Studies, Commissions, Task Forces, Working Groups & Pilot Programs

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

The Legislature adjourned on June 13th. Although media reports indicate that the Legislature may be called in this fall to address anticipated budget shortfalls, the Legislature is not currently scheduled to reconvene until January 6, 2010. However, as is customary, the Legislature has requested that certain work will be conducted in the interim six months – or beyond. For the bills that have been “carried over” into the 2010 session, that work may be informally requested by the Legislature. For other issues, it is not uncommon for the Legislature to formally establish a working group to do the work.

What follows is a list of the municipally significant study groups and pilot programs authorized this session by the 124th Legislature.

Membership on these working groups varies. In some cases, the study participants are only members of the Legislature. In other cases, a state agency is directed to work with an unspecified list of interested parties to accomplish the assigned task. In still other cases, the order, law or resolve that created the study group explicitly identifies the non-legislators who will participate in the study. In those types of studies, it is not uncommon for a “statewide organization representing municipalities”, for example, to be asked to recommend a municipal candidate for membership. Regardless of membership makeup, all study meetings are open to the public and interested municipal officials are urged to attend.

Any municipal official interested in serving on or learning more about any of these studies is encouraged to contact Jeffrey Austin at 1-800-452-8786 or jaustin@memun.org. A complete description of the following enactments is found in the New Laws article (page 11).

Business, Research and Economic Development

LD 11 - Resolve, To Encourage the Preservation of Dark Skies. (Sponsored by Rep. Schatz of Blue Hill.) Resolves 2009, c. 22.

This Resolve directs the State Planning Office to review existing commercial outdoor lighting standards, make recommendations on standard language that will limit light pollution, and identify policy options for promoting outdoor lighting standards for commercial development. SPO’s report must be submitted to the Legislature by January 15, 2010.

LD 652 - An Act To Clarify the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code. (Sponsored by Rep. Giles of Belfast.) PL 2009, c. 261

Buried in this clean-up bill of the statewide building code law adopted in 2008 is a charge to the Technical Building Codes and Standards Board to review issues regarding the third-party inspector system, including liability protection issues, to enhance the viability of the third-party enforcement option. The report-back date for that review is December 1, 2010.

LD 733 - Resolve, To Examine Environmental Effects of the Resource Recovery System. (Sponsored by Sen. Nass of York County.) Resolves 2009, c. 130

This Resolve directs a five member working group to oversee a two-year study to be performed by an independent private entity that is focused on the environmental effects that Maine’s recycling laws and programs have generated. Among other areas of focus, the review must include an assessment of: (1) current recycling rates; (2) the carbon footprints created by the beverage container recycling laws and municipal recycling programs; (3) barriers to comprehensive recycling; (4) the effect of educational programs on recycling rates; and (5) the potential roles of redemption centers as recycling technology advances. The members of the working group include the State Planning Office, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Maine Municipal Association. The independent study and any expert consultants retained in this process must be funded privately from outside sources. The final report of the working group must be provided to the Legislature by January 15, 2012, with the first interim report provided by January 15, 2010 and the second interim report provided by January 15, 2011.

Natural Resources

LD 460 - Resolve, To Evaluate Climate Change Adaptation Options for the State. (Sponsored by Sen. Simpson of Androscoggin County.) Resolves 2009, c. 16

This Resolve directs the Department of Environmental Protection to convene a stakeholder group made up of representatives of the business community, non-governmental organizations and state government to study the impacts of climate change on, among other systems, built infrastructure including coastal and inland flooding effects on roads and facilities, the heat effects in urban centers, beach scouring, water supplies and drinking water, emergency response systems, etc. The Department is directed to report the findings and recommendations of the stakeholders group back to the Legislature by February 27, 2010.

LD 722 - Resolve, Directing a Review of the Management of Risks Associated with Surface Uses on Public Water Supplies. (Sponsored by Rep. Pieh of Bremen.) Resolves 2009, c. 32

This Resolve directs the Drinking Water Program within the Department of Health and Human Services to review the management of risks associated with surface uses on lakes and ponds that are public water supplies. The review is directed to involve the participation of state agencies that manage access to surface water sources as well as the users of those water sources. The Drinking Water Program must submit a report of its review, along with any recommended legislation, to the Legislature by January 5, 2010.

