Legislative Update - February 24, 2011
The Governor has named almost all of the members of his cabinet. Last week, Stephen Bowen was officially named as Governor LePage's nominee for Commissioner of the Department of Education. Word of this nomination got out early, as the state Board of Education must vet this nominee.
The Governor's pick for Commissioner of the Department of Labor, Cheryl Russell, unexpectedly has withdrawn her name from consideration. The announcement came on February 17, 2011. She cited business matters that require her attention as the reason why she cannot serve in the Governor's cabinet.
On February 15, 2011, Joseph Ponte was confirmed by a vote of 34 - 0 in the Senate as Maine's next Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. Governor LePage's nominee for Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Chandler Woodcock, has his confirmation hearing scheduled for February 23, 2011.
At this point, the Governor has yet to name his nominee for Commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Additionally, the Governor must name another nominee for Commissioner of the Department of Labor.
GOVERNOR'S BIENNIAL BUDGET PROPOSAL IN DETAIL
As reported last week, the Governor released his Biennial Budget proposal on February 11, 2011. There are a number high-level initiatives that were discussed last week. The following is a more detailed analysis of areas of concern:
LEGISLATURE OUT OF SESSION THIS WEEK
The Senate and the House have both adjourned until Tuesday, March 1, 2011. This week, Committees met, but only from February 23rd through the 25th.
JUDICIARY COMMITTEE PUBLIC HEARINGS
The Judiciary Committee held five public hearings on February 15, 2011. Bills discussed addressed civil process on Sunday (LD 95); mandatory mediation of divorce actions (LD 165); the duration of powers of attorney for minors and incapacitated persons (LD 170) and child support enforcement (LD 115 and 202).
These bills were, largely, uncontroversial and drew support from those who testified. LD 115, An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Child Support Enforcement, did draw some opposition from creditors, specifically the Maine Credit Union League and the Maine Bankers Association. The Maine Municipal Association also expressed concerns, as this bill exempts assets necessary to pay child support from attachment and execution and gives child support orders priority over other creditors. All five of these bills have been scheduled for work session on March 10, 2011.
The State and Local Government Committee held its work session on LD 86 on February 16, 2011. This bill provides that municipalities cannot retroactively repeal or amend municipal land use permits by amending local ordinances after final project approval. The original language of LD 86 was the same as legislation on retroactivity that passed both houses of the Legislature several years ago, but was not signed into law. After debate, the Committee voted unanimously "ought to pass, as amended." The Committee amendment amended the bill to shorten the timeframe in which a municipality can retroactively repeal or amend its ordinances so as to amend or nullify a final project approval from 75 days in the original bill to 45 days.
LANDOWNER ACCESS ACROSS RAILROAD TRACKS
The Transportation Committee held its work session on LD 102 on February 17, 2011. This bill is a concept draft proposing to provide a landowner with property bisected by a railroad with access to that entire property at a low cost. At public hearing, the sponsor announced that he was no longer interested in pursuing this bill, as the constituents that brought the issue to him no longer had access issues. Other representatives expressed an interest in keeping this bill alive. These other representatives, however, did not appear at work session and the Transportation Committee voted unanimously to report this bill out as "ought not to pass," effectively killing this legislation.
SEWER DISTRICT COLLECTION PROCEDURES
The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee held its work session on LD 84 on February 17, 2011. This bill would provide sewer districts with the same lien authority granted to sanitary districts. This bill was amended slightly in work session to reflect the fact that some sewer districts do have lien authority in their charters, while others have no lien authority at all. The Committee voted unanimously to report this bill out as "ought to pass, as amended."
It was a relatively quite week in Augusta with Monday being a holiday and Tuesday being a state shutdown day. The Senate and House were not in session, though a handful of committees met this week.
The pace of the Legislature is sure to pick up in the coming weeks. There is a little less than 16 weeks left until the statutory adjournment date of June 15, 2011. Beginning the week of March 14, 2011, the Senate and House will start holding session three days each week.
As you may recall, the Governor recently released a list of over sixty regulatory reform proposals, largely focused on environmental regulations, which were part of his regulatory reform efforts. The Governor's staff fleshed out these proposals on February 14, 2011 by providing legislative language to the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform. This legislative language can be found at:
This language would implement roughly 20 regulatory reforms that are viewed to be less controversial than some of the other proposals included on the Governor's initial list of reforms. Proposals include requiring agencies to prepare a jobs impact analysis during rulemaking, elimination of the BEP and conforming Maine's statute of limitations for environmental violations with the federal statute of limitations.
One message that was clear from the release of this language: there is currently no defined process for executive and legislative regulatory reform efforts. Reforms may come in LD 1, an omnibus reform bill, or through stand-alone legislation. The Governor's office intends to propose additional reforms in other issue areas, such as labor reforms. It is unclear, however, if these proposals will be included in LD 1 or introduced on their own. Further, it is unclear which legislative committees will review these proposals.
Procedures regarding regulatory reform efforts at the Legislature are becoming clearer. The Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform met on February 24, 2011 to discuss the all of the proposals and ideas that have been submitted to the Committee through the public hearing process. The Committee then decided which issues it would address and which issues it would send to the committees of jurisdiction.
The broad contours of LD 1 are beginning to take shape, though the issues that the Regulatory Fairness and Reform Committee ultimately addresses are subject to change. Those proposals that will receive further attention from this Committee are:
to the DEP
Obviously, the Regulatory Fairness and Reform Committee has a very long agenda. There are, however, a number of proposals that were sent to committees of jurisdiction, with most being sent to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Many proposals referred out to the various committees are already are being addressed through other bills.
LD 355 (apply TILA in Maine) - public hearing is March 1, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 220 of the Cross Office Building.
LD 401 (enhance penalties to protect senior investors) - public hearing is March 1, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 220 of the Cross Office Building.
LD 145 (original documents in foreclosure) - public hearing is March 1, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 438 of the State House.
LD 335 (mechanics liens for foresters, soil scientists and geologists) - public hearing is March 1, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 438 of the State House.
LD 373 (post-judgment DNA analysis appeals) - public hearing is March 1, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 438 of the State House.
LD 380 (enforcement of civil orders of arrest) - public hearing is March 1, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 438 of the State House.
LD 317 (traffic fines) - public hearing is March 1, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 438 of the State House.
LD 258 (vital records) - public hearing is March 2, 2011 at 10 a.m. in Room 209 of the Cross Office Building. Work session is March 3, 2011 at 2:30 p.m. in Room 209 of the Cross Office Building.
LD 388 (vital records/death certificate for PR) - public hearing is March 2, 2011 at 10 a.m. in Room 209 of the Cross Office Building. Work session is March 3, 2011 at 2:30 p.m. in Room 209 of the Cross Office Building.
LD 313 (3rd party notice on insurance cancelations) - public hearing is March 2, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 220 of the Cross Office Building.
LD 318 (higher education costs in divorce proceedings) - public hearing is March 3, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 438 of the State House.
LD 374 (calculation of child support) - public hearing is March 3, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 438 of the State House.
LD 237 (LLC members names public) - public hearing is March 3, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 438 of the State House.
LD 281 (5-year statute of limitations for environmental violations) - public hearing is March 3, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 438 of the State House.
LD 140 (net operating loss carry-forwards) - public hearing is March 3, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 127 of the State House.
An updated legislative database is linked to this weekly report for your information. It contains any newly introduced bills we have identified of interest to the MSBA, along with updated status listings of previously introduced bills. Those items highlighted in red indicate new changes since the last database was sent to you.
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Legislative Update - February 24, 2011