By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
We went into this legislative session knowing we would have to defend the policy advances we obtained in the 125th legislature. Overall I think we did OK with some losses in labor regulations (workers compensation).
Wednesday was the first veto day at this legislative session — a last chance to clean up pending bills, especially those that the governor has rejected. The override of the budget was the big news, but intertwined are a few loose ends that we are watching. And by the way, there’s one more veto day on July 9, so we decided to hold off on compiling the big legislative wrap-up. (NOTE: There will not be a weekly newsletter next Friday, because Patrick and Roberta will be on vacation.)
LD 1302, the mining bill, died between the House and Senate in non-concurrence. This maneuver, orchestrated by Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) defeated the changes proposed in statute and will allow the rule-making process to move forward without additional changes. Stay tuned for the draft rules which may be available by the new year.
LD 1103, attaching bonded labor presence on a landowners operation with the loss of Tree Growth status, was amended in the Senate to include a state mandate clause, due to the complications a municipality will face in administering this law. With the mandate, two-thirds of the House and Senate would need to vote in favor of the provision, which is unlikely. An anticipated veto of this bill may not be needed.
The governor’s veto of the energy omnibus bill that was overridden in an approved amendment that included creating the opportunity for the University of Maine to submit a bid for offshore wind project. While the bill emphasized the need to lower energy costs as a matter of state policy, many of our mill members will benefit from the ability of the state to be involved in gas pipeline infrastructure establishment. Tony Buxton from Industrial Energy Consumers Group was there until the last hour ensuring passage of the bill.
A last-minutes series of Bureau of Pesticide Control bills were introduced as part of the legislative review of major substantive rule changes. The ACF Committee deliberated about how to deal with such a last-minute hearing and elected to carry these rules over into next session. In general, they will allow towns to conduct mosquito control spraying in the event of a human health emergency declared by the Centers for Disease Control.
I think Rep. Craig Hickman, (D-Winthrop) and Rep. Brian Jones (D-Freedom) were concerned about the precedent of the provisional rules being in effect until they can be verified by the Legislature next year. These rules would wave landowner notifications requirements in the event of such an emergency, and this concept is of concern to their constituents.
I’ll be working with Bob Wagner, director of the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources, and Maine State Forester Doug Denico this summer to formulate a budworm management program, so I’m always watching over BPC rulings and the effect they may have on our own emergency pest control efforts.
I’m going to go fishing next week and when I get back I’ll elaborate on the results of the session in the July newsletter. I’ll also keep you posted on the working group examining arming the forest rangers and Roberta will be working on a presentation of our recent forest industry economic analysis. We’ll also be looking for membership help as we plan several legislative tours in the fall.
It’s still possible that mischief might occur on the remaining veto day, but in advance I thank all the members who contributed to this session and helped make it a success.
Every other week the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) does a segment on WAGM called Advancing Aroostook. Jon Gulliver, Director of Investor and Community Relations APP/NMDC, says it’s “just a short 50 seconds on different aspects of economic development or business success stories. In the past we have focused on the growth of the biomass industry in the region, “Education to Industry” initiatives and provided an overview of jobs projections for Aroostook County.”
If some of the photos look familiar, it’s because they were shot on the tour Patrick Strauch, Mark Doty, Roberta Scruggs and LUPC’s Nick Livesay took of the north Maine woods last fall.
Sarah Medina of Seven Islands, who has been keeping MFPC informed about Aroostook’s community guided planning effort forwarded the email below, sent Wednesday by Jay Kamm, senior planner for the Northern Maine Development Commission.
Kamm wrote: “I am pleased to provide you with a copy of the process document developed for the Aroostook County Community Guided Planning and Zoning Project. This process document was unanimously approved by NMDC’s Executive Board of Directors during their June 13, 2013 meeting.
NMDC is now requesting that the document be brought to the LUPC for its review and approval at the July meeting. We believe that this document meets the needs of the region and reflects the basic principles of the LUPC. NMDC looks forward to working with the steering committee and the LUPC on this project.
