Legislative action in brief, May 10-17

By Executive Director Patrick Strauch

  • at the legislatureEnergy, Utilities and Technology (EUT) — The wind power bills in general are being consolidated into a study committee that will address these issues for further discussion in the next legislative session. LD 385 contains a provision to prohibit wind power sites in the presence of fir-heartleaved birch subalpine forest vegetation community type. This is dangerous precedent because it takes data collected in the spirit of a collaborative relationship with the Maine Natural Areas Program and uses this information as a prohibition.  We will fight against NRCM, AMC and Audubon on this issue.
  • LD 491, An Act Regarding Timber Harvesting on Land Managed by the Division of Parks and Lands. This bill places a prohibition on the use of Canadian bonded labor on BLP contracts. When introduced in the 125th Legislature, then Attorney General William Schneider cited constitutional issues that would place state law in conflict with federal law. The committee sought an updated interpretation by current Attorney General Janet Mills, whose office substantiated the conflict in previous opinions. Despite this concern the bill was passed along party lines by the Democrats. Sen. Troy Jackson’s passion for this issue is clouding the integrity of the legislative process.
  • LD 1302: Revisions to the metallic mining act have been carefully watched over by the Irving Woodlands team. Several of the original provisions in the bill have been eliminated but new standards for closure time and water quality have been adopted in the majority report.
  • LD 143, An Act To Clarify the Permitted Use of Aquatic Pesticides, was unanimously approved in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. This was important because the DEP can now issue a General NPDES Permit for pesticide applications throughout Maine in accordance with recent federal requirements.
  • LD 734, regarding corporate income tax disclosure, was recognized by the Taxation Committee as a unfriendly business requirement and defeated.
  • Within the EUT Committee there is a large omnibus bill focusing on energy issues. We’re participating in the process with interest in maintaining energy efficiency funding for our members and supporting ways to efficiently bring more natural gas to Maine. We’ve distributed this document widely and interested in your thoughts.
  • After discussion lasting into Wednesday night, the ACF budget was tentatively approved, but will be revisited.
  • Resolution on the budget remains one of the biggest challenges for the legislature and the executive branch. Solutions need to coalesce soon but the current read of party politics is not promising.

Of course, the outcome of committee votes is important, but we are now moving into the phase of shepherding these bills through the House and Senate for final signature (or veto) by the Governor. It is the period of legislative activity where  Michele MacLean, our lobbyist, needs to keep current on all the horse trading that occurs and generally our job is not done until the last legislator goes home! Be prepared for last-minute bills that appear without sufficient notice, which will require action by our members. We will keep you posted.

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