NEW LAWS
(from Maine Townsman, July 1999)
by MMA State & Federal Relations Staff

Effective dates. Emergency legislation became effective on the date it was signed by the Governor. If the new law was an emergency measure, it is so noted along with the Public Law citation.

Non-emergency legislation. These bills become law 90 days after adjournment of the legislative session in which it was enacted. The effective date of non-emergency legislation enacted this session will be September 18, 1999.

Mandate preamble. Legislation enacted with a "mandate preamble" contains the following language: "This measure requires one or more local units of government to expand or modify activities so as to necessitate additional expenditures from local revenues but does not provide funding for at least 90% of those expenditures. Pursuant to the Constitution of Maine, Article IX, Section 21, two-thirds of all of the members elected to each House have determined it necessary to enact this measure." If the new law was enacted with a mandate preamble, it is so noted along with the Public Law citation.

Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

This Committee mastered an efficient hearing process this session, grouping bills together by topic and requesting that testimony be delivered once for all related bills. The expedited hearing process allowed more bills to be heard in less time than would usually be required, including nine dangerous dog bills and related changes to animal welfare laws, four bills dealing with the acquisition of public land, three farming bills, and three forestry bills, among those tracked by MMA.

The Committee incorporated what it considered to be the best provisions of the nine dangerous dog bills submitted and enacted one comprehensive law that will allow animal control officers to improve the management and outcome of dangerous dog complaints.

The Agriculture, Forestry, and Conservation Committee carried over only one bill with any municipal connection, LD 449, which requires exploration of farmers’ right to use agricultural land and, potentially, notice to abutters who purchase property that is in agricultural use.

While municipal interests do not appear to be furthered by the extra process required by LD 1888 to adopt or amend municipal forestry ordinances, this enacted law is expressly a funded state mandate and the Maine Forest Service has committed to reimbursing municipalities for the costs incurred as a result of the mandate.

LD 575 – An Act to Provide for Increased Penalties and Enforcement Regarding Dangerous Dogs (Sponsored by Rep. Gagnon of Waterville). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 350.

This Act amends the laws governing the procedures to bring a prosecution against the owner of a dangerous dog; establishes the financial penalty for owning or keeping a dangerous dog at $1,000; expands the time frame within which a complaint of a dangerous dog can be brought to a law enforcement officer or animal control officer from 10 days to 30 days from the date the dangerous dog assaults a person or domesticated animal; expands the authority of a law enforcement officer or animal control officer to order confinement of the dog by the owner or at another location at the owner’s expense; and authorizes the courts to issue "ex parte" orders to confine the dangerous dog (without the owner’s participation in the court process) under certain limited circumstances.

LD 682 – An Act to Increase the Late Fee for Licensing a Dog (Sponsored by Rep. Kasprzak of Newport). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 136.

Under current law, if a dog owner fails to license his or her dog by January 31, the municipal officers may issue a warrant demanding registration plus a $3 late fee if paid within seven days of the demand. If the registration is not executed within seven days of the demand, the late fee increases to $10. Under this Act, the $3 interim late fee is eliminated and the fee for late dog registration is a flat $10.

LD 742 – An Act to Amend the Animal Welfare Laws (Sponsored by Rep. Bumps of China). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 254.

This Act makes several changes to the animal welfare laws, including: (1) clarifying that upon taking control of a trespassing dog when the owner is known, the animal control officer shall either return the dog to its owner or deliver it to an animal shelter; (2) clarifying that municipal clerks issuing dog licenses shall remit $6.50 of the license fee for unneutered dogs and $1.00 of the license fee for neutered dogs; (3) clarifying that failure to provide any domesticated animal with sustenance, access to water, necessary medical care and shelter are Class D crimes; and (4) restricting the transportation of dogs in open vehicles, such as pick-up trucks, without protecting the dog from falling, jumping or being thrown from the vehicle.

LD 912 – Resolve, to Transfer Land in Edmunds (Sponsored by Rep. Goodwin of Pembroke). Passed; Resolves 1999, c. 11.

This Resolve allows the Director of the Bureau of Public Lands, once the Bureau acquires title to a certain piece of property in Edmonds, to convey that property to the Dennys River Historical Society. In the event the presently unorganized township of Edmunds becomes incorporated as a town, the property is to be conveyed to Edmunds upon request.

LD 1888 – An Act to Amend the Laws Relating to Development and Centralized Listing of Municipal Ordinances that Apply to Forestry Practices (Sponsored by Sen. Kilkelly of Lincoln County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 263.

This Act is a remnant component of the Forestry Compact related to municipal timber harvesting ordinances. Beyond the existing requirements that apply to timber harvesting ordinances, this Act requires that the notice for the public hearing on the local timber harvesting ordinance be published as well as posted, and a written notice of the hearing be mailed to every landowner in the municipality. At the public hearing, a representative of the Maine Forest Service must be given an opportunity to present information about forestry.

In addition, this Act requires that all municipal timber harvesting ordinances, even the "grandfathered", pre-1991 ordinances, become definitionally compliant with state forestry law and regulation by January 1, 2001. This means that all such ordinances that use the same terms as used in the Maine Forest Practices Act (MFPA) and its regulations must define those terms in the same way as the MFPA.

All costs associated with the new notification procedures required by this bill are to be paid by the state. Ninety percent of the costs of complying with the ordinance-updating mandate are to be paid by the state in conformance with mandate law.

LD 2066 – An Act to Amend the Laws Relating to Slash Disposal Along Highways and Railroad and Utility Corridors (Sponsored by Rep. Cowger of Hallowell). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 332.

This Act amends the laws governing the harvesting of wood and disposition of slash in road rights of way and in the utility and railroad rights of way. With respect to road rights of way, the Act governs the activities of stumpage owners, operators, landowners or agents and provides that any slash generated within the right of way or within 50 feet of the shoulder of the right of way must be burned, chipped, or hauled out of that right of way zone unless it is over 3 inches in diameter, in which case it can be limbed and placed as separate pieces on the ground (not piled). Usable timber products can be piled within the right of way but must be removed within 30 days.

LD 2246 – An Act to Amend the Nutrient Management Laws (Reported by Sen. Nutting of Androscoggin County for the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry pursuant to PL 1997, c. 642, section 8, subsection 3). Emergency enacted with mandate preamble 6/11/99; PL 1999, c. 530.

This Act modifies the Nutrient Management Laws to facilitate full implementation. Of particular municipal interest, it grants an exemption from property tax for animal waste storage facilities (manure pits). In accordance with the constitutional provision regarding newly enacted property tax exemptions, municipalities are entitled to recoup 50% of the revenue they lose because of this new exemption. The structures exempted under this provision will have to be used exclusively for storing manure, animal bedding waste or other wastes generated by animal production. Additionally, in order to be eligible for the exemption, farmers must obtain certification from the Department of Agriculture that a nutrient management plan for the farm using the storage facility has been prepared according to statutory requirements.

The new law makes clarifications to the nutrient management provisions, including the following:

• Tightens the definition of nutrient to exclude wood ash;

• Extends the moratorium on swine feeding operations until October 1, 2001;

• Requires the Department of Agriculture and the DEP to work together with the EPA to develop processes for environmental permitting;

• Specifies triggers for development of nutrient management plans;

• Clarifies setback provisions for manure storage, stacking, and spreading;

• Establishes compliance dates and variances for nutrient management plans;

• Requires the Department of Agriculture to prepare an annual nutrient management report; and

• Provides a sales tax exemption for materials used in animal waste storage facilities.

Appropriations and Financial Affairs

A bipartisan approach characterized the Appropriations Committee this session.

The main thrust of this committee’s work is to craft the two-year state budget for the consideration of the full Legislature.

The political dynamic of the budget development and adoption process changes from session to session. In the early years of this decade, it would take the entire legislative session to develop the budget package, and it was not unusual for the whole budget to be adopted in one final enactment at the last possible moment, in late June, just before the start of the state fiscal year. In 1997, the whole budget package was developed quickly and enacted in March of that year, more than 90 days before the start of the state’s fiscal year. This allowed the enactment of the budget by a simple majority vote rather than the 2/3’s vote necessary when an adopted budget needs to be implemented in less than 90 days. The early passage of the budget by a simple majority caused some hard feelings because of the diminished influence of the minority party.

This time around, the $4.4 billion Part I (continuing services) budget was enacted in March and the $300 million Part II (new and expanded program) budget was enacted in early June. Both elements of the state budget came to the Legislature with a unanimous "ought to pass" report from the Appropriations Committee and were easily enacted into law by the full Legislature.

Bipartisanship was also at play on the Appropriations Committee, although not quite as strongly, when it came to the several bond proposals that were presented to the full Legislature for its first-stage approval. The only real glitch in the Committee’s bipartisan approach over the bond proposals fell on the head of the environmental bond. Although the environmental bond originally came out of Committee with a unanimous report at $9 million, the Committee’s report quickly fell apart when presented to the full Legislature for being insufficient, particularly with respect to landfill closure funds, hazardous site remediation, and the DEP’s "Small Community" septic system repair program. In the process of restoring $3.5 million to the environmental bond and re-presenting the proposal to the Legislature, it became clear that the original bipartisan support for the low level of funding for environmental clean up was actually quite thin.

LD 50 – An Act to Make Additional 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 Year Ending June 30, 1999 (Sponsored by Rep. Townsend of Portland; additional cosponsors) (Governor’s bill). Emergency enacted 2/18/99; PL 1999, c. 4.

This is the supplemental budget that makes adjustments to the FY 98-99 biennial budget with respect to FY 99, which closed out on June 30, 1999. From the municipal perspective, the major elements were: (1) the appropriation of $6.4 million to fully fund the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement Program (BETR) for FY 99; (2) the appropriation of $690,000 to fully reimburse county government during FY 99 for the costs of housing state prisoners in county jails; and (3) the appropriation of $1.5 million to reimburse the state’s FY 99 General Purpose Aid to Education account (GPA) for funds used in that account to make good on unpaid FY 98 claims from the school units for the Special Education costs for State Ward-State Agency clients.

LD 617 – 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, 2000 and June 30, 2001 (Sponsored by Rep. Townsend of Portland) (Governor’s bill). Emergency enacted 6/4/99; PL 1999, c. 401.

LD 617 is the Part II element of the biennial FY 2000-2001 state budget which provides funds for new or expanded state programs.

The elements of the Part II state budget of particular interest to municipalities are:

Funding General Purpose Aid to Education (GPA). After months of negotiations over how much money will be appropriated for GPA over the next two years, and how that pot of money will be distributed, the final decision of the Legislature is to appropriate $620.7 million for FY 2000 and $638 million for FY 2001. These spending levels represent a 4.9% increase in state spending for K-12 education between FY 99 and FY 2000, and a 2.8% increase between FY 2000 and FY 2001.

Distributing GPA. With respect to the funding formula itself, the Legislature adopted in the budget bill a series of changes that were developed and recommended by the Education Committee. In summary, the changes will:

• Raise the "per pupil guarantee" from $3,770 to $4,020 for FY 2000, $4,307 for FY 2001, $4,687 for FY 2002, and $5,204 for FY 2003. Raising the per pupil guarantee has the effect of increasing both the state and local contribution to the foundation allocation, thus reducing the level of contribution that is typically required under the "local option" appropriation, which is purely property tax dollars. With this increase to the per-pupil guarantee, the minimum local mill rate obligation for education will increase from 6.06 mills to 6.67 mills. Targets are set for additional increases to the per-pupil guarantee over the following three years.

• Lower the so-called "percentage reduction" of program costs by almost one-third. Program costs are all costs associated with Special Education, Vocation Education, School Buses, and Early Childhood Education. Currently, actual program costs are arbitrarily reduced on paper by 22% so that it appears that the state contribution to K-12 education is fully funded. The "percentage reduction" system is essentially a little white lie that pushes what are supposed to be subsidizable costs onto the property tax. By reducing the depth of the percentage reduction to 15.8% (under a plan to ultimately reduce percentage reduction to zero over the next several years), the distribution formula will better reflect the financial demands associated with program costs as they apply to individual school systems.

• Freeze the median income figures used to calculate that component of the distribution formula, at least until the next census provides more accurate income data. A school unit’s median household income is used as a factor that controls 15% of the distribution formula. Equalized property valuation controls the remaining 85% of the formula.

• Eliminate the cost of living factor, which was designed as a mitigating component of the school unit’s median income factor.

• Soften the impact of reduced student enrollments on subsidy distribution by allowing the use of averaged student population counts over a more extended period of time.

