Reduction Act. Our testimony in support of this bill can be found here.

As you will see below, things are really beginning to heat up for the session with committees in full swing. We would especially like to bring your attention to a bill that will have a public hearing in 10 days, LD 993, “An Act to Facilitate Stakeholder Input Regarding Forest Policy in Maine.” The Council strongly opposes this bill, which is a repeat from last year, and we are discouraged to see the Environmental Priorities Coalition championing it without seeking any input from Maine’s private forest landowner community.

Should it pass, this bill would politicize forest management decisions while disregarding the important fact that more than 90% of Maine’s forestland is privately owned. Private landowners already work collaboratively with the state, the University of Maine System and the environmental advocacy community on a number of successful initiatives to protect Maine’s wildlife resources. LD 993 disregards the tremendous work that continues to take place, and the strides our industry has made in recent years, therefore we urge the Legislature to vote ONTP on LD 993. Information on how to submit testimony and/or attend the public hearing is included below. If you have any questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

In addition to the committee work taking place next week, the full Legislature will receive the first “State of the Tribes” address in nearly two decades on Thursday, March 16 at 10:45 am in the House Chamber. This address will include remarks from leaders of each of the four Wabanaki Tribes. The address will stream live here on the Legislature’s website.

– Pat

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