Budget, Minimum Wage Bill and Bond Negotiations Continue As Statutory Adjournment Looms

As the April 20 statutory adjournment date approaches, budget negotiations and legislative action related to a minimum wage bill are ongoing at the Legislature. The Appropriations and Financial Services Committee met repeatedly throughout the week to discuss bond bills, voting to reject most of them and tabling others. Two proposed bonds related to agriculture were combined, as were two related to river and waterfront development. The combined bills were approved by the Committee. The approved bills will move to the Senate for further consideration.

Medicaid Expansion Passes the Legislature

The Maine House and Senate voted this week to expand Medicaid in Maine. Thirty-one other states have already adopted a Medicaid expansion plan, which is funded largely by the federal government through the Affordable Care Act. The proposed expansion measure under consideration is a bit different from others, in that it would require those low-income Mainers covered under the ACA to pay something toward their coverage. After a lengthy and passionate debate in both chambers, in early votes the bill passed the Senate 18-17 and passed the House 85-64. Governor LePage, however, has been strongly opposed to Medicaid expansion in the past and may veto the bill. Neither chamber in the Legislature passed the bill with a two-thirds majority, meaning that neither Chamber is likely to have the votes necessary to overturn a Governor's veto.

Governor LePage Steps up Vetoes

The Governor issued several vetoes in the last week on issues ranging from education standards, to implementing study results on the Fund for a Healthy Maine, to extending the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits. The Legislature has been quick to respond, overriding most of the Governor's vetoes by a substantial majority. As the end of session draws near, and more bills start to pass out of the Legislature and land on the Governor's desk, there very likely will be more vetoed bills returned to the Legislature for reconsideration.

Marijuana Referendum May Yet Appear on Fall Ballot

The citizen-initiated petition regarding the legalization of marijuana may still appear on the ballot this fall, despite being embroiled in controversy. The referendum question, which would, generally speaking, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, initially failed the Secretary of State’s certification process. The Secretary of State’s office disqualified thousands of signatures because it did not believe the notary signatures on the forms were valid. The proponents of the measure, however, appealed the Secretary of State’s decision to the Superior Court, which earlier this week found that the notary signatures were valid. The petitions will now go back to the Secretary of State’s office for review of the individual signatures signed by petitioners. If the threshold number of signatures is validated, the petition will be certified and placed on the ballot this fall.

New Law Designed to Expedite Land Use Appeals, Encourage Development in Maine

For years, the time involved in lengthy court appeals has caused the demise of key development projects in Maine, despite the merits of the case. Appeals of municipal land use decisions can take up to two to four years to reach a resolution. However, new legislation passed into law this week, titled “An Act to Streamline Judicial Review of Certain Land Use Decisions,” offers options that could expedite the judicial process. Under this new law, when a municipal land use decision is appealed to Superior Court, any party will have the option of removing the case to the Business and Consumer Docket (BCD), and the BCD must accept the case. Cases before the BCD are generally resolved within ten months, whereas cases in the general docket may take years to reach resolution. The new legislation helps ensure a more predictable and efficient permitting process.

Governor LePage May Set Sites on US Senate

Governor LePage announced that he is seriously considering a 2018 run for the Maine U.S. Senate seat currently held by U.S. Senator, and former Maine Governor, Angus S. King, Jr. Senator King, a popular Maine politician, has announced his intention to run again and retain his seat. Governor LePage said that he believes he has "outperformed" Senator King and that he would continue to perform for the people of Maine as their Senator.