This week committees quickened the pace, with the standard two-week notice period for public hearings being reduced to a one-week notice period. What this means is that from here on out, we will have less time to mobilize our membership around certain bills of interest, so keep an eye on your inbox for our communications. We will continue to do our best to keep you informed of the many moving parts.
Also this week, the Governor called the Legislature back in to a special session in order to complete the remaining work following last week’s budget vote. The Appropriations Committee will begin discussions now for part two of the biennial budget, which will focus on new programs and priorities.
Here’s a look at our week in Augusta.
On Tuesday, we were engaged on a number of issues before several different committees.
In Labor and Housing, we monitored the work session on LD 53, “An Act to Ensure Accountability for Workplace Harassment and Assault by Removing Intentional Acts and Omissions from Workers’ Compensation Exemptions.” This bill, which the Council opposed, received a divided report along partisan lines. The majority report limited the language to focus on sexual harassment claims where one employee has harassed another. Once reported out, this bill will advance to the full House for consideration.
The Committee also held a pubic hearing on LD 949, “An Act to Protect Workers from Employer Surveillance.” Our testimony in opposition to this bill can be found here.
In the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, LD 881, “Resolve, Directing the University of Maine System to Study the Development of a Course Regarding the Use of Manufactured Wood Products”, received a divided report. This bill, which was supported by the Council, will go to the House for consideration once reported out of committee.
The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee held a public hearing on LD 1232, “An Act to Increase Adoption of Solar Power in Maine.” This bill, which includes a mandate that all new buildings of at least 25,000 square feet reserve 40% of applicable roof space for solar energy systems, was opposed by the Council. Our testimony can be found here.
On Wednesday, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on LD 1246, “An Act to Include Endangered and Threatened Species Habitat in the Definition of “Significant Wildlife Habitat” Under the Natural Resources Protections Act.” At the time this email went out last week, we had not yet taken a position on this bill. After further research, which included the review of a sponsor amendment that narrowed the scope of the bill, we testified in opposition in order to voice concerns we have with the current language that includes the endangered and threatened species in NRPA.
For example, there are a number of listed species, such as the recently listed Long-eared Bat, that cover a broad range of habitat that is present across the landscape, and it has been recognized that development is not a threat to this species – white nose syndrome is. This bill would require consideration of this habitat for projects that trigger NRPA, even if the specified habitat doesn’t have bats present. We feel that regulating habitat without the proven presence of the species makes little sense.
This bill is scheduled for a work session this week. We will attend this meeting and hope that we can participate in the process as this bill moves forward.
On Thursday, we were back in the Labor and Housing Committee to oppose LD 1190, “An Act to Ensure a Fair Workweek by Requiring Notice of Work Schedules.” This bill, which received wide opposition, would require employers to provide hourly employees with work schedules at least two weeks in advance, with penalties outlined for schedule changes that occur inside of that timeframe. Our testimony can be found here.
In the Taxation Committee on Thursday, we followed the work session for LD 341, “An Act to Amend the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law to Encourage Housing Construction.” This bill, which we testified ‘neither for nor against’, received a divided report along partisan lines with the majority of the committee voting against the bill. Once reported out, it will proceed to the House next for further consideration. Our testimony on LD 341 can be found here.
That is all for this week. Next week will be busy with Sunday hunting day on Monday in IFW and mining day in ENR on Thursday, along with a host of other bills included below.
As you will see, an MFPC priority bill, LD 1222, “An Act to Expand Child Care Services Through an Employer-supported Tax Credit”, is scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday in Taxation at 1:00 pm. The Council encourages our members to either testify in person, over zoom or submit testimony electronically in support of this bill. For more information about it, see our recent newsletter here. Also, be sure to check the Morning Sentinel/Kennebec Journal’s opinion section early next week for an opinion editorial on this bill co-authored by our Deputy Director, Krysta West, and Nate Cloutier from HospitalityMaine.
Please let us 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.
Also included in our April newsletter is an analysis of current market conditions and an outline of our position on tribal sovereignty, an issue that will be addressed by this Legislature. Please be sure to read it if you missed our email on it earlier this week.
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 email@example.com.