Carry Over Bills

(from Maine Townsman, June 2009)
By Jeffrey Austin, Legislative Advocate, MMA

It is not uncommon during the first regular session for legislative committees to vote to carry over bills into the second session. The carry over process provides the committees and interested parties with the time necessary to improve proposed legislation, create compromises, further study the issues addressed in the bill, or just kill the bill at a later date.

Of the 450-plus bills tracked by MMA this session, 32 were carried over into the 2010 Legislative session. What follows is a description of the bills for which a final outcome has been placed on hold for one more year. The bills have been divided into two categories. The first category includes the detailed descriptions of the carry over bills MMA will be monitoring closely over the next few months and into the January 2010 legislative session. The second category includes the titles for the remaining carry over bills, a description of these bills can be found on MMA’s website at: http://www.memun.org/public/MMA/svc/SFR/LD/LD_fr.htm.

Many of the bills are being carried over due to Maine’s “competing measure” doctrine. There are four referendum questions on the ballot in November. Generally speaking, the Legislature is prevented from enacting legislation on the topics covered by the referendum questions if that legislation would be a “competing measure” to the referendum question. Many of the bills on this list are being carried over because they deal with the referenda issues of school consolidation, excise taxes and government spending/taxing limits.

Here are the carry over bills of special municipal interest.

Business, Research & Economic Development

LD 272 – An Act To License Home Building and Improvement Contractors. (Sponsored by Rep. MacDonald of Boothbay.)

This bill creates the Maine Home Contractor Licensing Act, which establishes a 9-member Maine Home Contractor Licensing Board to oversee the licensing of general contractors and trades people who perform framing, roofing, siding, insulating, window work or chimney masonry on residential dwellings. The Board includes two public members, five home contractors, one engineer or architect, one representative of the fire service, and one municipal code enforcement officer.

LD 1389 – An Act to Create State and Regional Quality of Place Investment Strategies for High-value Jobs, Products and Services in Maine. (Governor’s Bill) (Sponsored by Sen. Damon of Hancock Cty.)

This bill creates the 11-member Maine Quality of Place Council which is charged with overseeing a new initiative to inventory, through Maine’s regional planning agencies, regional and statewide “quality of place” assets. “Quality of place” assets include natural resource, landscape, downtown, historical, cultural, recreational, educational, transportation and renewable resource assets. The bill also charges the Maine Quality of Place Council with developing a “quality of place” investment strategy. The bill also establishes the Maine Quality of Place Investment Fund, to be capitalized with bond revenue approved by the voters for that purpose. When capitalized, regional planning agencies and other applicants could apply for grants for projects that would conform to or support the quality of place investment strategy.

Education& Cultural Affairs

LD 570 – An Act To Improve the Laws Governing the consolidation of School Administrative Units. (Sponsored by Rep. Finch of Fairfield)

This “concept draft” bill proposes to enact measures designed to improve the laws governing the consolidation of school administrative units. [This is bill is viewed as the vehicle to deal with the impact of the referendum question to repeal the school consolidation law. If the referendum passes, this bill will effectuate that repeal; if the referendum fails, this bill will “fix” aspects of the consolidation law which are unpopular.]

Labor

LD 934 – An Act To Clarify Public Sector Employee Fair Choice in Collective Bargaining. (Sponsored by Sen. Jackson of Aroostook County.)

This bill repeals the right of a public employer to request an election to determine whether there exists majority support for unionization within a proposed new bargaining unit, and replaces the employer’s right to request an election with a process to determine a neutral party to conduct a confidential inspection of the evidence presented by the proposed bargaining unit demonstrating majority support for unionization.

Legal & Veterans Affairs

LD 1437 – An Act To Permit Video Gaming for Money Conducted by Nonprofit Organizations. (Sponsored by Sen. Craven of Androscoggin County.)

This bill allows operation of video gaming terminals by nonprofit organizations that are exempt from federal taxation under several subsections of Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code. In order for an applicant to be provided a license by the Chief of the State Police, an application must first be approved by the municipal officers of the municipality where the video gaming activity is being proposed. The bill specifies the procedure for providing public notice of the application and a public hearing regarding the applicant’s proposal. The bill also dedicates 1% of the net terminal income derived from the licensed video gaming activity to the municipal revenue sharing fund.

Natural Resources

LD 891 - An Act To Amend the Site Location of Development Laws To Include Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Sponsored by Sen. Seth Goodall of Sagadahoc County).

This bill adds a new standard to the laws governing site location of development to allow the Department of Environmental Protection to review and consider the greenhouse gas emissions likely to occur as a result of the project. The bill also provides a related provision concerning mitigation. [While MMA did not track this bill as drafted, it is being carried over for purposes of allowing DEP and interested parties to work further on certain green house gas monitoring issues that were raised but not ultimately enacted in a similar bill (LD 1333). These municipally-related issues might include requiring a greenhouse gas analysis before permitting local government construction projects, requiring municipal comprehensive plans to include greenhouse gas goals or standards, and/or requiring transportation projects to include bicycle or pedestrian elements, etc.]

Representative Kathy Chase Representative Kathy Chase (Wells) is a member of the Taxation Committee and provides extremely valuable information to that Committee
based on her experience as a municipal assessor in Wells. Rep. Chase has also been asked by the Tax Committee to oversee a between-session working group regarding the issue of “Revenue Sharing II” recipients (see LD 662).

Taxation

LD 588 – An Act To Amend the Excise Tax on Motor Vehicles To Reflect Depreciation. (Sponsored by Rep. Pilon of Saco.)

