Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House is a weekly update that provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. If you would like more specific information regarding an item in this newsletter or related to government relations, please contact a member of our Government Relations Practice Group: John Delahanty, Andrea C. Maker or Avery Day.

Governor LePage to Veto All Bills until Plan to Pay Hospital Debt Enacted

On March 1st, Governor LePage appeared on a morning radio show and announced that he will veto all legislation that is sent to him until the Legislature enacts his proposal to rebid Maine’s liquor contract and use liquor revenues to pay the State’s debt to Maine hospitals.  The Governor said without qualification that he will veto every bill, including proposals that he has submitted to the Legislature, until the Legislature sends him a plan to pay off Maine’s hospital debt.  Legislative Democrats reacted through a prepared statement, calling this “political gamesmanship.”

Biennial Budget Deliberations to Begin Soon

This week, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee received a number of briefings on matters related to the budget, including tax policy and Department of Health and Human Services programs. These briefings are designed to provide Committee members with background information that they can draw on during deliberations on the biennial budget. Public hearings on the biennial budget have not yet started but partisan posturing is already taking place. In a recent television appearance, House Republican Leader Ken Fredette said that a government shutdown was possible, if negotiations over the biennial budget broke down. Democrats were quick to cry foul, saying this comment may affect Committee negotiations on the biennial budget. Committee consideration of the biennial budget is expected to begin soon.

Legislators Break with Their Party on Various Issues

This week, a couple of legislators broke with their party on some high profile issues. Senate Assistant Republican Leader Roger Katz introduced a bill this week to maintain revenue sharing during the next biennium. One of the more controversial elements of the Governor’s biennial budget proposal is suspension of municipal revenue sharing. This break with the Governor did not escape the attention of the Maine press. On the other side of the aisle, former House Assistant Democratic Leader Terry Hayes garnered her share of media attention when she agreed to cosponsor right-to-work legislation. This proposal would repeal Maine law that requires non-union state employees to pay agency fees to unions that represent these workers in labor negotiations. Rest assured, these high profile defections were personal decisions and they in no way portend the end of the two party system in Augusta.

Insurance and Financial Services Committee Considers Data Breach Legislation

On February 28th, the Insurance and Financial Services Committee held a public hearing on LD 158, an Act to Amend the Notice of Risk to Personal Data Act to Further Protect Consumers. This bill would enhance notification requirements and penalties for noncompliance with notification requirements when a business that collects personal information experiences a data breach. This proposal was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. Those speaking in opposition included banks and credit unions, various segments of the insurance industry, automobile dealers and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. This is one bill in a series of bills that are being introduced this session to address privacy issues.