This week, Governor Mills introduced the second part to the biennial budget in the form of a $900 million spending package. The language has not yet been released, but it is reported that the package contains $432 million in new spending and $455 million in transfers, bringing the overall budget to just over $10.3 billion. Priorities in this new package include transportation, housing, the School Revolving Renovation Fund, child care and more. For more information, click here. Public hearings on the package are expected to be scheduled soon, but as reported in the Bangor Daily News, the bill has a long road ahead as it has become a pawn in an effort to pass unrelated tribal legislation.
In unrelated news, we have received word that the long-anticipated paid family medical leave bill is expected to be available early next week. Once printed, we will analyze the legislation for impacts to the forest products industry.
Here’s a look at the bills we engaged on this week in Augusta.
On Wednesday, we submitted testimony in support of LD 1726, “An Act to Build Maine’s Economy by Supporting Child Care for Working Families.” This bill, which received broad support at the hearing, would accomplish a number of goals including doubling the monthly wage supplement for child care providers. This is necessary to make these positions more competitive with K-12 education without further burdening parents with costs that can be prohibitive. For more information, our testimony can be found here.
Also on Wednesday, the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee voted on the suite of Sunday hunting bills which we opposed, LDs 1241, 1166, 672 and 626. The votes were divided with the majority of the committee voting ‘Ought not to pass’.
The ACF Committee on Wednesday voted OTP-AM on a bill that we opposed, LD 1770, “An Act to Improve Pesticide Sales and Use Data Collection and Accessibility by the State (our testimony can be found here). The amendment replaced the bill with language to compel the Board of Pesticides Control to send a letter urging commercial applicators to file their annual reporting online.
The ENR Committee on Wednesday voted OTP-AM on a divided report on LD 1411, “An Act to Require the Adoption of Sector-specific Greenhouse Gas Emissions Limits.” Council testimony in opposition to this bill can be found here. The amendment replaced the bill, instead requiring the DEP to provide regular reports to the committee on the sector-specific GHG emissions data that they already collect.
The ENR Committee also reached an agreement on PFAS policy, advancing LD 217, “An Act to Support Manufacturers Whose Products Contain Perfluoroalkyl And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances” as the vehicle. The amended version, which received unanimous committee support, pushed the effective date for Maine’s first-in-the-nation PFAS in products reporting law back from January 1, 2023 to January 1, 2025. The committee will also pull together a stakeholder group to further examine the law to help the department identify solutions to some of the issues that have come up during rulemaking. For more information, click here.
On Thursday, we submitted testimony to the Marine Resources Committee in opposition to LD 1776, “An Act to Allow Citizen Oversight of Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Marine Resources Actions and Rulemaking” (our testimony can be found here). We are pleased to report that the committee moved directly into work session following the hearing, voting unanimously ‘Ought not to pass’, effectively killing this dangerous and extreme bill.
The Taxation Committee considered two bills that we submitted testimony in opposition to on Thursday. The first was LD 1685, “An Act to Increase Acreage Eligibility and Change Requirements for Filing Plans Under the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law.” As drafted, this bill would disqualify nearly 100,000 acres from the TGTL program, and implement other changes that would be detrimental to the program. This will be a bill to watch in the weeks ahead. Our testimony can be found here.
The second bill we submitted testimony against was a perennial bill with a slightly new spin, LD 854, “An Act to Fund the Protection and Restoration of Riparian and Estuarine Ecosystems and to Impose an Excise Tax on Certain Bottled Water Operators.”
The ENR Committee again took up the mineral mining issue, and they appear to be close to reaching a consensus on a deal for a simpler pathway for mining operations that have no impact on water quality to proceed under the rules for rock quarries. A vote on LD 1363, which will be the vehicle for this issue, is expected next week.
Today, the State and Local Government Committee will hold a public hearing on LD 1772 (IB 4), “An Act to Require Voter Approval of Certain Borrowing by Government-controlled Entities and Utilities and to Provide Voters More Information Regarding That Borrowing.” This legislation is an initiated referendum that will appear on the November ballot. Our testimony in support 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 is one bill we would specifically like to call your attention to, LD 1794, “An Act to Enhance the Predictability of Mandated Overtime for Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Facility Employees.”
This bill, which seems be the result of labor negotiations at one mill that have since been settled, inappropriately singles out one sector of our industry in a way that would make it more costly and challenging for mills to operate.
Specifically, the bill includes the following restrictions:
- Facility may not require an employee to work more than 2 hours of overtime per day.
- Facility shall give notice to an employee that overtime is required no later than 7 days before the date of the overtime.
- Facility shall give notice to an employee that an employee’s work schedule has changed no later than 7 days before the date of the first day with a change in schedule.
In order to run operations 24/7, overtime is a requirement for pulp and paper mill jobs. In exchange, workers are paid well with generous benefits packages.
Recent mill closures show what happens when expenses get too high. LD 1794 would undoubtedly drive up costs and exasperate the ongoing workforces shortages that are being felt all across the state. We strongly urge the Labor and Housing Committee to vote ‘Ought not to pass’ on LD 1794.
If you would like to sign up to testify, or submit testimony, the link to do so is here.
The full schedule is provided below. If you have any questions, or need help submitting testimony, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for assistance.
PS: The PUC will consider the eligibility of bid proposals for the CHP RFP on Tuesday. More information below under the Regulatory Calendar.