(from Maine Townsman, July 2005)
By Jeff Austin, Legislative Advocate, State & Federal Relations, MMA
Almost 1,700 pieces of legislation were submitted for consideration during the First Regular Session of the 122nd Maine Legislature. Approximately 15% of those bills were "carried over" to the Second Regular Session beginning in January 2006. According to a certain process, each legislative committee is authorized to request permission from legislative leadership to "carry over" a limited amount of legislation from the first legislative session to the second.
Reasons why a Committee would make a carry-over request vary. Perhaps the legislation was presented late in the legislative session and there was simply not enough time to give the bill the attention it deserves. In other circumstances, there is sharp disagreement among a number of interested parties and the Legislature wants to give those parties an opportunity to seek a compromise solution.
During this legislative session, several bills related to tax reform were carried over. In addition, the Legislature adjourned before it completed the development of its borrowing recommendation to go out to the voters, so a high number of bond proposals were carried over. Almost all bills that had been placed on the "Appropriations Table" were carried over without review. As described by former Appropriations Committee member Senator Peter Mills (Somerset Cty.), this was a somewhat unprecedented "wholesale carryover."
What follows is a list of 69 bills that MMA was tracking during the session that were carried over by the Legislature. In some cases these bills will receive little attention until they reappear in January. Even then, the carryover bills do not get as much attention as they might otherwise because there is typically no public hearing on the bill in the second session. By the time the carryover bill re-emerges, it will already have had its public hearing, although nearly a year will have passed. For a few bills, a new public hearing may be scheduled.
In other cases, the proponents of some of these bills will be actively working on the legislation during the remainder of this year, developing alternative language, collecting more information, contacting the bill's sponsor and the appropriate committee members, and otherwise lobbying for the legislation. Approximately 20 bills that fit in the "continuing work" category have been highlighted for your information. For these bills a full description of the legislation is provided. MMA staff will likely be participating in ongoing work on these bills and staff may seek municipal assistance or participation.
Some of the following bills will undoubtedly be considered in the context of one of the task forces or study commissions that have been authorized to develop recommendations on a broad spectrum of public policy issues. (See accompanying article Task Forces & Working Groups in this edition of the Townsman.)
For these reasons, it is important that municipal officials do not lose track of these carryover bills. If you are interested in participating in any working groups that may be forming to work on these bills, please contact MMA's Jeff Austin at 1-800-452-8786 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MMA will be watching most closely the following twelve bills.
LD 70 - An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Funding of State Special Elections. (Sponsored by Rep. Brown of South Berwick.)
As submitted to the Legal & Veterans Affairs Committee, this bill would establish a requirement on the state to reimburse municipalities for the direct costs the municipalities incur to hold a "special election", which is a statewide election scheduled by the state for any time other than the November statewide election in each year and the June primary election in the even-numbered years. The value of the state reimbursement to each municipality would be calculated on the basis of the municipality's population, as determined by U.S. Census. In order to capture the economy of scale pertaining to actual election costs, the "special election reimbursement rate" is calculated at the rate of 95 cents per resident for the smallest municipalities to 25 cents per resident for the largest municipalities.
LD 371 - (New title) An Act To Distribute Revenue in the Law Enforcement Agency Reimbursement Fund to Municipalities and Counties and Tow Assist Law Enforcement Officers with Unmet Catastrophic Medical Needs. (Sponsored by Sen. Savage of Knox Cty.)
Under current law, 6% of the fines collected for traffic infractions must be deposited in the Law Enforcement Agency Reimbursement Fund, which is used to reimburse municipalities and counties at a flat rate of $50 per day when a law enforcement officer attends court to assist in the prosecution of the motor vehicle infraction. Any balance in the fund at the end of the fiscal year is transferred to the state's General Fund.
