Under the Dome on Biweekly Publication Schedule
Please note that during this time when most legislative work is being done in committee, Under the Dome will be published on a biweekly schedule. We will continue to highlight those State House actions and decisions that are final.
Compressed Committee Activity
Over the next four to six weeks, the Maine legislature’s committees will be processing the bulk of the bills referred to them. At this time, just over 1,500 bills have been printed, and approximately another 150 are still expected. Meanwhile, to keep matters moving toward a statutory adjournment date of June 21, 2017, legislative leadership has set deadlines of May 12 for the committees to have voted on all bills before them, and May 26 for the committees to have referred all bills to the House and Senate. This is a tall order and one might reasonably expect some requests for deadline extensions. Committee members are working long hours, at times into the early evening, to give thoughtful consideration to the legislation before them. It is remarkable and laudatory to observe the conscientious and diligent attention legislators devote to each bill, particularly given the time pressures under which they are operating.
Next Biennial Budget under Construction
Maine’s current biennial budget expires on June 30, 2017. Any bill enacted as a non-emergency bill will not take effect until 90 days after the legislature adjourns sine die, which is when the gavel comes down for the final time in the current session. For the next biennial budget to take effect on July 1, 2017, it will need to be enacted as an emergency measure, which requires a 2/3 or more vote in the House and the Senate. The members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee are now working step by step on the proposed biennial budget that Governor Paul LePage submitted in mid-January. They are first identifying the areas in which they can easily reach agreement, and then plan to move on to more contentious or difficult areas. All expectations are that the last issue to be resolved in this session will be the issue of repealing or mitigating the impact of the 3% income tax surcharge on households earning more than $200,000 to provide 55% of the funding for essential programs and services in Maine’s K -12 education system. This 3% surcharge for funding education was enacted by a narrow margin as Question 2 on Maine’s ballot last fall.
Major Candidates for Governor
Two major candidates have formally announced bids for governor in the November 2018 election. State Treasurer Terry Hayes, a former member of Maine’s House of Representatives where she served as Democrat Minority Whip, has announced that she is running as an Independent candidate for governor, and that she intends to run as a Clean Elections candidate. Adam Cote has announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. Mr. Cote is an attorney, energy entrepreneur, veteran, and father of five children. He ran unsuccessfully for Maine’s 1st Congressional seat against Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in 2008. U.S. Senator Susan Collins has publicly shared that she is currently undecided about whether to run for governor in 2018. She has said she is seriously considering a run as she explores how she can best serve the people of Maine and help to bring them together. Governor LePage, who is term limited, has stated that he would likely not endorse Senator Collins should she decide to run for governor.