Advocacy Update

Advocacy Update June 23, 2023

At GrowSmart, we are advocating for four policy areas this session:

  • Policy Action 2023 bills developed in a collaborative process co-led with Build Maine and including non-profits, community leaders, developers, and legislators from across Maine.
  • Smart Growth bills that align with or diminished smart growth outcomes, which we supported or opposed as appropriate.
  • Planning for Ag bills advance our priority of farmland protection and farm viability.
  • Wabanaki Alliance Tribal Coalition priority legislation including tribal sovereignty and  one consensus recommendation of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act.

POLICY ACTION 2023: Four bills and resolves have passed this session, as the result of terrific collaboration from our working group, other advocates, and legislative sponsors.

LD 1934, Resolve, To Improve The Coordination And Delivery Of Planning Grants And Technical Assistance To Communities In Maine Signed by the Governor.

PA Working Group #1

This bill language, proposed by the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future late in session, mirrored language and intent discussed within Working Group #1 in the waning days of 2023 and was added to our list of bills when printed. This resolve directs the Office of Policy Innovation and the Future to review opportunities and structural changes in the organization of State Government and make recommendations that will result in the improved coordination and implementation of planning grants and technical assistance programs for communities in this State and regional planning and development organizations. The office must consult with diverse stakeholders when conducting its review and report to the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government and the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs by December 6, 2023.

Thanks to Sponsor Rep. Melanie Sachs, and to Galen Weibley of Presque Isle for his work in leading this working group.

LD 1559, An Act To Advance The State’s Public Transit Systems By Reinvigorating The Public Transit Advisory Council And Increasing Funding Signed by the Governor.

PA2023 Working Group #2.

The original bill proposed $38.6M in additional funding for bus transit, dedicated positions within MaineDOT for transit, and significant changes to empower the Public Transit Advisory Council (PTAC) and move it outside of MaineDOT. In its final form, through intense negotiations with legislators, MaineDOT, and Maine Transit Association the final language:

  •  codified the duty of the Department of Transportation to facilitate and support the public transportation systems in the State to achieve accessibility, affordability and convenience is for the average person’s mobility needs,
  • strengthened the composition and function of PTAC while keeping it within MaineDOT
  • broadens the reporting requirement of PTAC.
  • As for increased funding, though we did not succeed in the level of additional funding requested, funding was added to the transportation bill, avoiding competition for this priority on the Appropriation Table at the end of session.  Specifically, this work resulted in additional transit funding: $2M in FY 2024 and $5M FY25.

Thanks to Sponsor Rep. Maggie O’Neil for her commitment to this issue, and to Josh Caldwell of NRCM and Cole Cochrane of Maine Youth Climate Justice for their work in leading this working group.

 LD 1674, An Act to Require and Encourage Safe and Interconnected Transportation Construction Projects Passed to be Enacted in House and Senate.

PA23 Working Group #3.

This bill, sponsored by Rep Adam Lee, became the vehicle to advance several Complete Street policies, including some components of LDs 1566 and 1711. This bill:

  • Directs the Department of Transportation to adopt rules to ensure that all persons, including bicyclists, pedestrians, persons of all ages and abilities, transit users and motor vehicle users, are safe on the State’s public ways and that all persons have safe and efficient access to the transportation system.
  • It directs the department, in adopting those rules, to use the Complete Streets Policy completed in 2014 and revised in June 2019 and all policy documents and standard practices related to the following community-based initiatives: the Municipal Partnership Initiative, the Village Partnership Initiative, the Business Partnership Initiative and the Planning Partnership Initiative
  • Adds safety metrics and crash data to the considerations under the department’s priorities, service levels, asset management goals and reporting;
  • Provides that, at the request of a municipality, the department must perform a road safety evaluation; and
  • Requires, by January 3, 2024, that the department report to the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation on the department’s evaluation of how speed limits are set; provide recommendations for changes to state, county and municipal street design standards, state laws and municipal ordinances to achieve the goal of eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2035; and report any findings related to speed limits or traffic fatalities and recommendations, including suggested legislation. The committee may report out a bill related to the report to the Second Regular Session of the 131st Legislature.

Thanks to Complete Streets Sponsors Rep. Marc MalonRep Dan Ankeles, and Rep Adam Lee for their commitment to this issue, and to Zoe Miller of Moving Maine Network for her work in leading this working group.

LD 1101, An Act to Support Lower Home Energy Costs by Establishing a Home Energy Scoring System Passed to be enacted in the House and Senate.

PA23 Working Group #8

In its amended form, this bill directs the Efficiency Maine Trust, by June 30, 2024, to:

  • establish a home energy scoring system for residential buildings consistent with the United States Department of Energy asset-based home energy score.
  • establish a process for recipients of home energy scores to voluntarily report home energy scores to the Trust.
  • establish and maintain a database of these scores.

Thanks to Sponsor Rep Rebecca Millett for her commitment to this issue, and to Naomi Beal of PassivhausMAINE for her work in leading this policy focus.

There is more to come for Policy Action 2023:

Many bills have been carried over to the 2024 session so that the Housing and Taxation committees can spend more time exploring each proposal and their intersections with other legislation. We are excited by the level of interest in these complex proposals by legislators and look forward to coordinating efforts of the working groups to advance significant changes. There is till time for you to take part in this process!

Wabanaki Alliance Priority Bills:

We spent some time this morning [June 21] at the Capitol to advocate for passage of LD 2004, “An Act to Restore Access to Federal Laws Beneficial to the Wabanaki Nations” which would provide access to federal programs to the Wabanaki tribes, aligning them with other Tribes across the country. In our participation in the Wabanaki Alliance Tribal Coalition, we support this bill. This afternoon as this update is being prepared, LD 2004 passed the House in a vote of 100 in favor to 47 in opposition. There are more votes ahead in the House and Senate before final passage, where they bill may face a gubernatorial veto. This is an important issue of equity and economic development, with the impact this bill would have to provide resources to rural communities across much of Maine. The sovereignty bill, LD 2007, An Act to Advance Self-determination for Wabanaki Nations, will likely be held over until the 2024 session as allies continue to seek support by sharing information and advocating for its passage.  You can take part by learning more at the Wabanaki Alliance website, and by talking with your elected officials.