Under The Dome: Inside The Maine State House 8-30-13

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Augusta, ME

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House is a regular 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.

Eloise Vitelli Takes her Seat as Maine’s Newest State Senator

On August 27th, the voters of Senate District 19 (Sagadahoc County and the Town of Dresden) elected Democrat Eloise Vitelli as their new state Senator in a Special Election. Senator Vitelli then took her seat in the Senate Chamber just two days after her election, as the Legislature met in a Special Session on August 29th to consider bond proposals. Senator Vitelli fills a seat that was held by former state Senator Seth Goodall, who resigned at the end of this year’s legislative session to accept his appointment as New England Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Practically, this was a status quo election, with Senate Democrats retaining this seat and their majority in the Maine Senate with 19 of 35 seats. Of course, each Party has their own spin regarding the results of this Special Election. This race was the subject of much discussion when the Legislature convened for the Special Session, with many speculating as to what this Special Election means as Maine heads into a gubernatorial election year.

Maine Legislature Convenes for a One-Day Special Session

As noted above, on August 29th, the Maine Legislature convened for a one-day special session. This Special Session was called by Governor LePage, via a gubernatorial proclamation, once the Governor and legislative leaders came to an agreement on bond bills.

The Legislature considered and enacted five separate bond bills that total almost $150 million in borrowing. The biggest of these five bills is a $100 million transportation bond advanced by the Governor. The four other bond bills that were enacted propose $35.5 million in capital spending for higher education facilities (i.e., the University of Maine System, the Community College System and the Maine Maritime Academy) and $14 million for Maine National Guard capital spending. These bond bills have already gone to the Governor and received his signature. These bonds will now be placed on the ballot for state-wide approval in November of this year.

Legislators also enacted a bill to expand the existing mental health unit at the Maine State Prison. This bill was passed in reaction to recent news that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid would decertify the Riverview Psychiatric Center for Medicare reimbursements, if certain changes were not made to address issues raised by federal regulators. While the proposal that was enacted by the Legislature is not directly related to the certification issue, the State learned on the 29th that its plan to address problems at Riverview was accepted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Appointments for Various Legislative Commissions and Task Forces Announced

Each year, the Legislature creates various study committees, commissions, working groups, stakeholder groups and task forces to address some of the more complex issues faced in state government. This year was no different and the composition of many of these groups was announced this week. With these appointments, usually being made by the Senate President and Speaker of the House, these various groups will begin meeting this fall. Groups now formulated include:

  • Commission to Study Transparency, Costs and Accountability of Health Care System Financing
  • Commission to Study the State Board of Corrections and the Unified County Corrections System
  • Maine Health Exchange Advisory Council
  • Commission to Develop a Competitive Bidding Process for the Operation of Additional Casinos or Slot Machine Facilities
  • Department Task Force to Study the Transition of BETR Program to BETE Program
  • Tax Expenditure Review Task Force
  • Task Force on Adult Learners
  • Commission to Study the Incidence of and Mortality Related to Cancer
  • Commission to Study Long-Term Care Facilities
  • Criminal Code Revision Planning Committee
  • Nonprofit Tax Review Task Force