Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House 4.26.13

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.

Major Tax Reform Proposal Starts to Take Shape

This week, the Maine media reported that Senator Woodbury is leading a bipartisan effort to draft a major tax reform proposal. This proposal will likely propose changes to all aspects of the tax code from the income tax to the sales tax to the estate tax. A bipartisan group of eleven legislators are working together on this proposal. The central thrust of this effort appears to be trying to shift much of Maine’s tax burden on to nonresidents.

In the past, wholesale tax reform efforts have not been successful. While the current effort will almost certainly be met with some opposition, this proposal could advance, providing an alternative approach to balancing the State’s budget. It would allow legislators to avoid politically unpopular aspects of the Governor’s budget proposal, like suspending municipal revenue sharing. This issue will continue to evolve as the reform package is finalized.

Unemployment System Matter Continues to Evolve

As reported last week, Governor LePage recently met with a number of unemployment hearing officers, which led the Maine Employment Lawyers Association to request a U.S. Department of Labor investigation into whether the Governor pressured these hearing officers. As this story was unfolding, the Governor’s Office announced that the Governor was forming a blue ribbon commission to examine the unemployment system. This week, the Governor appointed Kennebec County Commissioner and attorney George Jabar and former Chief Justice of the Maine Law Court and current Pierce Atwood attorney Daniel Wathen as co-chairs of this commission. The commission is charged with examining unemployment rules and laws to assure that they are being consistently applied.

Genetically Modified Organism Labeling Receives Support in Hearing

On April 23rd, the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee held a public hearing on LD 718, An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know about Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock. This bill, which, remarkably, has over 120 cosponsors, would impose various labeling requirements for food and feed stock containing genetically modified organisms. The public hearing on this bill lasted many hours and was likely one of the longest hearings thus far this legislative session. Supporters clearly outnumbered opponents of this bill but there was significant opposition from segments of the business community that would be affected by the requirements of this bill. A work session has yet to be scheduled.