Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 3.16.12

by Pierce Atwood LLP
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Augusta, ME

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

Filing Deadline Reached for State and Federal Candidates

Maine Republicans and Democrats were required to submit their nomination petitions by March 15th in order to qualify for June’s primary ballot.  In the wake of Senator Snowe’s announcement that she would not be seeking reelection this year, this date loomed large for those seeking to run for the U.S. Senate, as candidates had less than three weeks to collect 2,000 valid signatures.  With the passage of this deadline, the field of candidates for State and federal offices is largely set (unenrolled candidates have until June to qualify for the general election ballot). 

Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate race are former Maine Senate President Richard Bennett, former Lisbon Falls Selectman Scott D’Amboise, State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, State Senate Assistant Majority Leader Deborah Plowman, Attorney General William Schneider and Secretary of State Charlie Summers.  With former Governor Baldacci’s announcement that he would not be running for U.S. Senate this week, the Democrat candidates are State Senator Cynthia Dill, former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, State Representative Jon Hinck, and Portland homebuilder Benjamin Pollard.  Former Governor Angus King is also running for this seat as an unenrolled candidate. 

The race for Maine’s first Congressional District seat looks to be a contest between incumbent Chellie Pingree (D) and State Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney (R), though Senator Courtney will face a primary challenge from Patrick Calder (R).  The race for Maine’s second Congressional District seat looks to be a contest between incumbent Mike Michaud (D) and State Senate President Kevin Raye (R), though Senator Raye will face a primary challenge from Blaine Richardson (R). 

This March 15th deadline also applied to candidates seeking to run for Maine’s 151 House seats and 35 Senate seats.  With these filings, the primary season begins in earnest.

Slew of Major Policy Bills Introduced in Waning Days of Session

Legislative leaders are pushing for early adjournment of this year’s legislative session, hoping that work can be wrapped up over the next three weeks.  Working at cross purposes to this plan is the fact that a number of major policy bills have only recently been introduced.  Given the tight deadlines facing the Legislature, these bills are being printed and heard in public hearing within a few days, as the customary two-week notice period has been waived at this point in the session.  As a result, those interested in these legislative matters must be monitoring bills each day and quickly reacting to proposals as they are made publically available. 

Major policy bills that have been made available over the last few days include a proposal to reorganize the Department of Health and Human Services, a supplemental budget proposal that also includes a proposal to eliminate the State Planning Office, four education bills that constitute the Governor’s education package and four energy bills that constitute the Governor’s energy package.  The pace at the State House will only intensify, as there is a rush to complete business soon.

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