PRC SPEAKS OUT

Vetoes and more addressed as Legislature adjourns

Posted June 01, 2012, at 8:40 a.m.
Last modified June 01, 2012, at 11:15 a.m.
Chris Hall, senior vice president for government relations, Portland Regional Chamber
Chris Hall, senior vice president for government relations, Portland Regional Chamber

Editor’s note: This report is compiled biweekly 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

Yesterday the 125th Maine Legislature formally concluded its business. Barring extraordinary circumstances lawmakers won’t convene again until December 5 when the new 126th Legislature is sworn in. But before they left town the 125th had a few things left to do:

First, as you probably know, last week the governor vetoed the R&D bond ( LD 225) ( PPH, BDN, veto message text). It was the only bond he vetoed – he let the four other bonds go to the voters without his signature.

Businesses said that the veto put many investments at risk ( Forecaster, MPBN), and the BDN and the PPH editors each called for an override vote from lawmakers ( the PPH editors twice) while Matt Gagnon defended the veto.

Notably, the governor said in his veto message that he would not authorize the issuance of any new bonds until Maine’s spending ‘was under control’ ( BDN) – David Farmer commented.

In response yesterday lawmakers in the Senate voted 26 to 9 to override the R&D bond veto ( roll call, ‘yes’ means to override – more than the two-thirds needed to override), but in the House the governor’s veto was sustained by an 88-53 ( roll call) vote – close to two-thirds, but not enough to override ( BDN). The R&D bond is now dead.

There were three other vetoes considered yesterday as well. Lawmakers sustained two vetoes of bills dealing with video slot machines ( LD 1469) and the Governmental Facilities Authority ( LD 807). The governor’s veto of LD 1781, a bill that funded salary incentives for Maine’s best teachers ( BDN, PPH, MPBN, veto message text), was overridden by lawmakers by a wide margin ( roll calls) ( PPH, BDN, Chris Galgay op-ed).

So that wraps up the Legislature’s work for 2012; but in six short months … they’ll be back! Between now and then we’ll keep you current with policy debates around the state, and get you ready for the elections and the next legislative session. Stay tuned.

State Policy round-up: Opinions on the results of the 2012 legislative session have begun to come in – the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s views were covered in a Portland Phoenix article, George Smith commented in his KJ column and the governor himself offered a 20-page summary of his accomplishments during his first 500 days in office ( download here).

Elsewhere:

Bonds: In the run-up to the governor’s bond veto last week Moody’s rating agency had downgraded the long term outlook for Maine’s credit rating, but days later Standard & Poor’s upgraded our outlook ( PPH). The BDN editors, Rep Jim Parker and Rep. Les Fossel each offered different views on what it all meant.

Budget: Grant Pennoyer and his staff at the non-partisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review keep working on budget issues even when the legislators go home – here’s OFPR’s latest May 2012 edition of Fiscal News to keep us all up to date.

Economic Development: Former DECD Commissioner and House Speaker John Richardson shared his thinking on Maine’s economic development strategies. Data showed that Maine exports were up significantly in 2011 ( BDN), and job recovery in Maine may be picking up, although full recovery is still years away ( PPH, BDN, MPBN).

Education: The University of Maine’s Trustees approved a new budget for the system that reflects that challenges facing public higher education ( BDN, PPH). Ron Bancroft commented on declining 4th grade reading scores in Maine.

Energy: CMP’s Sara Burns outlined the many benefits of the Maine Power Reliability Project in response to critics. The BDN’s Kevin Miller reported that Gov. LePage’s statements about wind power are creating uncertainty for investors.

Health Care: Anthem filed for an individual health care market rate increase ( BDN, MPBN). M.D. Harmon wrote about the benefits of PL 90, last year’s state health insurance reform law.

Maine State Housing Authority: OPEGA, the government watchdog agency in Augusta, issued a report on MSHA spending and found no wrong-doing ( PPH, BDN, MPBN, MW). The report was followed by claims of a ‘witch hunt’ ( PPH ), and generated subsequent comment from the PPH and LSJ editors, MSHA Chair Peter Anastos, Ethan Strimling & Phil Harriman and Bill Nemitz.

Real estate: Recent data shows that Maine has the 2nd highest foreclosure rate in New England ( BDN).

Small Business: Michael Cote, president and CEO of Look’s Gourmet Food Co. in Whiting, Maine, was recognized by the Small Business Administration as the runner-up in the SBA’s nationwide Small Business Person of the Year completion ( BDN).

Transportation: The PPH’s Colin Woodard took an in-depth look at the proposed East/West highway project – a companion article by Tux Turkel examined the views of supporters and opponents. A forum last night in Dover-Foxcroft brought out both sides ( PPH, BDN). Doug Rooks commented in the LSJ on the project’s prospects, and offered some advice. The BDN editors also commented.

Statewide: More on the state of county jails under state consolidation efforts on MPBN, in the PPH and the BDN. Mike Cuzzi, Tony Ronzio and Dana Connors wrote about the future of Maine’s newspapers – something Doug Rooks also reported on in MaineBiz.

Senate watch: Our Small Business Matters U.S. Senate Republican primary debate was well-attended and full of energy ( BDN, PPH). Three independents formally filed their papers and joined the race – former Governor Angus King ( KJ, BDN), local businessman Steve Woods ( BDN, Forecaster) and Andrew Ian Dodge ( BDN).

Around the Region: Renovation options are under consideration as plans for the new Cumberland County Civic Center advance ( PPH) – neighbors got a briefing ( PPH).

Cape Elizabeth & South Portland: In Cape Elizabeth check out the town’s website for the latest news, notices and information on the upcoming June 12 elections.

In South Portland a new $10 million dollar public works facility may be on the November ballot for voter approval ( Forecaster, Current). The city has maintained its top-rated bond ranking ( Forecaster).

Cumberland and Falmouth: In Cumberland the upcoming SAD 51 school board race was profiled in the PPH and the Forecaster. Two affordable housing projects are under town review ( Forecaster).

In Falmouth the upcoming council races were profiled in the PPH and the Forecaster. A meeting on Route 1 changes was postponed until July ( Forecaster).

Portland: The City Council gave final approval to the 2012-13 municipal budget ( PPH, BDN, Forecaster). Elsewhere:

Mayor Brennan continued to advance the city’s Economic Vision and Development Plan at a news conference with many partners, including the Portland Chamber ( PDS, Forecaster);Jeffery Levine was confirmed by the council as Portland’s new Director of Planning and Urban Development ( BDN);

  • City Manager Mark Rees outlined a proposed capital investment budget for the council’s review ( PPH, Forecaster);
  • According to police statistics crime in Portland was down for a second consecutive year ( Forecaster); and
  • For the latest check out Chris O’Neil’s Inside City Hall. Chris serves as a consultant to the Portland Community Chamber, working closely with members and staff to represent the Chamber before Portland City officials. Inside City Hallcovers a host of Portland related issues. It’s something that everyone with an interest in Portland affairs will want to read.

Scarborough: Information on all the upcoming June 12 ballot races can be found on the town’s excellent website, along with lots of local news and notices.

Westbrook and Gorham: In Westbrook a public informational meeting on the proposed school budget is scheduled for Saturday, June 9 from 8-10 a.m. in room 114 of Westbrook High School ( Current). Voters will decide on the school budget at the June 12 election. And don’t forget Westbrook Together Days ( Current) is going on today and tomorrow rain or shine ( Current)!

In Gorham Shawn Moody was interviewed about the future of Gorham and the region ( PPH).

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!

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.

 

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