Governor Paul LePage Delivers State of the State in Letter to Legislature
On Monday, February 8, Governor Paul LePage released a written State of the State address in lieu of appearing in person before the Legislature. In his address, the Governor reiterated his policy priorities, including welfare reform, lowering the income tax, reducing electricity costs, addressing student debt and tackling the drug crisis. The Governor, referring to his frustration about working with a “socialist” agenda in Augusta, stated that he will continue holding his town-hall meetings throughout the state until Election Day in November.
Governor Paul LePage Threatens Funding to Riverview Over Forensic Patients
Governor Paul LePage submitted two proposals to the Legislature last session seeking to house forensic patients, those referred by the court system, separately from the mental health patients at the Riverview Psychiatric Hospital (Riverview) but both proposals were rejected. Governor LePage stated this week that he would stop accepting federal funding for Riverview unless the Legislature takes action on this issue. The threat by the Governor comes the same week as a set of formal recommendations regarding Riverview were issued by Court Master Daniel Wathen, former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and Of Counsel at Pierce Atwood LLP. Court Master Wathen’s findings and recommendations come after Riverview failed to implement changes to the facility over the past six months, including addressing staffing shortages and frequent staff turnover. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees operations at Riverview, has 30 days to challenge the recommendations in court if it does not accept them.
Friday Deadline for Legislative Committees to Complete Work on 60% of Bills
The deadline for all committees in the Maine State Legislature to have taken votes on at least 60% of bills before their committee is today, February 12. As of Thursday, February 11, most committees had not met the 60% threshold. The deadline is intended to ensure that Legislative work is completed in time for the scheduled adjournment in mid-April. The deadline for all bills to be reported out of committee is March 4.
No Resolution to Tax Conformity Debate at the State House
The Legislature postponed resolving the ongoing debate over tax conformity this week. Currently, the Senate has passed a version of the law that would conform Maine’s tax code to the federal tax code, for certain business tax deductions and credits, for the entire two-year biennium, which includes tax years 2015 and 2016. The House, however, has passed a version of the law that would conform only for tax year 2015. On Tuesday, February 9, due to weather conditions the Democratic caucus was cancelled, the House session was delayed, and the issue was postponed until Thursday, February 11. On Thursday, however, no compromise was reached, and the debate was further postponed. It remains to be seen whether the Legislature will resolve the issue in the upcoming week.
Jonathan Block and Larry Mitchell Confirmed to FAME
The Legislature this week confirmed the reappointment of Jonathan Block, a Tax Partner at Pierce Atwood LLP, and Larry G. Mitchell, a retired Colonel in the United States Marine Corps, to serve on the board of the Finance Authority of Maine. The Legislative confirmation came after both nominees were recommended to be confirmed by the Labor, Commerce and Economic Development Committee.