After weeks of failed negotiations, on March 30th, Maine Democrats passed a “baseline” $9.9 billion budget through party-line votes, over Republican objections, and then adjourned the First Regular Session of the 131st Maine Legislature. Governor Mills signed the budget into law on Friday, March 31st. The budget will not go into effect until June 29, 2023, the day before the fiscal year ends, because it lacked an emergency preamble which would have required a supermajority vote.
This is the second time that Democrats have taken this approach since Governor Mills was elected.The sticking point in negotiations was a Republican demand to promise a $200 million income tax cut for low- and middle-income Mainers. Democrats argued that tax cuts and other priorities can be explored later in the session but that the legislature needs to pass a budget now to guarantee the state avoids a potential shutdown if the parties can’t agree to pass an emergency budget in June.
Of the 2,123 legislative requests that were submitted by the December 30th cloture date, 1,463 have been printed as legislative documents.
Earlier this session, Senator Matthea Daughtry (D-Cumberland) introduced LD 738, An Act to Establish a Paid Family and Medical Leave System. Currently, LD 738 is just a concept draft, but it is assumed that the final bill will incorporate the report developed by the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program. No public hearing has been scheduled for LD 738.
Another bill, LD 53, An Act to Ensure Accountability for Workplace Harassment and Assault by Removing Intentional Acts and Omissions from Workers’ Compensation Exemptions, sponsored by Representative Lee (D-Auburn), would remove intentional acts and omissions from the exemptions from civil action related to damages sustained by an employee when an employer has secured payment of workers’ compensation.
The public hearing for LD 53 was held on February 16th. The RLDAM, along with a number of other business associations, testified that the language was vague, could lead to increased Worker’s Compensation claims, and would reverse long settled case law in the state. A work session for LD 53 was canceled and has not yet been rescheduled.
The RLDAM also submitted testimony against LD 524, An Act Requiring the Installation of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in New Commercial and Multifamily Parking Lot Construction. LD 524 would require electric vehicle charging stations in new construction by mandating at least 15% of off-street parking spaces be wired for electric vehicle charging and requiring all other new construction, with the exception of single-family homes and retailers that have fewer than 25 parking spaces, have at least 5% of parking spaces wired for electric vehicle charging. An amendment from the sponsor would have this administered by the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC) and would include some exemptions to the requirement (ex. parking lots only for tractor trailers or without electricity).
The RLDAM submitted testimony arguing that incentives are a better approach than mandates for encouraging the installation of electric vehicle charging stations and that most small businesses do not have the extra money to have these charging stations installed. The Energy, Utilities and Technology committee voted in a divided report at the March 29th work session.