2016 Session Gets Underway with Low Number of Bills Admitted
The Legislative Council, comprised of the ten members of legislative leadership, met on Thursday, October 22nd, to consider bill requests for the 2016 legislative session, which will convene on January 6, 2016 and is expected to adjourn in mid-April. In a crowded room packed with legislators, members of the news media, lobbyists, and interested citizens, the Council voted to approve only around 33 of 400 requests. This is a much lower approval rate than seen in previous years, and sets the legislature up for less work than normal in a Second Regular Legislative session. The Council split their votes along party lines around 100 times, which was only about 25% of the bill requests considered.
Members of the Council also voted to table 18 bills for November 19th, when the Council will reconvene to hear appeals from the sponsors of bill requests which were not approved. The requests which are ultimately approved in November in this process will be added to the roughly 200 bills carried over from the 2015 legislative session.
Business Associations Oppose Question 1 on the Maine State Ballot
On Thursday, October 22, 2015, the Maine State Chamber led a coalition of Maine businesses and manufacturers to announce their opposition to Question 1 on Maine’s November 3rd ballot. The question is intended to make changes to the Clean Election Act to increase the funds available to candidates. The coalition isn’t opposed to the intent of the proposal, but they do object to the funding mechanism for it, which would permanently eliminate $6 million in business tax incentives. The coalition announced their opposition in a press conference held at the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.
Ranked Choice Voting Advocates Submit 70,000 Signatures to State
Supporters of ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, submitted roughly 70,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday, October 19th. Assuming enough valid signatures were submitted under the citizens’ initiative process, lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session will have to consider the proposal to change the way Mainers elect their officials. They will have the option to either pass the initiative as drafted, or send it out to the voters on a statewide ballot. Per the initiated petition process in the Maine Constitution, they do not have the option to amend the language.
LePage Appoints Dr. William Beardsley Acting Education Commissioner
Dr. William Beardsley was appointed Acting Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education on Friday, October 16th. Beardsley, who served as president of Husson University for 22 years, has been a longtime member of the state Board of Education and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Council. He replaces Tom Desjardin, who will revert to his position as Deputy Commissioner.
Subpoenas Issued to Top LePage Advisors in Good Will-Hinckley Investigation
On Thursday, October 15th, the Maine Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee voted to issue subpoenas to Cynthia Montgomery, the governor’s legal counsel, and Aaron Chadbourne, a senior policy advisor to the Governor to further investigate the circumstances around Goodwill-Hinckley’s firing of House Speaker Mark Eves. The subpoenas were issued after Montgomery and Chadbourne refused to testify before the committee, citing a pending law suit on this same matter brought by Speaker Eves.
LePage Nominates or Re-Nominates 24 to State Boards and Commissions
The governor has made 24 nominations to state boards and commissions this month. Many of the individuals are being re-nominated, after the governor withdrew their names from consideration in June 2015 during a dust up with the Legislature over the governor’s legislative agenda. The nominees and re-nominees must be confirmed by the Maine Senate.
LePage Nominates Five Judges to the Superior and District Court Benches
Governor Paul LePage nominated Deputy District Attorney Michael P. Roberts, Jed J. French, and magistrate judges Maria A. Woodman and Paul D. Mathews, to serve on the Maine District Court bench. Additionally, the governor nominated Superior Court Justice Paul A. Fritzsche to move to active retired status.