Under The Dome: Inside The Maine State House 1-3-14

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.

New Year Begins and Augusta Readies for Legislative Session

With most of the State focused on surviving the holidays and the unrelenting winter elements, the last two weeks were fairly quiet in terms of political and policy developments. The New Year did start with a spate of predictions for 2014, with pundits trying to outdo each other in terms of the boldness of their prognostications. Regardless the predictions, 2014 should make for an interesting election year at the federal and state levels here in Maine.

With the holidays now behind us, all the chores that were pushed off during the last few weeks are coming back with a vengeance. Of course, central to a lot of this work is the fact that the Second Regular Session of the 126th Legislature will convene on January 8th. Study groups and task forces are finalizing reports and submitting them to various committees, new bills are being printed, and committees are already noticing work sessions on carry over bills and public hearings on new bills. Legislators and the Governor are all squeezing in one last fundraiser before the session begins.

This year’s session will likely start at a frantic pace. Legislative leaders have tasked all committees with reporting out the over 200 carry over bills from last year before the end of January. From there, committees will begin working on new legislation introduced this session.

Several comprehensive study reports on various human services and economic development programs are anticipated or have been recently submitted to legislative committees to inform policy debates and decisions on these matters. These studies include an overview by the Department of Economic and Community Development of all economic development incentives in Maine, the recommendations of Tax Expenditures Task Force, a task force's recommendations for transitioning the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program into the Business Equipment Tax Exemption program, and study conducted for the Department of Health and Human Services recommending reform of the State's welfare system and possible changes to MaineCare benefits, with implications for the debate regarding Medicaid expansion that will unfold this year.

These demands will make for a busy couple of months at the committee level before things heat up on the floors of the House and Senate. This short session is statutorily slated to adjourn on or before April 16, 2014. Given the activity expected during this upcoming session, Under the Dome will be published on a weekly basis from now until the end of the legislative session.

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