Under The Dome: Inside The Maine State House 11-8-13

by Pierce Atwood LLP
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Augusta, ME

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 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.

Bill Requests for Next Session Continue to be Narrowed

During the Second Regular Session, also known as the “short session,” the Maine Constitution limits the types of bills that can be considered to budgetary matters, Governor’s bills, “legislation of an emergency nature,” bills that are the result of legislative studies and bills introduced through the citizen initiative process. The ten members of legislative leadership who make up the Legislative Council are the arbiters of what, exactly, constitutes “legislation of an emergency nature.” Thus, each fall before the short session, legislators request authorization to introduce new bills, framing these bills as emergencies. This year, legislators submitted almost 400 bill requests. On October 30th, the Legislative Council met and voted to authorize the introduction of 99 bills. Bills that were rejected, however, can be appealed and reconsidered by the Legislative Council. The deadline for appeals passed this week and 101 appeals have been filed. The Legislative Council will meet again on November 21st to consider these appeals, completing this process. Once this process is finalized, we will know which carry over legislation, legislator-initiated legislation, and agency legislation will be considered next year. Study committee generated bills, after deadline bill requests and Governor’s bills will come later to round out the legislative agenda for 2014.

November Election Results Produce Some Fodder for Political Analysis

Tuesday, November 5th was another election day in Maine. This year’s ballot contained state-wide bond questions as well as candidates for local offices and local ballot questions. By and large, this was a quiet election day, though there were a couple of exceptions.

All five bond questions were approved. The margin of victory varied from one question to the next, with the passage of Question 4 being the closest call (this question received just shy of 53 percent of the vote). These bond questions included:

  • Question 1 – $14 million for capital spending for the Maine Army National Guard
  • Question 2 – $15.5 million for capital improvements to the University of Maine System
  • Question 3 – $100 million for infrastructure reconstruction and rehabilitation
  • Question 4 – $4.5 million for capital improvements to the Maine Maritime Academy
  • Question 5 – $15.5 million for capital improvements to the Maine Community College System

The two local ballot questions that captured the attention of Maine’s media were in the cities of Portland and South Portland. Portland passed a referendum to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by a wide margin (roughly 67 percent of the vote). It is unclear what, exactly, the referendum means, given state and federal laws outlawing the possession of marijuana. Regardless, the passage of this referendum resulted in some tongue-in-cheek headlines and certainly means Mainers can expect to hear more about marijuana at the state level for the next couple of years.

The City of South Portland narrowly rejected a local referendum to enact the proposed Waterfront Protection Ordinance. This ordinance was advanced by those concerned about the possibility of the transportation of so called tar sands through South Portland. Opponents, however, said that the proposed ordinance was overly broad and would have had unintended consequences for the City. Like the issue of marijuana, there is certain to be a continued public discussion of tar sands in Maine.

Local ballots also included a number of former (and even a current) state legislators running for local offices. Not surprisingly, these veterans of the political process fared quite well on election day, and they include:

  • The City of Saco elected former State Representative Don Pilon as Mayor.
  • The City of Biddeford re-elected current State Representative Alan Casavant as Mayor, a race in which he squared off with former State Representative Joanne Twomey.
  • The City of Portland re-elected City Councilor and former State Representative Ed Suslovic and also voted to send former State Representative Jon Hinck to the open City Council seat.
  • The City of Augusta elected former State Senator, State Treasurer and Director of the Maine State Housing Authority Dale McCormick to the City Council.

While municipal elections are nonpartisan, Republicans are pointing to election results in Lewiston to say that they are gaining ground in that City. Republicans claim that they now hold a majority on the School Board and City Council and point out that Lewiston’s Republican Mayor, Bob MacDonald, was re-elected. They believe that these local results portend good things for Governor LePage in the Lewiston area in his bid for re-election next fall.

2014 Elections Less Than One Year Away

With this fall’s elections over, Maine is less than one year away from the 2014 elections. In November of 2014, Mainers will elect a Governor, a U.S. Senator, two members of Congress (including one open congressional seat) and the entire membership of the Maine Legislature.

Political Parties are now working hard to identify and recruit candidates for the Maine House and Senate. While all 35 Senate seats and 151 House seats in the Maine Legislature are up for grabs next year, there should not be a whole lot of activity other than candidate recruitment for over the next few months. There are, however, a few exceptions, particularly where there will be contested party primaries for State Senate seats. In those districts, it is quite possible that there will be some campaigning between now and the end of this calendar year.

At this point, the biggest race of 2014 looks to be the race for the Blaine House, though the election for the open Second Congressional District seat could prove to be an interesting race too. Although nomination papers for party primaries are not due until March 15, 2014, the Governor’s race is shaping up to be a three-way contest with Republican Governor Paul LePage, Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud and Independent Eliot Cutler all vying for this position. This race is already gathering headlines. This week was dominated by press coverage of Congressman Michaud’s announcement on Monday that he is gay and the Governor’s official re-election kickoff on Tuesday. We are sure to hear plenty regarding this race over the coming year.

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