Task Forces and Working Groups

(from Maine Townsman, July 2005)
By Jeff Austin, Legislative Advocate, State & Federal Relations, MMA

It is very common for the Legislature in its First Regular Session to establish study commissions, task forces or other types of working groups, charge them certain tasks, and require them to report back their recommendations to the Second Regular Session, which will start up in January, 2006. The work of these task forces or study groups often leads to second-session legislation.

What follows is a list of the formal and not-so-formal municipally-related working group efforts established by the 122nd Legislature in its first session. Any municipal official interested in learning more about (or potentially participating in) any of the efforts described below should contact MMA's Jeff Austin at 1-800-452-8786 or jaustin@memun.org. Interested municipal officials should also feel free to contact the state agency with jurisdiction or the sponsor of the legislative initiative that created the study commission or task force.

Criminal Justice

LD 1645 - (New title) Resolve, To Establish the Task Force To Study Maine's Homeland Security Needs. (Sponsored by Sen. Edmonds of Cumberland County) Emergency Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 126 (6/23/05)

This resolve establishes an 11-member Task Force to Study Maine's Homeland Security Needs. The task force is charged with reviewing the state's homeland security needs, the current state of homeland security preparedness, ways to improve information about homeland security in Maine, and ways to better advocate for homeland security assistance from the federal government.

Health & Human Services

LD 1265 - (New title) Resolve, Regarding Source Water Protection. (Sponsored by Sen. Mitchell of Kennebec County) Finally Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 29

The Department of Health and Human Services must submit a report back to the Legislature by February 1, 2006 addressing whether additional requirements are needed for source water protection in Maine. Options could include source water supply protection approaches that: (1) are modeled after shoreland zoning; (2) rely on statutory performance standards; or (3) rely on specific land use prohibitions and controls.

Inland Fisheries & Wildlife

LD 438 - (New title) Resolve, To Improve Access to Emergency Services in State Parks, Historic Sites and the Maine Wildlife Park. (Sponsored by Rep. Vaughan of Durham) Finally Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 26

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) are directed to: (1) review policies and procedures for contracting emergency service providers when needed at state parks and other public facilities; (2) implement policies and procedures that allow emergency services providers immediate access to state-owned facilities; and (3) develop written emergency operating plans for all staffed DOC and IF&W facilities.

Judiciary

LD 301 - (New title) Resolve, To Implement the Recommendations of the Committee To Study Compliance with Maine's Freedom of Access Laws. (Reported by Rep. Koffman of Bar Harbor for the Committee to Study Compliance with Maine's Freedom of Access Laws.) Finally Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 123

This Resolve creates a 13-member "Freedom of Access" Committee, generally charged with the responsibility of reviewing compliance with Maine's "Right to Know", (or "Freedom of Access") laws at all levels of government, assisting the Legislature in a long-term obligation established during the last legislative session to review all exemptions to the definition of "public record", and otherwise make recommendations for changes to Maine's Freedom of Access Laws.

LD 1202 - Resolve, To Study the Accessibility of Birth Certificates and Other Vital Records. (Sponsored by Sen. Brennan of Cumberland County) Finally Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 107

This resolve directs the Department of Health and Human Services to study the provisions of the freedom of access laws as they relate to the access of certain vital records, such as birth, death and marriage certificates. The goal of the study is to determine the appropriate balance between the freedom of access issues and the prevention of identity theft and the privacy rights of adoptees.

Legal & Veterans Affairs

LD 100 - Resolve, Requiring the Secretary of State To Develop Voting Systems Standards. (Sponsored by Rep. Patrick of Rumford) Emergency Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 19 (5/13/05)

This emergency Resolve authorizes the Secretary of State to establish a stakeholders group that is charged with developing a comprehensive approach to voting system standards that apply uniformly and in a non-discriminatory manner and that define what constitutes a vote and what must be counted as a vote for each category of voting system used in Maine. The group charged with developing the comprehensive voting system standards was a six-member panel made up of members of the public experienced with elections and election recounts. The group was charged with issuing its report by June 1, 2005. The group's report, structured as a letter to the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee from the Secretary of State, is now available. The letter identifies three clarifying amendments to Maine's election laws the group is recommending to improve the ability of election officials to determine "voter intent". The letter also includes a fourth recommendation that the Secretary of State publish and make more widely available the uniform guidelines regarding the determination of voter intent that are already being used in the state's election officials' training programs. A copy of the group's recommendations can be obtained by contacting MMA's Laura Veilleux at 1-800-452-8786 or lveilleux@memun.org

LD 1173 - (New title) Resolve, Directing the Secretary of State To Design a Pilot Process for Early Voting. (Sponsored by Sen. Diamond of Cumberland County) Finally Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 70

This resolve directs the Secretary of State to design a pilot program for early voting for the general election in November 2008. For the purpose of the pilot program, the Secretary is directed to select a municipality that wants to participate, and other municipalities may participate at the mutual agreement of both the Secretary and the interested municipalities. The Secretary is directed to file a pilot program plan with the Legislature by February 15, 2007, which will provide the Legislature an opportunity to give final approval for the pilot program.

