MFPC Legislative Update, May 14, 2021

Legislative committees have May 21 deadline to report out all bills

Things are moving very fast in the Legislature now and we may see some of our most important bills — see below — taken up in the House and Senate at their next session Wednesday. So it’s vital that members stay engaged now and be ready to contact legislators.

ALERT! URGENT ACTION IS NEEDED — CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY

Find your legislators

LD 188 An Act Regarding the Transportation of Products in the Forest Products Industry. Senate President Troy Jackson has tried to tie his campaign against Canadian truckers to Tree Growth Tax, His amendment replaces the original bill, but doesn’t improve it.

It still penalizes landowners for the potential actions of subcontracted trucking companies by forcing them to pay a penalty for violations of federal cabotage laws committed by subcontractors. The current language kicks landowners out of the Tree Growth Taxation program for 2 years leaving lots of unanswered questions about the enforceability of the law.

MFPC, the Maine Chamber and state business leaders strongly oppose LD 553 An Act to End At-Will Employment, which the Labor and Housing Committee has voted ought to pass.

LD 553 proposes a seismic shift in decades of employment policy and law in Maine – restructuring Maine’s current at-will system – a system with no widespread reports of abuse regarding employment discharges to our knowledge. It would impose a costly, burdensome, complicated, and litigious discipline and termination process for all but Maine’s smallest employers – the types of provisions that are part of job-security collective bargaining contracts negotiated between management and labor, where workers are unionized.

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Sylvester (D-Portland), LD 553 would prohibit an employer with five or more employees from terminating the employment of an employee without just cause. The bill specifies an employer may – with limited exceptions – terminate an employee only after applying a written three-step progressive discipline policy, documenting each step in writing and providing written notice of termination in accordance with certain requirements.

LD 553 also includes a private right for aggrieved employees to sue employers. The bill also eliminates references to “at-will employment” in current law. Read more.

Urge your legislators to vote ought not to pass on LD 553

LD 489 RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Right to a Healthy Environment

The State currently protects public resources like air and water on behalf of the people of Maine. It does so as the governing body of the state, and along with federal rules, establishes the rules and regulations that protect those resources. The public guides this process through the ballot box, legislative hearings, and the passage of laws.

LD 489 turns that relationship upside down, by giving the public the right and responsibility of determining what constitutes protection and conservation of the environment. With these new constitutional rights, any group representing the public could sue the state for any law, permit, action, or rule that it felt did not adequately protect and therefore infringed on the public’s environmental rights. It creates a new way to slow and stop not only new development projects but existing businesses. It doesn’t matter if new or existing projects meet all local, state, and federal regulations. All that matters is the perceived protection of these newly created rights.

The result of these new rights is to remove decision making from the legislature and Governor and give it to the courts. Even if the State prevailed in court, the process would drag on, potentially for years, driving investment away from Maine. The damage from the cessation of new and existing business activity could be catastrophic to Maine’s economy.

Urge your legislators to vote ought not to pass on LD 489.

STANDBY NOTIFICATION on LD 125

Aerial spraying is a safe and essential tool for Maine’s forestry products industry. Please urge your legislators to vote ought to pass on LD 125 as amended to change buffers for aerial spraying.

The ACF Committee reviewed the amendment proposed by Rep. David McCrea, D- Fort Fairfield, to enhance protection zones for water and residential protection. The vote was 9-4 in favor of the amendment.

After a review of the language by the committee it may move to the general session on Wednesday for votes in the full House and Senate. Please be on standby for action. We’ll send out a separate alert once we know the schedule.

Committee action this week

Energy, Utilities and Technology

LD 1554 An Act To Provide Climate Change Transition Assistance for Maine’s Energy-intensive Businesses. Work session. Divided report. MFPC supports.

Environment and Natural Resources

LD 676 An Act To Reclassify Part of the Androscoggin River to Class B. The committee voted to carry over this bill to allow the DEP tri-annual review of the river to proceed over the summer and to allow interested parties on all parts of the river to meet and discuss issues. So it’s paused until next year. MFPC opposes.

LD 1503 requires manufacturers who use PFAS in their process to inform the DEP. Voted OTP in committee. MFPC opposes.

LD 1163 An Act To Reduce Pollution by Prohibiting Metallic Mineral Mining. Tabled. MFPC opposes.

Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

LD 1599 An Act To Establish A Maine Pesticide Sales and Use Registry. Work session. Divided report. MFPC opposes.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee

LD 883 An Act To Protect Endangered Species Whose Life Cycles Include Maine Land or Waters, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. Public hearing followed by Work Session. Raises concern about migratory bird and fish species traveling through Maine. Majority vote ought not to pass. MFPC opposes.

