Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House.
Governor Issues a Number of Vetoes
This week, Governor LePage vetoed seven different bills including the following:
LD 1365, An Act to Promote New Models of Mobility and Access to Transportation
LD 1552, Resolve, to Require the Department of Health and Human Services to Initiate a New Rate-Setting Procedure for Preschool Services for Children with Disabilities Under the MaineCare Program
LD 1597, An Act to Clarify Provisions of the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act
LD 1642, An Act to Clarify the Law Governing Public Disclosure of Health Care Prices
LD 1685, An Act to Ensure that All Maine Children are Protected from Abuse and Neglect
LD 1717, An Act to Support Homeless Shelters
LD 1798, An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force Convened by the Maine Labor Relations Board Regarding Compensation for the Panel of Mediators
Following the Governor's actions on these bills, both chambers voted to override the Governor’s vetoes of LD 1597 on medical marijuana and LD 1685 on protecting children from abuse and neglect, enacting these bills into law over the Governor’s objection. The Senate has voted to sustain the Governor’s vetoes of LD 1365 on access to transportation and LD 1717 on supporting homeless shelters, killing these bills. The House has voted to sustain the Governor’s vetoes of LD 1552 on preschool services under MaineCare and LD 1798 on compensation for mediators, killing these bills. The final proposal, LD 1642 on disclosure of health care prices, remains pending before the Legislature.
Finance Commissioner Retiring
On April 3rd, the Governor’s Office announced that Sawin Millett, Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, is retiring on May 31st. Commissioner Millett is retiring after close to 55 years of public service, having worked as a teacher, college professor, town selectman, member of the Maine House, advisor to five Governors and member of Senator Collins’ federal staff. Known for his institutional knowledge of the State’s budget, Commissioner Millett was the architect of the State’s last two biennial budgets and the last eight supplemental budgets. His knowledge and his quiet demeanor will be missed and difficult to replace.
Supplemental Spending Bill Becomes Law without the Governor’s Signature
On April 3rd, legislation closing a roughly $40 million budget gap for the current fiscal year became law without the Governor’s signature. On March 21st, the Legislature had sent the fiscal year 2014 supplemental budget bill to the Governor’s desk for his action. Instead of signing this bill into law or vetoing it, the Governor elected to not to act on this bill and it became law without his approval.
Last year, the Legislature developed a biennial budget bill that was vetoed by the Governor. The Governor’s veto, however, was overridden and the current budget was established. When it became clear earlier this year that the current biennial budget was out of balance, the Governor opted not to submit the customary supplemental budget to bring things into balance. Rather, he stated that the biennial budget was the Legislature’s creation and the Legislature could develop a plan to bring it back into balance. This budget bill balances the budget for the current fiscal year; though more work needs to be done to balance the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2014.
Appropriations Committee Considers Bills with Fiscal Impact, Another Supplemental Spending Bill
This week, most legislative committees did not meet because they have completed action on all of their bills, but the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee was hard at work. On April 2nd, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee met to consider over 40 bills that have fiscal impacts. Legislation that would affect either revenues or State spending must be funded before it can be enacted. Last session, a number of these bills were not funded but, rather, were carried over to this year’s session. On Wednesday, this Committee met to begin its initial work on these carried over proposals. Overall, not many decisions were made, as a majority of these bills were tabled. 16 proposals, however, were killed by the Committee. The Committee is expected to kill many more of these proposals, as there is little funding and many bills requiring funding.
The Committee also met this week to begin working on a supplemental spending bill for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. While a supplemental spending bill for the current fiscal year became law this week, there remains work to be done to balance the fiscal year 2015 budget. The Committee held a public hearing on elements of the fiscal year 2015 supplemental spending bill on April 4th and the Committee is expected to continue to work on this spending bill throughout next week.