As submitted to the Transportation Committee, this bill would distribute the unused revenue in the Law Enforcement Agency Reimbursement Fund at the end of each fiscal year in two ways: (1) 10% of the unused revenue would be distributed to the Law Enforcement Benevolent Fund for the purpose of providing financial assistance to law enforcement officers injured in the line of duty and to cover uninsured medical expenses of law enforcement officers and members of their immediate families who suffer from non work-related illnesses or injuries; and (2) the remaining balance would be distributed among the municipalities that provide direct law enforcement services on population-based formulas and among the counties on the basis of the populations of municipalities that do not provide direct law enforcement services.
LD 635 - An Act To Amend the Maine Sanitary District Enabling Act. (Sponsored by Rep. Koffman of Bar Harbor.)
As submitted to the Natural Resources Committee, this bill would amend the Sanitary District Enabling Act to allow for the creation of "decentralized community sanitary districts" which would be sanitary districts created within the growth zones established through the comprehensive planning process and designed to collect, manage, treat and dispose of non-industrial sanitary waste generated in those growth zones.
LD 925 - An Act To Fairly Apportion the Cost of Sheriff Patrol Services. (Sponsored by Rep. Barstow of Gorham.)
As submitted to the State and Local Government Committee, this bill would require all routine patrol services provided by a county sheriff to be conducted pursuant to a contract between each municipality desiring the services and the county. The bill further provides that the costs of any non-routine sheriff services must be apportioned among the municipalities within the county according to actual use rather than on the basis of the municipality's state valuation.
LD 1036 - An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Burial or Cremation of Certain Persons. (Sponsored by Sen. Mayo of Sagadahoc Cty.)
As submitted to the Health and Human Services Committee, this bill would amend the law governing the General Assistance program as it pertains to funding burials or cremations. Current law allows for GA administrators to take up to 10 days to make a decision on a request for GA burial benefits. GA law also provides that grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren and siblings of the deceased are financially liable for the costs of basic burial or cremation before the municipality is liable through the GA program. This bill would reduce the decision-making timeframe to 2 days, and limit the list of financially liable relatives to parents and children of the deceased.
LD 1297 - An Act To Provide Just Compensation for Established Business During Eminent Domain Proceedings. (Sponsored by Rep. Bryant-Deschenes of Turner.)
As submitted to the Judiciary Committee, this bill would establish that in certain eminent domain proceedings, including the taking of land owned by the business, the municipality must compensate an established business for the direct and proximate decrease in the value of the business as well as lost profits and lost income.
LD 1377 - An Act Regarding Municipally Owned Street Lighting. (Sponsored by Sen. Woodcock of Franklin County.)
As submitted to the Utilities Committee, this bill would allow municipalities to: (1) purchase only energy from electrical transmission utilities for street light purposes without necessarily leasing the lighting hardware; (2) place municipally-owned streetlights on utility poles; and (3) acquire existing utility-owned streetlights after payment of compensation to the utility. The bill also limits the ability of the electrical company to impose standards or require code compliance with respect to municipally-owned streetlights that exceed the standards or codes that would apply to the utility.
LD 1414 - An Act To Authorize Municipalities To Create Municipal Fire Districts. (Sponsored by Rep. Duplessie of Westbrook.)
As submitted to the State and Local Committee, this bill would authorize municipalities to create, by ordinance, municipal fire districts. The bill would also authorize the municipalities to levy services charges for fire protection services against all property owners within the fire district, including tax exempt institutions. The collection of the of the service charges would be accomplished through the property tax assessment process, and unpaid fire service charges would be collected in the same manner as unpaid sanitary district fees.
LD 1535 - An Act Making Improvements to the Laws Regarding Local Land Use Ordinances. (Sponsored by Rep. Koffman of Bar Harbor.)
