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.