We would like to thank Alison Truesdale and Frank O’Hara for all of their work to develop the document and facilitate the first three meetings. The process went very smoothly thanks to their expertise.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding this document.” Sarah added that it’s anticipated that the planning committee will be formed in August. Information will be posted at the LUPC website throughout the process.
By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
There were some late nights this week and frayed emotions as the legislature adjourned on Thursday around 2 a.m.
LD 443, a bill to roll back workers compensation changes cleared the House, 81-56, and Senate, 18-16 this week, even though the bill could add tens of millions of dollars to the comp premiums of Maine employers. The bill was sent to the special appropriations table. According to the bill’s fiscal note unofficial estimates indicate the potential increase in premiums across all insured employers to be between $6.4 million and $27.2 million.
The bill, which we strongly opposed along with from the Maine State Chamber and other businesses, would remove a 10-year cap on workers’ compensation benefits for people determined to be “partially incapacitated” and would also change the definition of that designation.
The Maine State Chamber reported in its newsletter that the bill’s passage would result in “dramatically higher costs for Maine businesses.”
It is discouraging to see lines drawn between the parties on such an important issue. Policy pendulums swinging back and forth disadvantage Maine, we need to provide a better vision of how Maine can achieve better prosperity in the natural resource industries (my summer project!) and provide concrete examples of policies that hinder our progress.
- We monitored the efforts by Irving and Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and applauded the defeat of the mining bill, LD 1527, (again the chamber write-up is good). That keeps the opportunity to further examine the possibility of mining in Maine viable. There is no doubt that there will be further debates and information gathering that will inform policy during the rule-making phase of the mining rules. I think the concepts of taking responsibility for the metals Maine uses to establish their standard of life, and the need to leave no stone unturned (pardon the pun) in finding environmentally safe economic opportunities for people in rural Maine have trumped the naysayer approach used by the “environmental community.”
- We are monitoring the ACF merger bill sitting on the appropriations funding table, and anticipate no obstacles to its passage.
- LD 1103, the bonded labor bill, will be sent to the governor’s desk for an anticipated veto. The use of Tree Growth Tax penalties for contractors using legal Canadian labor on a property is clearly wrong, but the issue has become a partisan football. Clearly we have more work to do to help Democrats understand the importance of keeping the Tree Growth program stable and free from the constant threat of revision.
- We were surprised by the governor’s veto of the omnibus energy bill that I think has many important components for our industry. We will keep you posed as this discussion unfolds.
- LD 616, the wind power zoning and moratorium bill was referred back to Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, where it will likely be carried over into the next session.
We will keep you posted as the legislature reconvenes next week to deal with vetoes and the budget. Please contact me at email@example.com or 207-622-9288, if you have and questions.
Maine has had plenty of rain recently, but as of May 20, 664 acres already had burned across the state, more than in all of 2012, according to Chief Ranger Bill Hamilton of the Maine Forest Service. Fires caused by arson accounted for 38 percent of all the acres burned. Below is the number of fires and acres burned for the past decade. The spike in 2006 is due to an 860-acre fire Down East, according to Chief Hamilton.
By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
This week continued to be the typical roller coaster of legislative activity. After bills are completed in committee, then proceed to the House and Senate, but the timing of the floor debate depends on the whether the parties have caucused on the bill to attempt reaching a unified consensus or if the necessary votes are in position to ensure greater success. It is a time that drives me crazy, but our lobbyist Michele MacLean seems to thrive on the chaos of determining when a bill will reach the floor.
This week we went into triple sessions — morning, afternoon and night! — in order to deal with the backlog of work. The budget was center stage this week and it passed in the House and the Senate last night. The final votes, 102-43 in the House and 25-10 in the Senate, were just over the two-thirds majority needed to make the budget effective by July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. It remains to be seen if the governor will sign or veto the budget. He had 10 days (not including Sundays) to sign or veto it.