As submitted to the Natural Resources Committee, this bill would make a number of substantive changes to the state's land use planning laws that pertain to municipalities. Specifically, the bill would: (1) require the municipality's "implementation program" of its comprehensive plan to include something about the municipality's "full range of spending and borrowing powers"; (2) establish as a matter of state policy that land use planning and regulation is a shared responsibility of state and local government because of "increasing population in many regions of the state, environmental considerations that cross municipal boundaries, the complexity of modern development, and the need to combat sprawl"; and (3) control all municipal "rate of growth ordinances" (or building permit limitation ordinances) by requiring them to: (a) be temporary in duration (generally five years, with a possible three-year extension); (b) be based on a demonstration of need included in the municipality's comprehensive plan, complying with a rating system developed by the State Planning Office; (c) include exemptions for affordable housing and houses built on subdivision lots given to family members by the subdivider; (d) distribute the building permits in two equal distributions throughout the year, with certain required provisions for carrying over undistributed permits. The bill would authorize more restrictive and less state-controlled rate of growth ordinances if they are applied only to designated rural areas of the municipality and not applied to the municipal "growth areas."
LD 1595 - An Act To Rebalance Maine's Tax Code. (Sponsored by Rep. Woodbury of Yarmouth.)
As submitted to the Taxation Committee, this bill would comprehensively amend Maine's tax code by: (1) establishing a flat 6% income tax rate on all Maine taxable income; (2) generally achieving conformity with the federal income tax code; (3) increasing the child care income tax credit to 25% of the federal credit, and the earned income tax credit to 25% of the federal credit; (4) expanding the maximum benefit of the Circuit Breaker program from $2,000 to $3,000 and increasing the maximum amount of property taxes that can be considered when calculating the benefit; (5) expanding the base of the sales tax to include a broad range of recreational business, home care and personal services and repealing a long a list of existing exemptions, including the exemption for food; (6) dropping the general sales tax rate from 5% to 4%; (7) increasing the sales tax rate on liquor sold in licensed establishments and the lodging tax rate from 7% to 10%, short term auto rental rate from 10% to 20%, and the prepared food tax rate from 7% to 8%; (8) increasing the real estate transfer tax from $2.20 per $500 to $5.00 per $500 and providing a credit of 50% of those real estate taxes paid on any permanent residence; (9) increasing the excise tax on cigarettes by 50 cents a pack and increasing other excise taxes on various alcohol products.
As subsequently amended by Committee, LD 1595 would: (1) Reduce income taxes in a variety of ways, including reducing the highest marginal income tax rate, conforming Maine's income tax code with the federal code with respect to the personal and standard deductions, and increasing the low-income tax credits; (2) Fully fund the new $13,000 homestead exemption; (3) Fully fund the state requirement to pay 55% of the cost of K-12 education, as measured by EPS, by FY 07 (instead of by FY 09); (4) Further expand the benefit and eligibility levels under the "circuit breaker" property tax and rent rebate program so that a qualifying household could receive as much as a $3,000 annual benefit; (5) Repeal several sales tax exemptions, such as the exemptions on packaging materials and certain short-term rentals; (6) Re-impose the sales tax on "snack" food items that was enacted in 1991 and repealed in 1998; (7) Expand the sales tax to a broad range of services that were not a significant part of the Maine economy in 1953, when the sales tax was first enacted, and the retail consumption of which has never been subject to the sales tax. Those services include amusement and recreation services, personal services, personal property services, home services, and certain contracted services; (8) Increase the meals and lodging sales tax from 7% to 8%; (9) Increase the sales tax rate on short term auto rentals from 10% to 15%; (10) Increase the excise tax on beer and wine; (11) Enact an excise tax (at the distributor level) on soft drinks at the rate of 42 cents per gallon, and, (12) Expand the Real Estate Transfer Tax to create an upwardly sliding scale depending on the value of the real estate being sold, but actually reduce the current Transfer Tax rate on properties that are sold which have a value under $200,000.
LD 1628 - An Act Regarding Occupational Safety and Health Training for Workers on State-funded Construction Projects. (Sponsored by Rep. Patrick of Rumford.)
As submitted to the Labor Committee, this bill would require that any contractor or subcontractor entering into a contract for a "public work" provide documentation demonstrating that all employees working on that project have completed a construction safety training course approved by OSHA.
