Legislative Council Hears State Fiscal Report
On Tuesday, September 19, the Legislative Council met to hear an update from Chris Nolan, Director of the Office of Fiscal and Policy Review, on General Fund revenues. Mr. Nolan reported that General Fund revenues were over budget by $5.3 million in August and $13 million for the fiscal year to date. Contributing to the increased revenues were strong quarterly withholding payments, sales and use taxes (largely due to auto and lodging sales), and individual income tax revenues. While corporate income tax revenues were down for August, they are $2.5 million over budget for the fiscal year to date.
Marijuana Implementation Debate Ongoing Ahead of Public Hearing on Legislation
After many months of work, the Marijuana Implementation Committee has released its proposed legislation outlining a structure for retail marijuana sales in Maine. The legislation will be considered at a public hearing on Tuesday, September 26 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 228 of the State House, with the Committee likely holding work sessions in the days following, in an effort to report out a bill for a Special Session. Among other provisions, the legislation proposes to allow licensed retail marijuana stores to sell their product online and at drive-up windows. This proposal lacks the support of Senate Chair Roger Katz, and is being criticized as making it too easy to buy a drug that is still illegal under federal law. Proponents of the measure contend that these purchase options are already available for alcohol and should be permitted for marijuana. However, proponents have indicated that, although these purchase options are important, fighting the proposed 20% tax on recreational marijuana is a greater priority.
Ten Maine Guvernatorial Candidates Oppose York County Casino Referendum
The Portland Press Herald recently published an article reporting that ten Maine gubernatorial candidates plan to vote against Question 1 on the statewide ballot on November 7, 2017. Question 1 seeks approval of one casino in York County. The wording of the ballot is such that only one developer, Shawn Scott, would qualify as an applicant for the casino permit if the measure passes. The ten candidates mentioned in the article are Jim Boyle, Adam Cote, Patrick Eisenhart, Mark Eves, Terry Hayes, Betsy Marsano, Garrett Mason, Mary Mayhew, Janet Mills, and Diane Russell.
Plan for Bangor Forensic Psychiatric Facility Met with Opposition
On Tuesday, September 19, the Bangor City Council held a public hearing on a proposed forensic psychiatric facility in Bangor. The proposed facility would have 21 beds for violent mental health patients. Governor LePage, who is proposing the facility, hopes that it will help reduce overcrowding at the Riverview Psychiatric Facility in Augusta, which currently houses both violent and non-violent patients. The proposal has met with strong opposition from Bangor residents who argue that the proposed location is too residential and that the potential threat from violent offenders will negatively impact the community. Approximately 80 opponents turned out at the public hearing, leading Bangor City Council members to consider a six-month moratorium on the construction of any such facility. The Council has yet to vote on the moratorium question.