Task Forces And Working Groups
(from Maine Townsman, May 2003)

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, 2004.  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 121st 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.

Appropriations & Financial Affairs

LD 1614 – An Act To Make Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2003, June 30, 2004 and June 30, 2005.  (Governor’s Bill) (Sponsored by Rep. Brannigan of Portland)  Emergency Enacted; PL 2003, c. 451 (6/12/03)

Included as part of the Part II budget is the creation of a commission to study and develop mechanisms for reducing the overall costs of corrections at the state level and community corrections at the county level.  The sixteen-member Commission to Improve the Sentencing, Supervision, Management and Incarceration of Prisoners includes representatives from the executive, judicial and legislative branches of state government, as well as members representing county commissioners and sheriffs, trial lawyers and the general public.  The Commission is tasked with studying the reasons that overcrowding exists in correctional facilities (i.e., demographics of the prison population, length of sentences, impact of mental illness, impact of substance abuse, etc.), determine how existing sentencing laws impact prison and jail overcrowding, and determine the effectiveness of current programs and treatment plans for deterring repeat offenders.  The Commission is required to report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature by January 2, 2004.

Business, Research & Economic Development

LD 472 – Resolve, To Establish the Task Force To Study Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing.  (Sponsored by Rep. Sullivan of Biddeford)  Passed; Resolves 2003, c. 73

This resolve directs the legislatively created Community Preservation Advisory Committee (CPAC) to conduct a comprehensive review of state-level, local-level, and market-level barriers to the creation of affordable housing.  Specifically, CPAC would be charged with examining state rules and local regulations that inhibit the construction of new affordable housing units; zoning practices that create barriers to affordable housing; local impact fee regulation, development moratoria, and rate-of-growth ordinances, and the degree to which affordable housing should be exempt from those regulatory systems; and the degree to which the unavailability of financial assistance for security deposits creates a barrier to the creation of affordable rental housing.  The resolve stipulates that CPAC must consult with at least 21 “stakeholders” while conducting this study, including the Maine Municipal Association, the Maine Association of Planners, a city councilor, a municipal officer and a planning board member, as well as developers, bankers, homeless advocates, labor representatives and state agencies.  CPAC is authorized to develop legislation to implement its recommendations, and its findings and proposed legislation must be included in CPAC’s annual report to the Legislature, which is due by December 1, 2003.

LD 1551 – An Act To License Home Building and Improvement Contractors.  (Sponsored by Rep. Cowger of Hallowell)  CARRY OVER

This bill would create a comprehensive system to license home building contractors through a 7-member Maine Home Contractor Licensing Board established in the Department of Professional Regulation.  A complete description of this bill is provided in the Carry Over Bills article in this edition of the TOWNSMAN.  Because this bill would establish a new professional regulatory board, a so-called “sunrise” review process will be conducted during the inter-session period.  The primary purpose of the “sunrise” review is to determine the costs and benefits of the proposed regulation.  The items required to be reviewed include: identification of the harm to the public without regulation; costs of compliance with the regulation including indirect costs to consumers; financial analysis of the cost to administer the regulation; why licensure is the appropriate method of regulation; what other states do, and review of past efforts.  The “sunrise” review will also create a stakeholders’ opportunity to consider the implications of this proposal on the infrastructure of the building code regulatory system in Maine.

On the same general theme as LD 1551, the Maine Building Officials and Inspectors Association (MBOIA) has convened a group to review the issue of adopting a building code in Maine.  The basic idea is for the state to adopt a model building code.  The four basic issues are: (1) which code should be adopted as the model - the International Building Code (IBC) or NFPA 5000?; (2) should the code be voluntary and existing town codes be left alone or should the code be mandatory and existing town codes be preempted?; (3) what level of amendments to the code could local officials make?; and (4) who enforces the code – state or local officials?

Criminal Justice & Public Safety

LD 1065 – Resolve, Directing the Commissioner of Public Safety To Study the Emergency Medical Services System.  (Sponsored by Rep. Bull of Freeport)  Passed, Resolves 2003, c. 23

This resolve directs the Commissioner of Public Safety to commission three independent assessments:  (1) the needs, design and structure of the organization and administration of the emergency medical services system at the regional level; (2) the needs, design and structure of the organization and administration of the emergency medical services system at the state level; and (3) the fiscal resources necessary to deliver emergency medical services at the regional and state levels.  The resolve further provides that the assessment process must include solicitation of input and information from a number of state and regional agencies as well as the Maine Fire Chiefs’ Association, rescue chiefs, fire fighters, and members of the general public.  The Commission’s report and recommendations must be submitted to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee by January 31, 2004.