LD 760 – An Act To Improve Landfill Capacity. (Sponsored by Rep. Duchesne of Hudson.) PL 2009, c. 412

Among other changes to the solid waste laws, this Act directs the State Planning Office to conduct a review and assessment of the state’s solid waste management policy as it applies to the funding, management and operation of the state-owned landfill, and also whether the statutory restriction on the expansion of commercial solid waste disposal facilities should be relaxed to allow a current facility (that is not under an order or agreement to close) to expand onto any contiguous property that the landfill operator owns or acquires.

LD 1010 - Resolve, To Require the Department of Environmental Protection to Review Emerging Technologies and the Laws Regarding Incinerators. (Sponsored by Rep. Connor of Kennebunk.) Resolves 2009, c. 57

This Resolve directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), with the assistance of a task force to be convened by the DEP, to review whether waste-to-energy facilities using emerging technologies that provide environmental and energy benefits should be excluded from the statutory ban on the establishment of new commercial incinerators. The DEP must submit its report and any recommendations to the Legislature by January 5, 2010.

LD 1156 - An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Recycling of Televisions. (Sponsored by Sen. Simpson of Androscoggin County.) PL 2009, c. 231

This Act amends the electronic waste recycling law as it applies to televisions.  It reapportions the manner by which manufacturers are responsible for the costs associated with recycling televisions so that assessments are based on the manufacturer’s market share of television sales nationally. The Act also directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct a review of the costs of the state’s household electronic waste recycling program and of manufacturer-responsibility programs in other states. The DEP review includes the convening of a working group with membership including the manufacturers of the various categories of electronic devices subject to recycling, an environmental advocacy organization, an electronic waste recycling or consolidation business, a statewide municipal association and other interested parties. The DEP report must be submitted to the Legislature by January 15, 2010.

LD 1268 - An Act To Update the Site Location of Development Laws. (Sponsored by Rep. Duchesne of Hudson.) PL 2009, c. 293

This Act makes several minor, technical changes to the state’s Site Location of Development Act. Of municipal interest, the Act requires a review of the municipal “delegation” provisions by directing the Department of Environmental Protection to review the provisions of law that allow qualified municipalities to substitute the requirements of the local ordinances and review procedure for the Site Location review in the areas of stormwater management law and general Site Location law, and develop any recommendations in regard to the current “delegation” provisions. The DEP is required to submit its report and any recommendations to the Legislature by January 15, 2010.

LD 1310 - Resolve, Relating to a Review of International Trade Agreements and the Management of Groundwater Resources. (Sponsored by Rep. Webster of Freeport.) Emergency Passed; Resolves 2009, c. 132 (6/15/09)

This emergency Resolve directs the Water Resources Planning Committee of the Land and Water Resources Council to conduct an examination of the potential legal impacts of international trade agreements on the ability of the state to manage its groundwater resources, including but not limited to the potential consequences of permitting foreign companies to extract groundwater. The examination is directed to include a study of the property rights related to the ownership of groundwater and the various legal doctrines relating to the use of groundwater including the “absolute dominion” rule and the “reasonable use” rule. The report of the Water Resources Planning Committee must be submitted to the Legislature by January 1, 2010.

LD 1333 - An Act To Ensure that Replacement Culverts Permit Fish Passage. (Sponsored by Rep. Pingree of North Haven.) PL 2009, c. xxx

This Act is the Climate and Energy Planning Act of 2009. This Act requires the Department of Environmental Protection to amend its rules in such a way to require municipalities to achieve natural stream flow when installing road culverts. The rulemaking is “major substantive” and is to be completed by January 1, 2011.

