By Patrick Strauch, Executive Director
Bill Ferdinand commented to me this week that it feels as if he is reporting in to the Godfather as I try to help manage legislative affairs from afar. I prefer to compare the situation to the old TV show Charlie’s Angel’s as Michele runs legislative issues, Sue takes care of everything in the office, and Roberta keeps you all informed. I guess that makes Pat “Bosley” (described as “a middle-aged man of average looks, especially when contrasted with the glamorous Angels.”) But I can assure you he is more than capable as your acting executive director. I’ll be in the office a few days next week so this fantasy of mine will come to an end.
I told Michele I would write up the weekly legislative review, and can report continued success in representing your interests. The Tree Growth bills (LD 107 and LD 400) were voted out of the Taxation Committee ought not to pass (ONTP), which is a great effort by the team. The bill to increase Tree Growth reimbursements to the municipalities was tabled for further discussion in which we will participate.
In the Judiciary Committee, LD 154, An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Limited Liability for Recreational of Harvesting Activities, we testified against changing the liability laws that protect public use of private land. The committee understood this concern and suggested that a group of stakeholders convene to discuss more narrowly the primary issue of liability relating to rail road crossings. We will participate in this effort and keep you posted.
In State and Local Government, Steve Schley and Bill Ferdinand watched over issues relating to the process for budgeting in the Unorganized Territory (LD 397). Several counties wanted to amend the budget process and eliminate growth cap provisions, but ultimately the committee was not convinced that the problem was widespread and voted the bill ONTP. MFPC will work with the UT Fiscal Administrator and concerned counties about alternative approaches.
The Natural Resource Network (NRN) met with administration officials this week to discuss the merger of the Agriculture and Conservation departments. The meeting was informative and productive. MFPC through the NRN will be outlining its vision for the structure of a merged ACF department, focusing on the need to deliver efficient and cost-effective services, as well as maintaining the important role of the director of the Maine Forest Service in the decisions of the department. We will keep you posted on this effort.
Next week some of the policy positions discussed on the weekly policy committee call were in preparation for hearings on issues such as:
- The governor’s proposal on BETR/BETE. The Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the Governor’s budget proposals on taxation issues Wednesday, March 13, in Room 228 at the State House. At 1 p.m., testimony will be taken on the Governor’s proposal to convert property remaining in the BETR program to the BETE program. We are concerned about the changes in the program that will have a mojor effect on some of our members. We continue to request information about the effects on your facility.
- LD 421, An Act to Prohibit Unauthorized Harvesting of Wild Mushrooms and Fiddleheads – Support (similar in principle to commercial balsam fir tipping laws)
- LD 646, An Act to Remove the 100-Megawatt Limit on Renewable Energy Sources – Oppose (affects opportunities and current investments by members burning biomass for energy production)
- LD 631, An Act To Change the Taxes on Fuel Purchased for Use Other Than on the Highways – Monitoring
- LD 642, An Act to Exempt All-Terrain Vehicles From Stormwater Management Requirements – evaluating (researching the issue and determining position, check in with office).
Please call if or email me if you have any questions or insight into the various issues we are covering.