LD 1660 - An Act To Reduce Income Taxes and Encourage Economic Growth in Maine. (Sponsored by Rep. Woodbury of Yarmouth.) (Governor's Bill)
As submitted to the Taxation Committee, this bill is Governor Baldacci's proposed "tax reform" legislation. The bill is divided into two parts. The first part deals with a proposed change to the income tax code. The second part would repeal the property tax on business personal property. The second part of the bill would do the following:
1) All business property that currently qualifies for the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program (BETR) that has been introduced into the municipality and would be subject to taxation for the first time on or after April 1, 2007 would be exempt from local property taxation.
2) The definition of qualifying property would appear to track the definition of BETR-qualified property. BETR-qualified property includes all business personal property (and certain types of real property) except for such incidentals as office furniture and lamps and lighting fixtures. (Other long-term exclusions from the BETR program include the personal property of public utilities, cable television companies, and companies that provide radio paging services, mobile telecommunications services, satellite-based direct television services or certain television services. Additional recent exclusions include gambling machines, gas pipeline property, and the personal property of big-box retail stores.)
3) Generally, with two exceptions, the state would meet its minimum constitutional obligation to reimburse municipalities for just 50% of the lost tax revenue associated with the newly-created exemption. For the first two tax years after this exemption goes into effect, the statutory reimbursement rate would be 75% instead of 50%. Also, in the future, the property currently enrolled in the BETR program which comes out of the program after its 12 years of BETR eligibility would be exempt from property taxation for the remainder of its taxable life, but the statutory reimbursement to cover the lost tax revenue would be 100% rather than 50%.
4) The municipality would apply for its reimbursement by November 1 of the year in which the exemption applies, and the reimbursement would be provided by the state by December 15th of that year.
Although the business personal property would be entirely exempt from taxation, a percentage of the value of the exempt property would still have to be included in the municipality's total taxable value as well as the municipality's state valuation. The percentage of value of this exempt property that would remain part of the municipality's total valuation is the percentage by which the state is reimbursing the municipality for its lost tax revenue.
The remaining "carryover" bills of municipal interest are as follows:
Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry
LD 934 - Resolve, To Transfer Ownership of Certain Public Reserved Lands to the Town of Allagash. (Sponsored by Rep. Jackson of Fort Kent.)
Appropriations & Financial Affairs
LD 544 - An Act To Ensure Statewide Access for Schools and Libraries to On-line Reference Materials and Periodicals. (Sponsored by Sen. Edmonds of Cumberland Cty.)
LD 550 - An Act To Appropriate Matching Funds for the Construction of a Convention Center in Oxford Hills. (Emergency) (Sponsored by Rep. Millet of Waterford.)
LD 756 - An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Revitalize Downtown Areas, Support Cultural Tourism and Expand Maine's Creative Economy. (Sponsored by Sen. Edmonds of Cumberland Cty.)
LD 775 - An Act To Provide a Stable Source of Funding for the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund. (Sponsored by Rep. Trahan of Waldoboro.)
LD 787 - An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for the Enhanced Development of Public Geographic Information. (Sponsored by Rep. Koffman of Bar Harbor.)
LD 794 - An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Allow Municipalities To Purchase Fishing Rights and Equipment. (Sponsored by Sen. Strimling of Cumberland Cty.)
LD 844 - An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Stimulate Maine's Economy. (Sponsored by Sen. Bromley of Cumberland Cty.)
LD 876 - An Act Authorizing a General Fund Bond Issue To Encourage Development of Maine's Traditional Industries. (Sponsored by Rep. Pingree of North Haven.)
LD 926 - An Act Authorizing a General Fund Bond Issue To Preserve Maine's Traditional Working Waterfront and Farming Economies by Ensuring Access to Working Waterfront and Farmland. (Sponsored by Rep. Percy of Phippsburg.)
