May 10, 2013

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Amended ACF merger bill approved 11-2

Some in the State House were predicting a 6-6 vote Wednesday, but the ACF merger bill (LD 837) as amended was approved by an 11-2 margin, with only Rep. Peter S. Kent (D-Woolwich) and Rep. Brian L. Jones (D-Freedom) voting no.

“We were happy the vote showed such a high level of acceptance,” Executive Director Patrick Strauch said, “but there’s still a long way to go.”

The final version of the amendment by Rep. Jeffrey L. Timberlake (R-Turner), including changes hammered out at Wednesday’s work session, is being drafted and will be available for the committee to review Tuesday, analyst Christopher Spruce said Friday afternoon. Read more.

Discussion on arming rangers turns to changing mission

Total acres burned cropped 2Although LD 297, the bill to arm Maine’s forest rangers, sped through the Criminal Justice Committee (11-2) last week, now everyone seems to be taking time to reflect on the larger issue.

“The debate about rangers and guns has been quiet this week,” Executive Director Patrick Strauch.”While the committee waits to see the fiscal note to the Maine Forest Service for arming rangers, there are on-going discussions about costs, policy changes and mission among legislators. We will keep you posted on any updates.”

Part of that discussion likely will include forest fire control. Statistics received this week from MFS show that that over the past decade the average number of fires annually was 493 and the average number of acres burned was 643.

Other legislative action this week

On Monday the Appropriations Committee voted on BETR and BETE and unanimously recommended three things:

Reduce funding of BETR in the first fiscal year of the budget to 90 percent, so a decrease of 10 percent.

Reduce reimbursement in the second fiscal year of the  budget to 80 percent, so a loss of 20 percent reimbursement.

Require a thoughtful study of the BETR to BETE conversion with a report back to Appropriations.

  • The Environment and Natural Resources Committee worked on LD 1302, An Act To Amend the Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act To Protect Water Quality. It will be worked again next Wednesday. Rep. Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan), the bill’s sponsor,  is very interested in pursuing some kind of amendment to the mining law that was passed last year. However, at this point we don’t know what his amendment will look like. We’ll be vigilant and present at the work session (1 p.m.,Cross Building, Room 216.)
  • The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee had a long day of testimony on more anti wind bills. MFPC testified against several, including LD 1325 and LD 1375. These bills essentially would change permitting rules midstream. They would set a terrible precedent for businesses in Maine that abide by one set of rules, only to have these rules changed.
  • The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee’s public hearing Friday on   LD 1474, An Act To Amend the Laws Pertaining to the Hunting of Bear, was held Friday and MFPC opposed the bill along with many others. After the hearing, the committee moved right into work session and voted unanimously to kill the bill. The U.S. Humane Society, which has been pushing the bill, has indicated it has a war chest of about $3 million and intends to pursue another citizen initiatve referendum. Stay tuned.
  • The UT municipal cost component bill (LD 1228) was heard in Taxation this week. It appears that expenses are in line with last year. Normally a straight forward process (that is dependant on landowner intervention at the county level of budget preparation), Wind Power TIFs were within the financial UT budget. Committee members separated these expenses out of the bill and are proposing a moratorium on UT TIFS until a study group  has been selected.
  •  LD 1177 will be held over until next session with a task force of legislators and interested parties meeting over the summer to determine if there are some common sense solutions that can resolve the difficult issue of discontinued roads and associated liabilities.

All bills are to be cleared out of committee next week while at the same time the legislative council rules for a two-week public notice on hearings has been eliminated by leadership. Hold on to your hats as late bills come flying through the system and we send out panicked calls to action. We will keep you posted as the horse trading on the third floor commences.


The Maine Forest Products Council Annual meeting will be held Sept. 8-9  at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort in Carrabassett Valley.

Sign up for the MFPC golf tournament!golf tournament

You don’t want to miss this opportunity to have fun and catch up with your friends. Please join us at at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course on July 18. Learn more.