One of the most contentious issues of the 125th legislature was resolved yesterday in an amazing display of good legislating.
When Governor Paul LePage proposed to abolish Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission, and give counties the planning and regulatory authority for the 10 million acres of unorganized territory, it unleashed what promised to be an ugly bitter battle.
And at times, that’s just what this appeared to be. Sometime soon I’ll be writing the inside story of how a unanimous ought-to-pass vote was achieved by the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee.
Today, let’s recognize the final heroes in this epic struggle: the ten Republican State Representatives who bucked their party by refusing to support the ACF’s Republican-backed amended version of the LURC bill - and the six who actually attended a meeting that resulted in the removal of the opt out option.
The ten Representatives are Dennis Keschle, Tom Winsor, Kim Olsen, Brad Moulton, Les Fossel, Ryan Harmon, Jane Knapp, Dave Richardson, Pat Flood, and Meredith Strang-Burgess.
Keschl, Winsor, Harmon, Olsen, Strang-Burgess, and Knapp attended the meeting. Senator Tom Saviello joined the group and helped fashion the new amended language for the LURC bill.
Because Republicans hold only a 3-vote majority in the House, these members were in a strong position – and they used that position wisely.
They insisted that the bill remove the provision that would have allowed counties to opt out of LURC’s jurisdiction and take over the agency’s duties.
They also beefed up the requirements for LURC nominees submitted by County Commissioners.
And yesterday, that’s exactly what the committee did.
Special recognition must also go to the ACF’s Democratic members and lobbyists for environmental groups who fought hard to make this a better bill, and recognized their success by stepping up to support the amended bill yesterday.
Unanimous vote! Unbelievable!