Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 3.23.12

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Augusta, ME

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.

This Week’s Highlights

Maine State Housing Authority Director Resigns

On March 20, 2012, the Director of the Maine State Housing Authority, Dale McCormick, submitted her letter of resignation.  In her resignation letter, Director McCormick explained that political attacks and the recent controversy surrounding the Authority has hindered the work of the Authority.  Director McCormick’s decision to resign came as LD 1778, a bill authorizing the Authority’s Board to fire the Director, is making its way through the legislative process.  The Governor’s Office is now searching for a nominee to replace Director McCormick.

Two Supplemental Budgets Remain

This week, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee along with the various policy committees of jurisdiction held public hearings on the Governor’s agency-wide supplemental budget proposal.  With these hearings over, the committees of jurisdiction will make recommendations to the Appropriations Committee, which will then assemble the final budget document.  This budget proposal has plenty of controversial elements and could be one of the biggest impediments to the Legislature adjourning by the target deadline of early April. In addition, the Appropriations Committee still needs to receive and consider another budget to close budget shortfalls projected in the next fiscal year at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

There is some speculation that instead of adjournment, the Legislature will recess to give the Appropriations Committee time to work on the supplemental budgets and that the Legislature will come back at a later date to vote on the final bills.  Some legislative leaders have said that this tactic will not be necessary.  At this point, it is unclear how the end of the session will play out and how all of the work remaining on the agenda will wrap up. 

Department of Health and Human Services Computer Error Issue Takes on Partisan Tone

In recent weeks, Commissioner Mary Mayhew has briefed legislators on the discovery of a computer error in the Department of Health and Human Services’ system that may have resulted in people ineligible for MaineCare receiving program benefits.  An evaluation of the extent of this problem is currently underway.  This week, the issue took on partisan tones when a Democrat legislator requested that the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability perform an audit of the Department.  This request was tabled by Republican legislative leaders, who have characterized this request as a “media stunt.”  Democrats have argued that an independent audit is necessary.