Update from Augusta!

The Maine Legislature is in full swing now, with joint legislative policy committees holding public hearings and work sessions just about every day.  GrowSmart Maine reviewed the original Bill Titles when they were released back in January, and have been reviewing  bills when they are printed and released, with fresh bills available every few days. We look for those legislative proposals that are central to our work, supporting Mainers in managing growth and change within their communities, and for which our unique perspective can offer key support, or in some cases opposition.

We are pleased to support LD 395, An Act To Amend the Site Location of Development Laws, sponsored by Representative John Martin and brought forward by the Maine Real Estate and Development Association (MEREDA).  The amended bill changes a regulatory process, so that as a development is expanded, new stormwater infrastructure is required only for the expanded portion of the project, not retro-actively for the entire property. Project expansions are eligible for this treatment only if the existing development met all applicable state and municipal stormwater requirements in effect when it was constructed. LD 395 will eliminate expensive hurdles for projects that would otherwise bring additional density to areas already developed, thus strengthening growth areas and relieving development pressure from greenfield sites, thereby reducing environmental impacts.  The amended version of LD 395 received unanimous support from the Joint Legislative Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and now moves through the House and Senate then on to the Governor’s desk.

GrowSmart Maine is working with several allies from the environmental and planning perspectives to oppose a bill which was struck down four years ago.  LD 309, An Act To Connect the Citizens of the State to the State's Natural Resources by Establishing Standards for Relief from Regulatory Burdens, is also known as “the Takings bill” because it would require compensation to property owners when new regulations limit some use of their land.  There was an excellent opinion piece in the Bangor Daily News recently, which described this bill as turning our society on its head, as those who are forbidden from polluting the environment, degrading their neighborhood or creating a nuisance should be compensated for this loss.  LD 309 is currently Tabled in the Judiciary Committee as members take the time to learn more about the current Mediation Process in place to address property owner concerns.

GrowSmart Maine is paying close attention to the Governor’s tax reform proposal and biennial budget, observing public hearings and engaging in discussions.  We are concerned with many components of these proposals, primarily the potential impact on communities if general revenue sharing is reduced or eliminated.  This could achieve the stated goal of inducing greater municipal efficiency and cross-municipal collaboration, but there are better ways to encourage such activity and reward it where it is happening already. More likely it will result in substantial increases to property taxes, most of which are paid by Mainers. 

We hope you’ll continue to listen and learn, as we are, and contact your elected officials to share your concerns and ideas.