The first regular session of the 127th Legislature is at about the midterm mark, so it seems a good time for a perspective check. GrowSmart Maine reviewed bill titles when they were released in January, viewing this as just the beginning of the process, since little more is known about the proposals at that point than the name of the bill and its sponsor. As bills are printed, we are reviewing titles and bill summaries once again to see which meet our criteria for engagement – in that the topic area relates to smart growth issues and for which our voice will provide a unique perspective and have greatest potential to impact the outcome. All testimony can be found on our blog: http://growsmartmaine.org/blog
We are in Augusta one or two days each week, having provided testimony so far to the Joint Standing Committees on Energy, Utilities and Technology; Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development; Transportation; Judiciary; State and Local Government; Taxation and Marine Resources. The issues have been as varied as encouraging communities to integrate plans for aging population in their comprehensive plans (LD 909) and Help Municipalities Prepare for Changes in Sea Level (LD 408) to opposing bills that would create unrealistically burdensome processes that would result in unworkable overreaches in an attempt to fix all complaints tied to all future legislation in a single misguided, unfunded process (LD 162 and LD 309).
GrowSmart Maine partners with allied organizations in our advocacy efforts, knowing this is the most effective way to bring about change or to fend off bad ideas. We are working with a coalition of businesses, communities and non-profits in support of expanding broadband in Maine. Learn more at mainebroadbandcoalition.org. On April 21st we will join coalition members in supporting LD 1063, "An Act To Promote Community Broadband Planning and Strengthen Economic Opportunity throughout Maine". For other legislation, we support the work of such organizations as the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Maine Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Maine Real Estate and Development Association and Maine Affordable Housing Coalition.
GrowSmart Maine supports LD 408, “An Act to Help Municipalities Prepare for Changes in Sea Level.” In its amended version, the bill states that a coastal municipality or multi-municipal region that includes a coastal municipality may include in its comprehensive plan projections regarding changes in sea level and potential impacts of changes in sea level on buildings, transportation infrastructure, sewage treatment facilities and other relevant municipal, multi-municipal or privately held infrastructure or property and may develop a coordinated plan for addressing the impacts of changes in sea level. For the purposes of this subsection, "coastal municipality" means a municipality or township in the coastal zone as identified by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Maine Coastal Program.
As part of our letter to the committee, we referenced other testimony that provided a wealth of information without supporting or opposing the bill. “This bill would further encourage communities to include the discussion of sea-level rise in their planning efforts, helping them to determine their vulnerabilities and chart a course of action that promotes the strategic and efficient use of municipal resources for the protection of existing and future development and protection of critical natural resources.”
There is much work still ahead this session. We will continue to push back against efforts to further weaken the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code. We are engaging with legislators to discuss many components of the budget and tax reform proposal as they navigate the course to a final proposal that will earn the required 2/3 support in the House and the Senate. We hope too to discuss various bond proposals for strategic investments in Maine’s economy, environment and communities before the session ends.
We encourage you to contact your local legislator and share with them your opinions on these bills. Your legislators need to hear from Maine people, businesses, organizations and communities around the state. They are elected by the people to serve the people and are your voice in Augusta. Here is the link where you can find contact information for all elected officials: