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.