We already know that we’re going to have a pretty healthy legislative agenda, but between the learning curve for new members and the days missed due to bad weather, this session is off to a slow start.
So far, though, we’ve got three landowner liability bills between the Judiciary Committee and ACF, so we’ll continue to have conversations about landowner liability (LD 39, LD 112, LD 128). MFPC’s Landowner Committee had an in-depth discussion Tuesday about the bills and how to clarify and protect landowner liability.
We’re also working on our testimony in opposition to LD 541, which would alter the way the Commercial Forestry Excise Tax is calculated.
Although we’ve only had hearings on a few bills before the ACF Committee, they have voted with a majority report on LD 8 to train and arm rangers, but we’re still waiting to see the definition on the term “train.” That hasn’t come back before the committee, there’s nothing scheduled yet, and we’re waiting for the fiscal note.
We know there are Tree Growth-related bills coming, but they haven’t been available to us yet.
Sunday hunting continues to be a theme. There are multiple bills that will be coming up before the IFW Committee at a later date. They’re trying to hold all those bills until they can be grouped together for a public hearing. I think it will go as it usually does and none of the bills will get traction, but it’s a new Legislature, you can’t ever say for sure.
The other big conversation at the State House now is the debate on citizen-initiated referendum reform. The latest was LD 564, to increase the number of the signatures required. But there all kinds of proposals on the table, such as making a certain percentage of signatures come from each congressional district or each state Senate district. There seems to be some sentiment that to tighten the rules on on initiating a referendum. I think if they’re going to do it, they need to do it now because we already have some citizen-initiated referendums in the works. Two years from now we’ll have the gubernatorial and legislative elections, and that will be seen as the time to get people out to vote on these ballot initiatives. The governor is supportive of reform. We expect to see a working group on this issue, but it hasn’t been announced yet.
Just a note that MFPC members might find interesting, the Democratic caucus is trying to organize its base, so the leadership is holding a town hall forum, in conjunction withCan-Am Crown International sled dog race, in Fort Kent Friday (March 3) at 6:30 p.m. at the university. Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport, Assistant Senate Minority Leader Nathan Libby of Lewiston and Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden of Lewiston are expected to attend.