Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House.
Maine Pulp and Paper Industry Summit on November 17
“These are not your grandfather’s paper mills.” That’s what the Maine Pulp and Paper Association (“MPPA”) hopes to drive home to a meeting of more than 200 policy makers, loggers, engineers, truckers, union members, and legislators on November 17th in Bangor when it hosts it’s summit on the future of Maine’s pulp and paper industry. Despite the recent headlines, Maine’s pulp and paper manufacturers still comprise one of the state’s biggest industries, but the challenges and opportunities facing the industry have changed significantly even in the last decade. The summit, which MPPA hopes will help ensure a robust pulp and paper industry in Maine for years to come, will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bangor, Maine. The event is open to the public. Interested participants can register online through the MPPA’s website, at pulpandpaper.org.
Maine Voters Approve Increased Funding for the Clean Election Act
Maine voters agreed to increase funding to the Maine Clean Elections program and increase the potential disbursements to candidates who chose to forgo private election funding and run as so-called “clean election” candidates. The measure was approved by roughly 55% of Maine voters, and will strengthen the reporting and transparency measures currently in place in the Maine Clean Election program. The increased funding is slated to come through a reduction in business tax breaks, which was the reason that business interests opposed the measure.
Maine to Join Coalition in Defense of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan
Attorney General Janet T. Mills announced this week that Maine is joining a coalition of 25 states, cities and counties to defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan regulatory rule against legal challenges from several states and industry groups. The Clean Power Plan requires fossil-fueled power plants to reduce their emissions pursuant to the Clean Air Act. Attorney General Mills, in announcing Maine’s decision to defend the rule, pointed out that Maine has been particularly burdened by dirty power plants in the West, arguing that the Clean Power Plan is a step in the right direction to protect the health of Maine people and the environment.
In Special Elections, Republicans Take Former Democratic Seats, Recount Likely for One
Two special elections were held this week for House District 23 in the Standish area and House District 19 in the Sanford area. Both seats were vacated by Democrats and were picked up on Tuesday by Republicans. In Standish, Lester Ordway won with roughly 41 percent of the vote, and in Sanford, Matthew Harrington narrowly defeated Democrat Jean Noon, the widow of the former holder of the seat, 48 percent to 45 percent. Speaker Mark Eves said in a statement Tuesday night that he expects a recount in the Sanford race, which he said was decided by 15 votes. The House now is comprised of 78 Democrats, 69 Republicans, 3 Independents and one Unenrolled, while the Senate still remains at 20 Republicans and 15 Democrats heading into the Second Regular Session.
Mainers Vote to Provide Affordable Housing to Seniors
Question 2 on the ballot this week was approved by roughly 70% of Maine voters and authorizes the state to borrow $15 million via the sale of general obligation bonds to pay for new affordable housing projects for Maine’s seniors. The bond initiative also allows for expenditures to repair or weatherize the existing homes of low-income seniors. The measure was broadly supported by Maine’s business, manufacturing, and housing advocates.
Portland Voters Reject Minimum Wage Increase
A proposed minimum wage increase from $10.10 to $15.00 was rejected by Portland voters this week 58 percent to 42 percent. In September, the Portland City Council voted to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, without altering the tipped worker minimum, which is $3.75 an hour. Tuesday’s defeated ordinance would have changed the tipped worker minimum to $11.25. Opponents to the measure celebrated the defeat of the ordinance as a win, having argued that the increase would stifle economic growth and drive small businesses out of Portland.
Scenic View Ordinance Rejected in Portland
Portland voters also rejected a proposed scenic views ordinance that would have limited development of projects that could block views of ocean, mountains, public parks and historic buildings. The proposal, which was defeated 11,793 to 7,002 was opposed by an unlikely coalition of organizations, including developers, Maine Real Estate and Development Association, GrowSmart Maine, Homeless Voices for Justice, AARP Maine, and 17 labor unions. The failure of the proposal means that a planned housing, restaurant and retail development located at 58 Fore Street, which had previously been granted a zoning change by the Portland City Council, will be able to go forward.
Ethan Strimling Defeats Incumbent Michael Brennan in Portland Mayoral Election
After just one term as Mayor, Portland’s incumbent Mayor Michael Brennan was defeated on Tuesday by Ethan Strimling, who avoided a runoff election by receiving more than 51 percent of the vote. Strimling ran on a platform of coalition-building and communication with the members of the Portland City Council, and ultimately raised nearly twice as much in campaign funds over Brennan in the weeks running up to the election. Brennan will continue to serve as Portland’s Mayor until early December, when Strimling will be inaugurated to a four-year term.
Lewiston Faces a Runoff Election for Mayor
Incumbent Mayor Robert Macdonald, a Republican and candidate Ben Chin, a Democrat, emerged as frontrunners from a crowded field of five candidates during this week’s Mayoral election in Lewiston. Because neither Chin—who received 3,673 votes—nor Macdonald—who received 3,107 votes—received more than 50 percent of the vote, they will face each other in a yet to be scheduled runoff election. The race, which has been contentious at times, is seen by many as an exemplar of the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties, with Chin running on a liberal, pro-labor platform and Macdonald seeking to reform welfare and advance a more conservative agenda.