AUGUSTA, Maine — Fresh from an election in which Maine’s business climate was a hot topic, both the Legislature’s Republican leadership and Gov.-elect Paul LePage are signaling that regulatory reform will be a top priority next year.
The LePage administration has asked chambers of commerce and other organizations to hold “red tape workshops” throughout the state this month. Legislative leaders, meanwhile, are creating a special Committee on Regulatory Reform to gather feedback from the business community that will shape a major legislative initiative for the coming session.
Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, said the committee likely will focus on revamping or, in some cases, removing what he called “egregious” regulations that make it more difficult for businesses to succeed.
In other instances, the committee’s work will be to change the tone of government toward the business community, which LePage has said is a top priority of his administration.
“During the campaign, it was something that everybody running for office heard over and over again” from small-business owners, Raye said. “It didn’t matter whether they were selling lawn and garden equipment or running a restaurant, they all told the same story. You just inserted the name of a different agency.”
To signify the importance of the issue for legislative leaders, the very first bill introduced in the 125th legislative session — LD 1 — is titled “An Act to Ensure Regulatory Fairness and Reform.” Raye is listed as the lead sponsor of the bill, which at this point is basically just a title.
That is where the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Reform will come in.
Rep. Andre Cushing, a Hampden Republican and assistant House majority leader, said the plan is to “take the meetings to the public” by holding several fact-finding hearings around the state instead of expecting interested parties to travel to Augusta to testify.
The makeup of the Committee on Regulatory Reform and the dates of the legislative hearings have not yet been announced.
The LePage administration, however is gathering suggestions this month from residents and the business community on the administration’s transition team website, www.lepagetransition.com, and through “red tape workshops” being held around the state by chambers of commerce.
One such workshop will be held at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at Ellsworth City Hall. The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce has scheduled a workshop at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 14.
“We didn’t want this to be an Augusta-driven process,” LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt said Monday.
Raye said he expects the LePage administration to present a regulatory reform package soon after he is inaugurated in early January. That proposal will be sent to the committee. Raye said he expects legislators to introduce a number of other bills dealing with Maine’s regulatory environment.