Under the Dome: Inside The Maine State House 1-25-13

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.

In this week's issue:

  • Appropriations Committee Begins Public Hearings on Supplemental Budget
  • Legislation Submitted for the First Regular Session
  • Workforce Development Select Committee Members Named
  • Maine's Credit Rating Downgraded
  • Small Business Advocate Named
  • 2014 Gubernatorial Race Already the Talk of Augusta
  • Pierce Atwood Representatives Attend President's Inaugural 

     

    Appropriations Committee Begins Public Hearings on Supplemental Budget

    The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee has begun its work this session.  The Committee has first turned to the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal to balance the State budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2013.  This week, the Appropriations Committee met jointly with various committees of jurisdiction to receive public testimony on the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal.  These hearings will continue into next week.  Meanwhile, the committees of jurisdiction are working on their portion of the supplemental budget and will report their recommendations back to the Appropriations Committee soon. 

    Legislation Submitted for the First Regular Session

    The deadline for legislators to submit legislation, called cloture, was January 18th.  We are now getting a sense of how many bills were submitted.  It has been reported this week that 1780 proposals were submitted pre-cloture.  This figure tracks submissions during previous legislatures.  The Revisor of Statutes’ Office is now working to create a list of bill titles by subject matter area, which could be made available as early as January 28th.  Bill titles can give some insight into what legislation we will see this year.  Of course, some bill titles do not capture the full essence of the contents, meaning we will not have a full picture of the session until all legislation is printed and reviewed.  The bulk of this year’s legislation will be these pre-cloture bills, though legislation can be introduced through other avenues and we will certainly see other proposals introduced during the session.

    Workforce Development Select Committee Members Named

    In December, Democratic legislative leaders announced that they would form the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future.  This week, the full membership of the Committee was announced and some details about the Committee’s upcoming work were revealed in a press conference attended by legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle.

    In addition to tackling the issue of workforce development and filling Maine’s “skills gap,” where jobs go unfilled due to lack of trained workers, this Committee will work to support downtowns as economic engines and small businesses.  Highlighted at the press event was the City of Bath’s work to revitalize its downtown and how those efforts grew the local economy.  Also highlighted were existing programs available to support small businesses, such as Maine’s Seed Capital Tax Credit and the Maine Technology Institute’s investments in research and development.

    This Committee has already set an aggressive agenda.  Its first meeting will be on January 28th, when it will hear from economic experts.  The Committee will meet again on February 1st in Augusta to learn about the economy of the capital area.  The Committee will then meet in various towns across the State, the first being Bangor on February 6th.

    Members of the Committee are:

  • Senator Seth Goodall (D – Sagadahoc), Chair
  • Senator Linda Valentino (D – York)
  • Senator Roger Katz (R – Kennebec)
  • Senator Brian Langley (R – Hancock)
  • Senator Richard Woodbury (U – Cumberland)
  • Representative Seth Berry (D – Bowdoinham), Chair
  • Representative Paul Gilbert (D – Jay)
  • Representative Gay Grant (D – Gardiner)
  • Representative Anne-Marie Mastraccio (D – Sanford)
  • Representative Kim Monaghan-Derrig (D – Cape Elizabeth)
  • Representative Terry Morrison (D – South Portland)
  • Representative Paul Bennett (R – Kennebunk)
  • Representative Peter Johnson (R – Greenville)
  • Representative Joyce Maker (R – Calais)
  • Representative Jeffrey Timberlake (R – Turner)

 

Maine’s Credit Rating Downgraded

This week, Fitch Ratings downgraded Maine’s general obligation bond and the Municipal Bond Bank’s general resolution bond credit ratings.  In explaining the reason for this downgrade, Fitch Ratings hit on a number of issues, both good and bad, that affect Maine’s credit rating.  There were enough factors mentioned in Fitch Ratings’ report that political leaders from both sides of the aisle could point to different causes of the downgrade.  One sentence in the report was most notable and has been picked up by the Maine press – “Fitch notes that the state faces an increasingly contentious decision-making environment.”  Perhaps, it is too early in the legislative session to make this pronouncement. 

Small Business Advocate Named

On January 22, Maine’s new Secretary of State, Matthew Dunlap, announced the appointment of Peggy Schaffer to role of small business advocate.  This is a recently established position within the Secretary of State’s Office that was most recently filled by Jay Martin.  Peggy is well known in Augusta, having worked in various positions in Maine’s capital.  Late in the week, the Maine Republican Party and Republican legislators expressed displeasure with the Secretary of State’s selection, challenging Peggy’s credentials.  Secretary Dunlap, however, stands behind this appointment.

2014 Gubernatorial Race Already the Talk of Augusta

Proving that it is never too early to start talking about the next election, Augusta, this week, was abuzz with speculation regarding the 2014 gubernatorial race.  Public Policy Polling released new polling information regarding the race, pitting incumbent Governor LePage against various candidates.  The results of this polling can be found here.  Adding more fuel to speculation fire was Independent Eliot Cutler’s decision to file documents with the State’s Ethics and Elections Commission this week.  With these documents filed, Cutler is now allowed to fundraise for his candidacy for Governor.  The Maine Democratic Party has responded to these poll results and Cutler’s decision in an interesting blog post by its Party Chairman.  The obvious conclusion to be drawn from all of this is that we are in for a long campaign season.

Pierce Atwood Representatives attend President's Inaugural

Former Governor John E. Baldacci, Senior Advisor, Economic Development and Government Relations at Pierce Atwood, and Andrea Cianchette Maker, Government Relations Partner at Pierce Atwood, attended the inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama.  While in DC, they also attended several ancillary events. These included: a luncheon for people from Maine hosted by Preti Flaherty at the New Zealand Embassy; the Inaugural Parade where Andrea and her husband Scott watched from the Canadian Embassy with long-time friends Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and his wife Lisa Collis; a dinner where Andrea was able to re-connect with Senator Angus King and his wife Mary Herman with Senator Warner and his wife Lisa (these two Senators served as Governors together); and Governor Baldacci attended a reception at Jack Rose's hosted by the Democratic National Committee in honor of the 57th Inauguration.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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