Lawmakers Set to Return on May 2 for Veto Day
Wednesday, April 18, 2018 was the statutory adjournment date for the Second Regular Session of the 128th Legislature. A joint order was passed by the Senate and, after considerable debate in the House, to reconvene at the call of the presiding officers and to carry over unfinished legislative business to the next special session. The Legislature has in fact been called back into session on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, for “veto day.” Maine law provides that this extra day is “for the purpose of considering possible objections of the Governor to any bill or resolution presented to him.” When it reconvenes, the Legislature could vote to extend the current session for five days in order to address pending legislation. Otherwise, it is anticipated that a Special Session would be convened at a later date.
Key Issues, Hundreds of Bills Face Uncertain Future
According to the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis, 255 bills have not yet received final disposition. The list includes 136 bills on the Special Appropriations Table or Special Study Table, 47 bills still in committee, and 41 bills on the House and Senate calendars pending action. Several of these bills address major policy issues.
One significant issue that has not been resolved is Medicaid expansion. While the Governor has not taken action to expand Medicaid, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee has reported out a bill that would provide $3.8 million of state funds to support the additional departmental staff and administrative costs required to cover an additional 70,000 Maine adults who will qualify under the expansion, as well as technology upgrades and testing for the Maine Integrated Health Management Solution.
The Legislature has also not yet reached a decision on the matter of “tax conformity.” After the federal government enacted a tax cut and tax reform law last fall, states have had to conform their tax policies to the federal government’s or risk requiring taxpayers to maintain two sets of books for tax purposes.
Among the other substantial pending matters are marijuana sales, opioid addiction treatment, funding for K-12 schools for the 2018-2019 school year, student debt relief, the extension of the Pine Tree Development Zone program, and a number of bond proposals.
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap Begins Implementation of Ranked-Choice Voting
On April 25, following the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s recent decision upholding ranked-choice voting, the Secretary of State released a first look at the ranked-choice voting ballots. Secretary Dunlap’s office is also working to develop a web page to explain how the votes will be tabulated. Ranked-choice voting is planned to be used in the upcoming primary races for Governor and the Maine Legislature. Maine will be the first state in the nation to implement statewide ranked-choice voting. At the same time, Maine voters will have the opportunity to vote on the People’s Veto referendum, which will determine whether ranked-choice voting will apply to the general elections for U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats as well as to future primary elections.
New Law to Modernize Property Tax Appeal Process
The Legislature enacted a new law, Public Law 2017, Ch. 367, to modify and modernize Maine’s property tax system. The law requires all parties to engage in mediation for appeals to the State Board of Property Tax Review (the Board), requires at least one member of the Board to have expertise in taxation, finance, or property valuation, and creates a Task Force to examine additional changes to the property tax review process. The law arose from discussions at the 2015 Maine Pulp and Paper Summit. At the Summit, attendees identified the state’s property tax system as a key industry challenge - in particular, the state’s high industrial property tax valuations and outdated appeal process. The new law is a step toward updating Maine’s property tax review process, and a win for the pulp and paper industry and other manufacturing concerns.