LD 1608 - (New title) Resolve, To Establish a Study Commission To Study Alternative Voting Procedures, the Citizen Initiative Process and Minor Party Ballot Access. (Sponsored by Sen. Gagnon of Kennebec County) Finally Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 127

This resolve establishes a commission to study voting procedures, the citizen initiative process and access to the political process by minor political parties. The study commission consists of 11 members including six legislators, a representative of the Maine Municipal Association and a representative of the Maine Town and City Clerks' Association. The charge to the commission includes reviewing the "Instant Run-off" voting system, the "fusion voting" system, the facilitation of the formation of minor political parties, the implementation of vote-by-mail systems and proposals to inform the public about the fiscal implications of proposed citizen initiated legislation. The commission must submit its report to the Legislature by December 7, 2005.

Natural Resources

LD 286 - (New title) Resolve, Directing a Review of Comprehensive Planning and Growth Management in Maine. (Sponsored by Rep. Joy of Crystal) Finally Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 73

This resolve directs the State Planning Office to study current law, policy and procedures regarding land use planning, management and regulations. The purpose of the study is to review the effectiveness of Maine's growth management laws and identify changes in state law, policy and procedures that would facilitate more effective land use planning. The State Planning Office is specifically directed to assess its procedures and policies for reviewing comprehensive plans, consider ways to provide greater recognition and reward for municipalities that manage growth, and develop recommendations to change the focus and context of comprehensive plans. The SPO report is also supposed to identify any projected changes in cost to the state and the municipalities that are associated with its recommendations. The SPO report is due to be submitted to the Legislature by February 1, 2006.

LD 526 - (New title) Resolve, Regarding the Recycling Assistance Fee. (Sponsored by Rep. McKenney of Cumberland) Finally Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 35

This resolve directs the Department of Environmental Protection to prepare a report to the Legislature over the next 18 months that is focused on revenue-producing alternatives to the current $1 tire fee that is used to support the activities of the Department. The Department is charged with evaluating the possibility of new or expanded fees on solid wastes and solid waste facility licensing fees. The Department is also charged with developing a fee schedule that is related and generally proportional to the programmatic efforts expended by the Department.

State & Local Government

LD 1369 - (New title) Resolve, Directing the Intergovernmental Advisory Group To Review Unfunded Mandates. (Sponsored by Rep. Rines of Wiscasset) Emergency Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 30 (5/20/05)

This emergency resolve directs the Intergovernmental Advisory Commission (IAC) to conduct a review of unfunded state mandates that pertain to municipalities and identify those unfunded state mandates that were enacted prior to November 23, 1992, which is the effective date of the constitutional enactment that was designed to limit the enactment of unfunded state mandates. The IAC is directed to: (1) prepare a comprehensive list of state mandates on municipalities; (2) identify the legal origin of each mandate; (3) identify the statewide local government cost of mandate; and (4) identify the characteristics of each mandate that make it deserving of further review, including archaic or unnecessary features, inadequate funding, disproportionate effort-to-benefit ratio, poor coordination between state and federal law, etc. The IAC is directed to issue its report back to the Legislature by November 2, 2005.

Taxation

LD 1094 - (New title) Resolve, To Study Adoption of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. (Sponsored by Rep. Lerman of Augusta) Finally Passed; Resolves 2005, c. 110

This resolve directs Maine Revenue Services to prepare a report that: (1) identifies the changes necessary to amend Maine's sales tax code to conform the code to the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, including the options available to achieve that conformity; (2) identifies the impact of each option identified to achieve conformity; and (3) identifies any fiscal and policy issues associated with achieving conformity. The report, along with implementing legislation, must be submitted to the Legislature by January 15, 2006.

Transportation

LD 47 - An Act To Require the State To Provide Winter Maintenance on State Aid Highways. (Sponsored by Rep. Thomas of Ripley)

The legislation was actually killed by the Transportation Committee, but the Committee sent a letter to the Department of Transportation to study all the issues relating to URIP (Urban Rural Initiative Program, formerly "Local Road Assistance Program") including the costs of winter maintenance on state aid highways.

Utilities & Energy

LD 1051 - Resolve, Establishing a Study Commission To Examine Water District Fees Assessed for Fire Suppression. (Sponsored by Sen. Courtney)

The legislation was actually killed by the Utilities and Energy Committee, but the Committee sent a letter to the Public Utilities Commission requesting that the PUC engage in outreach efforts to inform municipal officials of the manner by which fire suppression charges are calculated.

LD 1128 - An Act Directing the State Planning Office To Study Municipal Capabilities To Become Providers of Internet Services. (Sponsored by Sen. Bromley of Cumberland County) Enacted; P & SL 2005, c. 19

This bill directs the State Planning Office to study the economic, technological and funding issues associated with municipalities providing Internet services to their communities.