Because the funding formula changes resulted in some school units receiving less financial support from the state than they were anticipating, the Part II budget also includes a one-time appropriation of $3.8 million for FY 2000 which will be used as a "hold-harmless" cushion to keep those school units from feeling the funding formula change in the first year. There is no plan to provide a similar cushion for FY 2001.

GPA Add-ons. The Part II budget also appropriates $2.6 million over the biennium to be used as special adjustments for school units that incur extra costs in teaching English as a second language, and $1 million over the biennium to increase the adjustments available to school units to cover some degree of higher state support for out-of-district placements.

Other Educational Spending. Outside of the GPA distribution formula, the Part II budget appropriates $240,000 to create start-up grants of $3,000 for any school unit with a student population meeting certain income guidelines that wants to start a school breakfast program.

School Renovation. $23.4 million is appropriated in this budget for the purpose of further capitalizing the school facility renovation fund which was established in 1998 and provides the grant and loan revenues that represent the state’s new financial partnership in school renovation (as distinct from school construction, which is funded through the GPA formula). In 1998, $20 million was appropriated to start up this fund. This year’s appropriation keeps the state on track for its multi-year plan to provide $100 million for this purpose.

BETR. The budget bill appropriates slightly over $3 million to fully fund (at a total of $42 million) the state’s reimbursement obligations for FY 2000 under the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement Program. The amount previously appropriated for the BETR program for FY 2001 ($48 million) was not adjusted by the Part II budget.

Land Purchases. Nearly $7 million is appropriated out of the State’s Rainy Day Fund by the Part II budget for two land purchases: the $5.2 million Plum Creek purchase in the area of Moosehead Lake and the West Branch of the Penobscot River, and the $1.6 million land purchase at Scarborough Beach.

Disaster Relief. By means of another $300,000 appropriation from the Rainy Day Fund, the budget generates the state match that leverages federal disaster relief funds associated with the storms, heavy rains and flooding that occurred in October, 1998, in York and Cumberland Counties.

Rainy Day Fund. The Rainy Day Fund has a current balance of approximately $100 million and is completely full at the statutory cap of 5% of General Fund revenues received during the preceding year. Despite the several "Rainy Day" appropriations as detailed above, the Fund will be more than replenished by a provision in the budget bill that raises the statutory cap of the Rainy Day Fund to 6% of the previous year’s General Fund revenues. The replenishment of that Fund occurs automatically at the close of each state fiscal year under an existing provision of law that directs the State Controller to divert 50% of the unanticipated surplus General Fund revenues into that account. At the new 6% cap, the Rainy Day Fund has the potential of holding $125 million.

Circuit Breaker for Renters. The Part II budget establishes a more generous standard of eligibility for renters to obtain what is essentially a rent refund payment from the state to reflect the renter’s indirect exposure to property taxes. Under current law, the calculation of the rent refund assumes that 15% of the annual rent obligation was the renter’s property tax obligation. The budget changes the law to assume that 18% of the annual rent obligation is the property tax obligation, which allows more renters into the program and potentially increases their Circuit Breaker benefit.

Tax Relief. The Part II budget enacts two forms of generalized tax relief. As of July 1, 2000, the general sales tax rate in Maine will go down a half-penny to 5%. That decision cost the General Fund $57 million in FY 2001. The budget bill also increases the personal exemption under Maine’s income tax code from $2,750 for each personal exemption allowed (which is the applicable exemption for income tax year 1999) to $2,850 for income tax year 2000. The expanded income tax exemption carries a price tag of $4.4 million for the biennium, which includes only its first year of implementation.

Transportation Debt Service. $5.8 million in hard cash was appropriated from General Fund revenues in the Part II budget to buy-down a portion of the state’s bonded indebtedness for highway purposes. A reserve account for this same purpose was also established, which is funded with some "available balances" from the General Fund after all other deductions and appropriations from the General Fund are made at the close of the fiscal year. The appropriation, in combination with the lapsed-balance revenues, is expected to buy down approximately $7 million of transportation debt.

Snowmobile Grants. A one-time General Fund appropriation of $150,000 is in the Part II budget for the Snowmobile Trail Fund, which is administered by the Bureau of Parks and Recreation. The purpose of the appropriation is to provide grants to clubs, municipalities, and counties for the acquisition of snowmobile trail maintenance equipment.

Other Programs. Finally, a full range of other new or expanded cultural and social service programs was also established by the Part II budget, including enhanced eligibility for low-cost drugs to the elderly, a "Maine Communities" program which will provide matching grants to local groups, historical societies, museums and libraries for community-based projects, the "Start ME Right" program, which will establish expanded child care and parent-assistance programs for infants and preschoolers, and expanded Head Start programs for preschoolers.

LD 618 – An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds, and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 1999, June 30, 2000 and June 30, 2001 (EMERGENCY) (Sponsored by Rep. Townsend of Portland) (Governor’s bill). Emergency enacted 3/15/99; PL 1999, c. 16.

LD 618 is the Part I element of the biennial FY 2000-2001 state budget which provides funds to continue the operation of state government before the consideration of any new or expanded programs.

The elements of the Part I state budget of particular interest to municipalities are:

General Purpose Aid to Education (GPA). $600 million in GPA was appropriated for FY 2000 and $618 million was appropriated for FY 2001. As a point of reference, $592 million in GPA was appropriated for FY 99. As it turned out, this was an interim appropriation which was beefed-up with a supplemental appropriation in the Part II budget bringing the final FY 2000 GPA appropriation to $620.7 million and the FY 2001 GPA appropriation to $638 million.

BETR. The appropriation for the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program in the Part I budget began at $38 million for FY 2000 and $48 million for FY 2001. At the time of enactment, this level of appropriation would seem to make room for the continuation of the tax rebate program for businesses in its current design without any of the limiting changes that were being considered by the Legislature, such as excluding retail property or downgrading the reimbursement rate from 100% of the taxes paid to 90%.

Ultimately, the Part II budget appropriated an additional $3 million to supplement the FY 2000 appropriation. The FY 2001 appropriation of $48 million still falls $3 million short of the expected demand during FY 2001, but no urgency is felt to appropriate the full $51.1 million until the revenue picture and the actual BETR claims for that outlying year come into sharper focus.

LD 681 – An Act to Fund Public School Alliances (Sponsored by Rep. Gagnon of Waterville). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 56.

This Act appropriates $100,000 in the second year of the biennium to provide grants to school units to help them in their efforts to form the equivalent of interlocal consortiums of school units for the purpose of consolidating some administrative functions, such as bulk purchasing.

LD 694 – An Act to Increase the Number of Elm Trees in the State (Sponsored by Rep. Gagnon of Waterville). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 98.

This Act allocates $1,000 over the biennium from existing resources in the Department of Conservation to initially capitalize the Elm Tree Restoration Fund. The Maine Forest Service is required under this Act to develop an application process for municipalities to apply for grants to plant disease-resistant elm trees. The municipality would have to match the state grant on a one-to-one basis.

LD 1143 – An Act to Provide Funding for the Education Research Institute (Sponsored by Rep. Martin of Eagle Lake). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 42.

This Act appropriates $75,000 per year from the GPA account and $75,000 per year from the University of Maine account to provide the $150,000 per year needed to continue the work of the Education Research Institute. The Institute, with one municipal member, provides guidance on research projects regarding public education in Maine.

LD 2107 – An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue in the Amount of $20,500,000 to Construct Water Pollution Control Facilities and Make Other Environmental Improvements (Sponsored by Sen. Michaud of Penobscot County) (Governor’s bill). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 60.

Retitled An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue in the Amount of $12,500,000 to Construct Water Pollution Control Facilities and Make Other Environmental Improvements, this Act will send to the voters in November, 1999 a $12.5 million bond proposal for environmental purposes, including: water pollution control facilities and the DEP Small Community Program ($7 million, leveraging $12.5 million in federal funds); capping landfills ($2.5 million); tire pile clean up ($500,000); hazardous substance site clean up ($1 million); and drinking water facilities ($1.5 million, leveraging $7.5 million in federal funds).

LD 2253 – An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue in the Amount of $50,000,000 to Finance the Acquisition of Lands and Interests in Lands for Conservation, Water Access, Outdoor Recreation, Wildlife and Fish Habitat and Farmland Preservation and to Access $25,000,000 in Matching Contributions from Public and Private Sources (Reported by the Majority from the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs pursuant to Joint Order H.P. 1540). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 514.

This Act authorizes a bond proposal to go out to the voters in November, 1999, for $50 million for the purchase of public lands. The terms of the bond proposal are that: hunting, fishing, trapping and public access may not be prohibited except to the extent of applicable regulation; the $50 million in bond revenue must be matched by another $25 million in public and private contributions; 10% of the bond proceeds must be available to acquire public access to water; up to 10% of the bond proceeds must be available to protect farmland; and the actual issuance of the bonds must be staggered so that no more than $10 million worth of bonds under this authorization may be issued per year over the next five years.

Business and Economic Development

The Business and Economic Development Committee considered a variety of bills that did not coalesce around themes as the Agriculture Committee’s bills did. Economic development bills targeting a single region, including bills for Lewiston/Auburn, Androscoggin County, and Loring Development Authority, were carried over, as was a bill that will become part of a multi-committee effort to deal with "sprawl," or unplanned growth that does not make the best use of resources. One carried-over bill that is likely to generate a good deal of controversy is a bill to license building contractors (See the discussion of LD 2060 in the companion article in this issue of the TOWNSMAN covering carryover legislation).

LD 112 – Resolve, to Study Current Regulations Imposed on Small Businesses to Require Greater Efficiency (Sponsored by Rep. Ahearne of Madawaska). Emergency passed 6/17/99; Resolves 1999, c. 74.

For a description of this Resolve, please refer to the Task Force and Study Commission article in this issue of the TOWNSMAN.

LD 1447 – An Act to Promote Maine’s Family-friendly Business and Investment Strategies (Sponsored by Sen. Longley of Waldo County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 272.

This Act adds one more cost analysis that can be included in the list of "project costs" that are itemized in the course of developing a tax increment financing district. The additional cost analysis listed by the Act pertains to "quality child care units," including finance costs, construction, staffing, training, and certification/accreditation costs related to child care.

LD 1513 – An Act to Clarify the Definition of "Area of Operation" for Municipal Housing Authorities (Sponsored by Sen. Harriman of Cumberland County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 104.

This Act amends the definition of the "area of operation" with respect to housing authorities so that there is no distinction between cities and towns, as there is under current law, and so the applicable "area of operation" for all municipalities is the area of the municipality where the housing authority is located plus the area within 10 miles outside of the municipality’s territorial boundaries.

LD 2219 – An Act Relating to the Kennebec Regional Development Authority (Sponsored by Sen. Kontos of Cumberland County). Emergency enacted 6/10/99 with mandate preamble; P&SL 1999, c. 38.

This Act codifies the listing of municipalities that may participate in the Development Authority, determines that the state or the municipalities are not liable for the debts of the Authority, and clarifies the voting process for municipalities joining the Authority. Additionally, it requires submission of an annual report to the Business and Economic Development Committee concerning the activities of the Authority.

Criminal Justice

For the most part, the bills supported by the Criminal Justice Committee and subsequently enacted by the entire Legislature encourage the development of partnerships between municipalities and the state’s law enforcement system. Through two new public laws municipalities will be able to contract with the State Police for dispatch services (LD 812) and actual policing services (LD 1220). Changes were also made to assist the court system to quickly dispose of confiscated assets by enabling the municipal officers, rather than the town meeting, to accept forfeited items. An act to develop a commission to enable the State Fire Marshal’s Office to focus on municipal firefighter safety, health, volunteerism and training also was supported by the Committee.

However, the content of two carry over bills and the attitude of the agencies involved sent the opposite message. As printed, LD 903 would remove the authority of a board of selectmen to issue concealed weapon permits. Current statutes enable the municipal officers or police chiefs to issue these permits. Representatives of the State Police supported the proposal to limit the issuance of permits on the local level to those municipalities with police chiefs. Before the bill was carried over, the State Police testified that the selectmen, at least in some cases, either do not conduct or improperly conduct the necessary background checks. Ironically, through an informal MMA survey, we found that State Police are currently conducting 90% of the background checks in communities where the selectmen are responsible for issuing the concealed weapon permits.

In another carry-over bill and through the rule making process, the Board of the Criminal Justice Academy is exploring changes to the law enforcement training standards. The current law separates training standards for part-time and full-time law enforcement officers. Part-time officers are required to undertake the 100-hour course to maintain part-time status, while full-time officers are required to undertake the full Criminal Justice Academy training course. The proposed changes to the rule would replace the current law with a four-tiered training process. Each tier links training to particular duties and levels of supervision. If enacted this change could have significant ramifications with respect to the traditional responsibilities of full-time and part-time officers.

