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
Appropriations Committee Votes on Budget Bill Divided Along Party Lines
On May 10, 2012, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee voted on the Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS") supplemental budget for fiscal year 2013 along party lines. This is the first budget bill in the two years of the 125th Legislature that did not receive unanimous Committee support.
Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats broke down and both parties worked on competing budget proposals, which were publically revealed on May 10th. The Republican proposal makes a number of structural changes to DHHS programs in order to achieve savings. The Republican plan also finds savings in other areas of government outside of DHHS and proposes some spending initiatives as well as some income tax reductions. In contrast, the Democrat plan proposes fewer cuts to DHHS programs and seeks to pay for these services through better than anticipated revenues.
These competing measures were voted on in Committee May 10th. Once reported out of Committee, they will go to the floors of the House and Senate for full legislative consideration. The full Legislature is scheduled to return to Augusta on May 15th to consider the Supplemental Budget and a number of other bills that are still pending.
Maine Republican Party State Convention Does Not Go According to Plan
On May 5th and 6th, Maine Republicans gathered at the Augusta Civic Center for the State Party Convention. What was intended to be a largely ceremonial, party-building event turned out to be what some convention goers termed “chaos.” Supporters of presidential hopeful Congressman Ron Paul showed up in large numbers with a goal of “taking over” the convention.
Party business at the convention quickly got bogged down and formalities, like electing delegates and alternates to represent Maine at the Republican National Convention, took much longer than anticipated. Convention goers did hear speeches from Governor LePage, Senator Collins and Senator Snowe. Delays, however, ended up bumping the six Republicans running for the U.S. Senate seat that is now held by Senator Snowe from the agenda. Those interested in Maine politics spent the week after the convention trying to divine what this “take over” means for Maine politics and the Maine Republican Party.
Some Bond Proposals Being Supported by the Business Community
The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee has voted six bond proposals out of Committee. These proposals will be considered individually when the Legislature returns to complete its business on May 15th. Specifically, these proposals are:
$51 million for transportation and infrastructure
$20 million for research and development to be bid out through the Maine Technology Institute
$11.3 million for higher education
$8 million for water and sewer projects
$5 million for the Land for Maine’s Future Program
$1 million for weatherization through the Efficiency Maine Trust
This week, members of the business community in Maine, especially chambers of commerce, have been lobbying legislative leaders in support of some of the bond proposals. Members of the business community see some of these proposals as job creating measures or as simply necessary investments in Maine’s infrastructure to keep Maine competitive. Not all of these proposals are expected to be adopted. The Governor, on the other hand, is not a strong supporter of bonding and it is hard to predict what he will do if he is presented with some of these proposals.