The Senate vote on the merger bill (LD 837) was reportedly linked to passage of the budget, so the merger was approved under the hammer (without debate) just before the budget bill was approved. The environmental community did not protest too loudly after the first House vote last week (93-49) convincingly demonstrated support of the merger.
LD 1103, the bonded labor bill, finally came up Wednesday night. This, of course, was an important issue to Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), and Democrats honored his desire to wield his might in pushing through a bill that is blatantly unconstitutional. However, I was impressed with the lone dissenting voice of Sen. John Cleveland (D-Androscoggin) who stood up and spoke against the measure.
“Cleveland did a fantastic job on the floor debating the bill,” Michele said. “He was very thoughtful in his approach. He clearly had spent an enormous amount of time researching this bill and the first version from the 124th Legislature. He opposed the bill because of its constitutional problems and felt compelled to speak about it on the floor.”
Cleveland’s commanding performance in chairing the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee has been equally impressive and I would encourage the membership to drop him a note and express thanks for his integrity and support. Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) was also strong in his opposition to the bill, and Sen. Richard Woodbury (I-Cumberland) stayed out of the party politics and voted against the measure based on facts. Never the less, the bill was passed with an 18-17 vote. In the House, there was only a brief debate and the bill was approved 87-57. But we have ensured a veto-proof vote and will petition Gov. Le Page to veto this bill.
LD 1302, the mining bill was approved in the House, but defeated in the Senate (as reported in last week’s newsletter). There have been rumblings of a compromise position being developed by Sen. Tom Saviello (D-Franklin) and Sen. James Boyle (D-Cumberland). We will wait to see if this compromise surfaces, but I believe the vote should stand and we will deal with modifications during the rule-making phase of the mining discussion next year.
Legislative leaders have indicated it is their intention to meet the statutory adjournment deadline of Wednesday, June 19. So the end of the session is in sight (and we’ll provide a wrap-up of all the legislation that affects MFPC members), but we can’t leave the State House until the last legislator goes home!
ReEnergy Holdings, an MFPC member and the owner of four biomass-to-energy facilities in Maine, announced June 13 that it has achieved certification to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) Standard, which verifies that its biomass procurement program promotes land stewardship and responsible forestry practices. ReEnergy is the first company solely devoted to electricity production to be certified to the SFI Standard.
“I believe we can achieve a balance – a balance between preservation of natural treasures and improvement of the Maine business climate in a manner that allows the private sector to create jobs. ReEnergy exemplifies the qualities of a company that is working to achieve that balance of promoting land stewardship and forestry practices,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “ReEnergy’s commitment to best management practices and a true working forest model is commendable, and demonstrates how working together we can all protect Maine’s valuable resources. I believe that one of the best ways to protect our natural assets is to assure we always have a strong and sustainable economic interest in the health and vitality of farmlands, forests, and coastline.”
SFI, Inc. is an independent, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving a sustainable forestry certification program that is internationally recognized and is the largest single forest standard in the world. The SFI Standard is based on principles and measures that promote sustainable forest management and consider all forest values. It includes unique fiber-sourcing requirements to promote responsible forest management on all forestlands in North America.
“We recognize the commitment and effort ReEnergy has made to procure fiber from responsible sources,” said Kathy Abusow, SFI president and CEO. “The SFI Standard promotes responsible forest management for all forest uses. Third-party certification to SFI Fiber Sourcing requirements promotes best management practices for water quality, logger training and prompt regeneration of the forest.”
ReEnergy earned the certification by meeting the fiber sourcing requirements of the SFI 2010-2014 Standard (Objectives 8-20). This includes an auditable procurement process to promote responsible forestry requiring that producers, among other things, support logger and forester training and encourage suppliers in North America to reforest harvested sites, protect threatened and endangered species, and strengthen best management practices to protect water quality.