Education & Cultural Affairs

LD 1069 – Resolve, Directing the Maine Historic Preservation Commission To Examine Available Funding for Local Historical Societies.  (Sponsored by Rep. Thompson of China)  Passed, Resolves 2003, c. 18

This resolve directs the Maine State Cultural Affairs Council to study all available sources to fund projects for local historical societies to document and preserve the local histories throughout the state.

Health & Human Services

LD 896 – Resolve, To Establish a System for Electronic Filing of Death Certificates.  (Sponsored by Sen. Mayo of Sagadahoc County)  Passed, Resolves 2003, c. 27

This resolve directs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to convene an advisory committee for the purposes of developing a plan for establishing and funding an electronic death certificate filing system.  In addition to representatives of funeral directors, physicians and the chief medical examiner, the working group will include a representative of a statewide association of municipal clerks.  The DHS report and recommended plan is to be submitted to the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee by January 15, 2004.

LD 1066 – An Act to Address the Temporary Maximum Levels of Assistance for General Assistance Established in 1991.  (Sponsored by Rep. Dudley of Portland) CARRY OVER

Current law establishes the “temporary maximum levels of assistance” through the General Assistance programs as 110% of the federally-determined “fair market rents” (FMR) for the area.  This bill would increase that “temporary maximum level” by adding to the 110% FMR maximum benefit the maximum food benefit established by the General Assistance program, which is effectively the federal food stamp benefit.  In the process of carrying the bill over to next year, the Health and Human Services Committee directed the Department of Health and Human Services to convene a study group for the purpose of further developing the underlying concept of the bill. This study will examine the adequacy of the maximum levels of assistance provided under the existing General Assistance program.

Inland Fisheries & Wildlife

LD 1482 – An Act To Revise Certain Provisions of Maine’s Fish and Wildlife Laws.   (Sponsored by Rep. Dunlap of Old Town)  Emergency Enacted; PL 2003, c. 403 (6/03/03)

This Act makes a number of changes to hunting, fishing and snowmobile laws enforced by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife including the operation of ATVs.  It preempts municipalities from enacting any ordinance or rule regulating the operation, registration or numbering of All Terrain Vehicles except that municipalities will still be allowed to regulate ATV operations on municipally-owned property, right of ways and easements. Due to the heightened interest in the subject, Governor Baldacci has convened a working group to review the regulation of ATVs.  The working group includes a representative of MMA.

Judiciary

LD 286 – Resolve, Concerning the Titling of Mobile Homes, Boats, All-terrain Vehicles, Snowmobiles and Other Property.  (Sponsored by Rep. Norbert of Portland)  Passed, Resolves 2003, c. 12

This resolve directs the Secretary of State to study the issue of requiring titles for mobile homes, boats, All-Terrain Vehicles and snowmobiles.  The Secretary is directed to invite interested parties to participate in the study and report back to the Judiciary Committee by January 15, 2004 with any recommendations.

LD 999 – An Act to Ensure Fairness in Payment of Superior Court Witness Fees by Counties.  (Sponsored by Sen. Christine Savage of Knox County)  CARRY OVER

Due to changes in court rules, some cases that were previously heard in District Court are now being heard in Superior Court.  Since Superior Court law enforcement witness fees are borne by the counties and the District Court witness fees paid by the state, the change shifted some of the burden for reimbursing law enforcement witness fees from the state to the counties and ultimately to the property taxpayers.  LD 999 was submitted to address this issue by requiring the Superior Court, and not the county, to provide a $50-per-day reimbursement to the employer of a law enforcement officer who testifies in Superior Court in a pretrial hearing for a Class D or Class E crime.   In the process of carrying the bill over to next year, the Judiciary Committee directed the Administrative Office of the Courts to convene a study group for the purpose of discussing possible models for reimbursing law enforcement agencies for the time their officers spend in court as witnesses.

LD 1079 – Resolve, To Establish the Committee To Study Compliance with Maine’s Freedom of Access Laws.  (Sponsored by Rep. Koffman of Bar Harbor)  Passed; Resolves 2003, c. 83

This resolve establishes a 16-member Committee to study compliance with Maine’s Freedom of Access laws.  The Committee is charged with the task of:  (1) reviewing the Report on Public Records Audit conducted and prepared by the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition in November, 2002; (2) studying what measures are taken to train governmental employees about their freedom-of-information responsibilities; (3) recommending ways in which governmental compliance can be improved and the costs of making those improvements; (4) reviewing all the exceptions to public access and proceedings and identify changes to those exceptions to “streamline” the law; (5) reconsidering the need for any of the exceptions; and (6) studying the degree the freedom of access laws are used to harass local government entities and what remedies may be available to deter that harassment.  The Committee is scheduled to provide its report and recommendations to the Judiciary Committee by December 15, 2003.  Membership on the Committee includes representatives of:  the Legislature (2); press associations (4); Attorney General’s Office (1); Department of Public Safety (1); general public (2); affected public employees (1); Maine Municipal Association (1); Maine Chiefs of Police Association (1); Maine School Management Association (1); County Commissioners (1); and Sheriffs’ Association (1).

