GSM’s Legislative Action List – Volume V

L.D. 1187, S.P. 362
An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Revitalize Maine's Downtowns through Innovative Business Development and the Creative Economy. (Presented by Senator SULLIVAN of York). The funds provided by this bond issue, in the amount of $5,000,000, will be used as seed money to capitalize the Downtown Revitalization Fund, a revolving loan and grant fund to encourage business development in downtown areas, targeting innovative businesses, light manufacturing, trades and small businesses and space for artists and artisans. The Downtown Revitalization Fund is administered by a board consisting of public and private members and issues loans that must be matched by $1 from the recipient for every $2 received from the fund and issues grants. GrowSmart Maine supports this bill. This, like other programs, encourages investments in Maine's downtowns and our local businesses.

L.D. 1253, S.P. 374
An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Enforcement of Statewide Uniform Building Codes. (Presented by Senator SAVIELLO of Franklin).This bill makes several changes to the laws governing the adoption, enforcement and implementation of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code.

The bill allows a municipality to adopt Appendix G of the 2009 International Residential Code, or "IRC," which contains the safety fencing standards for swimming pools.

The bill removes an archaic and vague requirement that inspections for the purpose of issuing an occupancy permit be conducted to ensure that a building is "safe from fire." The bill also expressly authorizes a municipality to review the work of a 3rdparty inspector for accuracy. The bill clarifies that appeals may be taken to either the municipal officers or a local board of appeals and that municipal employees may not take enforcement action without authorization by the employing municipality.

The bill amends the law to allow a building official to serve as a 3rdparty inspector as long as the building official is providing that service outside of the official's geographic jurisdiction as a building official.

The bill directs the Department of Public Safety, Technical Building Codes and Standards Board to determine where in Maine and under what circumstances the radon and internal air quality building codes should be applied. This legislation offers specific and appropriate changes to the statewide building and energy code in a thoughtful manner. GrowSmart Maine fully supports these efforts.

L.D. 1258, S.P. 379
An Act To Improve Land Use Planning and Permitting in Unorganized Territories.
(Presented by Senator SHERMAN of Aroostook) Concept Draft. GrowSmart Maine is opposed.

L.D. 1328, H.P. 974
Resolve, To Create a Working Group To Study the Subdivision Laws. (Presented by Representative MORISSETTE of Winslow). This resolve requires the Department of Public Safety to convene a working group to study the subdivision laws. The department shall report its recommendations for changes to the laws to the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government by January 30, 2012. Assuming that the bill needs to be corrected to identify the Department of Environmental Protection (as opposed to the Department of Public Safety) as the lead state agency charged with convening a working group to study the subdivision laws, GrowSmart Maine sees yet another opportunity to step back and take a careful look at the complex array of current laws that have an interrelated and significant impact on both the environment and sustainable development efforts.

L.D. 1330, H.P. 976
Resolve, To Expand Commuter and Passenger Rail Transportation in Maine. (Presented by Representative CHIPMAN of Portland). This resolve directs the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority to establish and convene the Maine Commuter and Passenger Rail Advisory Task Force to evaluate and prioritize investments in commuter and passenger rail service between communities in this State in order to expedite development of efficient commuter rail service as appropriate in the major economic and population centers in this State to reduce costs to the State, its municipalities and its citizens of travel to and from work, business activities and entertainment and recreation activities. The task force must develop a Maine commuter and passenger rail plan, which must include investment priorities for the establishment of commuter and passenger rail service between communities in this State. The plan must be based on existing studies and analyses that explore the markets and infrastructure and the potential to remove automobile traffic from excessively used roadways. The plan must also provide for the reduction of highway construction and maintenance costs and ways to limit the need for parking facilities as well as reducing road congestion and lessening transportation costs for citizens living in cities in this State. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority must report the findings and the plan of the task force to the Department of Transportation and the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation no later than December 31, 2011. The Joint Standing Committee on Transportation may submit a bill to the Second Regular Session of the 125th Legislature on the subject matter of the report. GrowSmart Maine supports this effort to focus resources on the potential for rail transportation so that investments are directed where they can have the most impact on our overall transportation infrastructure.

L.D. 1342, H.P. 983
An Act To Amend the Washington County Development Authority. (Presented by Representative TILTON of Harrington). This bill allows the Washington County Development Authority to enter into a memorandum of understanding with a municipality to perform the function of a local development corporation. Providing the flexibility to allow the Washington County Development Authority to enter into memorandums of understanding with municipalities to perform the function of a local development corporation is an innovative proposal which maximizes the efficiency and effectiveness of an existing organization to provide additional economic development opportunities to municipalities within Washington County without the expense and complications of forming new economic development entities.