“ReEnergy believes that sustainable, renewable energy production is essential to reducing the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels and is committed to creating renewable sources of electricity while respecting the environment,” said Larry Richardson, Chief Executive Officer of ReEnergy Holdings. “In securing SFI certification, ReEnergy has committed to broaden the practice of sustainable forestry with its suppliers and wood producers. Promoting sustainable forestry practices allows ReEnergy to meet the environmental and social needs of the present without compromising the needs and resources of future generations.”
To achieve the SFI Standard Principles, Objectives, Performance Measures and Indicators, ReEnergy developed and adopted programs to guide its wood fuel procurement activities. ReEnergy has committed to annually review the effectiveness of its SFI Policy, procedures, and systems and to continually improve its sustainable forestry program. This is an important element of the SFI program, as it fosters perpetual improvement and independent third-party audits to certify ongoing conformance.
ReEnergy’s policy is to locate its facilities in regions capable of supplying raw materials while simultaneously ensuring the long-term sustainability of the forests where those facilities are located. The company owns four biomass-to-energy facilities in Maine: ReEnergy Stratton (48 MW); ReEnergy Livermore Falls (39 MW); ReEnergy Fort Fairfield (37 MW) and ReEnergy Ashland (39 MW). These facilities create renewable, homegrown renewable energy for their local communities.
“It is truly exciting for these Maine biopower facilities to be recognized as first in the world to achieve such important certification,” said Sen. Thomas Saviello (R-Wilton), a forester and state Senator for the ReEnergy Stratton facility. “This reflects ReEnergy’s respect for the environment and its commitment to land stewardship and reforestation. I congratulate ReEnergy on this tremendous achievement.”
“ReEnergy is leading the industry in using sustainably harvested biomass. I commend the company for this significant advancement of clean energy.”
ReEnergy worked closely with the Maine Forest Products Council in seeking certification, and has become an active member of the Council’s SFI Implementation Committee. “As part of their commitment to SFI Certification, ReEnergy has committed to support the Maine SFI Implementation Committee, which is the coordinating entity for many of the education and outreach programs available for suppliers and landowners,” said Patrick Sirois, Director of the Maine Sustainable Forestry Initiative. “ReEnergy’s support and unique procurement network will provide yet another avenue to broaden the practices of sustainability, on the ground in Maine.”
How biomass-to-energy facilities work
When trees are harvested, the entire tree is not shipped to a sawmill or paper mill. Some parts of the tree, including branches and tops, are not suitable for the making of products. However, that residue is a valuable resource that — using state-of-the-art technology — can be converted to fuel to produce energy.
In biomass power plants, forest residues or other residue fuels are converted into steam that can be sold directly to nearby businesses, or is used to run a turbine to make electricity for use by industries and homes. Highly advanced combustion engineering and process controls minimize emissions from biomass fuel sources when compared with fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil.
About ReEnergy Holdings LLC
ReEnergy Holdings LLC, a portfolio company of Riverstone Holdings LLC, owns and operates facilities that use forest-derived woody biomass and other wood waste residues to produce homegrown, renewable energy. It also owns facilities that recycle construction and demolition debris. ReEnergy was formed in 2008 by affiliates of Riverstone Holdings LLC and a senior management/co-investor team comprised of experienced industry professionals. ReEnergy operates in six states, employs approximately 290 people – nearly 100 in Maine — and owns and/or operates nine energy production facilities with the combined capacity to generate 325 megawatts of renewable energy. To find out more, visit www.reenergyholdings.com.
After a week of serious lobbying by supporters and opponents, the Maine House approved the ACF merger bill, 93-49, Friday on first reading.
Executive Director Patrick Strauch called the last few days “a rollercoaster” for the “regular team,” including Tom Doak and Bill Williams of SWOAM, Jon Olson and Clark Granger of the Maine Farm Bureau, Bob Meyers of MSA, Kimberly Cook of the Wild Blueberry Commission and Michele MacLean, MFPC lobbyist. Members of the Natural Resources Network sent a letter to all legislators outlining why they support the merger.
