Under The Dome: Inside The Maine State House 10-11-13

by Pierce Atwood LLP
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Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House.

List of Proposed Bill Titles for 2014 Session Now Available

On October 4th, the Legislature released a list of bill titles for legislation that legislators hope to introduce next session. At this point in time, all that is available are bill titles and not legislative language. Titles, however, can give a sense of what legislation may be considered next year, though some titles are vague. The titles for bill requests by legislators can be found here and bill titles for proposals by state agencies can be found here. It has been reported that there are over 400 bill requests for next session.

Procedurally, bill requests by legislators will now be sent to the Legislative Council (“Council”), which consists of the ten members of legislative leadership. On October 30th, the Council will meet to consider these requests. Only bills that are approved for introduction by six or more members of the Council can be introduced during the 2014 legislative session. Legislators then have until November 6th to appeal those bills rejected by the Council. Those appeal requests will be heard by the Council on November 21st.

The bill requests that are approved by the Legislative Council along with the 200-plus carry over bills, bills introduced as the result of study groups and task forces and bills proposed by the Executive Branch and its agencies will comprise most of the legislation that will be considered during the 2014 legislative session. There also will be after deadline bills that will be considered.

State Reacts to Federal Shutdown

The first week of the federal government shutdown did not appear to affect Maine state government to a large degree, but as the shutdown continues into its second week, the State is reacting. On October 9th, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee held an emergency meeting where, among other things, the Committee heard from Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, Sawin Millett. Commissioner Millett explained the effects of the shutdown on the Sate and the more than 2,700 state employees whose positions are funded in whole or in part by federal dollars. Some State workers have already been furloughed as a result of the shutdown and more will face this prospect if the shutdown wears on. Commissioner Millett explained that the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor will likely be hit the hardest by a long shutdown.

Following this briefing, Governor LePage declared a civil emergency due to the federal government shutdown. The Governor’s Office explained that the declaration will allow the Administration to better respond to the effects of the shutdown. Democratic leaders, however, immediately questioned the declaration and what, exactly, the Governor intends to do with the powers that flow from such a declaration.

Regular Legislation from 2013 Now Effective

October appears to be a month of deadlines coming due. At the beginning of the month, the federal fiscal year ended. Because no funding was appropriated for the new fiscal year, this precipitated a government shutdown. That same day marked the opening of health insurance exchanges created under the federal Affordable Care Act. A little over a week later another deadline came to pass in Maine as regular bills and resolves (e.g., non-emergency legislation) passed during the First Regular Session of the 126th Legislature became effective. With the effective date passed, all attention now is focused on posturing legislation for enactment or defeat next year.

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