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New Legislative Session Preview for Nonprofits

by Brenda Peluso

The “short session” of the 125th Legislature is scheduled to open January 4th and when it does, the legislature will be looking at around 250 bills, some new and some carried over from the last session. The Governor is also certain to submit some of his own proposals with a Supplemental Budget proposal looking to close a large gap taking center stage. The following issues will be of interest to nonprofits:

DHHS Estimates Its Budget Gap to be Upwards of $120 Million

Earlier last month, the Department of Health & Human Services reported a $71 million gap for the budget year ending June 30, 2012. Two weeks later, the projected gap had grown to $121 million. This shortfall has been addressed in the Governor’s supplemental budget, released to legislative leaders yesterday. Public hearings on the proposal, whose language has yet to be drafted, will be as early as next week on the 14th and 15th. We are very concerned that this short time frame does not allow for adequate participation by nonprofits who will surely be impacted by this proposal.

Health Insurance Exchange Debate

In spite of being a party to a lawsuit to overturn a major component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Maine is working to establish an Insurance Exchange by the 2014 deadline in the event the law is not overturned by the Supreme Court. Earlier this fall, the state’s advisory panel presented its report containing recommendations for creating the exchange to the Joint Standing Committee on Insurance & Financial Services. Consumer advocates and some lawmakers expressed concerns about the report including Consumer’s for Affordable Health Care who testified at the public hearing noting that while the advisory panel made many good recommendations, a structure built based solely on their recommendations could potentially benefit insurance providers at the expense of small businesses and individuals for whom the exchange is designed.

Maine Land Use Regulatory Commission Recommendations Released

A panel exploring ways to reform the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) presented its report to the legislature last week. LURC directs land use in the state’s more than 10 million acres of unorganized territory and lawmakers created the task force in June after a bill backed by Gov. Paul LePage recommended eliminating LURC altogether. The recommendations were unanimously accepted by the 12 members of the standing committee in attendance and will now go to the full legislature for debate. The Bangor Daily News reports that not everyone is happy with the recommendations, “Cathy Johnson with the Natural Resources Council of Maine said her organization fears that the proposed commission will be more political and less likely to look after statewide interests in protecting the UT’s natural resources because county commissioners are elected to represent local interests.”

Clean Election consensus sputters, advocates say law in trouble 

A legislative showdown over the state’s clean election law looms, following lawmakers’ failure Tuesday to reach a consensus on a bill designed to conform the public campaign finance program with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Voter Photo ID Bill Will Be Revived this Session

Rep. Rich Cebra, a Naples Republican, is sponsoring the bill along with more than 80 GOP co-sponsors. It was carried over from this year’s legislation session and is among the bills scheduled to be taken up in January. State Sen. David Trahan, of Waldoboro, was an early sponsor of the measure, and while he still thinks it’s the right bill, he’s convinced the timing’s all wrong.

Taxation Committee to Continue Discussion on Tax Incentives for Donations

LD 1164: An Act To Support Maine Farms and Alleviate Hunger was carried over from the long session and will be taken up by the Taxation Committee for the first time this session on January 10th at 1:00 PM.  LD 1164 provides an income tax credit up to $5,000 to persons engaged in commercial agricultural production for donations of food to incorporated nonprofit organizations that provide free food to low-income individuals for the purpose of alleviating hunger.


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