LD 99 – An Act to Require Auctions for Confiscated Firearms (Sponsored by Rep. Povich of Ellsworth). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 47.

Although the title of this bill was not changed, this Act authorizes but does not require police departments to auction forfeited firearms to the public as well as federally-licensed firearm dealers, as is authorized under current law. Because of the enactment of LD 2192 (listed under State and Local Government Committee, below), which prohibits municipalities from suing gun manufacturers in a number of circumstances (including as third party defendants if an auctioned gun proves defective), all municipalities would be well advised to obtain legal advice with respect to potential liability before auctioning a gun to anyone.

LD 287 – An Act to Impose Stricter OUI Penalties on Operators of Watercraft, ATVs and Snowmobiles (Sponsored by Rep. Cameron of Rumford). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 312.

This Act brings the fines for operating a watercraft, ATV or snowmobile under the influence of drugs or alcohol into conformity with the fines for operating a motor vehicle under the influence for the first, second, and third and subsequent offenses.

LD 812 – An Act to Allow the State Police to Accept Revenue for Providing Services to Municipalities and Counties (Sponsored by Rep. Povich of Ellsworth). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 111.

This Act requires the Bureau of the State Police to provide for the installation, operation and maintenance of a criminal justice telecommunications system for the purpose of collecting, exchanging, and distributing information relating to criminal justice problems of the state. Governmental entities connected to that telecommunications system, including the federal, state, county and municipal agencies, will be financially responsible for their allocated share of the expenses of the telecommunications system. The Act also allows the State Police to provide dispatch services to municipalities that request those services.

LD 1220 – An Act to Provide for Resident State Police Officers for Municipalities Without a Police Force (Sponsored by Rep. Clark of Millinocket). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 119.

This Act authorizes the Chief of the State Police to assign a state police officer to provide police services to one, two, or three adjoining municipalities that do not otherwise have police protection. Supervision and direction over the state police officer remains with the Chief of the State Police, and all costs of training, compensation, benefits, equipment, and other expenses must be borne by the municipalities.

LD 1428 – Resolve, to Enhance Fire Protection Services throughout the State (Sponsored by Rep. McAlevey of Waterboro). Emergency passed 6/10/99; Resolves 1999, c. 65.

For a description of this Resolve, please refer to the Task Force and Study Commission article in this issue of the TOWNSMAN.

LD 1782 – An Act to Amend the Maine Criminal Code Regarding Improper Gifts (Sponsored by Sen. Carey of Kennebec County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 149.

This Act amends the laws governing the crime of improper gifts to public servants to more closely align the wording of that essentially anti-bribery law with the laws governing legislative ethics.

LD 2011 – An Act to Amend the Laws Regarding Asset Forfeiture (Sponsored by Rep. Schneider of Durham). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 408.

This Act amends the laws governing the forfeiture of property in criminal cases. Pertinent to municipalities, this Act expressly authorizes a court to order forfeited assets to a municipality, county or state agency that has made a substantial contribution to the investigation or prosecution of the related criminal case. The Act also authorizes the municipal officers, rather than the legislative body (i.e., the town meeting), to accept the forfeited assets as an exception to the acceptance-of-gifts statute.

LD 2070 – An Act to Protect Library Materials in Circulation (Sponsored by Rep. Dunlap of Old Town). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 262.

This Act clarifies that current law governing the unlawful keeping or knowing failure to return rented or leased property also applies to property borrowed from a library or museum.

Education and Cultural Affairs

Although what follows is an impressive array of legislation in itself, the heaviest labors of the Education Committee were included in the Part II budget bill with the series of changes made to the General Purpose Aid school funding formula. The details of those changes were reported above, as LD 617 is described under the Appropriations Committee.

Changes to the school funding formula can shift very significant sums of money among the communities in Maine. Amendments to the formula are guaranteed to become controversial as soon as the printouts are available that show the gainers and the losers. Through all that controversy, and between interest groups that wanted deeper changes and interest groups that wanted no changes, the Education Committee stayed-the-course and finally recommended a set of changes that increase the predictability of school funding, move toward a more honest formula by increasing the per-pupil guarantee and thereby hanging less school funding obligation out to "local option" spending, and more accurately reflecting certain real-life programmatic costs in the formula.

The Education Committee was also asked to address some concerns of the municipal community with respect to the development, adoption and implementation of school budgets. Specifically, MMA caused two bills to be submitted that were designed to improve municipal-school relations and school-voter relations.

LD 1776 would establish a standard line-item format which would govern all school budgets which are typically adopted under present law as aggregate appropriations. The local voters would retain home rule authority to adjust the line item format, or do away with it entirely, as they see fit.

LD 1346 would amend the law governing the SAD budget process. Under current law, the SAD Board of Directors can call for an open district meeting to approve a school budget even after the voters have successfully petitioned the Directors to adopt the budget through the referendum process. The MMA bill would simply establish the unmistakable right of the voters to choose the method of voting for their school budget.

Neither of these bills will be seen in the list that follows. The line item budget bill was characterized as a "line item veto" bill by the education lobby and unanimously rejected by the Education Committee. The SAD budget process bill was carried over into the second legislative session and the underlying issue was referred to the State Board of Education with the suggestion that a working group be formed to investigate the issue of the SAD budget process between now and next January when the Legislature reconvenes. For more information about that process, please refer to the article in this issue of the TOWNSMAN related to carryover issues.

LD 573 – An Act Relating to the Construction of a Locally Funded Arts and Technology Center in Maine School Administrative District No. 49 (Sponsored by Rep. Tessier of Fairfield). Emergency enacted 3/11/99; P&SL 1999, c. 2.

This Act repeals Private and Special Law 1995, c. 32 and Private and Special Law 1997, c. 59, which authorized Maine School Administrative District No. 49 to construct and equip a locally funded arts and technology center.

LD 624 – An Act to Require Public Hearings for School Administrative District Referenda (Sponsored by Rep. Weston of Montville). Enacted with mandate preamble; PL 1999, c. 93.

Inexplicably, School Administrative District law never expressly required a public hearing before any SAD referendum vote. This Act requires the SAD Board of Directors to hold a public hearing at least 7 days before a referendum vote, and notice of the public hearing must be posted at least 7 days before the date of the hearing.

LD 632 – Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 64: Maine School Facilities Finance Program and School Revolving Renovation Fund, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Education (Reported by Rep. Brennan of Portland for the Department of Education pursuant to Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, section 8072). Emergency passed 4/16/99; Resolves 1999, c. 14.

This Resolve gives final approval to the rules promulgated by the Department of Education regarding the administration of the School Facilities Program and School Revolving Renovation Fund. The Resolve makes only one minor change to the rules as promulgated, which is to clarify that school boards applying for grant or loan funds must show evidence of consultation with the local Planning Board and State Planning Office only when the proposed construction project involves potential site impacts.

LD 716 – An Act to Amend the Law Relating to School Construction and School Facilities (Sponsored by Rep. Richard of Madison). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 81.

This Act amends the 1998 law governing school renovation, construction and leased space. Specifically, the Act: (1) eliminates the statutory requirement that a school unit’s financial commitment to its capital improvement plan be a certain percentage of the replacement value of school property and replaces that standard with undefined minimum standards to be promulgated by the Department of Education; (2) excludes from the definition of "debt service costs" payments made with funds from state and local government accounts established under IRS regulations governing the disposition of excess school project bond proceeds; (3) defines "permanent space lease-purchase projects" to exclude the purchase, lease-purchase, or construction of portable temporary classroom space or the lease-purchase of bus garage and maintenance facilities; and (4) clarifies that the legislative body of the school unit must approve permanent space lease-purchase projects by referendum vote except that certain inapplicable information about the state and local share of such projects need not be provided to the voters for projects that are not eligible as debt service costs for GPA-distribution purposes.

LD 739 – An Act to Form a New Local Education Agency (Sponsored by Rep. Powers of Rockport). Emergency enacted 3/29/99; PL 1999, c. 39.

This emergency Act establishes the Five Town Community School District as the local education agency for applied technology education for secondary students in the towns of Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport.

LD 798 – An Act to Permit Local Control and Funding of An Educational Building in Accordance with a Municipal Charter (Sponsored by Sen. Douglass of Androscoggin County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 95.

This Act permits a municipal school unit to approve a non-state funded school construction project without a local referendum vote if such powers are vested in the municipal council by local charter.

LD 1053 – An Act to Clarify the Laws Relating to Nonstate-funded School Construction Projects Approved by the Commissioner of Education that Replace Existing School Buildings (Sponsored by Sen. Kontos of Cumberland County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 206.

This Act clarifies that a separate referendum vote to close or discontinue the use of a school building is only necessary when the closure is being promoted for a lack of need, and no separate referendum vote is necessary if the school building is being replaced with new construction that has been approved by the State Board of Education and local voters.

LD 1354 – An Act to Amend the Law Regarding Conflict of Interest (Sponsored by Rep. Belanger of Caribou). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 128.

This Act clarifies the standard of law that governs the degree to which a school board member (or that board member’s spouse) may volunteer at the school and remain on the school board. Under the Act, a board member or that member’s spouse cannot serve as a volunteer with primary responsibility for a curricular, co-curricular, or extra-curricular activity who reports directly to a school administrator. Prohibitions or limitations beyond those imposed by this Act can be imposed locally as a matter of school board policy.

LD 1509 – An Act to Amend and Improve the Education Laws (Sponsored by Sen. Small of Sagadahoc County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 75.

This Act clarifies the costs to be borne by a municipality that elects to keep an elementary school open against the recommendation of the SAD Board of Directors to be simply the amount of money that would be saved if the school were closed.

Health and Human Services

Interactions with the Health and Human Services Committee on issues of municipal significance were limited this session.

The Committee provided its oversight to legislation that increases the fee for internal plumbing fixtures, 75% of which accrues to the municipality performing the plumbing inspections (LD 1126).

The Committee unanimously endorsed a clarification of General Assistance law, initiated by the welfare directors in Maine’s larger cities, which authorizes General Assistance administrators to issue GA in order to avert a pending emergency such as an eviction (LD 257). Under the existing statutes, it could be interpreted that emergency GA can only be provided at the municipal level when the client is actually in a crisis situation. The Committee also agreed to carry over another General Assistance-related bill that was designed to improve the administration of General Assistance to shelters for the homeless. For more information about that bill (LD 1952), please refer to the article in this issue of the TOWNSMAN related to carryover issues.

LD 257 – An Act Regarding General Assistance (Sponsored by Rep. Glynn of South Portland). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 45.

This Act clarifies that municipal General Assistance administrators are authorized to issue emergency General Assistance (i.e., more assistance than the client is mathematically eligible for) in order to avert a pending emergency.

LD 1125 – An Act to Modify the State’s Safe Drinking Water Laws (Sponsored by Rep. McKee of Wayne). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 77.

This Act requires all community water systems to annually prepare a consumer confidence report for distribution to all customers, including such information as the source of drinking water, potential contamination sources, the level of regulated and unregulated contaminants, the health risks associated with detected contaminants, and other related information. Community water systems with more than 10,000 customers are required to mail the confidence report to all customers and post it on the Internet. The Governor is authorized to waive the mailing requirement for systems with less than 10,000 customers, replacing it with a required publication of the report in a newspaper of general circulation. If the Governor grants that waiver, systems with less than 500 customers would be authorized to post the report rather than publish it.

LD 1126 – An Act to Increase Internal Plumbing Fees and Remedy Inconsistencies in Plumbing Laws (Sponsored by Rep. Cowger of Hallowell). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 228.

This Act increases the internal plumbing fees from $4 to $6 per internal fixture and $12 to $24 for the minimum fee for all combined fixtures. The Act creates a positive fiscal impact for the state of $140,000 over the biennium. $87,000 of that total will be used to pay for a staff position at the State Planning Office over the biennium for the CEO/LPI Training Program.

LD 1550 – Resolve, to Establish a Task Force to Study the Improvement of Public Water Supply Protection (Sponsored by Rep. Cowger of Hallowell). Emergency passed 6/17/99; Resolves 1999, c. 80.

For a description of this Resolve, please refer to the Task Force and Study Commission article in this issue of the TOWNSMAN.

LD 2189 – Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 231: Rules Relating to Drinking Water, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Human Services (Presented by Rep. Kane of Saco for the Department of Human Services pursuant to Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, section 8072). Emergency passed 5/20/99; Resolves 1999, c. 43.

