Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 8.10.12

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Augusta, ME

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. If you would like more specific information regarding an item in this newsletter or related to government relations, please contact a member of our Government Relations Practice Group: John Delahanty, Andrea C. Maker, or Avery Day.

Commissioner of Labor Resigns, Governor Nominates Replacement

This week, the Governor’s Office announced that the Commissioner of the Department of Labor, Robert Winglass, will retire as soon as his replacement is confirmed by the Legislature. Commissioner Winglass, 76 years old, took his current position with the understanding that he would serve only one or two years. In that same announcement, the Governor’s Office stated that the Governor plans to nominate Commissioner Winglass’ Deputy, Jeanne Paquette, as the next Commissioner of Labor. Deputy Commissioner Paquette is well known in Maine’s HR and employment community, having worked extensively in this area before becoming Deputy Commissioner in July of 2011.

This cabinet-level appointment requires Legislative confirmation. This nomination will first be reviewed by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee before going to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. The Legislature is expected to hold a confirmation session on September 6th, to consider this and other gubernatorial nominations.

New Land Use Commission Executive Director Appointed

This year, after two legislative session’s worth of deliberation, the Legislature enacted a number of changes to the Land Use Regulation Commission, which oversees land use for over 10 million acres of unorganized land in Maine. These statutory changes are set to take effect at the end of this month and the Executive Branch is preparing for the transition of the Land Use Regulation Commission to the Land Use Planning Commission. As part of this preparation, Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley nominated Nicholas Livesay to become the Executive Director of this Commission. This nomination was unanimously approved last week by the current membership of the Land Use Regulation Commission. Nick will assume his new role as Executive Director on August 20th, leaving his environmental and land use legal practice at Pierce Atwood LLP, where he has worked since 2004.

State Files Request with Feds in Order to Implement Medicaid Reductions

Last week, the State filed a request with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to amend Maine’s Medicaid State Plan. The amendment would reduce Medicaid coverage in Maine, affecting up to 36,000 Mainers now receiving benefits. These reductions would account for almost $20 million in budget savings that were enacted by the Legislature this year to balance the State’s current budget.

Should these cuts be approved, Maine would still provide Medicaid coverage at levels above minimums set by the federal government. The request, however, is in question because part of the federal Affordable Care Act prohibits states from cutting existing Medicaid services. The State has asked that this request be considered quickly, as cuts are expected to be implemented by October 1st in order to balance the State budget. Given the legal uncertainty and the Constitutional requirement of the State having a balanced budget, this will be a closely watched issue that, depending on the Centers’ decision, could easily spill over into the courts.