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.
Later this morning we’ll be participating in a news conference announcing Portland ConnectED, a community initiative designed to create pathways to success from cradle to career for all Portland children, students and residents.
Mayor Brennan will be joined at the news conference by initiative supporters including Creative Portland, the Sam L. Cohen Foundation, the John T. Gorman Foundation, the Opportunity Alliance, the Portland Public Library, Portland Public Schools, the Portland Regional Chamber, Southern Maine Community College, the United Way of Greater Portland and the University of Southern Maine.
The Mayor will detail Portland ConnectED’s initial goals, including achieving kindergarten readiness, grade-level reading proficiency by third grade, exceeding the state goal of 90 percent high school graduation, and endowing a fund dedicated to supporting post-secondary enrollment, persistence, and completion.
The success of Portland ConnectED will be measured by improvements in the Portland public schools, and in our future workforce. As Superintendent Caulk has said, Portland has good schools, but needs great ones.
Portland ConnectED is just one of the new workforce-related projects that the Portland Regional Chamber is involved with. Working with our Community Chamber partners we’re expanding our efforts to do more to connect our region’s business community with education at every level.
With major shifts occurring in workforce development in every part our economy the Chamber is uniquely positioned to help strengthen existing connections and to forge new alliances that support our existing economy, and the economy that’s emerging all around us.
Notable Read: Some days there’s just too much to read. If you only have time for one thing:
The weekend edition of the BDN had Matt Stone’s analysis of ‘tax fairness’ in Maine, a term that’s gaining lots of traction at the state house. If you’re going to be following this session’s tax reform debates in Augusta, use Matt’s article as your starting point.
Spotlight Legislation: Small business folks take note, especially if you have interest in getting more flexibility for using signs to boost your company. LD 483 offers 10 changes to current law that create more opportunities to use signs to attract customers and brand your business. Use the link to the bill to read it and get all the details (scroll down for a summary).
The public hearing on LD 483 is set for Friday March 8th at 9 a.m. in room 126 of the Cross State Office Building in Augusta before the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation. If your business is interested in the bill’s objectives please consider testifying at the public hearing, or if you can’t be there, use the committee link to send an email or a letter expressing your view.
Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future: The Committee continues to receive input from a wide array of sources, from private businesses to elected and educational leaders. Last Friday, they were presented with a proposal from the LePage administration to set up a statewide job clearinghouse, partnering businesses and state government ( PPH). Members agree there’s building momentum to put together a package of proposals that will support better workforce development.
In the State House: The House and Senate passed LD 250 ( summary), the current year supplemental budget, with overwhelming support ( PPH, BDN). The Governor won’t veto the bill, but he was disappointed with it and said he will let it become law without his signature ( PPH, BDN).
Elsewhere a bill to restrict lawmakers from leaving office and immediately begin lobbying by imposing a one year waiting period is drawing attention ( BDN, PPH) and support from the PPH editors. Maine Chief Justice Leigh Saufley gave her State of the Judiciary speech to lawmakers last week ( PPH).
State Policy round-up:
- Ballot watch: A bill to establish early voting via constitutional amendment was introduced last week ( BDN, MPBN) – the PPH editors supported the proposal.
- Budget: The Governor’s proposed 2-year state budget shifts teacher retirement costs from the state to municipalities – new numbers were released last week ( PPH, BDN). Some municipal officials are drafting their own budgets with the assumption that proposed revenue sharing cuts will not pass ( PPH). Gerald Weinand suggested an up-or-down vote on the Governor’s budget proposal. Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s comments about a state shutdown over the upcoming budget debate drew Bill Nemitz’s attention.
- Bonds: Democratic leaders made a counter-proposal for use of bonds tied to the sale of the state’s liquor business ( PPH, BDN) – the LSJ editors said they liked the Governor’s idea better. Doug Rooks found the Governor’s whole approach to bonds “incoherent.” Michael Peterson commented on the current liquor deal, first instituted by former Governor Baldacci.
- Economic Development: The BDN editors commented on recent studies of a national park outside Baxter State Park. Whit Richardson reported that almost 7,000 defense jobs in Maine could be impacted by the looming federal sequestration ( BDN).
- Energy: Steve Ward and Doug Baston wrote to take issue with the Governor’s energy efficiency choices.
- Education: Mark Sullivan wrote about declining state aid to local education.
- Health Care: Federally approved reductions to MaineCare are being challenged in court as illegal ( BDN, MPBN). The federal government awarded Maine $33 million to advance ‘accountable care organizations’ that move away from a payment for volume system to a payment for quality outcomes basis ( BDN, MPBN). Sen. Roger Whittemore defended PL 90, the 2011 Republican state-level health care reform. The debate over certificates of need has been rejoined at the state house ( BDN).
- Tax: Local option sales taxes are being urged by some at the state house ( PPH) – the PPH editors support them. The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting took on the case for increasing state revenues by eliminating ‘risky tax breaks.’ If the state conforms the Maine tax code to recent federal tax changes officials anticipate the loss of $81 million dollars in state revenue over the next 2 years ( BDN).
- Transportation: Eric Russell in the PPH surveyed the places in Maine where accidents were most common – Portland had the unwelcome distinction of leading the state.
Around the Region: If you’re interested in learning more about the proposed Portland to Auburn passenger rail service you can attend a forum at 1 p.m. on Thursday, February 28, at the University of New England’s Ludcke Auditorium (716 Stevens St. in Portland). Click here for more information.
- In Cape Elizabeth, a tentative agreement on a new 5 year lease of Crescent Beach State Park has been reached ( PPH, Forecaster).
- In Falmouth, support is building for proposed Route 1 improvements ( MB).
- In Portland, a proposal to change High and State Streets to two-way traffic received preliminary approval ( PDS, PPH). Elsewhere:
- A new business proposal for up to 10,000 square feet on the Maine State Pier is in preliminary stages ( BDN);
- Charles Lawton offered two lessons from the 2012-13 Portland Economic Scorecard;
- Portland schools are preparing to make cuts in response to the latest state aid reductions in the supplemental budget ( 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 Hall covers a host of Portland related issues. It’s something that everyone with an interest in Portland affairs will want to read.
- In Scarborough, Harvey Rosenfeld is retiring from the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation after 24 years ( Forecaster). Best wishes Harvey!
- In South Portland, Jon Jennings was hired as the new Assistant City Manager ( PPH, Forecaster, Current). The four candidates for the open Council seat were profiled in the Current – the election is March 12th.
Contact your local officials: Visit our website to find links to all your municipal and state house officials. Remember – if you don’t speak out, the people who represent you have no way to know what you think. So keep those email, calls and visits coming.
Back issues: Miss a Policy Update? Want to find that story or link that you lost track of? Just click here for recent back issues of Policy Update.
Feedback: What do you think? We’d love to have your thoughts on anything you’ve read here, or other topics that are important to you. The more you talk to us, the better we’ll represent your views. Send an email to share your feedback with me – and thank you!
Partners for Progress Policy Updates from the Portland Regional Chamber are supported by generous contributions from our Partners for Progress. For more information about joining the Portland Regional Chamber just click here.