Legislative Update - April 8, 2011 BUDGET BILLS LEGISLATIVE DATABASE
Substantive legislation has been winding its way through the Legislature. At the same time, the 125th Legislature has had its share of budget bills. The Governor presented the Legislature with his first supplemental budget request for the current fiscal year on January 18, 2011. This bill was disposed of quickly and signed into law on February 8, 2011. The Governor presented a second supplemental budget request to the Legislature on March 28, 2011. This bill, which primarily provides funding to the Department of Health and Human Services, was voted out of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on April 7, 2011, and will likely be enacted quickly. These supplemental bills were introduced because of unexpected increases in State spending and are designed to keep State departments operating until the end of the current budget cycle.
At the same time, the entire Legislature has been working on the budget for the next two fiscal years. This proposal was presented to the Legislature on February 10, 2011. Public hearings on this proposal have been held and the committees of jurisdiction have, largely, provided the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee with their input on the biennial budget. This spending plan will now be worked in the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.
This bill is much more sweeping in scope and will involve a significant amount of debate. Negotiations over the biennial budget will occupy a lot of time and have the potential to affect the progress of substantive legislation.
DURATION OF PERMITS
On April 5, 2011, the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee held a work session on LD 862, which would direct DEP to amend the rules under NRPA, Site Law and the Storm Water Management Law to provide that projects must be commenced within five years and completed within ten years of issuance. The current standard condition for these types of permits is commencement within two years and completion within five years. The development community supported this bill at public hearing. The Committee voted unanimously to report this bill out as “ought to pass as amended.” The Committee was uncomfortable with the ten-year timeframe and reduced proposed limits to commencement within four years and completion within seven, a significant improvement over the current standard condition for these permits.
ENVIRONMENTAL STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
On April 5, 2011, the Judiciary Committee reconsidered its vote on LD 281, which, as amended, proposed creating a six-year statute of limitations for environmental violations. This statute would begin to run upon discovery of a violation. The Committee had previously voted on this bill and was divided, with a majority voting to report this bill out as “ought not to pass.” This vote was reconsidered on April 5, 2011, but the result remained the same – a majority of the Committee voted “ought not to pass.”
UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE BILLS
As reported previously, there were two bills considered by the Judiciary Committee that propose expanding upon the statutory exemptions allowed for the unauthorized practice of law. LD 325 proposes to allow non-attorney “advocates” to represent parents and students in special education due process hearings. LD 551 proposes to allow members, managers and employees of an LLC to represent that LLC in an FED action. The Maine State Bar Association testified in opposition to both of these bills at public hearing. On April 5, 2011, the Judiciary Committee held work session on both of these bills. The Committee voted unanimously to report out LD 551 as “ought not to pass,” effectively killing this bill. LD 325 will was tabled but will likely be turned into a resolve calling for a stakeholder group to meet to try to come to some consensus on the issue of representation in special education due process hearings. The Maine State Bar Association has been invited to take part in these discussions.
ACCESS TO DHHS CHILD PROTECTIVE RECORDS
On April 7, 2011, the Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on LD 1193, which proposes to limit access to DHHS child protective records. As introduced, this bill would require counsel to establish that these records are both material and favorable to counsel’s case before a court could grant access to these records. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Willette, spoke in favor of this bill and explained that District Attorney Todd Collins had brought this issue to his attention. District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau also testified in support of this bill.
The Maine State Bar Association, the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Maine Trial Lawyers Association and the Maine Civil Liberties Union all testified against this bill and the standard that it proposes to create. A work session on this bill has been scheduled for April 14, 2011.
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 made available.
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Legislative Update - April 8, 2011