This Resolve, enacted as an emergency, constitutes legislative approval of Chapter 231: Rules Relating to Drinking Water, as promulgated by the Department of Human Services.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

The Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife was particularly respectful of municipal concerns during this First Legislative Session. Several bills that attempted to thwart municipal efforts to make local recommendations for surface water regulation, so-called "jet ski" regulation, failed enactment after majority "ought not to pass" or divided committee reports. The authority for municipal input on surface water regulation was enacted in the Second Session of the 118th Legislature and full implementation of the legislation has yet to occur. Evidence of success or failure of the effort will require an opportunity to implement and track results. The Committee also facilitated an increase in the fee agents of IF&W retain from hunting and fishing license transactions. A bill that would have altered the calendar for registrations of watercraft, ATVs, and snowmobiles was quickly dispatched after Committee members heard the results of a municipal survey showing strong opposition to a change that would create confusion problems at the customers’ level and necessitate process changes.

The Committee carried over a bill, likely to be controversial, that would give the Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife final authority for siting all boat launches (LD 1313).

LD 26 – An Act to Clarify the Responsibility of a Municipality in Enforcing Personal Watercraft Regulations (Sponsored by Rep. Perkins of Penobscot). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 313.

This Act slightly amends the required analysis that must be provided by a municipality as part of its adopted "recommendations" to regulate the use, operation, and type of watercraft on great ponds in the municipal jurisdiction. Current law requires the municipality to submit a description of the resources it will employ to enforce the proposed restrictions. This Act amends that requirement to include a description of the resources used to enforce "or assist in the enforcement of" the proposed regulations, reinforcing the obligation of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to contribute some enforcement resources as well.

LD 110 – An Act to Allow the Use of All-terrain Vehicles on the Extreme Right of a Public Way (Sponsored by Rep. Kneeland of Easton). Emergency enacted 5/25/99; PL 1999, c. 31

This Act allows the operation of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) on the extreme right side of a public way provided the appropriate governmental unit has designated the public way as an ATV access route and posted highly visible signs on the designated access route to that effect. For municipalities, the "appropriate governmental unit" is the board of municipal officers.

LD 341 – An Act to Increase the Amount Retained by Agents Who Sell Hunting and Fishing Licenses (Sponsored by Rep. Cross of Dover-Foxcroft). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 168.

This Act increases the amount an agent for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shall charge for issuing hunting and fishing licenses from $1 to $2.

LD 2235 – An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Regarding Surface Use on Great Ponds (Reported by Rep. Dunlap for the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife pursuant to Joint Order H.P. 1585). Emergency enacted 6/3/99; PL 1999, c. 400.

This Act implements the recommendations of the towns of Woodstock, Greenwood, Northfield and Bar Harbor to restrict the use of personal watercraft on certain ponds within those towns.

Judiciary

The confluence of the interests of municipal government and the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee came together over two issues this session: the Right to Know law and the Maine Tort Claims Act.

Several minor procedural changes to the Right to Know law were easily enacted as described in the listing below. Two other bills regarding the Right to Know law were reported out of Committee but ultimately rejected by the full Legislature. One of those bills which was unanimously supported by the Committee (LD 205) would have required local boards to keep a limited set of written minutes with regard to the matters discussed in executive session. Another bill (LD 1857) that received a narrow "ought not to pass" report at the Committee level and was ultimately killed by the Legislature would have allowed citizens to assume the role of the Attorney General by taking towns to court for the financial penalties of violating the Right to Know law.

With respect to the Maine Tort Claims Act, the Committee unanimously endorsed a measure, described in more detail below, that will protect municipalities from lawsuits related to damages allegedly occurring because of computer malfunction as a result of "Year 2000" problems.

The Committee also provided its oversight to an increase to the cap on governmental liability under the Maine Tort Claims Act from $300,000 per occurrence to $400,000 per occurrence. That change becomes effective with respect to incidents occurring on or after September 18, 1999.

LD 233 – An Act to Amend the Provisions Relating to Executive Sessions in Connection with the Transaction of Public or Government Business (Sponsored by Sen. Bennett of Oxford County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 180.

This Act permits executive session discussion of pertinent consultation between the municipal officers and the Code Enforcement Officer who is representing the municipality pursuant to Rule 80K in a regulatory enforcement matter in a pending case in District Court.

LD 437 – An Act to Clarify the Law Regarding Executive Sessions of Public Bodies (Sponsored by Rep. Glynn of South Portland). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 144.

This Act slightly expands the procedural requirement to enter into executive session to discuss labor contracts, negotiations and proposals. Under the terms of this Act, the parties to the labor contract must be named before the board can go into this type of executive session.

LD 441 – An Act to Excuse Elections Staff from Jury Duty When Needed to Perform Election Functions (Sponsored by Rep. Thompson of Naples). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 87.

This Act provides two reasons why a person can be excused from jury duty in addition to the reasons provided under existing law. Municipal election officials are excused from serving on a jury on the day of election. State election officials, municipal clerks and registrars, and their employees, are excused from serving on a jury for 31 days prior to an election.

LD 874 – An Act to Remove Certain Records Concerning Minors From the Definition of "Public Records" (Sponsored by Sen. Amero of Cumberland County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 96.

This Act permits a municipality to adopt an ordinance that effectively excludes from the definition of "public record" under the Right to Know law any personally-identifying information concerning minors that is obtained or maintained by a municipality that provides recreational or non-mandatory educational services to the minors. The municipal ordinance must specify the circumstances under which the information will be withheld from disclosure.

LD 1137 – An Act to Allow Police Officers to Prosecute Their Own Traffic Infractions in District Court (Sponsored by Rep. Schneider of Durham). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 139.

This Act allows law enforcement officers to prosecute traffic violations in District Court with the approval of the prosecuting attorney even though those police personnel are not licensed to practice law.

LD 1148 – An Act to Amend the Maine Tort Claims Act (Sponsored by Rep. Ahearne of Madawaska; additional cosponsors). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 456.

This Act creates an immunity from liability for governmental entities with respect to claims of negligent operation of equipment or machinery that are related to computer malfunctions associated with "Year 2000" malfunction. Under the specific terms of the Act, the immunity from liability pertains to date-recognition computer failures that occur before December 31, 2003 and that are related to the "Year 2000 problem." The "Year 2000 problem" is further limited by definition to: erroneous date calculations, an ambiguous interpretation of the term "00," the failure to recognize the year 2000 as a leap year, the use of algorithms that use the year "99" or "00" as a flag for another function, problems arising from the use of software or hardware applications that are date sensitive, and the inability of the computer to distinguish between two centuries.

LD 1577 – An Act to Amend the Liability Limit Under the Maine Tort Claims Act (Sponsored by Rep. Thompson of Naples). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 460.

This Act increases the cap on governmental liability under the Maine Tort Claims Act from $300,000 per occurrence to $400,000 per occurrence. An "errors and inconsistency" bill passed in the final hours of the legislative session (PL 1999, chap. 531) added a clarifying sentence to this new liability cap that reads: "This Act applies to a claim or cause of action based on an act or omission occurring on or after the effective date of this Act." The effective date of the Act is September 18, 1999.

LD 1695 – An Act to Provide Immunity to Enhanced 9-1-1 Developers and Providers (Sponsored by Rep. Colwell of Gardiner). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 209.

This Act imposes a $300,000 limit on the damage award levied against a telecommunications provider for any property damage, bodily injury or death resulting from the negligently caused defect or inadequacy in the provision of E-911 service. The Act further provides that there is no statutory limit with respect to an award for damage or injury caused by a telecommunications provider’s intentional, willful or reckless acts or omissions in developing, establishing, implementing, maintaining or operating an E-911 system.

LD 1923 – An Act to Facilitate the Establishment of Trail Easements (Sponsored by Rep. Dudley of Portland). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 371.

This Act creates a legally recognizable type of easement known as a "trail easement" that may be held by governmental entities and nonprofit organizations and created for the purpose of pedestrian, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle use, or any combination of those uses, if the instrument creating the easement so provides. This Act also details some elements or characteristics of easements that are typically required or identified under common law that need not be required or identified with respect to trail easements.

Labor

The Labor Committee’s finest accomplishment this session is the package of modifications to the State’s unemployment compensation system, modifications supported by the business community as well as organized labor (LD 1970). While future changes will be required, this is the first time in many years that the political will to make the rational, but difficult choices has been present.

A typical slate of a dozen bills proposing changes to the workers’ compensation system were faced by the Committee and emerged with predictable divided reports. Several of the substantive workers’ compensation bills that survived the Legislature were vetoed by Governor King. Five of the Committee’s bills sought changes to collective bargaining statutes, including one bill that would have granted police officers, sheriffs, and firefighters access to binding arbitration for settlement of bargaining disputes. Another bill that would have increased the decision-making authority of arbitrators, to the detriment of municipal taxpayers, was referred back to the Committee in the last days of the session and carried over for further consideration.

If the first legislative session is characterized as a "workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation" session, then the second session is likely to be a "collective bargaining and employment practices" session since at least a half dozen bills were carried over to deal with that general topic.

LD 1970 – An Act to Address to Solvency of the Unemployment Compensation Fund (Reported by Rep. Hatch for the Department of Labor pursuant to PL 1997, c. 745, section 4). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 464.

This Act restores some level of solvency to the Unemployment Trust Fund by increasing the unemployment tax paid by employers and making other adjustments to the program. Many municipalities are "direct reimbursers" of unemployment benefits and are therefore unaffected by the change in the wage base upon which the unemployment tax is levied. Other components of the Act, however, are pertinent to municipal administration.

The Act replaces the statutory definition of misconduct and related limitation on recovery. It increases the taxable wage base from $7,000 to $12,000 in order to improve the solvency outlook of the system and consequently raises employers’ premiums. However, employers can expect improved fairness from the report’s new definition of "misconduct."

Employee misconduct warrants a denial of unemployment compensation benefits following discharge. Formerly, statute described employee misconduct as "willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interests" or manifestation of "equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design." These were concepts that are nebulous and difficult to prove. The definition of misconduct in the Act is more concrete, more closely linked with the world of the workplace and easier to describe, substantiate, and prove. The report’s definition of misconduct includes violation of reasonable rules, tardiness or poor attendance, falsification of employment applications and other written materials, intoxication or illegal drug use on the job, sleeping on the job due to intoxication or drug use, insubordination, disobedience, abusive language, assault, destruction of employer’s property, lying, endangering the safety of others, and conviction of a crime in connection with the employment.

Legal and Veterans Affairs

Several of the bills submitted to the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee, as initially printed, would have imposed unfunded mandates on municipal government. This Committee took the time necessary to examine the impact of those bills on municipalities. In many instances, the mandate bills were rejected at the Committee level. In those circumstances where the Committee believed there may be some merit to the mandate, the bills were carried over in order to provide municipalities an opportunity to find alternative solutions. For example, LD 1149 proposes to mandate that election clerks attend a training session every two years. While MMA supports ongoing education and professional development, we are concerned about the mandatory aspects of this proposal. The Committee has provided MMA an opportunity to encourage municipal clerks to attend this year's workshops rather than mandating participation. If participation in the training session does not increase, the Committee could be inclined to pass the legislation next session. However, MMA will be working with the Secretary of State’s Office to schedule these training session in every region of the state during the months of September and October.

As illustrated below, municipalities also benefited by some of the bills supported by the Committee and enacted by the Legislature. For example, if approved by the voters in November, the unbudgeted cost of special elections will be eliminated by a constitutional amendment requiring that these election are held during the June primary or November general elections (see LD 122).

The changes made in LD 1068 enable municipalities to foreclose on the tax liens against unlicensed mobile home parks, which can pose a risk to public health, safety and welfare, without assuming the role of landlord. The change enables the municipalities to remediate a potentially negative housing situation without the taxpayers footing the bill by being held liable for the unfulfilled obligations of an irresponsible landlord.

LD 87 – An Act to Require All Voting Places to be Accessible (Sponsored by Rep. Baker of Bangor). Enacted with mandate preamble; PL 1999, c. 252.

Current state law requires that at least one municipal polling place in each municipality be accessible by the disabled, and establishes certain procedures for the election clerk to notify voters of that accessible location and otherwise accommodate disabled voters. This Act repeals the current law and simply requires that as of April 1, 2000, all publicly-owned buildings that are polling places be accessible by the disabled and as of July 1, 2001, all private-owned buildings that are used as polling places by municipalities be accessible by the disabled.