“We’ve also had a significant amount of help from Tom Abello of the Nature Conservancy and Jeff Roman from Maine Coast Heritage Trust,” Strauch said.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill next week and Strauch urged MFPC members to contact their senators and urge them to support it.
“I think that’s really important, even though we had all three senators on the ACF Committee vote in favor of the bill,” Strauch said. “The Senate remains the last place where those opposed to it can work hard to turn around those legislators.”
The debate on LD 837 lasted 45 minutes, but about a third of that time was taken up by Rep. Peter Kent, (D-Woolwich), one of only two legislators to speak in opposition (along with Rep. Joan Welsh, D-Rockport). Kent also was one of the two ACF Committee members (along with Rep. Brian Jones) who voted against the bill. Kent argued Friday that the merger was too heavily weighted in favor of agriculture and that conservation concerns and efforts would suffer. He repeatedly asked that someone tell him how the merger would benefit conservation.
“This proposed new department is focused on agriculture,” Kent said. “At its core it’s about farming and the Department of Conservation — boosting agricultural programs and shifting programs in the merged department away from stewardship and preservation toward economic development potential.”
Rep. Kent represented the position of NRCM and Audubon, which was that the Department of Conservation should only be about their definition of conservation. Kent never mentioned forestry. We were happy that other legislators talked about the importance of a combined focus on land uses for agriculture, conservation and forestry and emphasized how conservation is reflected in all farming and forestry activities. Several ACF Committee members spoke in favor, including Rep. James F. Dill (D-Old Town), Chair, Rep. Craig V. Hickman (D-Winthrop), Rep. William F. Noon (D-Sanford), Rep. Dean Cray (R-Palmyra), Rep. Donald G. Marean (R-Hollis), Rep. Russell J. Black (R-Wilton) and Rep. Jeffrey L. Timberlake (R-Turner).
“We had plenty of support and it was remarkable to see Rep. McCabe and Rep. Fredette stand up and speak in favor of a bold new approach going forward,” Strauch said
In other legislative action,
- At around 5:30 a.m., the Appropriations Committee reported it had reached unanimous agreement on the $6.3 billion biennial state budget. To close the budget gap, the committee approved a .5 percent increase to the sales tax for two years and a 1 percent increase to the meals and lodging tax for two years. Read news story.
- LD 1559, the omnibus energy bill, won both Senate and House (131-7) approval on their first votes. “IECG MPPA and many other groups participated in the process,” Strauch said. “Concepts include a reduction in rates, which is important to all ratepayers in Maine. We’ve asked the question: Can government get involved in establishing natural gas infrastructure? And agreed to do that in this energy bill.” Read news story.
- In an 18-17 vote, the Senate rejected LD 1302, a bill that would have a rewritten a mining bill passed last session, which is still in the rule-making process. The House has passed the bill 91-49 Wednesday. The Senate’s vote makes it unlikely to pass, though it faces further action in the House. “That was a good vote and involved a lot of hard work by Sen. Tom Saviello, (R-Franklin) and Sen. Troy Jackson, (D-Aroostook) to push off any changes until we see a complete set of rules, which will come at us next year,” Strauch said. “That’s the process that we all agreed to last session and it’s the right way to go forward instead of creating so much uncertainty. I think that’s a great outcome. There has been some discussion about a conference committee discussing whether the issues could be resolved. But we’re not sure if that’s the path that we’ll be taking.” Please let senators know you’re against this bill – especially Sen. Edward Youngblood, R- Penobscot, and Sen. David Dutremble, D-York, who supported the bill. It was a tight margin and we need to hold the second vote in the Senate. We were very pleased that Sen. Emily Cain, D-Penobscot, voted no on LD 1302. Read news story.
