Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House.
State Leaders Aim to Help to Save Maine’s Paper Industry
With this week’s announcements of the permanent closure of the paper mill in Madison, and that the mill in East Millinocket will be sold to a Florida scrap metal company, following on the heels of the recent closures of mills in Bucksport, Old Town, and Lincoln, many in Augusta feel that the State must act now to save the remaining paper companies in Maine. Senators Angus King and Susan Collins called on the federal government to help save the struggling industry, while Governor Paul LePage met with members of the Maine House and Senate this week to discuss strategies to act quickly to resolve some of the policy issues facing Maine’s paper industry. The Maine Pulp and Paper Association has cited four areas where help could be made including vigorous pursuit of additional natural gas pipeline capacity into Maine, decreasing the tax burden on Maine manufacturers, improving Maine’s transportation infrastructure and research and development to find alternative markets and products for our significant forest resource.
Late Session, Complex Bills Drive Extension Requests
Legislative leadership’s deadline for committees to complete all work on bills is today, Friday, March 18, yet within the past two weeks several comprehensive bills have been printed that propose significant policy implications. The time crunch is driving public hearings with short notice and back-to-back work sessions to process these bills. Among these is a bill to increase solar power capacity in Maine which, on Wednesday, drew to the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee podium over one hundred people from the energy, conservation and business communities. Meanwhile, on the same afternoon, across the hall in the Health and Human Services Committee, dozens of health care providers and pharmacists turned out to testify on two bills designed to overhaul Maine’s Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program, which seemed universally supported. One bill also proposes controversial statutory prescription dosage and duration limits for opioid pain medications in Maine. Apparently still to be printed is a bill legislative Democrats have introduced to reform Maine’s welfare system. That bill, if printed, may be coming before the Health and Human Services Committee soon. With these complex bills up for consideration so close to the Committee’s bill deadline, Committee Chairs are requesting extensions from legislative leadership to complete their work.
March 15 Marked Deadline to Declare Candidacy for Maine House and Senate Seats
Maine citizens interested in running for a seat in either the Maine State House or Maine State Senate must have submitted their candidacy papers by Tuesday, March 15. The passage of the deadline means, among other things, that traditionally funded candidates who are not currently serving in the Legislature will begin fundraising for their primaries. In the next couple of weeks we will start to see what shape the Fall Legislative elections will take. A quick overview of the filings shows only a couple of candidates are running unopposed in both the primary and general elections. The most contested races are Senate Seat District 14 in Kennebec County being vacated by Senator Earle McCormick, and House Seat 40 in Portland, being vacated by Benjamin Chipman as he vies for a Senate seat, with five candidates in each race.