2015 Beyond the Roll Calls

Mining Rules

Leadership from many legislators and vocal support from concerned Mainers led to the rejection of the mining rules. Sen. Breen and Rep. Tucker, new members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, championed stronger rules throughout committee deliberations. Freshmen Reps. Battle, Corey, Foley and Jeff Pierce became valuable leaders in their caucus and on the House floor. Past Legislative champions remained steadfast: Speaker Eves, Majority Leader McCabe, Assistant Minority Leader Espling, Reps. Chapman, Chipman, Larry Dunphy, Grant, Harlow, Parry and Welsh. Rep. Saucier voted against the rules this session, a change from last session. Sen. Saviello voted to support the mining rules but, during a floor speech, encouraged the Senate to reject the rules.

Energy Efficiency Funding

Assistant House Majority Leader Gideon, Rep. Larry Dunphy and Sen. Katz championed the bill to restore energy efficiency funding (“AND”). Rep. O’Connor made the motion to pass the bill out of committee. Sen. Hill played a leadership role and sponsored a bond to increase efficiency funding. Energy, Utility and Technology Committee chairs Sen. Woodsome and Rep. Dion skillfully guided the efficiency funding debate.

Release Land for Maine’s Future Bonds

Sen. Katz and House Majority Leader McCabe sponsored and championed the bill to require the release of Land for Maine’s Future bonds. They both spoke passionately about honoring the will of the voters in urging release of the bonds. Other leaders on this issue were Reps. Black, Corey, Grohman, Marean, Dan Martin, and Senators Breen, Johnson and Langley. Six representatives initially voted in support of the bill but, disappointingly, switched their votes on the veto override: Reps. Bickford, Guerin, Jeff Pierce, Skolfield, Timmons and Wood. Similarly, Senators Brakey and Rosen voted for the bill and against the override. Rep. Picchiotti had the distinction of being the sole representative to vote against the bill and in favor of the override. Senators Cyrway and McCormick also voted against the bill but in favor of the override. Rep. Tuell was the only Republican member of the State and Local Committee to vote for the bill in committee and on the House floor.

Diversion of Timber Harvesting Revenue

The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee voted 12-1 against the bill to divert timber harvesting revenue to an unrelated program. Rep. Wadsworth was the one vote in support. Reps. Hickman and Marean of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee also worked to defeat this bill.

Regulatory Takings

Sen. Johnson and Reps. Moonen, Evangelos and Warren of the Judiciary Committee all played important roles in defeating the regulatory takings bill. Senators Katz and Saviello were the only Republican senators to vote against the bill. Sen. Diamond was the only Democratic senator to vote for it. Republican Reps. Battle, Corey, and Larry Dunphy were the only Republican representatives who voted against the Takings bill in the House.

SUCCESSFUL DEFENSE:

Energy Efficiency. The Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code survived Senate President Thibodeau’s bill to weaken it (LD 1191). This bill would have allowed municipalities with populations under 10,000 people to opt out of the uniform code. It passed the Senate and was defeated in the House. The Senate then amended the bill to allow municipalities with populations under 6,000 to opt out of the uniform code and sent the amended version to the House. The amended bill was narrowly defeated by a vote of 72-72. The bill died when the House and Senate could not agree on a version of the bill. The chairs of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, Sen. Patrick and Rep. Herbig, ably led the committee on this recurring issue. Rep. Mastraccio defended the uniform code in committee.

Clean Energy. LD 1400, the Governor’s bill to repeal Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (requiring renewable energy sources as part of Maine’s energy mix) and to reduce energy efficiency, was defeated. It passed in the Senate and was killed in the House. Senators Katz and Langley were the only Republicans who voted against the bill in the Senate.

Alewives. Rep. Turner introduced a bill (LD 800) to close the St. Croix River to alewives, an important fish also known as river herring. Freshman Rep. Jeff Pierce led the fight to defeat the bill. The Marine Resources Committee defeated the bill in committee. It did not receive the one vote necessary to get to the House floor.

