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The Short Session Wrap Up…

by Mary Erin Casale

…in which I attempt to summarize what happened this legislative session without writing a novel. Despite this being the short session of the 127th legislature, our elected officials managed to tackle a Keep Calmnumber of complex issues, from welfare reform to the tax code to solar energy policy. (Check out this blog for more info about which bills are considered to be ‘emergency’ legislation.)

MANP outlined several legislative priorities and bills to monitor for this session. Here’s what happened:

LD 1519 – 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

This bill died in committee, with a unanimous Ought Not To Pass (ONTP) vote. Due to its large fiscal note and the many changes it would make to the contentiously negotiated budget from the previous session, it was an uphill battle from the start. See a full history on all of our work to encourage tax deductions on charitable giving here. Rest assured this isn’t the end of our work on this issue.

LD 1510 – An Act To Improve the Disclosure of Financial Activities by Political Action Committees and Ballot Question Committees

This bill was enacted in both houses, with an amendment that removed the provision that concerned us. It would have created an unnecessary reporting burden for nonprofits that were engaging in issue advocacy.

LD 1521An Act to Create Equity among Essential Nonprofit Health Care Providers in Relation to the Sales Tax

This bill was vetoed by Governor LePage, but fortunately that veto was overridden by the legislature last Friday. It is now law. This bill extends sales and use tax exemption of all nonprofit community health centers.

ICYMI – LAST MINUTE BONUS!

LD 1667- An Act to Protect the Tax Base of Municipalities by Removing the Property Tax Exemption for Land Held for Conservation or Public Access Purposes,

This was a last minute bill from Governor LePage’s office that threatened property tax exemption for some of our land trust and conservation group members. Our Advocacy Committee member Jeff Romano from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust led the effort by testifying and recruiting land trusts to testify. Also testifying was one of our Advocacy Network members, Tom Abello of The Nature Conservancy. The committee voted unanimously Ought Not To Pass – a win for not just land trusts, but for all nonprofits seeking to preserve their property tax status.

 

The 128th Session will be here before you know it (yay?!) and since this is an election year, the composition of the legislature could be entirely different in 2017. During the break, be sure to check out our Answer Center for free tools and resources to further your advocacy work.

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