Legislative Update – 2/22/2013

The 126th Legislature is in full swing, with hundreds of bills coming out of the Office of the Revisor each week, each then referred to committees of jurisdiction for public hearings and work sessions before coming before the House and Senate for votes by the full legislature.

For GrowSmart Maine, this is a time to review all bills with an eye towards where we can provide pivotal information and a unique perspective on issues key to our mission.  
In making these decisions, we look at each legislative proposal from the perspectives that include:

  • How consistent it is with our mission to promote sustainable prosperity for all Mainers by integrating working and natural landscape conservation, economic growth and community revitalization?
  • Is the issue winnable?
  • Does it provide a chance to discuss the importance of smart growth principles and Maine’s quality places?
  • Is there bipartisan and broad support for the issue? If not, is it important enough to take on anyways?
  • Will this proposal will be transformational for Maine?

For bills that pass these criteria, we then determine what level of engagement is appropriate, from in-person testimony to simply sending a letter to the committee, or perhaps in some instances, sending an action alert to our partner organizations and supporters, like you!

Of the 500+ bills that have been printed, we have identified just a few dozen for which we will be providing testimony.  Key issues include:

TRANSPORTATION:  We’ll be supporting bills that seek to improve our transportation system and one that seeks to incorporate Complete Streets into the MEDOT process. These include  LD 120 An Act To Facilitate Regional Transit, and LD 403 Resolve, To Establish a Task Force on the Establishment of So-called Complete Streets Design Guidelines.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:  We’ll advocate in favor of economic development proposals that promote sustainable prosperity for all Mainers by integrating working and natural landscape conservation, economic growth and community revitalization, including support for natural resource-sector businesses and several bills related to Tax Increment Financing and Economic Districts.

COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION:  A bill yet to be released will advocate for ongoing funding to support the Maine Downtown Center, a vital program that provides expertise and resources to communities across Maine. There are about a half-dozen bills this session related to MUBEC, the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code we see as essential to providing a consistent regulatory environment for the building trades and for ensuring safe and energy-efficient construction for Mainers.  Some propose to strengthen the uniform set of codes while others seek to roll back current law.

INVESTMENTS THROUGH GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS:   GrowSmart Maine will speak in support of numerous bond proposals that will provide funding for important investments across the state.  Maine Technology Institute is one of the best investments Mainers can make, transportation investments are urgently needed.  In addition, investments in our working and natural landscapes through Land for Maine’s Future and our communities with the Communities for Maine’s Future program will always be an essential component of plans to build our economy for this generation and those to come.

Finally, GrowSmart Maine is watching with interest as the Joint Select Committee on Workforce and Maine’s Economic Future goes about its work of gathering information from private and non-profit as well as government agencies in order to address the immediate needs of Maine’s economy.   LD 90, An Act to Strengthen Maine's Workforce and Economic Future, will serve as the legislative vehicle for specific proposals to come to the full Legislature.  This committee has received an insightful report from the Maine Economic Growth Council, entitled “Maine Prosperity Action Plan of 2012”.  This report is the result of a bill sponsored by Senator Dick Woodbury (now a GrowSmart Maine Board member) to compile consistent regulations from various reports, including Charting Maine’s Future, into a set of legislative recommendations.

You can stay informed on our work by tracking our blog, where all testimony is posted and by following committee work on key bills on our calendar.
We encourage you to do your part as well.  As the bills travel to the House and Senate Chambers, you can check out each day's calendar here: http://www.maine.gov/legis/schedules.htm  For more information on the Legislative process in general, go to http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/path/path.htm .

Do you want to know who your State Representative and Senator are? http://www.maine.gov/portal/government/edemocracy/lookup_voter_info.php
Do you want to find the schedule for public hearings and work sessions? http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/phwkSched_ps.asp?snum=124&PID=1456
Do you want to search for a bill on a certain topic, or track a bill as it winds through the Legislative process? http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/search.asp