Looking Ahead . . .

While the First Regular Session of the 128th Legislature has adjourned sine die, meetings and activities in Augusta continue. The Legislative Council is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, September 19 at 11 a.m., though they have not yet released an agenda. Additionally, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) will be holding a public hearing on the Pine Tree Development Zone Program (PTDZ) on Monday, September 25 at 1 p.m. That hearing will be an opportunity for the public to provide comments regarding the value of the PTDZ program and the recent OPEGA evaluation of it. It is critical that legislators are made aware of the importance of this economic development program and suggest possible improvements. Also, the cloture date for bill requests to be submitted to the Revisor of Statute’s Office for possible consideration in the Second Regular Session is Friday, September 29 at 4 p.m. In addition to these important dates, we expect to see a Special Session of the Legislature before November 1. The Session will be held to address Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) objections to parts of the recently-enacted food sovereignty law; funding for Maine Geographic Information Systems (MEGIS); and the implementation of recreational marijuana laws. We have heard that the Special Session may be held in late October to give the Marijuana Legalization Committee as much time as possible to finish drafting its legislation.

Chairs of Health and Human Services Committee Look to DHHS for Answers on Federal Audit The Co-chairs of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, Senator Eric Brakey, and Representative Patty Hymanson, have sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) asking for additional information in the wake of a federal audit of DHHS in August that was critical of DHHS’ handling of certain Medicaid patients. In their letter, the Committee Chairs ask DHHS to account for the audit’s findings and to answer specific questions related to actions that DHHS did or did not take during the period covered by the audit, from January 2013 to June 2015. Representative Hymanson has also indicated that the Committee may hold a public work session to discuss the audit once the Legislature is back in session.

Steven McGrath to Head Governor's Energy Office

On Tuesday, September 5, Governor LePage announced that he has chosen Steven McGrath of Cape Elizabeth to serve as head of the Governor’s Energy Office. Mr. McGrath is the former CEO of Greystone Advisors, a financial company, and former CFO of Downeast Energy Corp. He replaces Angela Monroe, a deputy director in the Energy Office, who has been filling the director’s position since Patrick Woodcock’s departure last November. Mr. McGrath comes into the position during the last year of the LePage administration, but during a time when there is also increased debate about renewable power and energy prices in Maine.

Republican House Minority Leader Representative Ken Fredette Announces Bid for Governor's Office

Republican House Minority Leader Representative Ken Fredette of Newport has announced that he will run for Governor in next year’s elections. Representative Fredette, who is currently serving his fourth term in the Maine House of Representatives, will be termed out from continuing to hold his legislative office next year. He has been an avid supporter of the Governor, working closely with the Governor’s office throughout the various legislative sessions on budgetary and other policy matters. Currently, the only other Republican who has announced a run for Governor is former DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. Representative Fredette’s entry into the race guarantees a Republican primary, to be held on June 12, 2018.

Language Changes in Ballot Questions

On Thursday, September 7, 2017 Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced the final wording of the two citizens’ initiative questions that will appear on the statewide November 7, 2017 ballot. The 30-day public comment period ended on September 1, 2017 and Secretary Dunlap received more than 150 comments on the wording of both initiatives. Dunlap changed the language in the question regarding expansion of the state Medicaid program by replacing the controversial term “healthcare insurance” with “healthcare coverage.” This change was made in response to advocacy by Republican leaders who had publicly advocated for wording that reflects that Medicaid is taxpayer or government-funded. The York County casino referendum no longer refers to the company that seeks approval to build the facility as an “out-of-state” company. The change was made due to concerns that the original wording may appear biased against out-of-state companies.