Legislature Delays Passage of a Tax Conformity Bill

The Appropriations Committee worked on a bill this week that would conform elements of Maine’s tax code to the federal tax code, including tax cuts for K-12 school teachers who spend out-of-pocket for school supplies, and a higher maximum deduction for depreciable assets for small businesses. After consideration, the Committee voted out a majority and minority report. The minority report would adopt permanent conformity to federal tax law on these issues, whereas the majority report would only conform for tax year 2015.  The bill has moved from the Appropriations Committee to the Senate and the House; the reports will be debated and the Legislature is expected to adopt some version of the bill on Tuesday, February 9, or soon thereafter.

Citizen Groups Submit Signatures for November Ballot Questions

There are likely to be several citizen initiated referenda on the November ballot this year. In addition to the ranked choice voting question that was certified earlier this year, supporters of a number of issues – marijuana legalization, the development of a casino in York County, a 3% tax on higher income wage earners to support education funding, background checks for certain gun purchases, and a minimum wage raise – all submitted signatures to the Secretary of State’s office by the February 2 deadline to advance the questions on a 2016 statewide ballot. The Secretary’s office will still need to validate the over 61,000 signatures needed to qualify a question for the fall ballot. At the same time, the state GOP did not submit signatures collected for referendum questions seeking to reduce the state’s income tax rate and reform welfare.  Apparently proponents of this petition did not garner enough signatures needed by February 2. The GOP may still advance these questions on a 2017 statewide ballot, using the signatures they've collected already combined with any new signatures they get before the 2017 deadline.

Governor Paul LePage Appoints New Chief Legal Counsel

Governor Paul LePage has appointed Avery Day as his new Chief Legal Counsel. Mr. Day, who most recently served as a senior policy advisor to the Governor, had also served for several months as the acting commissioner for the Department of Environmental Protection. Prior to his service with the Governor, Mr. Day worked as a government relations attorney for Pierce Atwood LLP. Mr. Day replaces Cynthia Montgomery, who left her role in the Governor's office earlier this year and this week was sworn in as a judge on the District Court bench.