Legislative Council Meets in Advance of 2016 Second Regular Session
Maine’s Legislative Council, comprised of the ten members of leadership from the House and the Senate, met on Thursday, December 17 to decide whether to advance tabled bill requests from November, as well as to hear last minute requests from members of the Legislature. The Council decided to further table a bill sponsored by Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook that would require a study on the state of mental health for both forensic and civil patients in Maine. The Council did however, agree to advance a bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond of Cumberland County, which would limit the use of video recording at polling places. Sen. Diamond submitted the bill after a group named Project Dirigo videotaped voters signing a gun control petition at the polls in November.
2015 Political Fundraising Season Coming to a Close
In the past couple of months, the Pierce Atwood Government Relations Team has been active attending a number of legislators’ campaign and PAC events on both sides of the aisle. This current fundraising season for members of the Legislature will come to a close with the start of the 2nd Regular Session on January 6, 2016 and can be expected to start back up again shortly after the session adjourns, likely in mid-April.
Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices Hosts Series of Presentations on Recent Changes to Maine Campaign Finance Law
With a number of recent changes to Maine’s campaign finance laws, including the passage of a citizens-initiated referendum in November, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices (the Commission) hosted presentations on these changes for lobbyists and attorneys.
The presentations covered the recently approved citizens-initiated referendum, as well as newly enacted campaign finance laws. The approved referendum requires a communication funded by an entity making an independent expenditure to report the top three funders of the entity, extend the reporting period for independent expenditures, and restructure the Maine Clean Election Act program. The two laws passed by the Legislature prohibit Maine Clean Election Act candidates from establishing leadership PACs and set a $250 threshold for required reporting of independent expenditures to the State.
In the presentations, the Commission also addressed proposed law and rule changes, which include possibly narrowing the requirement to file 24-hour reports of expenditures, eliminating signed affidavits from independent expenditure reports, and issuing rules regarding the types and formats of communications which will trigger a top three funders reporting requirement under the new legislation passed by the citizen initiated referendum.
As the Maine Legislature heads into an election cycle year, it will be important for voters, activists, and candidates to have a clear understanding of the recent changes to Maine’s Campaign Finance Law.
Governor Paul LePage Hosts Town Hall Meeting in Portland
On Tuesday, December 8, Governor Paul LePage held his most recent town hall meeting in Portland, Maine at USM’s Hannaford Hall in the Abromson Center. Portland residents, news media, legislators, members of the administration and dozens of USM students crowded the auditorium as the Governor discussed his priorities for welfare reform, eliminating the income tax, raising the sales tax, and his plan to combat the growing drug epidemic in Maine. While most of his remarks went unchallenged by audience members, several members of the audience did engage the Governor in a heated debate regarding the overdose drug Narcan, which the Governor argued is an ineffective way to solve the drug crisis. The town hall was part of the Governor’s ongoing effort to promote his policy agenda at the same time that his supporters in the Republican Party are working to gather the more than 62,000 signatures needed to put his income tax referendum on the ballot next November.
Land for Maine’s Future
Governor Paul LePage agreed this week to release $5 million in land conservation bonds that were approved by Maine voters in 2012. Until this week, the Governor had refused to issue the bonds until legislators approved his plan to increase timber harvesting on state lands and use the funds from the harvesting to pay for low income heating assistance. After it became clear that legislators would not approve his plan, the Governor agreed to release the $5 million in bonds that will go to the Land for Maine’s Future program. Another $6.5 million dollars in bonds approved by Maine voters in 2010 expired last month, but the Governor says he’ll issue those bonds if the Legislature acts to reauthorize them.