LD 1001 - An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Construct and Upgrade Water Pollution Control Facilities and Public Water Systems, Clean Up Uncontrolled Hazardous Substance Sites, Remove Hazardous Materials from Schools, Comply with Federal Storm Water Regulations, Make Public Water System Improvements, Replace Air Quality Monitoring Equipment, Establish Hospice Services, Repair State-owned Dams and Remediate Lead Paint. (Sponsored by Sen. Cowger of Kennebec Cty.) (Governor's Bill)
LD 1020 - An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Stimulate Economic Growth and Job Creation through Investments in the Maine Economy. (Sponsored by Rep. Smith of Monmouth.) (Governor's Bill)
LD 1035 - An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Provide Funds for the Land for Maine's Future Program. (Sponsored by Rep. Fischer of Presque Isle.) (Governor's Bill)
Business, Research & Economic Development
LD 192 - An Act To Establish the Pine Tree Recreation Zone. (Sponsored by Rep. Moody of Manchester.)
Criminal Justice & Public Safety
LD 10 - Resolve, To Fund a Study Regarding Health Care for Maine's Firefighters. (Reported by Rep. Blanchette of Bangor.)
LD 1018 - An Act To Require a Criminal Background Check for the Initial Licensure of Emergency Medical Services Personnel. (Sponsored by Rep. Sykes of Harrison.)
LD 1508 - An Act To Regulate Fire Alarm Contractors. (Sponsored by Sen. Nass of York Cty.)
Education & Cultural Affairs
LD 1349 - An Act To Encourage Neighborhood Schools and To Minimize Sprawl Caused by School Siting. (Sponsored by Rep. Piotti of Unity.)
LD 1381 - An Act To Update Teachers' Minimum Salaries. (Sponsored by Sen. Mitchell of Kennebec Cty.)
LD 1425 - An Act To Support the Efficient Implementation of Maine's Learning Results. (Sponsored by Rep. Cummings of Portland.)
Health & Human Services
LD 1614 - An Act To Sustain and Strengthen Community Health Coalitions. (Sponsored by Sen. Rosen of Hancock Cty.)
LD 1045 - An Act Regarding Contract Indemnification. (Sponsored by Sen. Hobbins of York Cty.)
LD 1455 - An Act To Codify Public Records Exceptions. (Reported by Rep. Koffman of Bar Harbor for the Committee to Study Compliance with Maine's Freedom of Access Laws.)
LD 430 - An Act To Modify the Obligation To Bargain under the Municipal Public Employees Labor Relations Law. (Sponsored by Rep. Norton of Bangor.)
LD 1021 - An Act To Implement Task Force Recommendations Relating to Parity and Portability of Benefits for Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters. (Reported by Rep. Duplessie of Westbrook for the Task Force to Study Parity and Portability of Benefits for Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters.)
LD 1346 - An Act To Require Employers and Employees To Provide a 2-Week Notice before Terminating Employment. (Sponsored by Rep. Twomey of Biddeford.)
LD 141 - An Act To Ensure Proper Disposal of Debris and Protection of the Environment. (Sponsored by Sen. Martin of Aroostook Cty.)
Starting on January 1, 2006, this bill would prohibit the disposal or incineration of any construction and demolition debris that originated out of state.
LD 1058 - An Act To Regulate the Use of Batteries Containing Mercury. (Sponsored by Sen. Cowger of Kennebec Cty.)
LD 1578 - An Act To Ensure Certain Protections to Communities Hosting Waste-to-energy Facilities. (Sponsored by Sen. Hobbins of York Cty.)
LD 1592 - An Act Regarding Disposal of Dredged Materials. (Reported by Rep. Koffman of Bar Harbor for the Joint Standing Committee on Natural Resources.)
LD 1669 - Resolve, To Authorize Certain Host Community Benefits Relative to a Landfill in the City of Old Town Owned by the State. (Sponsored by Rep. Blanchard of Old Town.)
State & Local Government
LD 889 - An Act To Create the County Government Capital Improvements Revolving Loan Fund. (Sponsored by Sen. Weston of Waldo Cty.)
LD 1003 - An Act To Establish the Androscoggin County Budget Advisory Committee and the Somerset County Budget Advisory Committee. (Sponsored by Sen. Snowe-Mello of Androscoggin Cty.)
