Spokesperson Says Governor Paul LePage Will Not Seek Senator King’s U.S. Senate Seat A spokesperson for Governor LePage has issued a statement that the Governor will not run against U.S. Senator Angus King, who is up for re-election in 2018. The Governor, however, declined to comment on whether he might appoint himself to serve the remaining term of U.S. Senator Susan Collins should she run for and win the gubernatorial race in 2018. Senator Collins recently stated that she was considering making a run for the Governorship. Her seat is up for election in the fall of 2020.
Maine Senate Confirms Barry Hobbins as Public Advocate On Thursday, May 11, the Maine State Senate voted to unanimously confirm former Democratic lawmaker Barry Hobbins to the post of Public Advocate. The Office of the Public Advocate represents Maine utility ratepayers in proceedings before the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee had voted unanimously to recommend to the Senate that Hobbins be confirmed as the Public Advocate. Hobbins will replace the outgoing Public Advocate, Tim Schneider.
Legislative Appropriations Committee Entering Final Negotiations on the Budget Members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee say that they have completed about two-thirds of the state’s next biennial budget, which commences on July 1, 2017. The contentious issues, however, remain. These include income tax issues, and most notably the potential repeal of the 3% high earner surcharge tax enacted last fall to fund education. Meanwhile, the other legislative committees are working diligently to report out their bills. The number of printed bills is now over 1,600. As we approach a statutory adjournment date of June 20, only a handful of bills are being printed each week, which means committees will continue to process bills into June as the budget is being finalized.
Affordable Housing Bonds Closer to Being Released Earlier this week, the Maine House and Senate voted in support of L.D. 832, An Act to Carry Out the Will of the People of the State of Maine by Ensuring the Issuance of Bonds to Support the Independence of Maine’s Seniors, sponsored by Senator Roger Katz. The bill would allow the Treasurer of State to move forward with issuing and selling the bonds without the approval of the Governor. Under current law, the Governor must direct the Treasurer’s Office to sell the bonds. The legislation is in response to an issue that started in 2015, when voters approved $15 million in bonds for affordable senior housing. Since that time, Governor LePage has refused to release the bonds. The Governor has argued that the bonds will not help seniors but will enrich a few. L.D. 832 still faces additional votes in the House and Senate as well as a likely veto from Governor LePage.
Labor Committee Votes to Restore Tip Credit to Maine’s Minimum Wage Law Several weeks after a marathon public hearing lasting over ten hours, the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee held a work session on all the bills related to minimum wage and the tip credit. The Committee quickly disposed of a number of these bills, choosing instead to use L.D. 673, sponsored by Senator Katz, as the primary vehicle for tip credit restoration. The Committee ultimately voted 11-2 Ought to Pass as Amended on the bill, which if passed, will restore the tip credit and add some safeguards for Maine tipped workers. The minority vote on the Committee supported an Ought Not to Pass report. The tip credit debate has been one of the most contentious this session, with thousands of Maine restaurant workers weighing in on both sides of the issue. L.D. 673 will now make its way to the Senate and the House to be voted on.
Summer Road Work Set to Begin after State Treasurer Helps to Ensure Issuance of Construction Bonds Governor LePage and State Treasurer Terry Hayes have come to an agreement regarding the necessary qualifications for bond counsel for Maine’s transportation bonds. Earlier this year, Treasurer Hayes issued an RFP for a bond agent, using the historical qualification that the bond agent have bond agent experience for three other states. The RFP was awarded to the Boston office of a Texas-based law firm. Governor LePage however, was concerned that the RFP drafted by the Treasurer may not have followed proper procedure and, in addition, unnecessarily excluded Maine-based law firms. As a result, the Governor ordered the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation to stop awarding construction contracts this spring, halting projects just as the construction season was to get underway. After some discussion with the Governor’s representatives and interested parties, Treasurer Hayes agreed to re-issue the RFP in at least two packages, one using essentially the old language to bond the project ready to go and another package to be released later using new language to cover the remaining projects. The Treasurer cited the importance of resolving the issue to ensure that Maine’s infrastructure projects remain on schedule and construction workers are employed this summer.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Visits State House to Discuss Opioid Epidemic Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and White House Counsel Kellyanne Conway met with Governor LePage in the Maine Capitol to discuss the opioid addiction epidemic. Last year, 376 Mainers died of opioid-related incidences. The Legislature has also been working on dozens of bills related to the epidemic, and an ongoing opioid task force continues to seek solutions to help Maine’s struggling addicts, families and communities.
Spotted Under the Dome! Maine Law Enforcement memorial, Thursday, May 18th.