Legislature Will Convene Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The First Regular Session of the 128th Maine Legislature will convene on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. State representatives and senators will be sworn in by Governor LePage during separate ceremonies. Also on December 7, legislators will vote to select Maine’s constitutional officers (Secretary of State, State Treasurer, and State Attorney General), as well as the State Auditor.

Ethics Commission Wants Cleaner Clean Elections

The Commission on Government Ethics and Election Practices has proposed new rules for clean election candidates. The proposed rules would not allow these candidates to make cash payments of more than $50 and would withhold public funding if candidates accept fraudulent contributions. Additionally, the proposed rule would disallow clean election candidates from compensating those who collect the individual $5 checks required to qualify candidates for additional clean election funding. A December 8th hearing on these proposed rules is planned.

LePage Seeks Changes to Recently Passed Referendums

Governor LePage has stated that he plans to ask the Legislature to modify two of the recently passed referendums, namely Question 2, the 3% high earner income tax surcharge to fund education, and Question 4, increasing the minimum wage. In terms of addressing Question 2, the Governor plans to introduce tax reform that would lower the income tax rate on which the 3% surcharge would be assessed. Maine’s current income tax rate is 7.15%, which the Governor hopes to reduce to 5.75%. With regard to Question 4, the Governor will ask the Legislature to expand the time period over which the incremental increases occur, and eliminate the automatic increases tied to cost of living. His proposal would also reinstate the so-called “tip credit” that allows employers to pay less than the minimum wage to individuals who earn tips, such as servers.

Recount of Questions 1 and 2 Set, Request to Recount Question 2 Withdrawn

A recount on Question 1, which establishes a structure to regulate and tax the use of recreational marijuana, will begin December 5 and is expected to take four to six weeks. The initiative passed by less than 1%, prompting the “Maine Matters Vote No” campaign to request the recount. On December 1, the request to recount the votes for Question 2, which will raise taxes on high income earners to fund K-12 education, was withdrawn due to concerns associated with the cost of administering the recount, and the minimal likelihood of overturning the outcome given the margin between the yes and no votes cast on Election Day.