LD 404 An Act To Preserve Deer Habitat. An amendment proposes changes to Land for Maine’s Future acquisitions of deer yards. As long as the principle of a willing buyer and seller are maintained, the state-acquired deer yards will be mandated to be managed for the species. Voted ought to pass as amended, but amendment is not available yet.

LD 1468 An Act To Support All-terrain Vehicle Trail Improvement. Voted ought to pass as amended. MFPC supports.

Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business

LD 768 An Act To Explore Alternative Uses of Pulpwood and To Support the Logging and Forestry Industries. Amended to form task force with DECD to review market development for softwood. MFPC supports.

LD 1691 An Act To Require Licensing for Certain Mechanical Trades. Several union members supported the bill, but many more people testified against it. Work session, Tuesday, May 18, 9:30 a.m. MFPC opposes.

Taxation

Martin’s bill linking access to the Tree Growth Tax voted ONTP at his request

LD 1283 An Act To Amend the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law To Encourage Public Access. This is the same bill placed in the 129th Legislature. Rep.John Martin, D-Eagle Lake sent a letter to the Taxation Committee asking members to vote ONTP, saying the bill was no longer necessary. Legislators voted ONTP at their work session Thursday.

LD 1209 An Act To Establish Municipal Cost Components for Unorganized Territory Services To Be Rendered in Fiscal Year 2021-22. While state services were stable county services were variable and require input from taxpayers at the local budget level. Voted ought to pass as amended, but amendment is not available yet.

LD 1524 An Act To Amend the Maine Exclusion Amount in the Estate Tax, this bill returns the exclusion amount, below which the Maine estate tax does not apply, to $2,000,000 from the $5,600,000 and additional exclusion amount from the estate tax for family farms and aquaculture, fishing and wood harvesting businesses. MFPC opposes, we need to keep taxation rates stable. MFPC opposes.

Coming up May 17-21

Energy, Utilities and Technology

LD 1689 An Act To Ensure Equity in the Clean Energy Economy by Providing a Limited Tax Exemption for Certain Clean Energy Infrastructure Projects Hearing: May 18, 1 p.m.

Taxation

LD 1637 An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Provide Funds for Maine To Meet the State’s Carbon Reduction Goals by Supporting the Use of Biofuels, May 18,10 a.m. MFPC supports.

Appropriations and Financial Affairs

LD 1569 An Act Regarding an Excise Tax on Water Extracted for Commercial Bottling, May 18, 1 p.m. MFPC opposes.

State And Local Government Committee

LD 229 An Act To Increase Investment Caps in the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit Program, Work session, May 20, 9 a.m. MFPC supports.

Other news of interest

U.S. Geological Survey to measure natural magnetism and radiation with passive detectors in northern Maine

A contractor for the USGS will be flying low-altitude flights over northern Maine beginning later this month and extending possibly through August. The low-level airplane survey will take place within the polygon on the map above, which covers several counties in northern Maine.This is a geophysical survey which will measure natural magnetism and radiation with passive detectors. It’s goal is to provide us much better information on the geologic framework of this mostly remote region: Read USGS press release here.

The last time such a survey was done was 60 years ago. The improvement in technology is akin to the difference between a crank phone and an iPhone 12!

I’m happy to discuss this survey with you anytime.

Robert G. Marvinney, Ph.D.
State Geologist, Maine Geological Survey
robert.g.marvinney@maine.gov, 207-287-2804

JOBS: The Forest Entomology Lab at the University of Maine invites applications:

Spruce Budworm Processing Lab Manager – Maine has implemented a statewide spruce budworm monitoring program to assess populations as the current outbreak approaches the state. The successful candidate will be responsible for processing spruce/fir branches from over 300 sites in Maine to determine budworm population densities, and work with landowners, agencies, and researchers to evaluate management options.

Ph.D. Assistantship – The Forest Entomology Lab at the University of Maine has a fully-funded Ph.D opportunity working on the ecology and management of browntail moth. In particular, research will investigate the use of sex pheromones for both developing a monitoring program and as a potential mating disruption tool.

Contact: Allison Kanoti, State Entomologist, Maine Forest Service, Forest Health and Monitoring, DACF | 87 Airport Road | Old Town, ME 04468 |(207) 827-1813, allison.m.kanoti@maine.gov,
maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/index.htm

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About MFPC

Since 1961, the Maine Forest Products Council has been the voice of Maine’s forest economy. MFPC’s members are landowners, loggers, truckers, paper mills, tree farmers, foresters, lumber processors and the owners of more than 8 million acres of commercial forestland, but they are also bankers, lawyers and insurance executives. The Council represents members at the Maine Legislature throughout the state, in Washington D.C. and the U.S.

Patrick Strauch, Executive Director
Pat Sirois, SFI Coordinator
Roberta Scruggs, Communications Director
Sue McCarthy, Office Manager
207-622-9288, www.maineforest.org.