Avery Day Has Joined Governor LePage’s Office

With mixed emotions we are pleased to announce that on Monday of this week, Avery Day joined Governor LePage’s Office. Avery will serve as Governor LePage’s Senior Natural Resources Policy Advisor, advising the Governor on environmental and natural resources issues. Since 2009, Avery had been a member of Pierce Atwood’s Government Relations practice group, representing businesses and associations before the Maine Legislature and regulatory agencies. We wish Avery the best in this new endeavor. Under the Dome has been sent out under Avery’s name since we began this publication over three years ago. We will continue to publish Under the Dome, which will now be sent to you under Andrea Cianchette Maker’s name. Please keep that in mind as you watch your e-mail inbox.

Proposals Considered this Week That Could Reshape the Maine Legislature

On March 16 the Committee on State and Local Government held public hearings on several bills that propose fundamental changes to the Maine State Legislature. One proposal, submitted by Senator Eric Brakey of Androscoggin County, would start the process to amend Maine’s Constitution to lower the age requirement to run for legislative office from 21 to 18. When the Constitution was written, both the eligible age to vote and the age to run for legislative office were set at 21. When the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in 1971 lowering the voting age to 18, Maine never updated the minimum age to run for office to align with the new voting age. This Resolution proposes to make that change. Another proposal, submitted by veteran legislator Representative John Martin of Eagle Lake, would eliminate the legislative term limits that were enacted by referendum in 1993. Many in Augusta contend the current term limits rob the House and Senate of institutional knowledge. Others argue term limits were imposed by Maine voters, and any attempt to repeal the limits should be rejected. Representative Martin has submitted another proposal to increase the salary for the Governor from $70,000 per year to $120,000 per year (a 71% increase), and to increase salaries for lawmakers from $14,000 to $24,126 in the first biennium, and from $10,000 to $17,113 in the second biennium (a 73% and 71% increase respectively). The Maine Governor’s salary is the lowest of all Governors in the United States. A fourth bill considered was submitted by Senator David Dutremble from York County, and proposes to reduce the Maine Senate from 35 members to 32 and increase the term for Senate from 2 years to 4 years. This resolution would necessarily require the redrawing of Senate district lines.

Proposal calls for Popular Election of Constitutional Officers

This week a Resolve was printed that calls for the popular election of Maine’s Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasure of State. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote of both Houses, and a majority vote of voters in the following statewide November ballot elections.

Clean Elections and Campaign Funding

The Clean Elections bill has been certified by the Secretary of State, defeated by the Legislature and will now appear on the statewide ballot this fall. The initiative proposes to increase the amount of revenues from taxes that would be transferred to the Clean Election Fund from $2 million per year to $3 million per year by requiring an equivalent reduction in tax expenditures be made from the state budget. The funds would come from the permanent eliminations of corporate tax expenditures totaling $6 million per biennium. The bill instructs the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to determine which programs are low-performing, unaccountable tax expenditures with little or no demonstrated economic development benefit, and recommend to the Legislature that those programs be prioritized for elimination. As an initiated petition, our Constitution provides that the Legislature cannot amend this bill, but must enact it, or send it out to the voters alone or with a competing measure. Last week, the House and Senate have voted to indefinitely postpone this proposal, sending it to the voters on the statewide ballot this fall. In all, there are more than 17 bills that have been proposed this year dealing with the Clean Election Act and campaign funding.

Brian Whitney Set to Become New Executive Director of the Maine Technology Institute

The Maine State Senate unanimously confirmed Brian Whitney’s nomination on Tuesday, a day after a legislative panel unanimously endorsed him. Whitney has served as the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development’s director of business development and innovation since 2012, and has been the interim leader of MTI since August 2014.

Senate Confirms Judicial and Bureau Re-Appointments

Acting upon unanimous recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary, the Senate confirmed the judicial re-appointments of Ellen Gorman as a Supreme Court Justice and Mary Michaela Murphy as a Superior Court Justice. Additionally, the Senate confirmed the re-appointments of Lloyd LaFountain as Superintendent of the Bureau of Financial Services, and Will Lund as Superintendent of the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection.

Committee Assignment for Newest House Member

Speaker Mark Eves has appointed newly-elected Pinny Beebe-Center (D – Rockland) to the State and Local Government Committee. To make this move, Speaker Eves rescinded the appointment of Representative Catherine Nadeau (D – Winslow) from that Committee. Representative Nadeau will continue to serve on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Representative Beebe-Center was elected in a special election held last week, following the resignation of Elizabeth Dickerson of Rockland who chose to move out-of-state shortly after her election in November.