- LD 1259, Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Portions of Chapter 17: Rules Regarding Proof of Ownership and Recruitment by Employers Employing Foreign Laborers To Operate Logging Equipment, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Labor, got an 86-56 approval vote Thursday, but that wasn’t the two-thirds majority required for failed to get the two-thirds vote required for emergency action. “So I Imagine the emergency clause will be stripped out and they’ll try to put it through the house again,” Strauch said.
By Gerry Lavigne
The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) and Central Maine Power (CMP) are collaborating to establish wildlife-friendly seed mixtures along a portion of CMP 300+ mile electrical transmission line right-of-ways in southern and central parts of the state. That project is in full swing, as CMP’s contractors will be using SAM’s Wildlife mix to re-establish vegetation along several experimental plots.
We would also like to offer this new mix to anyone interested in testing it and reporting their results back to SAM. This experiment would be great for contractors and loggers who need to re-establish herbaceous vegetation on disturbed sites like log landings, along logging roads, or on any site where ground cover is needed to prevent erosion. Hunters and wildlife enthusiasts may be interested in using SAM’s Wildlife mix to establish long-term (five to seven years) fall and spring food plots for deer, turkeys, bear, and other wildlife.
White-tailed deer are attracted to sites which offer nutritious grasses and clovers in fields and along openings during late fall, when woods forage is beginning to wane. These foods are important for deer as they lay up fat prior to winter. In early spring, these same grasses and clovers are among the first to green up, and they attract deer in large numbers wherever available. Early green vegetation of this kind allows winter-weakened deer to begin weight recovery just when bucks begin antler growth, and when pregnant does need extra nutrition to produce healthy fawns.
The type of grasses and clovers that attract deer at these critical times of the year are called cool season perennials. This class of plant typically puts on lush leafy nutritious growth in the cooler months of spring. As the heat of summer comes on, they form their seed heads, and become less nutritious for deer. However, the onset of cool autumn days sparks a resurgence of leafy growth, as these plants prepare for winter dormancy. Many of these varieties remain nutritious and green right into late fall. Some remain available under a blanket of early snow.
Here in the Northeast, cool-season herbaceous grasses and clovers form the bulk of the hay and pasture plants grown for cattle, horses and sheep. For our wildlife seed mix, we selected varieties that tend to make good pasture growth, are winter-hardy for Maine, and as a group, are adaptable to a wide variety of site conditions and fertility. In doing so, SAM consulted with agronomists from two seed companies, as well as veteran seed distributors right here in Maine.
All of the varieties we selected are perennials. There are no annual grasses or clovers. Nor are there any of the brassicas, peas, oats or other short-lived plants commonly used in temporary food plots. Once established, SAM’s Wildlife Mix should persist for several years with little maintenance.
There are a lot of Conservation Mixes on the market that are used by contractors, loggers and others who need to quickly establish vegetative cover. Many of these contain annuals, and all contain too little clover (typically 3%) to be optimal for wildlife. In addition, the grasses may not have been selected for their palatability.
SAM’s Wildlife Mix is comprised of 85 percent grasses, including Kentaur Perennial Ryegrass (27 percent of seed content), Laura Meadow Fescue (16 percent), Persius Festuolium (16 percent), Niva Orchardgrass (15 percent), and Balin Kentucky Bluegrass (11 percent). The remaining seed content is Clyclone II Red Clover (10 percent), and Regal Graze Ladino (white) clover (5 percent). Both clovers are inoculated to improve nitrogen fixation. Though more expensive to formulate, the higher clover content of our mix will improve grass growth, and wildlife nutrition.
Because SAM’s Wildlife Mix contains similar-sized , generally small seed, a little seed goes a long way. Hence, recommended seeding rates are lower than for mixes with seeds ranging from peas to brassicas. The agronomists recommend broadcast seeding this mix anytime from spring to early September at a rate of 40 pounds per acre. Hence, a 50-pound bag should cover 1.2 acres. A 10-pound bag should seed 1/5 acre or about 8,000 sq.ft. Seeding rates are a bit less, if seed is drilled instead of broadcast. Germination will be better if a loose, fine seedbed is established, and if the seed is covered lightly or pressed into the soil. SAM’s Wildlife Mix can also be frost seeded at slightly higher rates.
