Session winds toward a close, with some big bills still on tap

By Chris Hall, Portland Regional Chamber
Posted April 02, 2012, at 9:13 a.m.

Editor’s note: This report is compiled weekly for members of the Portland Regional Chamber. It provides a breakdown of recent news around state policy, as well as a heads-up on coming events. The Bangor Daily News is publishing this report in cooperation with the PRC.

PRC speaks out

The legislative session is drawing to its normal hectic conclusion – and your voice still matters. Here are three issues that lawmakers need to hear your views on:

These three bills will go a long way toward defining the 2012 legislative session. Lawmakers are having intense discussions this morning on whether income tax cuts will be a part of Maine’s budget strategy in the future; whether municipal welfare programs will be improved, or just reduced; and whether our K-12 education system will make the leap into the 21st century with a new focus on ensuring that students are really learning.

In all of this – and much more – your voice matters more than you may realize. Lawmakers don’t hear from their constituents as much as you think, and when they do, they listen. See if I’m right – find your lawmakers here and drop them an email sharing your views on whatever is most important to you. Thanks!

Reports: Not really a report but … The U.S. Census Bureau released data last week that showed Maine was the most rural state in the nation in 2010 – meaning a greater percentage of our total population (61%) lived in non-urban settings than any other state in the country. Matt Wickenheiser’s article in the BDN covered many of the implications for Maine. The BDN editors commented on how the data suggests the need to maintain the economic health of the state’s urban centers.

Which leads directly to the next Census data released last week – information about Maine in-migration and out-migration. This BDN article has an interesting interactive map – see if you can find your own community. And did you know that Androscoggin and Penobscot Counties grew the fastest over the last five years?

Finally the U. S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released data last week on 2011 income growth in all 50 states – Maine finished last (that’s right, 50th) ( BDN), compared to our 2010 ranking of 28th. It’s serious news, and combined with the other data it ought to reinforce the first priority for local and state policy makers – a relentless focus on creating and retaining jobs.

State Policy round-up: The Supreme Judicial Court decided not to rule on questions about State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin’s business dealings ( LSJ, BDN, PPH) – the PPH editors and Elliott Epstein commented. Elimination of the State Planning Office and creation of the Office of Policy and Management raised concerns ( BDN, MPBN) – some revisions to the original proposal were offered ( LSJ), and the BDN editors wrote to oppose OPM. The Governor vetoed LD 145, a bill dealing with original mortgage documents ( PPH, BDN). The Maine State Chamber’s Business Day at the State House was a big hit ( BDN).

Elsewhere:

U. S. Senate watch: The primary debate season kicked off last week for Democratic candidates ( PPH). Angus King discussed his wind power loan ( PPH). Jonathan Riskind commented on developments in the race last week.

Bills to Watch: As legislation is printed we highlight some of the bills you may want to know more about, or participate in. Need to investigate a bill? Just click the LD number below and off you go! (Please remember this isn’t legal advice – for that you must contact your own councilors).

So far just one bill to look at this week – but it’s a big one:

LD 1903, An Act To Make Additional Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2012 and June 30, 2013– here’s the Governor’s second supplemental budget in print.

What’s happening this week at the State House: In every Update we highlight a wide variety of bills that will affect you, your business and your community. To keep track of the bills that are most important to you, you can find the entire state house schedule right here including public hearings, work sessions and all the other legislative activity around any bill you’re interested in. Make sure to use the navigation buttons on the left to find all the information you need.

Here’s another handy resource – this link takes you to a list of all the legislative committee activities scheduled for the next 5 days.

Around the Region: The Portland Veterans Network launch was a success ( PPH, MPBN) – pass the word to any unemployed vets that you know, and thanks!

Elsewhere:

In South Portland the school budget is set for a 2.2% increase ( Forecaster), and municipal taxes are expected to rise ( Forecaster, Current).

In Falmouth the Council sent proposed water view zoning regulations back for more work ( Forecaster).

Want to speak out? It’s easy to do, and believe it or not, it can really work. Notice that all the legislative committees mentioned above are linked – just click on them and you’ll get emails, phone numbers and everything you need to make your voice heard in the state house. If you need help, just email me!

Feedback: So what do you think? We’d love to have your thoughts on anything you’ve read here, or on other topics that are important to you. The more you talk to us, the better we’ll represent your views. Send an email if you’d like to share your feedback with me – and thank you!

Partners for Progress Policy Updates from the Portland Regional Chamber are supported by the generous contributions from our Partners for Progress. If you’d like to become a Partner, please contact Chamber CEO Godfrey Wood. And for more information about joining the Portland Regional Chamber – businesses building a better community – just click here.

Chris Hall is senior vice president for government relations at the Portland Regional Chamber. He can be contacted at chall@portlandregion.com. Partners for Progress Policy Updates are supported by contributions from Partners for Progress.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/02/politics/session-winds-to-a-close-with-some-big-bills-still-on-tap/ printed on September 18, 2014