Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 11.2.2012

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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.

Election Day Next Week

Next Tuesday, the 6th, is Election Day, which marks the end of a campaign season filled with negative ads.  While this edition of Under the Dome does not have any predictions, we will provide some analysis post-election.  With one-third of the members of the House and one-third of the members of the Senate not seeking re-election, no matter the results next week, the Maine Legislature is in for some big changes next year.

Prescription Drug Task Force Continues Its Work

Attorney General Schneider’s Prescription Drug Task Force continues to meet to examine issues surrounding drug diversion and disposal.  The Task Force meets again on November 5th from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Room 208 of the Cross Office Building.  The Task Force will receive a briefing on pharmacy robberies from the Director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and will consider draft legislation for the 126th Legislature that would be advanced by the Attorney General.  This is the Task Force’s last meeting this year.

Efficiency Maine Trust Finalizing Its Triennial Plan

Under Maine law, the Efficiency Maine Trust must approve a triennial plan, from which programmatic and spending decisions are based during the duration of the plan.  Trust staff have been preparing this plan all summer, engaging in a large stakeholder process.  The plan is now before the Trust Board, which largely approved the plan during its last meeting.  The Board, however, will meet again on November 7th at 1:00 p.m. at the Governor Hill Mansion to give the plan final approval.  

Decision on MaineCare Cuts Delayed

This year, the Legislature enacted legislation that would limit MaineCare eligibility for roughly 33,000 Mainers.  This budget-related measure may, however, conflict with the Affordable Care Act.  The State requested an expedited approval of State Plan Amendment that would implement these cuts from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”).  CMS responded to the request by stating that it would take the entire time period it is given under statute to review the request.  This week, CMS asked some clarifying questions regarding the State Plan Amendment, giving CMS another 90 days in which to make its decision.  Governor LePage has characterized CMS’s request for clarification as a stalling tactic.  This delay has fiscal implications for the State, as the State budget assumed that these reductions would be in place on October 1st.  A delay in implementation means that each day the State is spending more than anticipated, leading to a budget imbalance that will have to be addressed in a supplemental budget early next year. 

Decision Deadline for Health Insurance Exchange Draws Near

The federal Affordable Care Act established a deadline of November 16th for states to decide whether they intend to run their own health insurance exchange or, rather, rely on a federally imposed model.  While the no official decision has been made in Maine, it is assumed that Maine will opt for a federal exchange.  Those who follow this issue closely assume that a federal model is likely because the State has done little to prepare for a state-designed exchange.

Maine Revenue Service Report on Tax Expenditures Released

Last week, a statutorily required report on tax expenditures received some press attention.  Maine Revenue Services is required to report on revenue foregone due to the Jobs and Investment Tax Credit, the Research Expense Tax Credit, the Seed Capital Investment Tax Credit, the Shipbuilding Facility Credit, the Credit for Pollution-Reducing Boilers, and funds spent on the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement Program.  This report was criticized by some lawmakers as not providing enough information regarding the number of jobs created or saved by these tax expenditures.  Maine Revenue Services countered, however, that that was not their instruction under Maine law.  Regardless of this debate, the budget picture for the next biennium will likely be challenging, meaning repealing these tax expenditures could serve as a source for additional revenue to fill budget holes.