L.D. 1344, H.P. 985
An Act To Fund Commuter and Passenger Rail Transportation in Maine. (Presented by Representative CHIPMAN of Portland). This bill amends the distribution of revenue from the operation of slot machines at the casino in Oxford County. It strikes the percentage of revenue to be distributed to the Sire Stakes Fund and to supplement harness racing purses. The bill takes the 2% that would have gone to those 2 funds and dedicates it to the State Transit, Aviation and Rail Transportation Fund for the purpose of developing passenger rail service between points within the State and Oxford County. GrowSmart Maine plans to testify Neither For Nor Against. It makes sense to target some of the revenue from the Oxford casino to passenger rail service between points within the state and Oxford county, although taking funds from the two harness racing allocations will have repercussions throughout rural Maine. We encourage the committee to consider other options from within the Oxford casino funding cascade.

L.D. 1367, S.P. 421
An Act To Restore Maine's Secondary Roads. (Presented by Senator THOMAS of Somerset).

This bill establishes the Secondary Roads Fund as a dedicated, nonlapsing account within the Department of Transportation for the purpose of financing capital improvements to state aid minor collector highways.

This bill provides that revenues generated from the use of land and assets, including, but not limited to, rights-of-way and other property owned by the department must be deposited into the Secondary Roads Fund. This bill also requires that any funds received by the department for damage to state property under the jurisdiction of the department must be deposited into the Secondary Roads Fund.

This bill increases the annual fee for a vanity registration plate by $10, from $25 to $35, which is to be deposited into the Secondary Roads Fund.

This bill also requires that, except as otherwise provided, all fines for traffic infractions and other violations of the motor vehicle statutes accrue to the Secondary Roads Fund. The bill requires that any balance remaining in the Law Enforcement Agency Reimbursement Fund at the end of the fiscal year must be transferred to the Secondary Roads Fund.

Current law directs that state funding for the Bureau of State Police within the Department of Public Safety be allocated as follows: 49% from the Highway Fund and 51% from the General Fund. This bill provides that, beginning in fiscal year 2012-13, the proportional split between Highway Fund allocations and General Fund appropriations to the State Police budgetary appropriation program must be as follows: 25% must be allocated from the Highway Fund and 75% must be appropriated from the General Fund. The bill also provides that an amount equal to 24% of state funding for the Bureau of State Police be allocated from the Highway Fund to the Secondary Roads Fund.

This bill directs the Department of Transportation to set aside 10% of any available federal funds to be deposited into the Secondary Roads Fund for federally eligible projects. This bill provides that federal funds may be used in lieu of local funds, except that the local share may not be less than 10% of the total project cost.

The bill authorizes the Commissioner of Transportation to authorize, for a fee, the placement of off-premises signs within the right-of-way of an interstate highway, a state highway or a state aid highway. This bill also provides that fees collected by the department for the placement of such off-premises signs must be deposited into the Secondary Roads Fund. While we agree with many of the intentions of LD 1367 to provide more funding for state transportation purposes, GrowSmart Maine respectfully disagrees with the methods that are being proposed in this bill. In addition, we are strongly opposed to the provision which allows for the placement of off-premise signs near highways throughout the state.

L.D. 1405, H.P. 1033
An Act To Amend the Laws Restricting Advertising on Public Ways. (Presented by Representative KESCHL of Belgrade).

This bill amends the use of on-premises signs in the following ways.

1. It increases the distance that a sign may be erected from a principle structure of a business or point of interest from 1,000 feet to 2,500 feet.

2. It provides definitions of "point of interest," "outdoor area" and "principle structure" for purposes of determining distance for placement of on-premises signs.

3. It allows on-premises signs to be placed within 20 feet of the edge of certain public ways with more than 2 travel lanes if the signs are erected using approved breakaway mounting devices.

4. It requires the Commissioner of Transportation to manage the permitting process and to authorize the placement of signs adjacent to interstate highways larger and taller than allowed under current law.

5. It increases from 2 to 3 the number of approach signs a business or point of interest may have if that business or point of interest is not visible from or is located more than 1,000 feet from a public way intersection and permits those approach signs to be 2sided.

6. It allows changeable signs to change once per minute; current law limits the change to once every 20 minutes.

7. It allows a business or point of interest to have one changeable sign per public way that the business or point of interest abuts.

8. It allows time and temperature signs to also display the date and permits those signs to change as frequently as once every 2 seconds.

9. It allows for changeable signs to be erected adjacent to and for viewing from the interstate highway system.

10. It increases the maximum height of a freestanding sign structure statewide from 25 feet to 35 feet above grade.

11. It recognizes the value and the role of signs for disseminating information to the motoring public.

12. It allows for placement of signs by real estate brokerage agencies for the sale of real estate. GrowSmart Maine strongly opposes passage of this bill. We believe that the current restrictions on advertising within public ways are extremely effective in protecting our state’s quality of place while allowing advertising and promotional efforts that are more than adequate to publicize various businesses and destinations.

L.D. 1416, H.P. 1042
An Act To Provide Options to Municipalities Concerning the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code. (Presented by Representative McKANE of Newcastle).

Current law requires the adoption of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code by all municipalities with more than 2,000 residents by July 1, 2012, including those municipalities without a building code. An ordinance that conflicts with the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code is considered void as of December 1, 2010.

