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.
Appropriations Committee Continues to Hear Biennial Budget
The Appropriations Committee wrapped up its third week of hearings on the Governor’s biennial budget proposal on Friday. This week, the Committee spent Monday in Brewer to hold a field hearing on the budget, an unusual move for the Appropriations Committee. The Committee has one more week of public hearings scheduled before the Committee will begin working the budget as a Committee. Committees of jurisdiction have been meeting to formulate recommendations on budget issues falling under their purview. These Committees will report their findings to the Appropriations Committee to inform its deliberations on the budget.
Governor Turns Pension Debate into Call for Action on Hospital Repayment Plan (Ya Mon!)
This week, the State and Local Government Committee considered a bill to provide pensions only to Governors who serve two full terms. This bill, which was a topic of conversation in Augusta, is seen as a partisan swipe at Governor LePage. Governor LePage, who is vacationing in Jamaica, used this bill as a foil to call for action on his proposal to repay the State’s debt owed to hospitals. On Wednesday evening, a tweet from the Governor’s Twitter account read: “News Flash from Jamaica: If Democrats have my hospital bill on my desk by Saturday, I will give up my pension. Ya Mon!”
Legislature Moves Quickly on Bill to Raise Minimum Wage
On March 14th, the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee held a public hearing on LD 611, An Act to Adjust Maine’s Minimum Wage Annually Based on Cost-of-living Changes. This bill was then worked in Committee last week and amended to raise the minimum wage by 50 cents per hour for the next three years, to bring the wage to $9.00 per hour. This amendment would also adjust Maine’s minimum wage for inflation annually, beginning in 2017. The Committee voted for this amended bill along party lines, with Democrats supporting the bill and Republicans opposing the proposal. This bill was quickly reported out of Committee and, this week, received preliminary votes on the House floor, where, again, support was divided along party lines. This proposal is now headed to the Senate for preliminary consideration in that chamber.
Bill Regulating Tanning Subject of Partisan Divide
A bill to prohibit tanning facilities from providing services to individuals under the age of 18 was the subject of a partisan debate in the House this week. LD 272, An Act to Reduce Youth Cancer Risk, was reported out of Committee on Health and Human Services on March 13th. When this bill was considered in the House this week, Republicans advocated for the defeat of this bill. Democrats in the House spoke to the risks associated with tanning on the House floor, while Republicans countered this was unnecessary regulation and used this bill to argue that Democrats’ legislative priorities should be realigned to address more serious issues. The bill survived a preliminary vote in the House, a vote that broke down along party lines.