This was yet another busy week in Augusta as committees work overtime to complete the work before them. The timing of this session is unprecedented, with nearly 3oo bills yet to be printed and referenced to committees of jurisdiction. Even so, committees have until the end of this month to wrap up their work to allow time for bills to go through the process in the House and Senate.
We are still waiting for some high profile bills to be printed, so please stay tuned to your inbox. As the month goes on, we will have less and less time to digest complex policy measures and mobilize, if necessary.
As you will see below, we weighed in on two referendums this week, even though there is some confusion as to who actually possesses the bills. According to the Governor, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, the Legislature missed the opportunity to act on the five referendums (by either passing them as-is or providing a competing measure) when they adjourned sine die in March. As such, a proclamation has been issued setting statewide votes for all five proposals, as required by the Constitution. The Legislature, however, interprets the situation differently, and has asked for the Maine Supreme Court to find that there is a “solemn occasion” so the court can provide clarification. It is unclear when the court will take up the Legislature’s request.
Here’s a look at the bills we engaged on this week in Augusta.
On Monday, we testified before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee in opposition to LD 1770, “An Act to Improve Pesticides Sales and Use Data Collection and Accessibility by the State.” We oppose this bill for two reasons. The first is that the Bureau of Pesticide Control already enforces state regulations, which include annual use data collection, and they maintain these records for two years from the date of application. The second reason is that pesticide application strategies are all proprietary business information. No other state requires this proprietary information available to the public. This bill was widely opposed by the agricultural community. For more information, our testimony can be found here.
On Tuesday, we monitored the work sessions for two bills before the Taxation Committee – LD 1222, An Act To Expand Child Care Services Through An Employer-supported Tax Credit” and LD 1308, “An Act To Establish Municipal Cost Components For Unorganized Territory Services To Be Rendered In Fiscal Year 2023-24.” LD 1222 was tabled to be worked in conjuncture with a similar bill, and LD 1308 passed unanimously as amended. Our testimony on both bills can be found here.
On Wednesday, the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee voted on a divided report on a bill we oppose, LD 1431, “An Act Requiring the Public Utilities Commission to Adopt Rules Promoting Renewable Energy.” We will continue to monitor this bill.
The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee voted on two bills of interest. The first bill, which we testified neither for nor against, was LD 1062, “An Act to Allow a Landowner or Maintainer of Trails to Lethally Remove Nuisance Beaver.” During the work session, it became apparent that the goals of the bill sponsors can already be achieved under the current rules and regulations, so the Committee voted unanimously ‘Ought not to pass.’
The second bill, which we supported, was LD 732, “An Act to Prohibit Off-trail Operation of a Snowmobile in an Area Closed to Off-trail Operation.” The Committee voted unanimously on an ‘Ought to pass as amended’ report. The amendment defines snowmobile trails as a trail having been identified by the department and funded by the Snowmobile Trail Fund. It also defined “posted” as as containing signage, placed by the landowner, the landowner’s representative who may be a local snowmobile club trail master, snowmobile club representative or employee of DIFW or DACF that is reasonably likely to come to the attention of a snowmobiler and indicates that off-trail snowmobiling is prohibited. We appreciate the Committee’s support on this bill, as it will help protect valuable resources, such as plantations, on private industrial lands utilized for snowmobile trails.
Also on Wednesday, we submitted testimony to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee in opposition to LD 1610 (IB 1), “An Act to Prohibit Campaign Spending by Foreign Governments and Promote an Anticorruption Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Our testimony can be found here.
On Thursday, we submitted testimony to the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee in opposition to LD 1611 (IB 2), “An Act to Create the Pine Tree Power Company, A Nonprofit Customer-owned Utility.” Our testimony can be found here.
The Week Ahead
Next week will be a busy week with a number of work sessions scheduled, along with a few public hearings that we will engage in. The full list (as of right now) is provided below, but there are two bills we would specifically like to call your attention to.
The first bill is LD 1776, “An Act to Allow Citizen Oversight of DEP and DMR Actions and Rulemaking.” This bill will has been referenced to the Marine Resources Committee, and will be heard on Thursday at 1:00 PM. LD 1776 would allow any person to anonymously petition the DEP, DMR or the AG’s Office to enforce a law or enforce and/or amend a rule that they do not agree with. It would also set up a fund to cover legal expenses funded by license and permit holders.
The second bill is LD 1685, “An Act to Increase Acreage Eligibility and Change Requirements for Filing Plans Under the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law.” This bill was referenced to the Taxation Committee, and will be heard on Thursday at 1:00 PM as well. In addition to reducing the timber supply by making a large number of small landowners ineligible to participate in the program, the bill would significantly increase the power granted to assessors by giving them the authority to retain a management plan and deem if it is sufficient to participate in the program.
The Council is in strong opposition to both of these bills. If you would like to sign up to testify, or submit testimony, the link to do so is here.
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.