This was yet another busy week in Augusta with committees in full swing working through the large volume of bills presented this session. At this point, the Revisor’s Office has drafted language for just over 1,400 of the 2,200 bills. A number of high profile and complex bills are still in the drafting process, yet time is beginning to run short.
Towards the end of this week, committee schedules were thrown off as the Democrats, who control both legislative bodies, made the unusual decision to vote on what they are calling a “continuing services” majority budget on Thursday. Following that vote, the legislature adjourned for the session, giving Governor Mills just enough time to sign it into law with enough time to avoid the possibility of a government shutdown this summer. Governor Mills will call the legislature back to continue their work in a special session with a second budget bill expected to follow. Committee work will resume as planned on Monday. Here is a preview of what the Council engaged on this week.
On Monday, we testified before the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee in opposition to LD 672, “An Act to Establish Youth Deer Hunting Weekend.” This bill is the first of many Sunday hunting bills that will be considered this session. The Committee will hold public hearings on the remainder of the Sunday hunting bills on Monday, April 10.
On Tuesday, the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee held public hearings on two bills to remove the 100-megawatt limit on renewable energy sources. The Council did not submit testimony, however we did monitor the hearing and are in opposition to these bills.
On Wednesday, the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held work sessions on two bills of interest. The first was LD 1048, “An Act Regarding the Authority of Municipalities to Regulate Timber Harvesting.” This bill, which is supported by the Council, passed unanimously with a minor amendment. The second bill, LD 993, “An Act to Facilitate Stakeholder Input Regarding Forest Policy in Maine,” was tabled for further consideration. The Council strongly opposes this bill as drafted.
Also on Wednesday, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee passed LD 928, “Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Establish a Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment” on a party-line vote. As a constitutional amendment, this bill will need a 2/3 vote of approval by both bodies in order to be sent to voters for consideration. The Council also strongly opposes this bill and will continue to monitor its progress.
On Thursday, the Energy Utilities and Technology was scheduled to hold a public hearing on LD 1111, “An Act Concerning Contracts and Agreements for Large-scale Water Extraction.” This bill was postponed due to the budget deliberations, but the Council is opposed to this bill.
Also on Thursday, the Council testified before the Transportation Committee in favor of LD 1025, “An Act to Improve Maine’s Economy by Changing the Hours of Operation for Oversize Loads” and before the Taxation Committee neither for nor against LD 341, “An Act to Amend the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law to Encourage Housing Construction.”
As you will see below, next week will also be busy with a host of issues to be considered. The Council hasn’t officially taken a position yet on LD 1246, “An Act To Include Endangered And Threatened Species Habitat In The Definition Of “significant Wildlife Habitat” Under The Natural Resources Protection Act”, but we do have some concerns that we are currently investigating.
Finally, I would like to bring your attention to a bill that has been scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday, April 11. The bill is LD 1222, “An Act to Expand Child Care Services Through an Employer-supported Tax Credit.” This bill is a priority this session for the Council as we look for ways to support a healthy and robust workforce. This bipartisan bill is supported by a broad coalition working to make child care more accessible and affordable for working families (view the fact sheet here). As drafted, this bill would provide a refundable tax credit for employers that pay or provide in-kind resources for child care for the children of its employees. The amount of the annual credit is 50% of the amount expended with a cap of $3,000 per child.
As the date approaches we will send more information out about this bill. Please mark your calendars now and let Krysta know if you are able to submit testimony or testify in person. We would like a strong showing from the business community on this bill, as it supports workforce participation and could be a powerful tool for employers to attract and retain workers, especially in underserved rural areas.
That’s all for now. As always, if you have any questions, or need help submitting testimony or contacting your legislator, please contact Krysta at firstname.lastname@example.org.