Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House

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.

Budget Negotiations Continue
The Legislature continues its work to develop a compromise budget measure that could receive the necessary two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate in order for the budget to take effect on July 1 and to override a potential veto from Governor LePage, should that be necessary. Earlier this week, in the face of a seemingly insurmountable impasse and a quickly ticking clock, the Legislature voted to appoint an even number of Republicans and Democrats, including the Senate President and Speaker of the House, to serve on a Committee of Conference that was tasked with hammering out a compromise. 
As of June 16, the Committee of Conference was deadlocked over key issues such as education funding and the 3% income tax surcharge on household income over $200,000. The Democrats have proposed an additional $200 million in additional education funding over the next two years which is $100 million less than their earlier proposal that failed to pass both chambers. Their version also contains a change in the income tax surcharge to 1.75% on household incomes over $300,000.  Alternatively, Senate Republicans have indicated they are unwilling to go as high as $200 million for education, and House Republicans are offering in the neighborhood of $50 million for education with a requirement for education reforms.  Both Republican caucuses are holding firm in their commitment to approve a budget that repeals the entire 3% income tax surcharge.  The Committee of Conference has another seven legislative days to meet, but it is unclear whether they will continue to do so.  Reports are that the Senate President, Speaker, and Minority leaders met with Governor LePage this morning, June 16, to discuss budget matters. 
Though the current budget doesn’t expire until June 30 at midnight, the Governor has ten days from the time a bill is enacted in the House and Senate in which to take action. If the Governor takes all ten days and then vetoes the bill, the Legislature would have to reconvene to take up the veto.  If the Legislature is able to deliver a budget to him on June 19, they could reconvene on June 30 to address a veto, should one occur.  If a veto override fails, the state could be looking at a shutdown due to the lack of a budget on July 1.  

 

Other Legislative Work Ongoing During Budget Negotiations
Even as the Committee of Conference is meeting to create a budget, the House and Senate are continuing to push through the work still left to be completed. There are about 340 bills to be finally acted on, in addition to roughly 75 bills awaiting action by the Governor, who can sign a bill, veto a bill, or take no action, which allows it to become law without his signature.  Of the 340 bills, about 65 of them are on the Special Appropriations Table where they will either receive funding and be passed into law, or not receive funding and be defeated or carried over to next year’s session.  There are about 190 bills that already have been requested for carry-over to the Second Regular Session.  Statutory adjournment is next Wednesday, June 21, but the Legislature is allowed to extend its time up to ten legislative days, which are days in which the legislature meets in session.  However, the Governor has ten business days, excluding Sundays, in which to veto a bill. At a minimum therefore, the Legislature is likely to recess after all bills have been sent to the Governor’s desk, but not adjourn the current session until at least ten days later when they would reconvene to consider any vetoed bills.  

 

Commissioner of DAFS Resigns Post
Earlier this week, Governor LePage announced the resignation of Commissioner of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS), Richard Rosen.  Rosen, who previously served as a State Senator and Senate Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, had served in his role as Commissioner of DAFS since 2015. Legislators on both sides of the aisle were quick to praise Rosen as a well-respected and thoughtful leader who has been critical to the budget negotiations thus far. As Commissioner of DAFS, Rosen has been responsible for helping to shepherd the most recent ongoing two year budget negotiations. Senate President Mike Thibodeau commented that “[Rosen’s] presence will be sorely missed.”  

 

Senior Housing Bond Bill Fails to Overcome Governor's Veto
Last week, Governor LePage vetoed a bill that would have allowed the State Treasurer to release senior housing bonds approved by voters in 2015 without direction or approval from the Governor. The bill, titled, “An Act to Carry Out the Will of the People of the State of Maine by Ensuring the Issuance of Bonds to Support the Independence of Maine Seniors,” was approved by the Maine House and Senate and sent to the Governor in mid-May. The Governor vetoed the bill on June 2. The Senate voted to override the veto, but the House vote failed to garner the necessary two-thirds votes necessary to override, meaning that the legislation is now dead. The bill was introduced by Senator Roger Katz in response to the Governor’s refusal to release the bonds for sale, and the State Treasurer is currently not allowed to issue bonds without approval from the Governor.    

 

Technology Bond Likely Approved as Final Results Come In
Even as the votes from Tuesday’s ballots continue to come in, it looks as though a $50 million technology bond question has passed. The bond would provide $50 million for equipment upgrades in seven technology sectors in Maine including aquaculture, forestry, agriculture, and composite materials. The Secretary of State’s office provided preliminary results to the Bangor Daily News, indicating that the bond looked to be passed by roughly 20,000 votes. Officially, towns in Maine have three days to deliver initial results to the Secretary of State’s office. 

 

Pierce Atwood Attorneys Step up To Serve:
Ann Robinson Confirmed as Appointee to Maine Turnpike Authority Board of Directors

On Monday June 12, the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary voted unanimously to recommend Pierce Atwood’s own Ann Robinson to be confirmed for appointment to the Board of Directors of the Maine Turnpike Authority.  The next day, the Senate voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the Judiciary Committee and confirm her nomination.  Ann also serves on the Board of Directors of the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce as well as on the Board of Trustees for Maine Public.  Ann joins Pierce Atwood’s Dan Wathen who currently serves as Chair of the Maine Turnpike Authority Board.  Ann focuses her practice at Pierce Atwood on Government Relations and Healthcare Services. See Ann’s complete bio here. Congratulations Ann!

 

Jim Erwin Re-Appointed to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees
Another Pierce Atwood partner was also confirmed by the Legislature for Appointment recently as our own Jim Erwin received a unanimous confirmation from the Education Committee and the Maine State Senate for reappointment to the University of Maine System, Board of Trustees.  Jim has served on the Board since 2012 and presently serves as the Chair of the Board, where he has worked to help bring the UMaine system to the next level.  Jim focuses his practice at Pierce Atwood on Employment Law, Litigation, Government Relations, and Healthcare Services. See Jim’s complete bio here. 
 

Spotted Under the Dome!

"Eco" (left) Dana Pinkham (center) and Heather Printup (right) at Maine Beverage Day in the Hall of Flags.

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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