LD 1127 - Resolve, To Establish a Pilot Project To Assist Towns Interested in Multi-town Cooperation and Governance. (Sponsored by Sen. Andrews of York Cty.)
LD 1230 - An Act To Facilitate and Promote Regional Cooperation. (Sponsored by Rep. Shields of Auburn.)
LD 1481 - An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Enactment Procedures for Ordinances. (Sponsored by Sen. Bromley of Cumberland Cty.)
LD 74 - (New title) An Act To Increase Eligibility for the Property Tax Exemption for Veterans. (Sponsored by Rep. Davis of Falmouth.)
LD 484 - An Act To Enact the Tax Fairness Act. (Sponsored by Rep. Watson of Bath.)
LD 626 - (New title) An Act Relating to the Sale of Foreclosed Property. (Sponsored by Rep. Twomey of Biddeford.)
LD 791 - (New title) An Act Concerning the Taxation of Property Owned by Certain Veterans' Organizations. (Sponsored by Sen. Martin of Aroostook Cty.)
LD 1102 - An Act To Connect the BETR Program with Job Retention. (Sponsored by Rep. Clark of Millinocket.)
LD 1165 - An Act To Encourage the Preservation of Affordable Housing. (Sponsored by Rep. Glynn of South Portland.)
LD 1258 - An Act To Provide for Department of Labor Services and Other Services in Unorganized Territories. (Sponsored by Sen. Martin of Aroostook Cty.)
LD 1328 - An Act To Amend the Maine Tree Growth Law To Encourage Public Areas. (Sponsored by Sen. Martin of Aroostook Cty.)
LD 1343 - An Act To Simplify Rent and Property Tax Relief. (Sponsored by Rep. Eder of Portland.)
LD 1400 - An Act To Reduce Payments under the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement Program and To Eliminate Double Dipping and Increase Conformity with the Internal Revenue Code. (Sponsored by Sen. Mills of Somerset County.)
LD 1552 - An Act To Make Owners of Cooperative Housing Eligible for the Homestead Exemption. (Sponsored by Rep. Crosby of Topsham.)
LD 1557 - An Act To Improve the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement Program. (Sponsored by Sen. Strimling of Cumberland Cty.)
LD 1587 - An Act To Modernize Maine's Tax Code. (Sponsored by Rep. Dudley of Portland.)
LD 1605 - An Act To Reform the Income Tax for Middle-income and Lower-income Families. (Sponsored by Sen. Strimling of Cumberland Cty.)
LD 1625 - An Act To Fully Fund the Homestead Exemption. (Sponsored by Sen. Cowger of Kennebec Cty.)
Joint Select Committee on Property Tax Reform
LD 2 - Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Limit the Rate of Change in Taxable Value of Homestead Land. (Presented by Rep. Percy of Phippsburg.)
LD 510 - An Act Concerning Dismantling of Railroad Track. (Sponsored by Rep. Richardson of Brunswick.)
LD 998 - An Act to Authorize Department of Transportation bond Issues To Match Available Federal Funds for Improvements to Highways and Bridges; Airports; Public Transit; State-owned Ferry Vessels and Ferry and Port Facilities; Port and Harbor Structures; Development of Rail Corridors and Improvements to Railroad Structures; and Statewide Trail and Pedestrian Improvements. (Sponsored by Sen. Damon of Hancock Cty;.) (Governor's Bill)
LD 1159 - An Act To Promote Transportation Investments within Downtowns and Urban Compacts. (Sponsored by Rep. Fisher of Brewer.)
Utilities & Energy
LD 205 - An Act Providing for Regulation of the Cable Television Industry by the Public Utilities Commission. (Sponsored by Rep. Gerzofsky of Brunswick)
LD 407 - An Act To Place the Emergency Services Communication Bureau within the Department of Public Safety. (Sponsored by Sen. Hobbins of York Cty. for the Department of Public Safety)
LD 637 - An Act To Allow Qualified Health Centers To Obtain Telecommunications Education Access Funding. (Sponsored by Rep. Bliss of South Portland.)