Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House.

General Effective Date Clarification

Around 6 pm on Thursday, July 16, the First Regular Session of the 127th Maine Legislature voted to adjourn “sine die” or “without day,” which is the action taken to formally end a legislative session. All new, nonemergency laws take effect immediately after the 90th day following the Legislature’s adjournment, unless a particular effective date is provided in the law. Therefore, the general effective date for new laws enacted this past session will be October 15, 2015, starting just after midnight. The Second Regular Session of this Legislature is slated to convene on January 6, 2016.

“Solemn Occasion” Requested

This week, Governor LePage has formally asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to declare a “solemn occasion,” which can occur when the legislative and executive branches have a dispute, and to rule that his 65 outstanding vetoes are valid. The Court has issued a deadline of 4 pm on Friday, July 24 for any interested parties to file written arguments. The Senate President and House Speaker, a Republican and Democrat respectively, are united in their position that the bills have become laws. They have hired an attorney to advocate for their position. The House Minority Leader sides with the Governor and when his request to Legislative leadership for funds for an attorney to represent his position was denied, he proceeded to retain an attorney with private funds.  The Court has asked for rebuttals to be filed on July 29, and will hear oral argument on July 31. An August ruling is anticipated. 

$6.5 Million in Bonds in Limbo

As one of its last acts before adjournment on July 16, the Legislature passed an amended bill that would require Governor LePage to release $6.5 million of the conservations bonds that were approved in 2013 but have been withheld by the governor. Earlier this week the governor vetoed that bill and now the future of these monies are in limbo. The Legislature isn’t schedule to reconvene until January 2016 and these bonds expire in November of 2015. House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe suggests there will be new legislation in January taking up this issue.

Well Water Testing Program Cancelled

In 2013 the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) won a grant to test well water for toxic chemicals. However, this year the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) denied the Maine CDC’s request to reapply for a grant to increase well water testing. The program that was to provide at least 200 free test kits was also cancelled. Several legislators collaborated to write a letter to DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew to express disappointment that the work to test Maine well water was being curtailed and to emphasize the need for such testing. According to the legislators, Mainers rely on well water more than any other state and test results have shown elevated arsenic levels, which can lower IQ levels, in at least one Maine county. Commissioner Mayhew points out that these state services compete with Maine businesses by providing free services to Mainers.