LD 122 – RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Amend the Timing of Elections Following the Submission of a Petition for People’s Veto (Sponsored by Sen. Longley of Waldo County). Passed; Constitutional Resolutions 1999, c. 1.

This Resolution sends out to the voters in November, 1999 a proposal to amend the state’s Constitution so that a petition for a "people’s veto" must be submitted to the voters at either a regular statewide or primary election, whichever comes first. Currently, the Constitution requires that the petition be submitted to the voters less than 60 days after a gubernatorial proclamation that the citizens’ petition has been received with sufficient signatures to call a statewide election on the enacted law the petitioners seek to repeal. Most recently, the 60-day standard has led to the scheduling of statewide elections in late winter, resulting in low voter turnout and increased local costs.

LD 216 – An Act to Prohibit the Transportation of Open Containers that Contain Liquor (Sponsored by Rep. O’Neil of Saco). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 293.

This Act brings Maine into conformity with federal highway funding requirements by prohibiting the presence of an open or partially consumed container of alcoholic beverage in the general passenger area of a motor vehicle operating on the public way with a few narrow exceptions for taxi-cabs, vehicles for hire, caterers, etc.

LD 639 – An Act to Improve the State’s Democracy by Increasing Access to the Ballot and Other Election Processes (Sponsored by Sen. Daggett of Kennebec County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 450.

This Act makes a number of changes to an aspect of election law dealing with party formation and partisan rights, including: clarifying the petition filing procedures for new political parties by adding an earlier deadline for petitions to be filed with local election officials with a 5-business-day turnaround period for the municipal registrar to verify the signatures; a 5-business-day turnaround period for the registrar to provide a political party with a complete voting list, free of charge, once during any biennium; and a provision that enables municipal election clerks, if unable to appoint a sufficient number of election workers from the major parties, to appoint registered voters who are not members of the major parties so long as a balance among workers of the major parties is attained.

LD 717 – An Act to Amend the Election Laws (Sponsored by Rep. Tuttle of Sanford). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 426.

Among other election law-related changes made in this Act, two are of municipal significance. This Act clarifies the term of office for a registrar who is also a municipal clerk is two years and moves the deadline for a municipality to hold a hearing on consolidating or establishing new voting districts from 60 to 90 days before the election.

LD 1068 – An Act to Clarify Municipal Obligations to an Unlicensed Mobile Home Park (Sponsored by Sen. Lawrence of York County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 203.

This Act authorizes a municipality that forecloses on real estate and takes possession of an unlicensed mobile home park to close the park and evict the tenants by providing at least 30 days’ notice if the municipality determines the park poses a risk to public health, safety and welfare. The Act also clarifies that a municipality in possession of an unlicensed mobile home park in these circumstances is not subject to the obligations of landlord as those obligations are provided in landlord-tenant law.

LD 1848 – An Act to Require the Display of the Prisoner of War – Missing in Action Flag (Sponsored by Rep. Chizmar of Lisbon). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 302.

This Act requires the prisoner of war-missing in action flag be flown above the State House and at each National Guard facility but allows the flying of that flag to be optional at the main office building of each municipality wherever the flag of the United States is flown.

LD 1938 – An Act to Provide Equity for Veterans of the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf Conflict (Sponsored by Sen. Lawrence of York County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 462.

This Act expands eligibility for the veterans’ property tax exemption by expanding two specifically described periods of war during which the veteran would have to be serving. First, under current law the Vietnam War is described as a period of time running from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975. Under this Act, veterans who actually served in the Republic of Vietnam from February 28, 1961 to August 5, 1964 would also be eligible for the exemption. Second, under current law the time period of the Persian Gulf War runs from August 7, 1990 to August 7, 1991. Under this Act, the end date of the Persian Gulf War would become "the date that the United States Government recognizes as the end of the Persian Gulf War."

Marine Resources

The Committee on Marine Resources considered a number of bills concerning opportunities to harvest shellfish from municipal resources. At least one bill sought to provide access to clam flats for non-residents on an equal footing with residents even though it is the local taxpayer funds that are used to maintain the flats. The compromise enacted will provide a percentage of harvesting licenses to non-residents, mirroring current law for commercial licenses. Many municipalities currently follow this practice. This Committee did not find it necessary to carry over any bills of municipal interest.

LD 757 – An Act Concerning Recreational Clam Harvesting Licenses (Sponsored by Sen. Goldthwait of Hancock County). Enacted with mandate preamble; PL 1999, c. 255.

This Act requires municipalities with shellfish harvesting programs to allocate at least 10% of the non-commercial licenses (i.e., recreational or personal use licenses) to non-residents. Current law requires that same minimum allocation of commercial shellfish harvesting licenses to non-residents.

LD 1316 – An Act to Encourage Municipal and State Partnerships Concerning the Issuance of Aquaculture Leases (Sponsored by Sen. Harriman of Cumberland County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 267.

This Act prohibits the Commissioner of Marine Resources from leasing an area in the inter-tidal zone for aquaculture programs without the written consent of the municipal officers. Under current law, municipal approval is required for aquaculture leases that are greater than two acres. The Act also expands the standard of review for aquaculture applications to ensure that the aquaculture site does not unreasonably interfere with public access to the local shellfish resource.

Natural Resources

The diversity and complexity of issues faced by the Natural Resources Committee compelled it to carry over a half dozen bills being tracked by MMA. The problems of mercury contamination and waste oil sites dominated Committee efforts this session.

Improved testing methods mean non-compliance for those who discharge mercury into receiving waters, including municipal wastewater treatment facilities. Current law prohibits discharge of mercury above background levels, but what the background levels actually are remains in dispute. In order to protect those who were in compliance prior to implementation of the new testing techniques, the Committee crafted an interim solution and will revisit the issue when more data is available, hopefully to develop a standard that will be attainable. Remaining mercury issues concerned source reduction efforts, including product labeling and recycling. The Committee’s efforts to wade through the issue bogged down in such details as how to fit the labeling on tiny fluorescent bulbs. Ultimately, the Committee decided to carry the mercury product issue over to the second legislative session.

The waste oil solution crafted for the Wells site is expected to have far-reaching ramifications. Current superfund law is based on the principle of "polluter pays," with each polluter being jointly liable for the clean-up cost. The waste oil solution softens the impact of this joint liability on municipalities and businesses that contributed waste oil to the Wells site believing that it was environmentally sound practice. Thirty-nine municipalities will be financially assisted by the newly enacted law, and of those, 24 municipalities that contributed small amounts of waste oil to the site will have their share funded entirely by the state.

Through the vehicle of two bills, the Committee also considered the issue of land application of municipal wastewater sludge. One bill would have effectively prohibited land application of sludge while an MMA-supported bill, LD 909, sought better information for receiving communities. The resulting Committee compromise provides increased municipal participation and buffer zones for abutting property and shoreland zones.

LD 498 – An Act Relating to Transfer of Ownership of Dams (Sponsored by Rep. Colwell of Gardiner). Emergency enacted 4/16/99; PL 1999, c. 71.

This Act requires all dam owners to notify the Director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency at least 45 days prior to the sale, lease or gift of a dam to another person. In addition to the name and address of the prospective owner, the notice must provide the prospective owner’s plans to maintain competent operations and correct unsafe conditions. This Act also requires a state dam inspector to evaluate the hazard classification of all dams either once every six years (which is existing law) or within 30 days of receiving notice of the transfer of a "high hazard" or "significant hazard" dam that has not been evaluated within four years of the proposed date of transfer.

LD 909 – An Act to Amend the Laws Governing the Land Application of Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant Sludge (Sponsored by Sen. Libby of York County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 393.

This Act makes several amendments to the law governing the process of state and local review of applications to landspread wastewater treatment plant sludge. Among other changes, the Act establishes the DEP’s rules governing the "agronomic utilization of residuals" as major substantive rules, which means that future amendments to the rules promulgated by the Board of Environmental Protection will be subject to final review by the Legislature. The Act also enhances coordination between the DEP and the municipality where the sludge spreading will take place by requiring that the DEP apprise the municipal officers in the receiving town of a sludge spreading application within 14 days of the DEP receiving the application. The Act also requires DEP to provide the municipality with copies of all test results of the sludge material to be spread in the municipality and otherwise consult with the municipal officers with respect to the application. The municipal officers may recommend conditions in writing that they believe should be imposed on the license, such as increased setbacks, and the DEP must provide written explanations for any of those recommendations which the DEP chooses not to impose.

The Act also requires DEP to notify the municipal officers within 10 days of receiving a request from a sludge generator to change the terms of its sludge spreading permit, and the municipal officers may petition the DEP to require the applicant to change its sludge testing protocol. The DEP must respond to the municipal petition within 10 days of receiving it, and the DEP can order the applicant to perform a specific sludge analysis at the applicant’s expense.

Finally, the Act establishes some minimum setback requirements that are stricter than setbacks that could be potentially allowed under current regulation. No sludge can be spread within 75 feet of a river, perennial stream, or great pond. No sludge storage site or storage facility can be established within 250 feet of those water bodies. Upon notification from an abutter to the DEP, no sludge or sludge storage area can be spread or located within 50 feet of a property line.

LD 1160 – An Act to Amend Certain Laws Administered by the Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Land and Water Quality (Sponsored by Rep. Martin of Eagle Lake). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 243.

This Act makes a number of technical and housekeeping changes to the Natural Resources Protection Act, Shoreland Zoning Act, and Site Location of Development Act. Beyond the purely housekeeping changes, the Act increases the share of state financial participation in individual household pollution prevention construction projects for seasonal dwellings from 25% to 50% when household income is below $20,000. The Act also clarifies that storm water discharges into classified waters of the state are permissible if authorized by state and local environmental laws, and extends the deadline another year for the Natural Resources Committee to report out legislation regarding buffer strips for small streams and substandard wastewater disposal systems.

LD 1170 – An Act Concerning the Review of State Solid Waste Management Policies (Sponsored by Sen. Mitchell of Penobscot County). Emergency enacted 6/17/99; PL 1999, c. 527.

For a description of this Resolve, please refer to the Task Force and Study Commission article in this issue of the TOWNSMAN.

LD 1458 – An Act to Allow Cutting of Trees in the Shoreland Zone Under Certain Conditions (Sponsored by Rep. Foster of Gray). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 370.

This Act authorizes municipalities to amend their shoreland zoning ordinances to allow limited timber harvesting in the 75-foot zone in Resource Protection Districts within which no timber harvesting can occur under current law. The ordinance amendment must provide, at a minimum, that the harvesting be conducted entirely on frozen ground, there is no soil disturbance, there is no entry into the 75-foot strip by a tracked or wheeled vehicle, no trees less than 6 inches in diameter are cut, and no more than 30% of the trees 6 inches or more in diameter, measured at 4 feet above ground level, are cut in any 10-year period. Each tree to be harvested has to be marked by a licensed professional harvester before the harvesting permit can be issued by the municipality. A special $5,000 penalty is also established by this Act for land use violations that occur in the Resource Protection Zone.

LD 1520 – An Act Requiring Maine to Adopt the Federal Rules Regarding Universal Waste (Sponsored by Rep. Daigle of Arundel). Emergency enacted 5/26/99; PL 1999, c. 340.

This Act requires the Board of Environmental Protection to adopt, at a minimum, the universal waste rules, excluding pesticides, issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The universal waste rule is designed to reduce the amount of hazardous waste items in the municipal solid waste stream and encourage recycling and proper disposal by reducing the administrative requirements, paperwork, and compliance costs associated with collection of specific items. These items include batteries, agricultural pesticides and thermostats. When Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection adopts the universal waste rule, municipalities that collect household hazardous waste in special programs will be subject to the requirements of that rule. Adoption of the federal standards is expected to facilitate greater compliance in disposal of wastes that are not categorized as municipal solid waste.

LD 1625 – An Act to Clarify Certain Laws Administered by the Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management (Sponsored by Rep. Cowger of Hallowell). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 334.

Under the terms of this Act pertinent to municipalities, there is established a new, albeit vague standard and a new reimbursement ratio for municipalities seeking state financial participation to remediate pollution problems associated with closed-out landfills. Under current law, the state provides 90% of the those remediation costs when a closed landfill pollutes a neighboring property. Under this Act, the state’s financial participation drops to 50% with respect to any threat posed by the municipal landfill to wells or other structures constructed after December 31, 1999. Even that 50% state participation is not available unless the municipality "has taken reasonable steps to anticipate and abate threats posed by a municipal landfill". It is unclear what specific actions of the municipality will fulfill the "reasonable steps" standard.

This Act also establishes a requirement that the owner of a parcel of land upon which a closed or abandoned landfill is located to include notice of the presence of the landfill in any deed transferring ownership and in any easement conveying a right of use to all or part of the landfill site.

