Supplemental Budget to Become Law

Governor LePage will allow the state supplement budget overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers last week to become law without his signature.  The $28.5 million plan fixes a gap in funding that threatened to close many county jails and funds 29 positions at Riverview, the state run hospital for persons with mental illness.

Tax Reform Proposals Become the Focus

Meanwhile, this week the Taxation Committee made its recommendations to the Appropriations Committee on the governor’s tax reform plan. The panel unanimously agreed the state must maintain revenue sharing but was divided along party lines on others measures in the proposal.  On Thursday, Democrats outlined their tax reform plan, which they are calling a “better deal for Maine.” Democratic leaders claim their package does not create a hole in the state budget like the one proposed by Governor LePage. These developments begin to set the stage for intense tax reform and budget negotiations under the dome over the next two months or so.

Pittsfield Democrat Quits Party

Representative Stanley Short of Pittsfield told house leadership this week he is leaving the Democratic Party. In a written statement Short said he has come to realize positive results are more important than partisan battles. The former union leader will become the fifth Unenrolled member of the house this legislative session, that is the largest number of Unenrolled or independent house members since 1913. Democrats still control the house by a ten-seat margin with 78 Democrats, 68 Republicans and 5 Unenrolled members.

Governor Unveils New Welfare Reform Plan, Democrats Wait for Details

On Monday Governor LePage held a press conference to renew his efforts to reform state public assistance and address welfare fraud by expediting the welfare to work transition and requiring applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to apply for three jobs before seeking state aid.  Other key components of the LePage initiative include prohibiting the use of electronic benefits transfer cards to pay for certain items and for out of state purchases. Democrats, some of whom have also submitted welfare reform bills, are holding their response until they are able to analyze the details in the underlying legislation, which had not been printed at the time of the press conference. 

Concealed Carry Law Debated

An effort to roll back the concealed carry law in the state is stirring heated debate, as a huge turnout of supporters packed a public hearing this week.  Legislation has been introduced that would make it legal to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. If the measure, which was co-sponsored by more than half of the members of legislature, gains approval, Maine would join a small but growing number of states adopting the so-called "constitutional carry" law. Those states including Vermont, Alaska and Arizona.

Bicentennial License Plate Proposal in the Works

As Maine readies to celebrate its bicentennial the Transportation committee will consider a bill calling for a commemorative license plate.  The bill would direct the Secretary of State to design and issue the plate, which could be displayed over the front registration plate from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2020.  A portion of the net revenue generated by the sale of the plates would be dedicated to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

Committee Work Steps Up

Legislative leadership has issued a directive to committees that 60 % of bills must be reported out of committee by today (Friday, April 10). Statutory adjournment for this First Regular Session is Wednesday, June 16. 

Governor LePage Announces Nine Judicial Nominations   

A number of nominations for judicial appointments and reappointments have been made by Governor Lepage including:   Judge Susan A. Sparaco, Farmingdale, Judge Jeffrey H. Moskowitz, Saco and Judge Andre G. Janelle, Biddeford for reappointment to Maine District Court;  Judge Rae Ann French of Monmouth for reappointment and Judge Peter J. Goranites of Cumberland for appointment as Active Retired Judges of the Maine District Court;  Justice Roland A. Cole of Wells and Justice William R. Anderson of Morrill for reappointment as Justices to the Maine Superior Court; and Justice Donald H. Marden of Oakland for reappointment and Justice Joyce A. Wheeler of Portland for appointment to Active Retired Status of the Maine Superior Court.  All nominations are contingent on confirmation by the Maine Senate after review and recommendation by the Judiciary Committee.