Maine legislature tackles key issues this week

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While most observers will be focused on this week’s difficult debate over a proposed supplemental state budget, I’ll be there to follow other issues. Some are related to the budget. Awaiting action are four fish and wildlife bills that need funding.

Previously, the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee informed the Appropriations Committee that its highest priority of the four bills is LD 372, An Act to Reduce Deer Predation. That bill calls for $100,000 each year for three years for the agency’s predator control program.

The other three bills that will fail if not funded are these.

LD 637 is a resolve that increases the amount of money tagging agents receive from $1 to $2 for each $5 tag purchased by a hunter. That will result in the loss of $30,000 a year for DIF&W, which supports the bill.

LD 1242, sponsored by Rep. David Burns, establishes a check-off on the hunting license application for donations to a predator control fund or a deer management fund. This is projected to result in a loss of $38,000, because the bill also directs DIF&W’s portion of the deer-tagging fee into a special deer management fund – and even though the bill is designed to increase revenue through the check-off. 

The final bill is LD 213, calling for a $500,000 appropriation for each of the next three years for fish stocking. Even DIF&W has walked away from this, and the IFW Committee rated it at the bottom of its list of priorities for the four bills awaiting action by the Appropriations Committee.

LMF Bond Issue

While Governor Paul LePage has thrown up a roadblock to stop bond issues, work has continued both inside and outside the legislature to put a package of bonds on the November ballot. Amongst the bonds proposed by the Appropriations Committee is a $5 million bond for the Land for Maine’s Future Program.

The bond includes language strengthening LMF’s effort to purchase critical deer wintering habitat.  I posted a column about the difficult path this LMF bond must take to get to the ballot, in my Down East blog, which you can read here.

A large contingent of groups representing sportsmen and environmentalists will host a press conference today (May 14) at the Capitol to rally the troops for the upcoming battle to win legislative approval of the LMF bond.

Takings

On May 3 in this blog, I reported on the status of the so-called “takings” bill. I also reported on Rep. Gary Knight’s sudden vote change that moved the minority report from the House to the Senate in another Down East blog post.

Since May 3, negotiations on an improved version of the majority report seem to have ended.

Both versions of the bill – the majority and the minority reports – don’t have enough votes to be enacted in the Senate, by my count.

That makes this bill one of the most interesting for us to follow this week. And I’ll be there to do that and report to you. Stay tuned!

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