Taxation

LD 1154 - Resolve, To Require a Study of Economic Development Incentives in the Unorganized Territory. (Sponsored by Sen. Nass of York County.) Resolves 2009, c. 71

This Resolve directs the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and the State Tax Assessor to convene a study group to review the role of economic development incentives, such as Tax Increment Financing, in the unorganized territories. Among other charges the Resolve directs the study group to: (1) review the legal issues surrounding TIF financing in the UT and the legally acceptable methods of identifying special benefits from property tax incentives in that jurisdiction; (2) consider the role of TIFs in shifting the property tax burden throughout the UT; and (3) evaluate the potential for alternative tax mechanisms, such as a wind power excise tax, to provide support for economic development infrastructure. DECD and the State Tax Assessor must report the findings and recommendations of the study to the Legislature by January 15, 2010.

Transportation

LD 333 - An Act Making Unified Highway Fund and Other Funds Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2009, June 30, 2010 and June 30, 2011. (Sponsored by Rep. Mazurek of Rockland.) Emergency Enacted; PL 2009, c. 413 (6/16/09)

This emergency Act is the Highway Fund budget for the FY 2009-2010 biennium. Among its many provisions, the Act directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a Highway System Simplification Study. The study must be accomplished by a working group charged with the task of examining the current road classification system to determine if the division of maintenance and repair responsibilities over state and local roads needs to be “simplified” in order to improve customer service and investment decisions. The study group is also charged with determining the best construction standards for roadways across the state. The members of the study group include DOT, Maine Municipal Association, Maine Public Works Association, Maine Better Transportation Association, Associated General Contractors and the American Council of Engineering Companies. The results of the study must be presented to the members of the Transportation Committee by January 15, 2010.

LD 846 – Resolve, Directing the Department of Transportation To Study Ways To Reduce Energy Use and Promote Efficiency along Major Transportation Corridors. (Sponsored by Rep. Piotti of Unity.) Resolves 2009, c. 42

This Resolve directs the Maine Department of Transportation to conduct a study with the primary goal of determining how existing rules and laws might be changed to meet the objective of reducing vehicle miles traveled, maintaining arterial functions, reinforcing land use patterns, facilitating transit development and otherwise saving energy. The DOT study is to be conducted in collaboration with various state agencies, regional councils of government, regional planning commissions, metropolitan planning organizations and the Maine Municipal Association.

LD 1094 - Resolve, To Study Safety Measures Relating to Open Trenches and Excavations. (Sponsored by Rep. Connor of Kennebunk) Resolves 2009, c. 70

This Resolve directs the Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Department of Safety, to establish a working group to study safety measures related to open trenches and excavations. In addition to the two departments, the working group must include the Department of Labor, the Public Utilities Commission, the Maine Turnpike Authority, the Maine Better Transportation Association, the Maine Municipal Association, the Associated General Contractors of Maine, and other interested parties. In addition to the general review, the resolve directs the working group to study the trench safety law recently enacted in Massachusetts. The report of the working group must be submitted to the Legislature by February 2010.

Utilities & Energy

LD 555 - An Act To Promote Public Safety Answering Point Efficiency. (Sponsored by Rep. Fletcher of Winslow.) PL 2009, c. 219

This Act gives several directives to the Emergency Services Communication Bureau with regard to the Bureau’s duties to review, analyze and report on the operations of the state’s Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Among those directives, the Act requires the Bureau to submit a special report to the Legislature by February 1, 2010 on the optimum configuration of PSAPs in the state, taking into account such factors as total system needs, forecasted costs, optimum staffing levels, the implementation of the optimum configuration of PSAPs statewide (“including the regulation of changes to PSAP locations initiated by municipalities”) taking into consideration the cost implications for municipalities and the state, and the benefits and consequences of expanding the E-911 telephone surcharge to fund all PSAP costs, including operation and maintenance expenses currently funded through county assessments or state PSAP per-capita fees.