LD 1497 – An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Public Easements.  (Sponsored by Rep. Linda McKee of Wayne) CARRY OVER

Under current law, when a municipality formally discontinues a road, a public easement is retained over that right of way unless the local legislative body expressly discontinues the public easement.  This bill would flip that default arrangement by requiring the local legislative body to expressly retain the public easement or else the easement would be extinguished by default.  This bill would also allow a person who is directly benefited by a public easement to collect funds to maintain that easement.  In the process of carrying the bill over to next year, the Judiciary Committee directed the law firm of Eaton Peabody to convene a working group to examine the impacts of the proposed bill.  Eaton Peabody was also asked to seek input from the Maine Municipal Association on the matter.

Labor

LD 1343 – Resolve, To Create the Task Force To Study Parity and Portability of Retirement Benefits for State Law Enforcement Officers, Municipal Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters.  (Sponsored by Rep. Richardson of Brunswick)  Emergency Passed; Resolves 2003, c. 76 (6/17/03)

This resolve creates an 8-member task force to study parity and portability of retirement benefits for state law enforcement officers, municipal law enforcement officers and firefighters.  The task force is charged with: reviewing the differences in retirement benefits provided to state and local law enforcement officers; developing options to provide parity in, and increase the portability of, retirement benefits provided to state and local law enforcement personnel; reviewing the differences in retirement and health insurance benefits provided to law enforcement and fire personnel in various municipalities; and considering the development of a uniform benefit plan for both groups of personnel.  Representatives of municipal, county and state law enforcement officers and municipal firefighters will be appointed to the panel.  Although Maine Municipal Association was going to be a part of this panel, last-minute action of the Legislature stripped out MMA’s representation.

Marine Resources

LD 1519 – Resolve, To Establish a Task Force on the Planning and Development of Marine Aquaculture in Maine.  (Governor’s Bill) (Sponsored by Rep. Bull of Freeport)  Emergency Passed, Resolves 2003, c. 40 (5/21/03)

This resolve creates both an 11-member task force and an 11-member stakeholder advisory panel to the task force, with both groups charged with studying and developing recommendations regarding the ongoing development of the aquaculture industry in Maine.  The 11-member task force is to be made up of members of the public with expertise in marine resources, fisheries, economic development, business, planning and natural resource conservation, all appointed by the Governor.  The 11-member stakeholder advisory panel is charged with providing advice to the task force, which is responsible for developing the finalized recommendations.  The 11-member stakeholder advisory group includes representatives of:  finfish acquaculture (2); shellfish aquaculture (2); fishing industry (1); coastal municipal official (1); marinas or related industry (1); recreational boat captain (1); land conservation groups (1); environmental interests (1); and tourism industry (1).

The specific issues to be reviewed are:  (1) bay management or aquaculture development strategies in national or international jurisdictions that operate under a bay zoning-type system; (2) an evaluation of the size and characteristics of the aquaculture industry in Maine and its growth projections; (3) an assessment of the impacts of aquaculture on tourism, recreation, conservation lands, surrounding fisheries and the ecological health of the surrounding waters; (4) an assessment of how the external impacts of aquaculture can be best mitigated; (5) an assessment of the role of municipal government in the aquaculture leasing approval process; (6) an assessment of the economic impacts of aquaculture in the state; and (7) a review of submerged property law.

No later than December 31, 2003, the task force is required to submit its draft recommendations to the stakeholder advisory panel.  The advisory panel is then charged with reviewing and responding to the task force with its recommendations no later than January 15, 2004.  The task force is then required to review the recommendations of the advisory panel and submit its final report to the Marine Resources Committee no later than January 31, 2004.

Natural Resources

LD 743 – An Act To Protect Health and the Environment through the Collection and Recycling of Electronic Waste.  (Sponsored by Rep. Thompson of China)  Enacted, PL 2003, c. 150

This bill prohibits any person from disposing of a cathode ray tube (CRT) (e.g., television or computer monitor) in a solid waste disposal facility after January 1, 2006.  The bill also requires the Department of Environmental Protection to convene a stakeholders group to develop a recommended plan for the collection and recycling of cathode ray tubes among manufacturers, distributors, retailers, consumers and other parties.  The stakeholders group must include representation from environmental groups, CRT manufacturers, recycling businesses, the State Planning Office, a solid waste disposal business and a statewide municipal organization.  The stakeholders group report and recommendations must be submitted to the Natural Resources Committee by January 30, 2004.

