In February 2021, during the First Regular Session of the 130th Legislature, Representative Ann Matlack (D-St. George) introduced LD 1129, An Act Relating to the Valuation of Retail Sales Facilities.
As originally drafted, the bill, nicknamed “the dark stores bill,” provided that in establishing the just value of retail sales facilities, consideration must be given to three recognized approaches to valuation of commercial property (cost less depreciation, income, and comparable sales) and that the assessor consider the value of reasonably similar properties with regard to age, condition, use, type of construction, location, design, physical features, and economic characteristics. It would have prohibited an assessor from being able to consider issues such as deed restrictions, easements, and encumbrances.
The public hearing for the bill was held on April 14, 2021 in the Taxation Committee. The majority of those providing testimony—several municipal representatives—were very supportive of the bill. But there were also a couple of notable opponents—namely the Retail Association of Maine and the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS).
In May 2021, the Taxation Committee voted to carry over the bill until the Second Regular Session.
At the February 3, 2022 Taxation Committee work session on LD 1129, Representative Matlack introduced an amendment. The amendment gave the bill anew title, changed the application from retail sales facilities to improved real property, and clarified the factors that must be considered in the valuation process. Despite being called “the dark stores bill,” the amendment impacted all real property in Maine, including residential.
The committee voted 9-3 to accept the amendment and reported out a divided report on March 1, 2022.
On March 24th, in a near party line vote, the House voted 76-53 to enact the amended version of LD 1129. On March 29th, the Senate followed with a 22-11 vote.
However, in order to avoid a gubernatorial veto, the legislature was forced to recall the justenacted bill from the Governor’s Desk.
On April 11th, Representative Matlack introduced a House Amendment negotiated with DAFS that clarified that determining just values must be consistent with the Maine Constitution. The House Amendment was adopted in both chambers and the newly amended LD 1129 was enacted and sent to governor again on April 13th.
LD 1129 became law without the Governor’s signature on April 26, 2022. It will go into effect on August 8, 2022.