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
Governor LePage Veto Streak Continues
This week, the Legislature considered and sustained three of Governor LePage’s vetoes. On June 3rd, the House considered the Governor’s veto of LD 1201, a bill related to abusive work environments. This was voted in the House, where there was not the necessary two-thirds support for an override of the Governor’s veto, killing this bill. On June 6th, the Senate considered the Governor’s veto of LD 1366, a bill related to CPR instruction in schools. The House had earlier voted to override the Governor’s veto, but there were not sufficient votes for an override in the Senate, killing this bill. The next veto was also considered on June 6th in the Senate. This was a veto of LD 1025, a bill related to the Governor’s oversight of pay for certain employees of the Attorney General. Again, the Senate failed to muster the two-thirds vote necessary to override the Governor’s veto. Thus far in the 126th Legislature, none of the Governor’s vetoes have been overridden.
Governor LePage and Maine International Trade Center Announce Next Trade Mission
On May 31st, Governor LePage and the Maine International Trade Center announced that they would lead a trade mission in the fall of this year to Mexico and Columbia. This trade mission is open to Maine companies interested in attending the trip and establishing trade ties in this area. Maine Governors have traditionally partnered with the Maine International Trade Center to lead these delegations. Companies interested in participating can visit www.mitc.com.
Senator Goodall Appointed to Small Business Administration’s Regional Spot, Resigning from Senate
This week, it was announced that Senator Goodall will be appointed to be the Small Business Administration’s New England Regional Administrator. This position has been a political stepping stone in the past, with people such as U.S. Senator Susan Collins serving in this role. In light of his new position, Senator Goodall announced that he will be resigning his Senate seat at the end of the current legislative session. His resignation will trigger a special election to fill his Senate seat. Senator Goodall also serves as the Senate Majority Leader, meaning his resignation will also require Senate Democrats to elect a new Majority Leader. A special election will not be scheduled until Senator Goodall officially submits his resignation.
Legislative Redistricting Plan Sent to the Governor’s Desk
After every census, State House and Senate districts must be reapportioned in order to maintain roughly equivalent populations in each district. During this legislative session, Democratic and Republican members of a special apportionment commission met to hammer out new House and Senate districts. The commission unanimously agreed on the districts and their agreement, in the form of LD 1557, proceeded through the Legislature this week. This redistricting plan was enacted within two days of being introduced and it is now on the Governor’s desk, awaiting his review of this plan. This partisan process, which is of vital interest to those seeking elective office, does not always go as smoothly as it did this year and previous redistricting plans have ended up in court as a result.
Eliot Cutler a Candidate for Governor
This week, Eliot Cutler made an announcement that he is running for Governor in 2014. He explained that the formal announcement would come after Labor Day but acknowledged that he is a candidate. This announcement was not a surprise, as Cutler, a gubernatorial candidate in 2010, filed paperwork with the State’s Ethics and Elections Commission earlier this year to establish an exploratory committee. With Cutler in the race, this will almost certainly be a three-way (or more) contest.
Tax Reform Effort Killed in Committee
Late in the session, the bi-partisan “Gang of 11” unveiled a major tax reform effort that would touch on virtually every aspect of Maine’s tax code. This proposal was advanced in bill form as LD 1496, An Act to Modernize and Simplify the Tax Code. This bill has been considered in the Taxation Committee over the past few weeks, being modified in the process. The Taxation Committee held its final work session on this bill on May 5th. Ultimately, the Committee voted unanimously to report this bill out as “ought not to pass,” killing this bill. The tax reform discussion is almost certain to continue, as this is an issue regularly considered by the Legislature.
Repeal of Law Limiting Employer’s Right to Oversee Firearms at the Workplace Dies
On June 6th, the House voted to reject LD 265, An Act to Repeal the Restriction on Employers Regarding Firearms Kept in an Employee’s Vehicle. This vote followed the Senate’s vote to reject this bill last week, meaning this bill is now officially dead. LD 265 would have repealed a law enacted during the last Legislature that provides that an employer may not prohibit an employee with a concealed weapons permit from keeping a firearm in their locked vehicle while at work. The original law was passed over the strong opposition of a number of Maine employers, with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce as the lead opponent.
Appropriations Committee Comes to a Unanimous Agreement on Budget
At around 5:30 a.m. on June 7th, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee announced that it had come to a unanimous agreement on the $6.3 billion biennial budget for the State. The Committee has put in numerous long days and has worked late into the night throughout this week. In order to close the State’s budget gap, the Committee agreed to a .5 percent increase to the sales tax for two years and a 1 percent increase to the meals and lodging tax for two years. There are a number of elements to this agreement in addition to these tax increases, including partial restoration of revenue sharing and the adoption of a plan proposed by the Governor to change how teacher retirement is funded. The budget bill will be finalized in Committee and then proceed to the floors of the House and the Senate. It is unclear at this point what type of support this bill will receive in the House and Senate and from the Governor, but this remains must-pass legislation in order to keep the State funded and operating.