As we enter the month of May, the pace continues to pick up in Augusta with the traditional two-week public hearing notice now reduced to just two days. This means that as bills continue to be printed and referenced to committees of jurisdiction, there will be very little time for the public to analyze details to form positions and react. We will continue to do our very best to keep our membership informed and activated, as necessary.
For the month of May, the House and Senate will continue to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays in order to allow committees ample time to complete the work before them. While there is some speculation as to when this special session will adjourn, there is likely six to seven weeks remaining until the end of the Legislature’s work for this year.
We are still waiting for some high profile bills to be printed, so please stay tuned to your inbox.
Here’s a look at the bills we engaged on this week in Augusta.
On Monday, we submitted testimony to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee in support of LD 416, “An Act To Authorize A General Fund Bond Issue For Research And Development And Commercialization.” The funds provided by this bond issue, in the amount of $100,000,000, would be used for research and development and commercialization. Our testimony can be found here.
In the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, we testified in opposition to LD 1411, “An Act to Require the Adoption of Sector-specific Greenhouse Gas Emissions Limits” and neither for nor against LD 1621, “An Act Regarding Environmental Justice.” The Committee held a work session on Thursday on LD 1621 where they voted on a divided OTP-AM report. LD 1411 is scheduled for a work session next week (see schedule below).
In the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, we submitted testimony neither for nor against LD 1062, “An Act to Allow a Landowner or Maintainer of Trails to Lethally Remove Nuisance Beaver” and in support of LD 732, “An Act to Prohibit Off-trail Operation of a Snowmobile in an Area Closed to Off-trail Operation.” As you can see below, both bills are scheduled for work sessions next week.
On Tuesday, we attended a work session for a bill that we support, LD 1408, “An Act to Reduce Maine’s Dependence on Fossil Fuels and Carbon Footprint for Energy Production Using Waste Wood Fuel” in the EUT Committee (the bill was tabled).
We also attended a work session in the Taxation Committee on LD 1135, “An Act To Ensure That Carbon Credits Can Be Sold On Forest Land Enrolled In The Maine Tree Growth Tax Law.” The Committee voted ONTP on this bill, instead opting to send a letter to the Maine Revenue Service requesting that it provide guidance to modify the Tree Growth Tax Law bulletin in order to clarify how carbon deals relate to the program. The Council is supportive of this approach, and we would like to thank the bill sponsor, committee and industry partners on working with us on this approach.
On Wednesday, we submitted testimony to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee in support of LD 1214, “An Act to Clarify the Laws to Combat Perfluoroalkyl And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Contamination.” We are hopeful the committee will use this bill as a vehicle to address some of the complications that have emerged from the 2021 first-in-the-nation PFAS in products reporting law.
Also on Wednesday, we submitted testimony to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee in support of LD 460, “An Act To Authorize A General Fund Bond Issue To Improve Student Success And Workforce Readiness Within The University Of Maine System.” Funds provided by this bond issue, in the amount of $100,000,000, to be matched by private and other funds, would be used to strategically improve infrastructure at all campuses of the University of Maine System, including the Green Engineering Materials (GEM) Laboratory.
On Thursday, we were again in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee to attend a work session a a bill we opposed, LD 1246, “An Act To Include Endangered And Threatened Species Habitat In The Definition Of “significant Wildlife Habitat” Under The Natural Resources Protection Act.” Ahead of the work session, we submitted this letter to the Committee with a few suggestions to alleviate our concerns. Following a presentation by the Department, where they indicated that our requests were reasonable and can be addressed during rulemaking, the Committee voted unanimously OTP-AM. The amendment reduces the number of species and clarifies that species will only be mapped where their presence has been confirmed.
Also on Thursday, we attended a work session on a bill we opposed in the Labor and Housing Committee, LD 949, “An Act To Protect Workers From Employer Surveillance.” The Committee voted along partisan lines on OTP-AM and ONTP reports. The amended version pared the bill down to primarily focus on private property, but some business groups remain concerned.
The Week Ahead
Next week we plan to testify in opposition to two initiated bills (referendums), as you will see below, but it is worth noting that the position of these bills remains in question.
Typically, the legislature is presented with three options – to pass a referendum as proposed, to provide a competing measure to also appear on the ballot or to send the measure directly to the voters. The Constitution, however, dictates that the Legislature must act on them in the session in which they are presented, which would have been the First Regular Session. As you know, the Legislature opted to adjourn after the passage of the budget last month, so that session has come and gone. Next week, the Legislature will ask the Supreme Court to determine if they are still in possession of these bills (as they interpret), or of their ability to take action has passed (as the administration and SOS interpret). Either way, we plan to weigh in to voice our concerns on each proposal.
The full schedule (as it stand right now) is provided below. If you have any questions, or need help submitting testimony, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Krysta West for assistance.