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127th Second Regular Session – aka the “short” session

by Mary Erin Casale

MANP Legislative Priorities

After a rapid fire review of about 400 bill titles by the Legislative Council last Thursday, the agenda for the second regular session is nearly set. I say nearly for a few reasons – 1) there is an appeal process for rejected bills and 2) Governor LePage can submit bills at any time during the session. For those of you who don’t ardently follow each tiny action of the legislature (good for you!) I’ll provide a little bit of background. For those of you who do follow each piece (good for you, too?), feel free to skip ahead.

A little primer on Legislative Council:

The Legislative Council is composed of five Republicans and five Democrats elected to leadership positions in their caucus. Currently, the House is controlled by Democrats, which means they have three members of leadership on the council – the Speaker of the House Mark Eves, the House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe and the Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon. Republicans in the House are represented by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling. Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, so their representation on the Council is Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, and Assistant Senate Leader Andre Cushing. The Democrats are represented by Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond and Assistant Democratic Leader Dawn Hill.

This five-five split ensures that bills that are let through have bipartisan support, because they need to garner six votes. Bills for the second session are supposed to fit the definition of “emergency,” which (this is politics) can be subjective. All in all, the Council accepted 32 of the 400 proposed titles, and tabled 18 of them. (Those tabled will be discussed at the next meeting of the Council on November 19.) The Legislature will also have to deal with 151 ‘carry over’ bills from the previous session. In addition, there are 19 ‘agency’ bills that have been submitted from various departments within state government. If all goes according to plan (wishful thinking?), the second session should last about four months.
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MANP will be closely watching the following bills this session:

(The following are bill titles we’re following, but they are still being written and assigned an LD # through the Revisor of Statutes office. Right now, they are just LRs = Legislative Records)

An Act To Improve Access to Higher Education, Encourage Homeownership, Manage Medical Expenses and Strengthen Charitable Institutions by Eliminating Limitations on Claiming Itemized Deductions From Maine Adjusted Gross Income (LR 2518) – That sure sounds like a lot of things, right? Historically, people who donated to nonprofits were able claim them as deductions on their taxes. But in 2013, there was a cap placed on the amount that Mainers could deduct. In 2014, MANP introduced and passed LD 1664: An Act To Encourage Charitable Contributions to Nonprofit Organizations, carving out the charitable giving deduction from the overall cap, preserving a tax deduction that benefits the greater good much more than it benefits the tax-payer. But, in this year’s budget, the cap was reinstated, effectively reversing the legislature’s intent in passing LD 1664. We’re back at it, supporting legislation that preserves and enhances charitable giving incentives.

An Act To Improve the Disclosure of Financial Activities by Political Action Committees and Ballot Question Committees (LR 2490) – This piece of legislation is an agency bill submitted by the Maine Ethics Commission. Its stated goal is to improve transparency in the way Maine’s elections are financed. Unfortunately, it considers national political action committees and nonprofits as the same (despite their many differences) and would require the same reporting mechanisms. We’ll be working with our members and our Advocacy Committee to ensure that any changes to disclosure guidelines for nonprofits don’t place unnecessary burdens on their work.

What we’ll be doing and how you can get involved:

We’re still a few months out from the session and the items above are by no means an exhaustive list. As always, we’ll continue to monitor the bigger picture items that would adversely affect the nonprofit sector. We’ll be watching for any submissions from the governor’s office or any proposals in the supplemental budget that would have an impact on the way nonprofits operate. Our enhanced advocacy efforts are a direct result of the support of our Advocacy Network. (Thanks!)

MANP will offer many different opportunities for YOU to get involved in the legislative process. In addition to Nonprofit State House Day, we’ll be debuting a Skillbuilder on Compelling Legislative Testimony in December. Plus, our Raise Your Voice Advocacy + Lobbying Toolkit is available anytime, and is an essential reference guide for all nonprofits. Whether you’re a newbie or an expert, we’ll have something to offer and we hope to see you in Augusta!

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