LD 650 – An Act To Create a Funding Structure for Suitable Investment in Public Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in the State. (Sponsored by Rep. Berry of Bowdoinham.) PL 2009, c. 377

Among other results, this Act directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Environmental Protection to convene a stakeholder group to review and make recommendations regarding funding needs and sources for the newly-created State Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Fund, taking into account the intent to use that fund as a state match for federal funds and to transfer funds from that Fund to the Maine Drinking Water Fund and the Maine Clean Water Fund. The amendment requires the departments to report the results of the stakeholder group to the Joint Standing Committee on Utilities and Energy no later than February 1, 2010.

LD 935 - Resolve, Regarding Building Energy Efficiency and Carbon Performance Ratings. (Sponsored by Sen. Goodall of Sagadahoc County.) Emergency Passed; Resolves 2009, c. 134 (6/16/09)

This emergency Resolve directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to convene a stakeholder group for the purpose of developing a system to rate buildings for their energy efficiency and carbon performance. The PUC is further directed to include the energy rating system in the Commission’s professional education and training programs and encourage real estate professionals and large-scale property owners, such as municipalities, to both use and promote the voluntary use of the energy rating system. The Resolve requires the Public Utilities Commission to develop a report on its efforts and provide that report, along with any further recommendations, to the Legislature by February 1, 2010.

Pilot Projects

In addition to studies and working groups, the Legislature has also authorized a couple of state agencies to conduct pilot programs in which municipalities may want to participate.

LD 129 – Resolve, Directing the Secretary of State To Conduct a Pilot Program for Early Voting for the November 2009 Election. (Sponsored by Sen. Mitchell of Kennebec Cty.) Resolves 2009, c. 24

This Resolve directs the Secretary of State to administer a pilot program that allows selected municipalities to conduct early voting procedures at polling places up to ten days prior to election day on November 3, 2009. The Secretary is directed to submit a report by January 15, 2010 to the Legislature detailing the result of the pilot program.

LD 150 - Resolve, Directing the Secretary of State To Conduct a Pilot Program for Ongoing Absentee Voter Status. (Sponsored by Rep. Hinck of Portland.) Resolves 2009, c. 94

This Resolve directs the Secretary of State to conduct a pilot program for “ongoing absentee voter status”. Under the pilot program created by this Resolve, the Secretary of State must select one or more municipalities that are willing and able to participate in the pilot program, and the program must continue for at least three statewide elections of November 2009, June 2010 and November 2010. The “ongoing absentee voter status” program would allow any voter in a participating municipality to apply for treatment as an ongoing absentee voter, in which case an absentee ballot will be automatically mailed to the voter. The Secretary of State is directed to design the forms and procedures necessary to conduct the pilot program, including the procedures for voters to request ongoing absentee voter status, as well as any conditions that would cause a person's ongoing absentee voter status to be terminated prior to the end of the pilot program. The Secretary must submit a report about the pilot program and any recommended legislation to the Legislature by February 15, 2011.

LD 1075 - An Act To Establish the Community-based Renewable Energy Pilot Program. (Sponsored by Rep. MacDonald of Boothbay.) PL 2009, c. 329

This Act establishes a “community-based renewable energy” pilot program that provides certain incentives for “qualifying local owners” to install renewable-resource electricity generating systems, which include wind power installations, solar arrays and installations, generators fueled by landfill gas, biomass generators fueled by products created through the anaerobic digestion of agricultural products, byproducts or waste (but does not include a generator fueled by municipal solid waste in conjunction with recycling). “Qualifying local owners” is defined to include individual residents of the state, political subdivisions (i.e., counties, municipalities, quasi-municipal entities or districts, school administrative units, regional councils of government, institutions of higher education, etc.), the state government or state agencies, federally-recognized Indian tribes, Maine-based non-profit organizations, and business corporations with a majority of Maine-based ownership. The pilot program is scheduled to operate until December 2015, and during that time there are certain limits to the amount of electricity generation that can occur within the scope of the incentive program both on a total statewide level (50 megawatts), within the jurisdiction of single investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities (25 megawatts), and with respect to individual participants (10 megawatts). The focus of this pilot program, however, is clearly on smaller generating installations. In order for any project to be considered for the program, a resolution of support for the project must be adopted by the municipal legislative body of the town or city where the electricity-generating facility is proposed to be located.