This was a busy week in Augusta for the Council, as there were many moving parts and a number of bills we unfortunately had to play defense on.
On Monday, the Council testified before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee in support of LD 1048, “An Act Regarding the Authority of Municipalities to Regulate Timber Harvesting.”
If passed, this bill, which is the result of a stakeholder study group created by the 130th Legislature, would create consistency in forestry definitions and regulations across municipalities in Maine while ensuring that ordinances seeking to regulate timber harvesting operations are based on sound science. It would also create a centralized database of municipal ordinances that apply to forestry operations within the Maine Forest Service, making compliance simpler for loggers, foresters, landowners and contractors.
Later that day, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder before the same committee with a number of Council members to strongly oppose LD 993, “An Act to Facilitate Stakeholder Input Regarding Forest Policy in Maine.”
As drafted, this bill would politicize important forest management decisions, subjecting private landowners and the Bureau of Forestry to the will of a simple majority of a 21-member board appointed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. 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.
Please join us in thanking Weyerhaeuser, Irving Woodlands, Seven Islands Land Company, Council Treasurer Peter Triandafillou, Maine Woodland Owners, Maine Professional Guides Association and others for joining us in opposition.
The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee will hold public hearings on both LD 993 and LD 1048 on Wednesday. The Council is hopeful that the ACF Committee will heed our concerns and vote ought not to pass on LD 993.
Also of interest, on Monday, the federal government ruled that it is possible for the Atlantic Salmon to coexist with hydroelectric dams on the Kennebec River with conservation measures that will require a significant investment by Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners. The agency, NOAA, reviewed the dams as part of Brookfield’s ongoing efforts to relicense the Shawmut Dam in Skowhegan. More information on this ruling can be found here. The Sappi Mill in Skowhegan depends on the Shawmut Dam to operate, so the Council welcomes this news from Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday, we submitted testimony to the Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee in support of LD 890, “An Act to Create the Child Care Provider Student Loan Repayment Fund.”
While it may seem unusual for the Council to weigh in on child care issues, the lack of affordable child care providers has increasingly becoming a problem for our industry, and for all employers, especially in rural Maine. For that reason, the Council is part of a broad coalition this session supporting a bipartisan bill induced by Senator Trey Stewart, LD 1222, “An Act to Expand Child Care Services Through an Employer-supported Tax Credit.” The Council views LD 890 as a potentially useful tool to recruit new providers to the childcare industry in underserved areas of the state, so we are appreciative of Sen. Joe Baldacci for bringing this bill forward.
On Wednesday, the Council was on the defensive once again, testifying in strong opposition to LD 928, “Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Establish a Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment.”
This proposed constitutional amendment raises many legal questions about the effect on Maine government, law and citizens. The Maine Legislature should carefully review this proposal to understand its ramifications, which include the creation of a litigious regulatory environment at both the state and local levels.
Also testifying in opposition included Irving Woodlands, Weyerhaeuser, Maine Woodland Owners, the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, Maine Municipal Association, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and others. Thanks to those who joined us in opposition to this bill.
The Council also monitored the progress of a number of bills in other committees as well. As always, if you have any questions, or need help submitting testimony or contacting your legislator, please contact Krysta at email@example.com.