Bottle Bill. The Environment and Natural Resources Committee defeated a bill sponsored by Sen. Cushing to remove containers over 32 ounces from the bottle bill (LD 1204). The bill failed to receive the one vote necessary to make it to the Senate floor.

Merger. The Governor attempted to undercut the Bureau of Parks and Lands by merging it with the Bureau of Forestry. He also proposed, in his budget, a reduction in the number of forest rangers. Neither proposal was approved by the Legislature. The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, by and large, opposed these measures, particularly Reps. Hickman and Marean.

NOTABLE GAINS:

Wildlife. The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee unanimously approved additions to the Endangered and Threatened Species List, including three species of bats (LD 807). This bill, introduced by Sen. Saviello, passed the full Legislature with no debate and became law with the signature of Governor LePage.

Lake Protection. A bill requiring a twenty-five foot setback for the application of fertilizer from lake shores (LD 568) became law. Sponsored by Rep. Chipman, this bill passed 35-0 in the Senate and 145-1 in the House and became law. Rep. Long cast the lone opposing vote. Rep. Hilliard sponsored a bill that resulted in the Maine Municipal Association and the Maine Lakes Society convening a working group to review compliance and enforcement of Maine’s Shoreland Zoning Act (LD 713).

Toxic Microbeads. Sen. Saviello and Rep. Welsh both introduced bills to phase out the use of microbeads (LD 85). Microbeads are tiny, plastic balls used in personal care products. Microbeads end up in marine environments where they pose harm to fish and shellfish and to humans consuming the fish. Sen. Breen asked good, probing questions during committee deliberation on this bill. The bill passed 35-0 in the Senate and 145-1 in the House and became law.

PROGRESS STALLED:

Climate Change: Freshmen Rep. Blume sponsored a bill to help coastal communities assess and plan for sea level rise (LD 408). This bill passed in both legislative bodies but Governor LePage vetoed the bill and the House failed to override the veto. Rep. Devin also championed the bill. Republican Reps. Battle, Corey, Gillway, Foley, Hanington and Vachon supported the override.

Solar energy policy. In 2015, no state solar policy advanced, but the Legislature did ask the Public Utilities Commission to study alternatives to net energy billing. Assistant House Majority Leader Gideon introduced a bill to establish state goals for solar energy production and otherwise advance solar power (LD 1263). Sen. Saviello introduced a bill to increase access to solar energy for farmers (LD 1073), which will be taken up again in 2016. Rep. Pouliot introduced a bill to provide rebates to people who paired solar with heat pumps (LD 1355), which did not gain traction in committee. On the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, Chairs Woodsome and Dion and Reps. Babbidge, Higgins and Rykerson advocated for incentives to use solar power.

Toxic Chemicals: Assistant Majority Leader Gideon introduced a bill to strengthen the Kids Safe Products Act (LD 948), cosponsored by Republicans Sen. Baker and Rep. White. The bill resulted in an agreement to work more collaboratively with the Department of Environmental Protection on toxic product reduction. Sen. Saviello fostered the agreement with Rep. Gideon.

Rep. Goode sponsored a bill to address worker exposure to chemicals in the workplace (LD 1165). The bill passed in the House but was rejected by the Senate and died between the legislative bodies.

Rep. Gattine introduced a bill (LD 1162) to increase access to safe drinking water by testing wells for arsenic and other toxic chemicals. Reps. Hilliard and Vachon were champions of the bill, which was passed by the Legislature. The bill was then vetoed by the Governor and the House failed to override the veto. Sen. Saviello also sponsored a bill to support low income families in purchasing treatment for arsenic in drinking water (LD 937), which failed to pass.

Rep. Burstein sponsored bills to ban the use of polystyrene used in thermal plastic cups and containers (LD 468) and to provide more education on BPA (LD 667). Rep. Daughtry introduced bills to restrict the use of pesticides on school grounds (LD 708) and to ban the use of coal tar sealant (LD 1208). Reps. Cooper, Devin and Rykerson introduced bills to limit or ban the use of plastic bags. These worthy ideas did not survive the legislative gambit.