Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House is a weekly update that 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.
Spring-Like Weather Brings Slight Thaw to Governor’s Veto Threat
Governor LePage recently announced that he would veto all legislation sent to his desk until a plan to repay the State’s debt to Maine hospitals was enacted. This week, there was some movement on this issue. On the 11th, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee held a public hearing on the Governor’s plan to rebid the State’s liquor contract and use revenues from that enterprise to pay the hospital debt. The Committee also heard a competing Democratic proposal. Just before the hearing, Democrats in the Legislature agreed that these two issues should be tied together. Of note that day, the Governor himself delivered testimony on his proposal, an unusual occurrence at the State House.
Throughout the week, progress was made as the Governor and legislative Democrats appeared to be inching closer and closer to an agreement on this issue and the first sign of a slight thaw in Augusta appeared on the 14th. That day, the Legislature enacted a bill that would allow bars to open at 6:00 am on a Sunday (as opposed to 9:00 am), if St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday. Obviously, for this bill to have any effect, it must become law before the 17th. The Governor indicated that he would indeed sign this bill in time for St. Patrick’s Day. This small step may help pave the way to an agreement on paying Maine’s hospital debt.
Appropriations Wraps First Week of Budget Hearings
The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee held its first week of hearings on the biennial budget this week. The Committee endured a number of long days of public testimony. The 13th was a particularly long day for the Committee, as members heard testimony regarding the Governor’s proposed cuts to municipal revenue sharing. This is, perhaps, the most controversial part of the Governor’s budget proposal and a number of representatives of various municipalities were in attendance to discuss the impact of this proposal on their town. That same afternoon, the Committee also heard from a number of businesses regarding proposed changes in the popular Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program, also known as BETR. The Appropriations Committee has scheduled hearings through all of next week and will have to hold additional hearings after next week.
Workforce Development Committee Draft Bill Available
The Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future is continuing its work on putting a package of reforms together. The Committee released a draft bill this week, which can be found here. The Committee will hold a public hearing on this draft bill and three other bills on Monday, March 18th at 9:00 am in room 211 of the Cross State Office Building. The Committee has also scheduled another regional meeting, this time at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast on March 25th at 1:00 pm. The Committee with hear from regional representatives about strengthening downtowns and will take public comments after the panel presentation is over.