LD 1626 – An Act Assist in the Cleanup of the Town of Wells Maine Waste Oil Site (Sponsored by Rep. Davidson of Brunswick). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 505.

This Act creates the "Waste Motor Oil Disposal Site Remediation Program" to assist Maine businesses and municipalities with the financial impact of their identification as responsible parties for clean up of a polluted waste oil landfill located in Wells, Maine. The new law does not deal with three other similar sites located in Plymouth, Casco, and Ellsworth. A revolving loan program, administered by FAME, will provide loans of up to $50,000 to Maine responsible parties for their Wells liability. Interest rates on the loans will vary with the applicant’s financial resources. For those who cannot repay the loans, they may defered or forgiven. The loan fund will be capitalized by a transfer of $4 million from the Underground Oil Storage Replacement Fund. In addition to the loan program, the Act provides a grant of $2,000 to each Maine responsible party for Wells clean up costs, plus a proportional share of the remaining Wells Waste Oil Cleanup Fund. The Cleanup Fund will be capitalized with $3.1 million transferred from the Rainy Day Fund.

LD 1714 – An Act to Clarify and Improve the State’s Solid Waste Management Laws (Sponsored by Rep. Martin of Eagle Lake). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 385.

This Act implements some of the recommendations of a solid waste working group that has been meeting over the last two years. Among other changes, the Act amends the state’s fee schedule for landfilling certain special and municipal wastes by decreasing the per-ton fee for regular municipal solid waste from $4 per ton to $2 per ton, decreasing the fee for "Front End Process Residue" from $4 per ton to $1 per ton, decreasing the fee for municipal solid waste ash from $2 to $1 per ton, and leveling the fees for all other special wastes at $5 per ton whether that waste is deposited in a municipal or commercial facility, with the exception of oil contaminated soil, the fee for which would remain at $25 per ton.

LD 2038 – An Act to Amend the Water Quality Laws to Establish a New Standard for Mercury Discharges (Sponsored by Sen. Kontos of Cumberland County). Emergency enacted 6/11/99; PL 1999, c. 500.

This Act suspends the current state standard for discharge of mercury into receiving waters and authorizes DEP to determine interim discharge limits through rulemaking. DEP and facilities that discharge wastewater, including wastewater treatment plants, will cooperate in building individualized discharge limits by sampling current discharge at each facility. DEP will report to the Natural Resources Committee on the progress of establishing interim standards and status of pollution prevention planning designed to minimize mercury discharge. After further study, DEP will propose a new mercury discharge standard by January 1, 2001. This Act will expire by its own terms on October 1, 2001, leaving either a new discharge standard yet to be determined, or default to the discharge standard in current law.

LD 2223 – An Act to Encourage Continuous Improvement in Pollution Prevention in Maine (Reported by Sen. Treat of Kennebec County for the Joint Standing Committee on Natural Resources). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 348.

This Act adds to the State’s toxics use reduction and hazardous waste management policy the objectives of continuous improvement in pollution prevention and open, public accountability in the environmental quality management efforts of public and private facilities. It establishes statewide reduction goals for toxics use, toxics release and hazardous waste reduction of 40% by January 1, 2002, 50% reduction by January 1, 2004, and 60% reduction by January 1, 2006. Facilities will be required to prepare pollution prevention plans by January 1, 2000 and every two years thereafter. DEP will submit a report to the Legislature on additional chemicals and classes of facilities to be added to planning and reporting requirements. DEP must also submit a report of recommendations for focusing pollution prevention efforts on the most toxic chemicals as well as reports listing facilities that exceed their goals and facilities that fail to meet their goals by at least 25%. The DEP must recommend new statewide toxics reduction goals by January 1, 2007. The Act also revises the fees that must be submitted to DEP with the toxic use report and limits those fees to no more than $1,000 per year for any facility.

LD 2244 – An Act to Fund Training Programs for Water Pollution Control Facility Operators (Reported by Sen. Treat of Kennebec County for the Joint Standing Committee on Natural Resources pursuant to Joint Order S.P. 843). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 52.

This Act appropriates $40,000 per year to the Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Land and Water Quality to support training programs for wastewater treatment plant operators.

State and Local Government

With the conspicuous exception of LD 2192, the municipalities were relatively successful before the State and Local Government Committee this session. LD 2192 was the dog-of-the-session bill that prohibits municipalities from filing negligence law suits against gun or ammunition manufacturers and represents the first municipal block to the courts of its kind ever enacted in this state. The bill cleared this Committee with a narrow "ought to pass" report, and was ultimately enacted by the full Legislature after an intense lobbying campaign by the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers.

Because the State and Local Government Committee is largely represented by persons with municipal backgrounds and expertise, it was able to help Maine’s towns and cities to steer clear of a handful of mandates such as training for harbormasters, recording municipal ordinances in the registry of deeds and the mandatory use of secret ballot process during a municipality’s annual meeting.

Municipalities were also well-treated with the enactment of the secession bill (LD 2056). This law provides a clear process for municipalities to use when confronted with a petition for secession. As enacted the new law strengthens the fact that the burden of justifying secession is the responsibility of the secessionists. The law also reinforces the need for the municipal officers’ involvement in the entire process.

LD 12 – An Act to Change the Selection Process of the Oxford County Budget Committee (Sponsored by Sen. Ferguson of Oxford County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 31.

This Act amends the law governing the Oxford County Budget Advisory Committee by authorizing the applicable county commissioner to appoint a municipal officer from the commissioner’s district if the caucus established for that purpose fails to elect two municipal officers.

LD 13 – An Act to Designate the First Saturday of Each October as Firefighter’s Recognition Day (Sponsored by Sen. Libby of York County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 19.

The title of this Act speaks for itself.

LD 157 – An Act to Allow Review of Examination-related Issues in Executive Session (Sponsored by Rep. Mayo of Bath). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 40.

This Act adds a new reason why a board may enter into executive session: to discuss or approve the content of examinations administered by a body or agency for licensing, permitting, or employment purposes, to review the examination with the person examined, or to consult with an entity that provides examination services on behalf of the governmental entity.

LD 439 – An Act to Amend the Laws Governing the Hancock County Budget Process (Sponsored by Rep. Perkins of Penobscot). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 83.

This Act eliminates the requirement that the county budget needs to be reviewed by the Hancock County legislative delegation. It reconfirms the statutory requirement that the county commissioners notify the legislative delegation of the informational meeting on the budget estimates and that they provide members of the legislative delegation with a copy of the final budget estimates prior to the informational meeting.

LD 511 – An Act to Increase the Amount Below Which Counties Do Not Need to Solicit Bids for Purchases (Sponsored by Rep. Goodwin of Pembroke). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 14.

This Act increases the amount, from $1,000 to $2,500, that county commissioners may spend for services, supplies, material and equipment before having to solicit bids.

LD 558 – An Act to Clarify the Membership of the Somerset County Budget Committee (Sponsored by Rep. Jones of Pittsfield). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 49.

This Act provides that of the three members from each commissioner district on the Somerset County Budget Committee, one must be a municipal official who is not a municipal officer.

LD 660 – An Act to Include Counties in the Definition of Local Government in the Archives and Records Management Law (Sponsored by Sen. Goldthwait of Hancock County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 12.

This Act restores "county government" to the list of local governments in the archives and records management statute where it was apparently inadvertently excluded in a previous enactment.

LD 689 – An Act Concerning Municipal Public Library Trust Funds (Sponsored by Sen. Berube of Androscoggin County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 135.

This Act applies to the investment standards, established in Title 14, Chapter 97, to the trust funds of municipal libraries, rather than the investment standards of Title 30-A, Chapter 223, which governs the acceptable investment practices of all other municipal trusts and surpluses.

LD 900 – An Act to Reestablish the Municipal Boundary Between Pownal and Durham (Sponsored by Rep. Bull of Freeport). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 9.

This Act defines and describes with greater clarity the location of the boundary line between the towns of Durham and Pownal.

LD 923 – An Act to Extend the Penobscot County Budget Committee (Sponsored by Rep. Fisher of Brewer). Enacted with mandate preamble; PL 1999, c. 89.

This Act delays the repeal of the Penobscot County Budget Committee from December 31, 1999 to December 31, 2003.

LD 984 – An Act to Allow the Town of Madrid to Deorganize (Sponsored by Sen. Benoit of Franklin County). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 31.

This Act provides for the deorganization of the Town of Madrid in Franklin County, subject to approval at local referendum. This bill also specifies that upon deorganization the Kindergarten to Grade 8 secondary school pupils may attend schools within SAD 58.

LD 1006 – An Act to Provide for Citizen Participation in the Hancock County Budget (Sponsored by Rep. Povich of Ellsworth). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 440.

This Act allows the voters at annual county commissioner district caucuses to elect either a municipal officer or a member of the public as a member of the Hancock County Budget Adivsory Committee. It also requires the county commissioners to give public notice of the commissioner district caucuses.

LD 1048 – An Act to Amend the Androscoggin County Budget Process (Sponsored by Rep. Bouffard of Lewiston). Enacted with mandate preamble; PL 1999, c. 253.

This Act amends the budget adoption process for Androscoggin County by: (1) removing the requirement that the Androscoggin County budget be finally approved by the Legislature and creating, instead, a budget approval process utilizing the County Commissioners and the Androscoggin County Budget Committee; (2) expanding the size of the Androscoggin County Budget Committee from 9 to 11 members, with the additional 2 members being Androscoggin County legislators elected to that position by the Androscoggin County legislative delegation; and (3) establishing a budget approval process that would allow the county commissioners, by unanimous vote, to amend the budget finally developed by the budget committee, but then allow the budget committee to veto the county commissioners’ amendments with a 2/3 vote of the budget committee, which represents final action.

LD 1367 – An Act Regarding Notification to Parties Affected by Marine Construction (Sponsored by Rep. Etnier of Harpswell). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 215.

This Act amends the process governing municipal approval of the construction or extension of a wharf, fish weir or fish trap in the tide waters of any city or town. The applicant for such a project is required to notify all the abutters to the proposal that application for the construction or extension has been submitted to the municipal officers.

LD 1379 – An Act Regarding Municipal Firearm Discharge Ordinances (Sponsored by Rep. Povich of Ellsworth). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 154.

This Act requires municipalities to send a copy of any firearm discharge ordinance enacted or amended after January 1, 2000 by that town or city to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife within 30 days of that local legislative action. The mailing of the ordinance to IF&W must include a copy of any maps that show the areas in a municipality affected by the ordinance.

LD 1800 – An Act Concerning Standards for Operation and Maintenance of Radio Antenna Towers (Sponsored by Sen. Lawrence of York County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 269.

This Act redundantly incorporates in Maine statute a regulation of the Federal Communications Commission that requires municipal ordinances that govern the placement, screening or height of radio antennas to be crafted to reasonably accommodate amateur radio communications and to represent the minimum practicable regulation to accomplish the municipality’s legitimate purpose.

LD 1887 – An Act to Provide Access to Information Services in All Communities of the State (Sponsored by Sen. Kontos of Cumberland County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 428.

For a description of this Act, please refer to the Task Force and Study Commission article in this issue of the TOWNSMAN.

LD 2056 – An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Secession (Sponsored by Rep. Bumps of China). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 381.

This Act substantially expands the process that must be undertaken at the local level before a bill proposing the secession of a territory from a municipality will be considered by the Legislature. Under the terms of this Act, the following procedures will have to be followed: (1) a petition must be filed with the municipal officers signed by more than 50% of the registered voters within the seceding territory requesting a public hearing to discuss the merits of secession. The petition must describe the seceding territory, its resident and non-resident population, and establish a group of five or fewer people who are designated to represent the secessionists’ interests; (2) upon receipt of the petition, the municipal officers must call a public hearing on the secession movement by publishing notice of the meeting twice, 14 and 7 days before the date of the meeting; (3) the public hearing must include a formal presentation by the group initiating the secessionist petition, which describes the problems that precipitated the secessionist movement and details the impacts of secession on the relative tax burdens of the seceding territory and the non-seceding municipality; (4) the next step in the process is an advisory referendum whereby the voters in the seceding territory are formally asked if they favor secession from the municipality, and a corresponding advisory referendum may be conducted in the non-seceding portion of the municipality; (5) subsequent to the advisory referendum vote, the municipal officers must cast a formal vote on the secession question. If a majority of the municipal officers and a majority of the referendum voters in the seceding territory vote in favor of the secession request, the secession legislation may be submitted to the Legislature. If the vote of the municipal officers conflicts with the results of the advisory referendum, the two sides must attempt to reconcile their differences, using mediation services if necessary, before secession legislation is submitted.