We are offering SAM’s Wildlife Mix at prices which are considerably less than those for typical food plot blends. In addition, contractors will find that our mix is comparable in price to standard Conservation Mixes due to lower application rates.
SAM has purchased a substantial quantity of this proprietary seed mix from Kings Agriseed Inc., located in Pennsylvania. It is for sale at our cost for $120/ 50 lb. bag. We can also accommodate smaller orders at $25/ 10 pounds. We cannot ship these orders. All orders must be picked up at SAM Headquarters in Augusta. To order, contact Office Manager Becky Morrell at (207) 622-5503 during regular business hours, or online at www.sportsmansallianceofmaine.org.
Gerry Lavigne serves on SAM’s Board of Directorsand leads SAM’s Deer Management Network initiative.
By Patrick Strauch, Executive Director
Legislative approval of the merger of the ACF department still hangs in the balance. It should be coming up shortly and I would ask all of the members to weigh in on this issue and support the change. As I work with my colleagues in Agriculture we find ourselves working against misinformation provided by environmental organizations that fear the synergies that would be created by a stronger natural resource department. But as we state in our upcoming letter to legislators, all the needs of Maine citizens are honored in the cabinet of the commissioner’s office. Please reach out to your representatives and senators to let them know you are in support of the merger. We will also send out an alert when the issue hits the floor of the legislature.
This week we have sent out alerts on two bonded labor bills, LD 1259 and LD 1103. LD 1259 will run in the House first and we support the minority report, which says the original rules accurately reflect what the 125th Legislature approved. Whereas amendment approved by the majority of the Labor Committee modifies the rules so they are in conflict with the statute. LD 1103 is a recycled bill from the 124th legislature that sought to penalize landowners who had contractors working on their land who elected to hire legal bonded labor. The penalty is loss of tree growth status and penalties on the forestry excise tax. If you recall the 124 legislature, even Gov. Baldacci refuse to sign the bill. We will keep you posted as this bill hits first in the Senate.
We will piggy-back on the leadership provided by the Maine State Chamber on the challenge to workers compensation reform accomplished in the 125th legislature. Keep a watch for this call to action as well. (See below).
- At the end of last week and into the weekend, council lobbyist Michele MacLean monitored activities of the Energy and Utilities Committee with help from Bill Ferdinand at Eaton Peabody. The omnibus energy bill was worked on and approved by the majority of the committee. Of key importance to mills is the ability for the state to financially support building natural gas pipeline capacity to reduce supply restrictions.
- Also discussed on Saturday were the series of wind power bills that seeking policy changes in the current regulations. LD 385 was voted out to pass after negotiations by the council on Bicknell thrush issues with assistance from the MFPC Wildlife Committee. LD 616 seeks to define a process for removing areas from the expedited wind energy zone that represent the interests for MFPC landowners as well as the citizens of the region. Other bills on our watch list were voted ONTP.
- LD 1468, An Act to Establish the High Efficiency Biomass Pellet Boiler Rebate Program, has a divided vote, but the majority report will involve funds generated by BPL wood sales to be used to finance the rebate program exclusively for pellet boilers in the first two years, but all efficient boilers thereafter. This is one of those bills we have monitored but not taken a position on because it became market specific and favored one wood market over another.
- Maine Chamber says: Oppose majority report to LD 443: As amended, LD 443, An Act to Amend the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act of 1992 To Provide Benefits to Seriously Injured Workers, represents a significant rollback, not only of the reforms passed in 2012, but of the reforms of 1992 as well, the Maine State Chamber reports. “Short version – estimated cost impact on comp rates of as much as $60 million. You read that correctly, $60 million,” said Peter Gore, the chamber’s vice president for advocacy and government relations. Read the chamber handout.