It’s time to hurry up and wait at the Legislature

Patrick Strauch, Michele MacLean and Tom Doak of SWOAM waiting and waiting -- a common pastime at the Legislature.
Patrick Strauch, Michele MacLean and Tom Doak of SWOAM waiting  — a common pastime at the Legislature.

Michele column sigThe Legislature is working at a frantic pace these days, even choosing to work over the April school vacation week, in an effort to make their deadlines to complete their work by statutory adjournment on June 17th.

Bills that were slow to get printed at the start of the session are now making their ways to committee for public hearings and work sessions.  Committees have a deadline of May 22nd to complete their work and MFPC staff has been fully engaged with multiple committees working to implement or defeat various legislative proposals that have been introduced.

To date, we have successfully defeated several versions of bonded labor bills before the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee and Taxation Committee; all of the bills relating to Sunday hunting have been voted on by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee with majority reports against those proposals.

The mining bill that has been worked in the Natural Resources Committee will be back for a public hearing on LD 750 on May 11 at 9 a.m. in Room 216 of the Cross Building. Those interested in this issue should be prepared to testify or contact your legislator when you see the MPFC alert.

The Judiciary Committee has recently voted out two bills, one allowing licensed foresters to place a mechanic lien on property for nonpayment of services and a second bill that includes rock climbing and bouldering within the “recreational activities’ definition of the landowner liability statute.

But, the majority of MFPC’s time has been spent reacting, responding and educating committees of jurisdiction on the Governor’s budget proposal which has significant impact to MFPC members. Committees have delivered their budget recommendations back to the Appropriations Committee, which will work over the next weeks to find a balance that is acceptable to both parties as well as the governor. As it stands right now, these are the recommendations delivered to the Appropriations Committee: tree growth revisions have been rejected; the ACF committee recommends tasers for rangers, but no guns; the Bureau of Public Lands does not move into the Maine Forest Service, and the allowable harvest on public lands is capped at 135,000 acres.

However all of these issues, along with the commercial forestry excise tax, have been tabled and will be debated and negotiated as the final budget proposal is determined.  As is usually the case at the Legislature, the more complicated and involved bills linger until the end of the session and require constant monitoring.  The budget, along with mining rules and regulation, wind power siting bills, energy initiatives attempting to lower costs and sales tax expansion/income tax reductions and estate tax proposals will be the focus of MFPC the last 6 weeks of the 127th Maine Legislature.

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