LD 2131 – An Act to Ensure that Agency Use of Collaborative Decision-making and Stakeholder Processes is Fair and Consistent with the Goals of the Maine Administrative Procedure Act (Sponsored by Sen. Treat of Kennebec County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 307.

This Act establishes some structure to the "stakeholders process" that is sometimes used by state agencies for the purpose of developing proposed rules. Defined as the "consensus-based rule development process," this Act requires state agencies that elect to use the process to: establish a representative group of interested participants; develop mutually-acceptable procedural ground rules; disclose funding and time constraints on the agency at the beginning of the process; give prior notice of the meeting to all participants and other identified interested parties; select a chair or facilitator for the process either from within or outside the state agency; distribute a summary and submitted materials from all meetings to the participants and other interested parties; and create and maintain a summary of the process and a record of the degree of consensus that was achieved if the consensus-based process actually results in a proposed rule.

LD 2136 – An Act to Create the Capital Riverfront Improvement District (Sponsored by Sen. Daggett of Kennebec County). Emergency enacted 6/17/99 with mandate preamble; P&SL 1999, c. 58.

This Act creates the Capital Riverfront Improvement District to protect the scenic character of the Kennebec River corridor and to provide an opportunity for community and economic development for the City of Augusta along the city’s riverfront. This bill establishes a governing board and executive committee of the district and delineates the powers and duties of the board. It requires the district to assist in the establishment of district boundaries, prepare a master plan, and authorize and carry out projects within the district. The Act establishes a $10,000,000 limit on the district’s total bonding authority and restricts that limit in FY 2001 to $5,000,000. A majority of the Augusta City Council must adopt this Act after enactment in order for it to take effect.

LD 2186 – An Act to Authorize York County to Hold Bond Referenda for New County Facilities (Sponsored by Rep. Chick of Lebanon). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 38.

This Act authorizes the York County Commissioners to submit two bond issue proposals to the voters of York County. One bond proposal would raise $20 million to build a new county jail. The other bond proposal would raise $5 million to build an addition to the county office facilities.

LD 2192 – An Act to Prohibit Law Suits by Municipalities Against Firearm or Ammunition Manufacturers (Sponsored by Rep. Perkins of Penobscot). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 430.

This Act prohibits municipalities from filing a lawsuit against gun or ammunition manufacturers with respect to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing, or sales of guns or ammunition. In practical effects, this Act prohibits neglience or protect liability law suits. As an exception to the general prohibition, the Act allows lawsuits for breach of contract or breach of warranty.

LD 2197 – Resolve, for Laying of the County Taxes and Authorizing Expenditures of Kennebec County for the Year 1999 (Reported by Rep. Ahearne from the Committee on State and Local Government pursuant to Joint Order H.P. 1158). Emergency passed 5/10/99 with mandate preamble; Resolves 1999, c. 20.

This Resolve enables Kennebec County to raise $5.1 million through the assessment of the county tax to meet authorized 1999 expenditures.

LD 2240 – An Act to Revise the Salaries of Certain Kennebec County Officers (Reported by the Majority from the Committee on State and Local Government pursuant to Joint Order H.P. 1158). Emergency enacted 6/1/99 with mandate preamble; PL 1999, c. 377.

This Act increases the salaries of the Kennebec County commissioners (6% increase for the chair and a 5% increase for all other members), treasurer (2% increase), sheriff (5% increase), judge of probate (5% increase), register of probate (5% increase) and register of deeds (4% increase) retroactively to January 1, 1999. These salaries were last adjusted in 1998.

LD 2249 – Resolve, for Laying of the County Taxes and Authorizing Expenditures of Androscoggin County for the Year 1999 (Reported by the Majority from the Committee on State and Local Government pursuant to Joint Order H.P. 1158). Emergency passed 6/9/99; Resolves 1999, c. 60.

This Resolve enables Androscoggin County to raise $4.8 million through the assessment of the county tax to meet authorized 1999 expenditures.

Taxation

Although the Taxation Committee addressed a number of local tax issues this session, in the areas of the Tree Growth program, watercraft excise tax collection, and the real estate value of time share estates, it is the package of legislation that the Committee carried over into the second session that commands greater attention.

It was expressed more than once at the Committee level this session that the second-session focus is going to be on the property tax, particularly in those service center communities that are forced to lay down tax levies at the punishing 25 mill rate level.

The package of tax bills that will serve as a foundation of the Committee’s work next session include: three local option taxation bills (income, sales, and meals and lodging), a bill that would automatically return some meals and lodging tax revenue to the municipality of origin, a bill that would expand the Homestead Exemption program in a structural way depending on the availability of lapsed balances in certain state accounts, and MMA’s bill that attempts to put some coherency and equity for local taxpayers in the state’s policy on tax exempt properties. Into that mix there is also a carry-over bill that would repeal the personal property tax, repeal the BETR program, repeal certain sales tax exemptions that apply to industrial property and uses, and create a second-tier revenue sharing formula that would reimburse the municipalities for their lost personal property tax revenues.

The Taxation Committee, and particularly its two chairs (Sen. Dick Ruhlin of Penobscot County and Rep. Ken Gagnon of Waterville), are responsible for the successful advocacy of LD 968, which restores very important public policy governing the municipal revenue sharing program.

LD 587 – An Act to Ameliorate Penalties for Late Filing of Municipal Tax Returns (Sponsored by Sen. Mills of Somerset County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 487.

This Act repeals and replaces the law governing the penalty that applies when a municipality files its municipal valuation return after the deadline, which is generally November 1. Under current law, the penalty for late filing is a total loss of Tree Growth reimbursement for that year. This Act changes the penalty to a per diem penalty. For municipalities with a population of 2,000 or less, the penalty will be $50 for the first late day and $10 per day thereafter. For municipalities with populations over 2,000, the penalty will be $100 for the first late day and $20 per day thereafter. The aggregate penalty cannot exceed the total amount of Tree Growth reimbursement owed to the municipality.

LD 897 – An Act to Extend the Management Plan Requirement for Forest Owners under the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law (Sponsored by Rep. Gooley of Farmington). Emergency enacted 3/29/99 with mandate preamble; PL 1999, c. 33.

This Act provides a 20-month extension to the deadline for the owners of property in the Tree Growth program to submit proof to the municipal assessor that a forest management and harvest plan for the Tree Growth parcels has been prepared.

Before this Act, the deadline for submitting that proof was Thursday, April 1, 1999. With the enactment of this emergency law, that deadline is now December 31, 2000.

The enacted extension is not quite a blanket reprieve, however. Some action on the part of the landowner who has yet to file a plan will be required during calendar 1999. Specifically, that landowner will have to file one of the following documents:

• Proof that a forest management and harvest plan has been prepared;

• Proof that the landowner has entered into a contract with a licensed professional forester to create a forest management and harvest plan before December 31, 2000; or

• Evidence that the landowner intends to submit a landowner-developed forest management and harvest plan that will be signed by a licensed professional forester prior to December 31, 2000.

Failure to provide one of these three documents by December 31, 1999, will result in a $100 penalty applied against the landowner, payable to the town and collected as a supplemental assessment. For any $100 penalties under this new law that may be applied by a town, it will be important to make sure the landowner is aware that the penalty payment has nothing to do with, and in no way replaces, the financial penalty for withdrawing the land from the Tree Growth program.

LD 968 – An Act to Restore Municipal Revenue Sharing (Sponsored by Rep. Gagnon of Waterville). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 528.

This Act restores $1.15 million to the Local Government Fund to be included in the 10/20/99 municipal revenue sharing distribution. The money will be restored to the Local Government Fund to reverse a diversion of that revenue to the state’s Rainy Day Fund that occurred in 1998 under an interpretation of the terms of the statute governing the automatic reduction of the sales tax rate when the state’s General Fund expands by more than 8% over the previous year. The Act also clarifies that the distribution of 5.1% of all income and sales tax revenues to the Local Government fund comes "off the top" and takes precedence over any other distribution of that revenue.

LD 1130 – An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force to Study Telecommunications Taxation (Sponsored by Rep. Don Berry for the Task Force to Study Telecommunications pursuant to Resolve 1997, chapter 121, section 7). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 488.

This Act is remarkably less significant than the printed bill, which was submitted as a result of a task force study on telecommunications taxation, and included, among other changes, the repeal of the state-level telecommunications property tax and the consolidation of all telecommunications property taxation at the local level. As finally amended and enacted, however, this Act merely tinkers with the sales tax code by making pre-paid calling arrangements subject to an up-front sales tax as a "taxable service" and excluding from the sales tax the sale of cable television converter boxes to a provider of cable television services. The Act also calls for reports from the State Tax Assessor on the overall state of affairs with respect to telecommunications taxation to be submitted to the Taxation Committee by January 1, 2001 and January 1, 2004.

LD 1134 – An Act to Extend the Maine Residents Property Tax Program to Persons Living in Subsidized Housing Who Receive Certain Disability Payments (Sponsored by Rep. Randy Berry of Livermore). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 494.

Rent rebate checks under the Circuit Breaker program are generally not available to persons who reside in subsidized housing where the actual rent obligation is limited to a certain percentage of actual income. This Act creates an exception to that rule by extending potential eligibility for Circuit Breaker benefits to renters in subsidized housing whose source of income is Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

LD 1224 – An Act Relating to Tree Growth Tax Reimbursement (Sponsored by Rep. Stedman of Hartland). Emergency enacted 6/9/99; P&SL 1999, c. 32.

This Act returns Tree Growth reimbursement to nearly a dozen towns that lost full reimbursement due to the penalty under current law for the late filing of the municipal valuation return. This Act returns partial reimbursement to those communities in light of the changes to that penalty system also enacted this legislative session (see LD 587). The $127,000 in Tree Growth reimbursement was appropriated from the balance of the Tree Growth reimbursement account, which otherwise would lapse back into the General Fund.

LD 1266 – RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Promote Historic and Scenic Preservation (Sponsored by Sen. Amero of Cumberland County). Passed; Constitutional Resolutions 1999, c. 2.

This Resolve sends out to the voters a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow municipalities to reduce the assessment of property if the owners agree to maintain the property’s historic integrity or provide scenic view easements of significant vistas.

LD 1494 – An Act to Ensure the Documentation of the Transfer of Ownership of Mobile and Modular Construction Homes (Sponsored by Rep. Savage of Union). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 427.

The purpose of this Act is to create a local notification process with respect to mobile or modular home transfers that are not otherwise documented through the declaration of value process at the Registry of Deeds. This Act authorizes the municipal officers to adopt an administrative ordinance that requires the owner of a mobile or modular home to notify the municipal assessor of the sale of that structural property when the transfer does not involve the sale of any underlying land.

LD 1524 – An Act to Include the Income of a Lessee for the Purpose of Determining Eligibility in Farm and Open Space Tax Laws (Sponsored by Rep. Jones of Pittsfield). Emergency enacted 6/9/99; PL 1999, c. 449.

This Act amends the income standard that applies to applicants for the farmland tax classification program. Under current law, the classifiable land must have produced a gross income of at least $2,000 per year over a certain number of previous years. The Act establishes that the income production from the land can be accomplished by either the landowner or a lessee.

LD 1845 – An Act to Limit the Imposition of Excise Taxes on Watercraft (Sponsored by Rep. Pieh of Bremen). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 304.

This Act establishes that the obligation to pay a watercraft excise tax applies only for the current year for which the watercraft is being registered. By its enactment, this Act reverses the previous understanding that the watercraft excise tax, with its roots in the property tax, was applied pursuant to ownership of the boat and therefore assessed for every year of ownership regardless of whether the boat was actually put to use.

LD 1916 – An Act Concerning the Regulation and Treatment of Time-shares (Sponsored by Rep. Cianchette of South Portland). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 478.

With respect to the taxation of time share units, this Act adds "sales in the secondary market" as another consideration for municipal assessors to take into account when developing the "just value" of a piece of property. The Act also amends the definition of "value" as that term is used in the Real Estate Transfer Tax law pertaining to the declaration of value documents. Under the terms of this Act, the consideration given on the Declaration of Value form for the purchase of a time share unit should not include the value of vacation exchange rights, vacation services, or club memberships or the costs associated with those rights.

LD 2175 – An Act to Amend the Maine Residents Property Tax Program (Sponsored by Sen. Ruhlin of Penobscot County). Emergency enacted 6/11/99; PL 1999, c. 507.

