Advocacy Wrap-up 2013

We wanted to share with you the outcome of a few of the bills that perhaps did not make it into the news as the First Regular Session of the 126th Legislature came to a close last month.

Investment in Innovation and Entrepreneurship
LD 743: An Act To Extend and Improve the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit Program  The Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit Program is designed to encourage equity and near-equity investments in eligible Maine businesses, directly and through private venture capital funds.  The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) may authorize state income tax credits to investors for up to 60% of the cash equity they provide to eligible Maine businesses. Investments may be used for fixed assets, research or working capital.  This is a very powerful tool for strengthening Maine’s economy. However, the program reached is statutory cap in January of this year and so is unable to offer additional incentives.  This legislation, which passed the House and Senate, would increase the threshold and re-activate the program.   Due to the timing of the bill’s passage and the Legislature’s adjournment, it now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting his action when the Legislature reconvenes in January.  To learn more about Maine’s Seed Capital Tax Credit Program go to www.famemaine.com/files/Pages/business/businesses/equity_capital/Seed_Capital.aspx

Downtown Revitalization
LD 1172: Support for the Maine Downtown Center  This bill, originally requesting $100K in ongoing annual funding, would cover much of the overhead for this program.  The bill received a strong committee report of 13-2 from the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future.  From the Legislative Appropriations Table, the bill was funded one-time for $25,000.  This final version received strong support in both bodies of the Legislature, 34-1 in the Senate and 78-29 in the house.  However, due to the timing of the bill’s passage and the Legislature’s adjournment, it now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting his action when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Government Efficiency and Smart Growth
LD 695: An Act To Amend the Site Location of Development Laws  This bill, as passed, exempts from review under Site Location Law, any project within which additional disturbed area is less than 10,000 square feet ground area in any calendar year and 20,000 square feet ground area in total.   These limits are half those proposed in the original legislation, and were a recommendation offered by GSM in our testimony “neither for nor against” the bill.  We also recommended that, as an incentive for smart growth development, this law be applicable only for commercial projects in community-designated growth areas.  This recommendation was not adopted.
GrowSmart Maine’s goal in offering these modifications was adjusting current law to provide an appropriate balance of consistent, reasonable regulation with effective protection of both environmentally sensitive areas and locally-valued community assets.  Regulations done well can achieve both goals.  Time will tell if this was an appropriate adjustment to current law.  The majority committee report passed in the House without a vote and with a unanimous vote in the Senate then signed by the Governor.  

LD 220:  An Act To Ban the United Nations Agenda 21 in Maine, is dead.  This bill was part of a small but national effort to forbid all levels of government from engaging in community planning efforts or in even partnering with other organizations that do.  The majority committee report “ought not to pass” received strong support in both the House (101-40) and Senate (24-11).

Several bills offered very different changes to Maine’s Uniform Building and Energy Code.  Only LD 175, a technical bill entitled An Act To Update the Laws Governing Energy Efficiency Building Performance Standards, was enacted.  GrowSmart Maine provided testimony in support of LD 977, An Act To Restore Uniformity to the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code  and in opposition to LD 1420, An Act To Return to Building Code Requirements in Effect Prior to the Adoption of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code.  We did not weigh in on LD 1041, An Act To Modify the Mandatory Enforcement of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code for a Municipality without a Building Code.

Regular Bills and Resolves passed during the First Regular Session become effective Wednesday, October 9, 2013.  The Second Regular Session of the 126th Maine Legislature will convene on Wednesday, January 8, 2014, at 10:00 a.m.

 

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