This bill amends the motor vehicle excise tax rate structure by fixing the mill rate at 20 mills for each year of registration and declining the applicable taxable base as follows: 95% of the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price in the first year, 90% in the second year, 85% in the third year, 70% in the fourth year, 50% in the fifth year, and 15% for the sixth and succeeding years. [Like LD 570 in the field of education, this bill may be given consideration by the Legislature if the voters reject the excise tax initiative.]

LD 662 – An Act To Phase Out the Distribution of the Disproportionate Tax Burden Fund under the State-municipal Revenue Sharing Program over a 5-year Period. (Sponsored by Rep. Shaw of Standish.)

This “concept draft” bill proposes to phase out the so-called “Revenue Sharing II” distribution system over a 5-year period, thereby returning in FY 2015 to the uniform revenue sharing distribution system that was in place prior to the creation of the Rev II system in 2000. [The concept in this printed bill is not being advanced, but the Taxation Committee has given direction to a working group to determine if the standards by which municipalities are identified as eligible to receive distributions through the Revenue Sharing II system should be tightened up.]

LD 839 – An Act To Authorize an Alternative Calculation of the Property Growth Factor for Municipalities with Exempt Personal Property. (Sponsored by Rep. Gilbert of Jay.)

This bill authorizes a municipality that has a significant amount of personal property in its tax base to include the value of newly installed personal property in the numerator and the denominator of the calculation of that municipality’s growth factor under the LD 1 property tax levy limit system even though the newly installed personal property is exempt from taxation. [This bill is an example of legislation caught up in the competing measure doctrine due to the TABOR II referendum.]

LD 1121 – An Act To Protect Elderly Residents from Losing Their Homes Due to Taxes or Foreclosure. (Sponsored by Rep. Chase of Wells.)

This bill reinstates the Elderly Tax Deferral Program of the 1980’s which was discontinued in 1993. Under this Senior Tax Deferral Program, any homesteaders who are 65 years of age or older could apply to the State Tax Assessor for the property tax deferral option whereby the state would pay that household’s property taxes to the municipality and place a non-foreclosing lien to capture the value of all payments plus 6% interest, to be collected at the time the property is sold or transferred.

Utilities & Energy

LD 1350 – An Act To Establish the Maine Transmission Mitigation Trust Fund. (Emergency) (Sponsored by Rep. Martin of Eagle Lake.)

This bill creates the Maine Transmission Mitigation Trust, which manages the Maine Transmission Mitigation Trust Fund. The revenue from the imposition of a new state excise tax of $4.25 per megawatt hour on certain high-voltage electric transmission property is deposited in the trust fund. The trustees of the trust shall distribute 20% of the trust fund, up to $10,000,000 annually, to municipalities that have submitted winning bids for projects to install underground utility infrastructure. The remainder of the trust fund must be paid to Maine electricity ratepayers in proportion to each customer’s purchases of electricity transmitted over the state’s transmission and distribution utilities.

Sampling of Other Carryovers

LD 71 – An Act To Raise the Property Tax Exemption for Veterans (Sponsored by Rep. Joan Nass of Acton.)

LD 91 – An Act To Fund the Maine Downtown Center. (Sponsored by Rep. Watson of Bath.)

LD 125 – Resolve, To Establish the Blue Ribbon Commission To Study the Functions and Operations of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System. (Sponsored by Rep. Tuttle of Sanford.)

LD 160 – An Act To Require the Department of Education To Provide an Accounting of School Subsidy Based on Individual Members in a Regional School Unit or Alternative Organizational Structure. (Sponsored by Rep. Schatz of Blue Hill.)

LD 192 – An Act To Index the State Minimum Wage to Inflation. (Sponsored by Rep. Tuttle of Sanford)

LD 195 – An Act To Base the Excise Tax on Vehicles on a Percentage of the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. (Sponsored by Rep. Knight of Livermore Falls.)

LD 403 – An Act To Increase the Minimum Wage. (Sponsored by Rep. Tuttle of Sanford.)

LD 445 – An Act To Improve Tribal-State Relations. (Sponsored by Rep. Priest of Brunswick)

LD 551 – An Act To Improve the Essential Programs and Services Funding Formula. (Sponsored by Rep. Finch of Fairfield)

LD 568 – An Act To Amend the Sex Offender Registration Laws. (Emergency) (Sponsored by Rep. Sykes of Harrison.)

LD 757 – An Act To Improve the Transparency of Certain Hospitals. (Sponsored by Rep. Goode of Bangor.)

LD 788 – An Act To Aid Municipalities and the Unorganized Territory in the Reduction of Property Taxes. (Sponsored by Rep. Chase of Wells.)

LD 931 – An Act To Expand the Economic Development Benefit of Tax Increment Financing in Counties That Include Unorganized Territories. (Sponsored by Sen. Raye of Washington County.)

LD 993 – An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Study the Protection of Farms and Farmland Pertaining to Taxation. (Sponsored by Sen. Nutting of Androscoggin County)

LD 1238 – An Act Concerning the National Animal Identification System. (Sponsored by Rep. Hamper of Oxford.)

LD 1253 – An Act To Establish a Local Option Sales Tax. (Sponsored by Rep. Crockett of Augusta.)

LD 1273 – An Act To Simplify the Application for Benefits under the Circuitbreaker Program. (Sponsored by Rep. Stuckey of Portland.)

LD 1345 – Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Increase the Required Number of Signatures for a Direct Initiative or a People’s Veto and To Limit a Direct Initiative to One Subject. (Sponsored by Rep. Campbell of Newfield.)

LD 1360 – An Act To Allow Law Enforcement and Family Members To Petition the District Court To Initiate Assisted Outpatient Treatment. (Sponsored by Sen. Nutting of Androscoggin County.)