Beginning December 1, 2012, this bill requires a municipality, regardless of size, that has adopted a building code, including a building code or portion of a building code related to residential, commercial or existing structures or an energy code, as of January 1, 2011, to adopt the comparable portion of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code. The municipality is required to adopt only that portion of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code that relates to the code already in place in that municipality. This bill also delays voidance of a conflicting municipal ordinance until December 1, 2012. GrowSmart Maine opposes this bill. Making the MUBEC voluntary undoes the whole intent of having a statewide, consistent regulation. This in effect brings Maine back to where we were before MUBEC was implemented.

L.D. 1437, S.P. 444
An Act To Implement Recommendations on Reinventing Government. (Presented by Senator WOODBURY of Cumberland). Concept Draft. This bill is a concept draft only at this time, but we support focus on this report, commissioned by GSM. Charting Maine's Future recommended finding efficiencies in governments in order to re-allocate public and private resources for investments in innovation and quality of place; both essential to sustainable economic development throughout Maine.

L.D. 1442, S.P. 449
An Act To Clarify Enforcement of Maine's Building Codes. (Presented by Senator BARTLETT of Cumberland).

This bill:

1. Clarifies that the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code must be adopted and enforced by all municipalities with a population of more than 2,000 residents by July 1, 2012;

2. Clarifies that a municipal ordinance that is inconsistent with the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code is void in a municipality that has adopted the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code. This provision applies retroactively to the date of adoption of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, which is December 1, 2010 for certain municipalities;

3. Requires the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission to provide written notice of the existence of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code to an applicant for a building permit in an unorganized or deorganized territory; and

4. Prohibits a person from serving as a 3rdparty inspector for the purposes of enforcing the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code in a municipality in which that person is appointed a building official. GrowSmart Maine supports this bill which proposes clarifications to the MUBEC. We are not sure that delaying effective date for municipalities which already have a building code is necessary, and hope the committee will give this provision of the bill great thought.

L.D. 1446, H.P. 1060
An Act To Establish the Maine Farm and Fish to School Program. (Presented by Representative McCABE of Skowhegan). This bill establishes the Maine Farm and Fish to School Program to increase the purchasing by schools of food raised, grown or harvested by Maine farmers and fishermen. It establishes a fund to implement the program. It establishes a minimum percentage of school food budgets to be spent on food purchased from Maine producers and increases that percentage in 3 steps to 30% in the 20252026 school year. It revises the Local Produce Fund in the Department of Education to include meat and fish, removes the maximum contribution of the State set in statute and renames it the Local Food Procurement Fund.

The bill requires the Commissioner of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, the Commissioner of Education and the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to determine actions needed to fully implement the State’s food policy and to take steps and request resources to do so. GrowSmart supports. This is a commendable effort to enable schools of all grade levels in Maine to develop and implement procurement strategies to increase access to a broader range of Maine grown and harvested foods.

L.D. 1451, H.P. 1065
An Act To Create Transparency and Accountability in Economic Development Subsidies. (Presented by Representative RUSSELL of Portland).

This bill enacts certain safeguards for state and local government expenditures for economic development and job creation by creating a procedure to collect, analyze and make publicly available information regarding those expenditures. It allows the governmental entity making a subsidy to recapture the subsidy if the recipient defaults on the employment, wages, health care or other benefits promised by the recipient in its application for the subsidy. While still exploring the specifics of the bill, GrowSmart Maine supports this effort to measure the impacts of economic development programs and incentives. It is important to ensure that investments of state resources achieve the intended goals, and that those receiving the benefit are following the rules as intended.

L.D. 1522, S.P. 483
An Act To Make Technical Changes to Marine Resources Laws. (Presented by Senator SNOWE-MELLO of Androscoggin). This bill makes technical changes to a variety of existing marine resources statutes. It:

1. Adds the recently created pelagic and anadromous fishing license to the list of state-issued licenses that members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe are not required to hold;

2. Adds the limited entry scallop fishery to those fisheries that allow medical or military waivers from the yearly requirement to purchase a license in order to participate in the fishery in the future;

3. Removes the part of the nonresident lobster and crab landing permit laws that limits permit holders to Maine's trap limit and requires that they purchase Maine lobster trap tags;

4. Extends the date for submitting information to the Commissioner of Marine Resources in order to qualify for grandfathering under the established base of operations requirement;

5. Clarifies that all lobster traps and trawls must be marked by a visible buoy and that the Bureau of Marine Patrol may require more distinguishable buoy color designs in instances where family members' buoys are not distinct enough to provide adequate enforcement of current laws;

6. Specifies a process by which abandoned lobster gear may be disposed;

7. Clarifies the commercial fishing license to reflect the creation of 2 recently created specific licenses, the pelagic and anadromous fishing license and the sea cucumber harvesting license;

8. Repeals an error in the qualifying years for eligibility to hold a scallop license; and

9. Establishes in statutes the administration of the existing Maine Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program.

Working waterfront is essential to Maine's economy and quality of place. This bill makes efforts ensuring that all forms of commercial fishing/shellfish harvesting can be viable.