LD 1045 – Resolve, Directing the Community Preservation Advisory Committee To Study the State Planning Office’s Review of Municipal Comprehensive Plans and Growth Management Programs.   (Sponsored by Rep. Collins of Wells)  Passed, Resolves 2003, c. 34

This resolve directs the Community Preservation Advisory Committee to study the State Planning Office’s (SPO) system of reviewing municipal comprehensive plans, growth management programs and local ordinances for consistency with state goals.  The study must include a review of the SPO rules that govern the review process and the time frames within which those reviews are supposed to be conducted.  The Community Preservation Advisory Committee is directed to submit its report to the Natural Resources Committee by December 1, 2003.

LD 1309 – An Act To Protect Public Health by Reducing Human Exposure to Arsenic.  (Sponsored by Rep. Cowger of Hallowell)  Enacted; PL 2003, c. 457

This bill addresses the issue of arsenic in the environment in a number of ways.  A complete description of the bill is provided in the "New Laws" article in this edition of the TOWNSMAN.  One element of the bill directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a plan for the separation and disposal of pressure-treated wood that contains arsenic. The Department is directed to consult with interested parties and include in the plan recommendations regarding the separation of arsenic-treated wood at solid waste facilities, restrictions on burning arsenic-treated wood at incineration facilities and biomass boilers and restrictions on the disposal of arsenic-treated wood at unlined landfills.

LD 1570 – An Act Concerning Stormwater Management.  (Sponsored by Sen. Martin of Aroostook County)  Emergency Enacted, PL 2003, c. 318 (5/27/03)

This bill makes a few technical and minor substantive changes to the law governing storm water discharges in Maine. In addition, the bill directs the Department of Environmental Protection to prepare a report to be provided to the Natural Resource Committee by February 1, 2004 that includes recommendations for improving Maine’s law governing storm water management.  DEP is also directed to present draft rules that would regulate storm water discharges to “impaired waterbodies” both with respect to existing development and new development both during and after construction.

Transportation

LD 599 – An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force on Rail Transportation.  (Sponsored by Sen. Martin of Aroostook County) Enacted; PL 2003, c. 498

This Act creates an advisory council with respect to Maine’s freight transportation.  The Act also directs the Taxation Committee to review statutory provisions for taxes that apply to companies operating railroads, consider the impact of those tax provisions, and make recommendations to improve the viability of railroads operating in the state.

LD 832 – An Act Clarifying State Financial Responsibility Over State and State Aid Highways (Sponsored by Rep. Crosthwaite of Ellsworth) Ought Not To Pass

LD 1392 – An Act to Reform Highway Reconstruction Project Cost-sharing (Sponsored by Rep. Arthur Lerman of Augusta) Ought Not To Pass

For about 20 years, the Department of Transportation, acting on its own initiative, has charged certain “urban compact” municipalities for 10-15% of the cost of state road reconstruction projects within the urban compact zones.  There is no statute, rule, written policy, memorandum, or other public policy directive that supports this practice.  Service center communities, for obvious reasons, complain about the policy because of its negative financial impacts and discriminatory foundation.

Both of these bills provided the Legislature with the opportunity to articulate a position on the existing DOT practice that requires Maine’s urban communities to financially participate in state arterial and major collector road projects.  The Transportation Committee killed both bills in Committee and decided to extend the practice of delegating the municipal assessment practice to DOT.  Specifically, the Committee sent a letter to DOT to work with municipalities to create a new cost-sharing policy that requires all impacted municipalities to financially participate in state road construction projects. The Committee directed the Department to work with the Service Center Coalition and the Maine Municipal Association to develop and implement, as soon as possible, a practice requiring a local match of up to 7.5% on improvements made to sections of state arterial and major collector roads with posted speed limits of 35 miles per hour.  There are over 200 municipalities that could be assessed state road reconstruction costs under this extended “policy” that has been delegated to DOT.  

Utilities & Energy

LD 397 – Resolve, To Create the Study Group To Examine an Emergency Alert Notification System for Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Individuals.  (Sponsored by Sen. Edmonds of Cumberland County)  Emergency Passed; Resolves 2003, c. 78 (6/17/03)

This resolve creates a 17-member study group charged with studying the development of emergency alert systems for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals for all types of emergencies and developing recommendations for establishing or improving those emergency alert systems.  Two members of the study group will be representatives of municipal emergency service providers and one member will be a representative of local law enforcement.  The study group’s report and any recommendations or proposed legislation must be submitted to the Legislature no later than Nov. 21, 2003.