Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 3.9.12

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. 

This Week's Highlights

Political Reshuffle a Bit More Clear

On February 28, 2012, Senator Snowe announced that she is not seeking reelection to the U.S. Senate. Since that time, there has been a great amount of speculation, rumor and even a few facts discussed among those who follow Maine politics. Things have settled down some, as both sitting members of Congress have decided that they will seek reelection and not run for U.S. Senate.

The race for the First Congressional District seat looks much like it did on February 27th, with Representative Pingree (D) seeking re-election, though State Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney has now entered this race as a Republican challenger. The race for the Second Congressional District seat remains a contest between Representative Michaud (D), who is seeking re-election, and State Senate President Kevin Raye (R).

The U.S. Senate race has a number of candidates at this point, with likely Democrat candidates including State Representative Jon Hinck, State Senator Cynthia Dill, former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and former Governor John Baldacci. Republican candidates include State Senator Deb Plowman, former Senate President Rick Bennett, Secretary of State Charlie Summers, Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and Attorney General Bill Schneider. Further, former Governor Angus King has also announced that he is running for U.S. Senate as an Independent. The first hurdle for the party candidates in this race is collecting 2,000 signatures by March 15th in order to qualify for June’s primary ballot. Those that make the cut next week will begin the primary season in earnest.

Schedule For Remainder of the Session Taking Shape 

The rough outline of the remainder of the legislative session is starting to take shape. Legislative leaders are now working toward adjournment on April 8th, ten days before the statutory adjournment deadline. Committees have been asked to report out all bills by the end of this week, though some exceptions to this deadline will be granted. The focus at the State House has shifted from committees to the floors of both chambers, as controversial bills are now being debated and legislators will soon begin spending more time in session.

Almost all of the legislation this session has been printed, though last minute proposals are possible right up until adjournment. The Administration has made legislative language regarding the Governor’s education and energy initiatives available. The Appropriations Committee has turned to additional supplemental bills, with a $5 million bill to address a revenue shortfall during the current fiscal year being the first order of business. The Committee must also address further shortfalls at the Department of Health and Human Services. An announcement this week that a Department computer error regarding MaineCare eligibility may have budget implications has, however, complicated resolution of the Department’s budget.

Requirements to Sit for Maine CPA Exam Brought into Line With Rest of the Nation

On February 29, 2012, emergency legislation regarding the requirements to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam in Maine became effective as law. Without this change in statute, Maine would have remained the only jurisdiction that did not require candidates for the Uniform CPA Exam to take some type of accounting course work. Maine’s status as the “low bar” compromised the integrity of the Uniform Exam, which is given throughout the country and at international sites. Pierce Atwood’s Government Relations team worked to implement this change in law for the Maine Society of Certified Public Accountants.