127th Legislature gearing up for second session

legislature sig for webHow time flies after the Legislature adjourns. Like it or not, the 127th Legislature’s second session is on the horizon now and the optimists among us can only hope it will not be as painful or prolonged as the first. If the mere sight of the “At the Legislature” logo at right darkens your mood, you are not an optimist.

When all was said and done, though, here’s what happened in the first session, according to the Bangor Daily News: 1,531 bills submitted to the Legislature; 497 enacted; 147 signed; 167 became law without the governor’s  signature; 178 vetoed and 126 vetoes overridden. The Press Herald’s July 4th wrap-up of the session also brings back memories.

Here are some of the legislative essentials for the upcoming session:

  • Convenes: Wednesday, January 6, 2016, 10 a.m.
  • Adjourns: Wednesday, April 20, 2016
  • New bills: 32 of 400 proposed
  • Tabled bills: 18 will be reconsidered in November.
  • Carried over: 177 bills

There’s still plenty of time to pore over the lists of bills accepted, rejected and carried over. If you’re eager to get started there also are various listings on the legislative calendar.

For those who a quick look at what’s ahead for the forest products industry, Executive Director Patrick Strauch has highlighted some bills in the table below that MFPC will be watching. If they sound familiar, they are. Once again there will be discussion of arming rangers, lowering energy costs, reducing taxes, discontinuing roads and establishing a “Working Group to Review the Incidental Take Permitting Process Under the Endangered Species Law.” Even though one of the bills on the list is technically new — An Act To Protect Maine’s Natural Resources Jobs by Exempting from Sales Tax Petroleum Products Used in Farming, Fishing and Forestry — it closely resembles some from last year that couldn’t get past the fiscal note.

127th Legislature 2nd session bills of interest

CommitteeStatusBill SponsorTitleComments
ACFCarried over1178Rep. Russell Black, R-WiltonAn Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Maple Syrup Task ForceRep. Russell Black will be reaching out to constituent Maple Syrup producers to see if there is interest in a marketing commission. The large producers in the Western regions have requested more information and discussion.
ACFCarried over866Sen. David Burns, R-WashingtonAn Act to Ensure Efficiency and Safety in the Bureau of ForestryThis is the arming rangers bill that was held over to ensure action by the administration on this issue contained in the budget. The budget returned the authority for arming rangers to the administration's discretion.
EUTCarried over1339Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-WaldoAn Act to Provide Relief to Maine RatepayersRequires PUC to reject bids if none are less than 10cents per kilowatt hour, suspend the portfolio requirements and see if a lower bid is achieved. The premise is that renewable energy requirements inflate the price of power. We will monitor the discussion to determine if the concept has merits.
EUTCarried over1315Rep. Larry Dunphy, U-EmbdenAn Act to Amend Maine's Restructuring LawsThis bill allows an investor owned T&D utility to own generation assets if the PUC determines it is beneficial to rate payers. The discussion will center on the long-term policy to separate generation and T&D functions as part of the original restructuring law. We will follow the discussion and see if a case can be made to grant special exceptions.
EUTCarried over1398Sen. Garrett Mason, R-AndroscogginAn Act to Reduce Electric Rates for Maine BusinessesThis bill increases the amount of RGGI trust fund revenue returned to business rate payers by reducing energy reduction project funding from 50% to 10%. Since we have members that have used this funding opportunity we will need to determine if the offset is a net gain to members.
EUTCarried over881Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-SacoAn Act to Allow the PUC to Contract for Liquefied Natural Gas Storage and DistributionThis will be an important policy discussion as part of a State strategy to lower energy costs during the peak electrical demand season.
IFWCarried over640Sen. Paul Davis, R-PiscataquisResolve, To Establish a Working Group to Review the Incidental Take Permitting Process Under the Endangered Species LawThis bill was carried over to ensure action by the department on an alternative remedy for granting relief to the forestry community and other affected parties. We should be meeting soon with the IF&W department to discuss these options.
SLGCarried over1325Rep. Catherine Nadeau, D-WinslowAn Act to Ensure a Public Process When Discontinuing or Abandoning a Public RoadSWOAM has been leading this effort by addressing components of discontinued and abandoned road law. MMA has some issues with the extensive nature of changes in the law for a problem that they perceive is not wide spread. Clearly more time was needed to assess the components of the bill.
TAXNew2215 (link not available)Sen. Paul Davis, R-PiscataquisAn Act To Protect Maine's Natural Resources Jobs by Exempting from Sales Tax Petroleum Products Used in Farming, Fishing and ForestryThis bill will exempt all commercial timber harvesting and chipping operations from paying sales tax on any/all petroleum products (off road diesel, hydraulic fluid, grease, etc.) used to sever and process timber in off road applications. A large fiscal note doomed the PLC’s effort last session (LD 30, 290, 432) to achieve fuel tax exemptions.
VLACarried over742Sen. Tom Saviello, R-FranklinRESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Require That Signatures on a Direct Initiative of Legislation Come from Each Congressional DistrictThe requirement is that 5% of the number of signatures required on a petition be from each of the 16 counties. The concept would preclude only one region of the state dominating the process to directly implement legislation. This is a good concept for rural Maine areas that may not have similar population levels of other parts of the state.

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