Appropriations Committee Ramps up Budget Work

The Chairs of the budget writing committee have targeted the end of this week as the deadline to send a biennial budget package to the Legislature. The major sticking point in negotiations has been tax reform. Competing plans have been pitched by the Governor, Democratic Leadership and some Republicans on the Appropriations Committee. Each proposal seeks to lower the tax burden on Mainers, but there are wide variations among the plans. Budget negotiations are fluid and it is likely the committee will work well into the evening and over the holiday weekend to produce a committee budget proposal. Lawmakers have until the statutory adjournment, which falls on June 17, to vote on a two year tax and spending package.

Good Jobs and Strong Wages on Democrats Radar

Speaker of the House Mark Eves this week unveiled his plan to “Put ME to Work.” The bill, LD 1373, would invest $5 million in the state’s community colleges over  five years to create job-training programs to prepare workers for jobs in high-demand fields. The legislation, which has bipartisan support, would create public-private partnerships between the state’s community colleges and Maine businesses that would stand to benefit from the newly skilled workforce. The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee heard testimony on the bill on Monday.

Governor Introduces Legislation to Change Way Constitutional Officers Are Elected

Governor LePage this week introduced three bills aimed at changing the way the state’s constitutional officers are selected. The first bill proposes the Attorney General be selected by the executive branch, with the Legislature confirming the appointment, mirroring the current process used for the members of the Governor’s Cabinet. The second bill would also move the selection of State Treasurer to the executive branch, with the Senate confirming the appointment. The Governor’s third bill seeks to amend the state constitution to abolish the Office of Secretary of State, replacing that position with an elected Lieutenant Governor who would replace the Senate President in the line of succession to the governorship. Public hearings on these bills are scheduled for Wednesday, May 27.

Bill to Dock Lawmakers Pay for Absences Gains Senate Approval

The Senate has, by a margin of 28-6, given final approval to a bill that would cut the pay of lawmakers who fail to show up for their service. Under the bill, a lawmaker with more than five unexcused absences in the first regular session would incur a salary reduction for each subsequent absence. The cuts would kick in after three unexcused absences in the second regular session. The Legislative Council would determine how to keep attendance and how much salaries would be reduced for each absence. The bill now heads to the House for approval.

Committee Deadline to Report out Bills Arrives/Roll Call Votes Expected to Increase

Legislative leaders gave committees until May 22 to report out the bills before them, or to receive waivers from the deadline. Committees have notified leadership of the bills they wish to carry over to the second session. Lawmakers have less than a month until statutory adjournment, which is currently set for June 17, to complete all business before them this session. The morning House and Senate sessions are beginning to last longer as the more complex legislation reported out of Committees with divided reports spur more floor debates and roll call votes. In the two years of the recent 126th Legislature, the House recorded over 700 roll call votes. As of Thursday, May 21, the House had taken 91 roll call votes in the first session of the current 127th Legislature.