Current law provides a Circuit Breaker property tax relief benefit to eligible homeowners only if they occupied the dwelling during the entire calendar year for which the application pertains. This Act allows the benefit to be provided even if there was not full-year occupancy as long as the applicant owned or maintained the dwelling unit for the full year and occupied it for at least six months of that year.

LD 2180 – An Act to Promote Participation in the Maine Residents Property Tax Program (Sponsored by Rep. Dudley of Portland). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 39.

This Act requires the Bureau of Revenue Services to conduct outreach activities to better advertise the availability of the Circuit Breaker program. The costs of the enhanced outreach will come out of the total appropriation for the program.

LD 2211 – Resolve, to Modify the State Valuation for the Sappi Plant in the City of Westbrook (Sponsored by Rep. Usher of Westbrook). Emergency passed 6/5/99; Resolves 1999, c. 54.

This Act establishes the value of a paper mill in the City of Westbrook for the purpose of the 1999 state valuation which reflects a negotiated assessment of the mill at a substantially lower level than would otherwise be reflected in the FY 1999 or FY 2000 state valuation.

LD 2241 – Resolve, to Modify the State Valuation for the Sappi Plant in the City of Westbrook for Purposes of Education Funding (Reported by Representative Gagnon for the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation pursuant to Joint Order H.P. 1584). Emergency enacted 6/17/99; Resolves 1999, c. 77.

This Resolve appropriates $705,000 to the City of Westbrook and $90,000 to the Town of Livermore Falls for additional General Purpose Aid to Education (GPA) subsidy for FY 2000 to reflect the increased GPA those two communities would receive if their state valuations could be adjusted quickly enough in light of large reductions in assessed value of the Sappi paper mill in Westbrook and the Northeast Empire Limited Partnership in Livermore Falls.

Transportation

It was an extraordinarily successful year for municipal transportation issues. Not only were MMA’s two transportation initiatives enacted, but also significant changes were made to the sand/salt storage facilities law bringing an end to a 12-year long mandate for the low-priority sand-salt shed communities.

The first MMA initiative to be enacted provides municipal authority to make sure the utility companies are held financially accountable when it comes to their excavation of the public right of way (LD 1207). In current statute, municipalities may enforce a five-year moratorium on utility excavation in new roads. However, municipalities are frequently unwilling to impose the five-year moratorium because it doesn’t make any sense to tell a utility, a developer, or a homeowner seeking utility service that they must wait five years to connect their service.

The new law allows municipalities that choose to waive the five-year moratorium to impose a new "moratorium restoration requirement". At the discretion of the permitting municipality, the utility can be required to re-lay the full width of the road surface on both sides of the cut for a distance of 20 feet from the furthest outside edges of the cut. If that repair overlaps the edge of a repair from a previous opening, the municipality may require the permittee to relay the full width of the road to the furthest edge of the previous repair. The municipality may prescribe the depth and method of restoring the pavement based upon the class of the street.

With the help of the Transportation Committee, Department of Transportation, MMA’s Transportation Advisory Committee, the Governor’s office and the entire Legislature, the Part II Highway Fund budget was enacted with changes that restructure the Local Road Assistance Program. Two of the most significant changes to the program include replacing the existing flat funding formula with an indexed formula, thus making the local road assistance program more structurally similar to municipal revenue sharing. The indexed formula links municipal assistance to 10.4% of the Department of Transportation’s highway-related General Fund and Highway Fund allocations. The changes to the program also increase the cost of the program by $6 million over the FY 2000-01 biennium to reimburse those municipalities with the greatest maintenance and improvements responsibilities. The changes are outlined below in the description under LD 957. An in-depth explanation of the changes can be found in a separate article in this edition of the Townsman.

Changes also were made to the sand/salt storage facilities law to require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to reprioritize all open municipal salt/sand pile locations according to that location’s surface and groundwater impact. Locations receiving priority #4 or #5 ratings will continue to be exempt from DEP enforcement for surface water violations, but no longer be mandated to build facilities. Locations receiving a rating of #1, #2 or #3 will be required to build facilities, as is the case under current law. Although no longer required to build the facilities, any priority #4 or #5 municipalities that have built facilities before November 1, 1999 will receive state reimbursement.

LD 273 – Resolve, Requiring the Commissioner of Transportation to Report to the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation on Recreational Access to Water Bodies and Snowmobile Access Across Bridges (Sponsored by Rep. Cameron of Rumford). Passed; Resolves 1999, c. 18.

This Resolve requires the Commissioner of Transportation to report to the 120th Legislature on the progress of interagency efforts to address the need for public and recreational access to water bodies, property adjacent to water, and snowmobile access across bridges.

LD 362 – An Act to Require Written Explanation from the Department of Transportation When a Municipal Request to Change a Speed Limit is Denied (Sponsored by Rep. Wheeler of Eliot). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 160.

This Act adds a step in the process when the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) denies a request made by a municipality to change a posted speed limit. Under current law, the municipality may request a public hearing with respect to the DOT denial, which must be held within 30 days. Under the terms of this Act, and in addition to the public hearing process, when issuing the denial the DOT shall explain the reasons for the denial in writing and offer to meet with the municipal officers or appropriate municipal officials to review those reasons.

LD 552 – An Act to Change the Minimum Time for Issuing a Temporary Registered Gross Weight Increase from 2 Months to One Month (Sponsored by Rep. Wheeler of Bridgewater). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 466.

Current law enables persons to temporarily register gross weight truck load increases and to pay, based on the time period of the registration, a proportionate amount of the annual registration fee. The minimum registration period is 2 months at a cost of 30% of the annual fee and the maximum registration periods is 8 month at a cost of 80% of the annual fee. This Act changes the minimum temporary registration from 2 months to 1 month and establishes a fee for the 1-month registration of 20% of the annual rate.

LD 774 – An Act to Amend the Laws Pertaining to the Movement of a Mobile Home Over a Public Way and the Movement of Objects Requiring an Overlimit Movement Permit (Sponsored by Rep. Mack of Standish). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 117.

This Act clarifies that in order to move a mobile home over a public way, the person moving the home must obtain a permit issued by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and when on the road must possess that permit or the written certificate from the Tax Collector stating that all applicable property taxes have been paid. This Act further clarifies that a violation of that requirement is a traffic infraction (for a related issue, see LD 1099).

LD 938 – An Act to Allow the Department of Transportation to Designate No-passing Zones Upon Request From a Municipality (Sponsored by Rep. Wheeler of Eliot). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 171.

This Act authorizes municipalities to request in writing and with supporting information that the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) designate a segment of the public way in primarily residential areas as no-passing zones. The DOT Commissioner must approve the request unless the Department determines that the request will unreasonably restrict the flow of traffic or result in a threat to public safety. The DOT Commissioner must notify the municipality of the Department’s decision in writing within 30 days of receiving the written request. The municipality can request a public hearing with regard to the DOT decision which must be held by DOT within 30 days of receiving the request. If the no-passing zone is approved by DOT, the Department is responsible for painting the double solid yellow line on the roadway and posting the appropriate signage, all at municipal expense.

LD 951 – An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicle Laws (Sponsored by Sen. Paradis of Aroostook County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 183.

This Act makes a number of changes to motor vehicle laws, including prohibiting the operators of motor vehicles from reading printed material while driving (except for maps or directions), and establishing rules for the operation of a motor vehicle in a rotary.

LD 957 – An Act to Make Supplemental Allocations from the Highway Fund for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2000 and June 30, 2001 (Sponsored by Rep. Jabar of Waterville) (Governor’s bill). Emergency enacted 6/10/99; PL 1999, c. 473.

This Act funds the $54 million Highway Fund Part II budget through the use of a 3-cent fuel tax increase and a $2 motor vehicle registration fee increase. The change in the fuel tax will increase the existing rate for gasoline from 19 cents to 22 cents and for diesel fuel from 20 cents to 23 cents. In addition, the motor vehicle registration fee will increase from $23 to $25. Over the FY 00-01 biennium the budget will provide revenues to fund the $45 million a restructured Local Road Assistance Program, as well as $2.5 million for salt and sand storage facilities. The Act also appropriates $8.5 million for highway and bridge improvement projects and deallocates $2.5 million from the Highway Fund Part I budget to fund highway and bridge improvements.

The $45 million restructured LRAP will reimburse municipalities that are mandated to provide a greater level of road maintenance service an additional $6 million over the two-year period to invest in their road systems. The changes to this state aid program include:

• An increase to the total program allocation from $19.5 million to $23 million per year, with the requirement that in subsequent years that the program fund be indexed to 10.4% of total highway related General Fund and Highway Fund revenue dedicated to the Department of Transportation (DOT);

• A guarantee that all municipalities will receive a state aid allocation that is equal or greater than their FY 99 LRAP revenues;

• An increase to the municipal population threshold as that threshold applies to the definition of "urban compact area" from 6,000 to 7,500;

• The opportunity for municipalities with populations greater than 2,500 and less than 7,500 to voluntarily choose to take responsibility for winter, or summer and winter maintenance on state roads in the compact areas;

• Reimbursement rates for municipalities of $2,500 per lane mile, up to two lanes for summer maintenance in urban compact areas. The reimbursement rate for every lane mile beyond two is $1,250 per lane mile.

• Reimbursement rates for municipalities of $1,700 per lane mile for winter maintenance in urban compact areas.

• Reimbursement rates for municipalities of $600 per lane mile for state aid minor collector roads and all local roads located outside of the urban compact area and $300 per lane mile for all seasonal town ways.

• The requirement that funds allocated for rural road miles be expended for capital purposes only; and

• The creation of a voluntary municipal (33%) / state (67%) funding partnership for capital improvements on minor collector roads.

The Part II Highway Fund budget also allocates $1 million of the $2.5 million budgeted for the sand-salt facilities program to municipalities. Due to the changes in the Sand/Salt Storage Facilities program enacted by the Legislature, 80% ($800,000) will be used to fund all remaining priority #1, #2 and some of the #3 municipalities. 20% ($200,000) will be used to fund some of the built priority # 4 municipalities. (See description of LD 2165 for details).

LD 958 – An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government and Highway Funds and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2000 and June 30, 2001 (Sponsored by Rep. Jabar of Waterville) (Governor’s bill). Emergency enacted 5/11/99; PL 1999, c. 152.

This Act is the "Part I," "current services," Highway Fund budget which funds ongoing programs of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of the Secretary of State.

LD 1099 – An Act to Exempt the Requirement that All Municipal Taxes be Paid in Advance of Moving a Mobile Home (Sponsored by Rep. Tessier of Fairfield). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 125.

This Act allows a municipality to waive the requirement that all taxes must be paid before a mobile home is being moved from one location in the municipality to another location in the same municipality for reasons that are not related to the sale of the mobile home.

LD 1207 – An Act to Amend the Local Highway Laws (Sponsored by Sen. Harriman of Cumberland County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 337.

This Act modernizes and amends the law governing the excavation of roadways by utilities. First, the Act dissolves any distinction in process under current law that pertains to "cities" and "towns" and otherwise modernizes the statute to reflect the variety of municipal officials that may be designated to supervise road excavations. Second, the Act revises the fee that may be levied by the municipal officers to include not only the cost of the replacement pavement, as is allowed under current law, but also the cost of the sub-pavement base material and the municipal inspections reasonably performed for or by the municipality. Third, the Act authorizes the municipality to require certain performance of the utility whenever the municipality authorizes a street excavation for utility work during the five-year moratorium period on excavation that may be imposed after a street is paved or substantially repaired. The new performance that may be imposed under this Act would be for the utility to re-lay the full width of the road surface on both sides of the cut for a distance of 20 feet from the furthest outside edge of the cut. The depth and method of restoring the pavement may be prescribed by the municipality.

LD 1489 – An Act Regarding the Operation of a Motorized or Electric Bicycle on a Public Way (Sponsored by Rep. Stanwood of Southwest Harbor). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 170.

This Act amends the definition of "motorized bicycle or tricycle" to mean a bicycle or motorcycle equipped with a motor that is capable of propelling the vehicle no faster than 25 mph. The Act also clarifies that a person licensed to operate any motor vehicle, not just a motorcycle or mo-ped, may operate a motorized bicycle or tricycle on the public way.

LD 1543 – An Act to Create a Bicycle Safety Education Act (Sponsored by Rep. Brennan of Portland). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 331.

This Act requires all bicyclists under 16 years of age to wear a protective helmet when riding a bicycle on a public roadway or public bikeway. Law enforcement officers are authorized to provide information about bicycle safety to bicyclists in violation of this requirement or those bicyclists’ parents. That counseling service appears to represent the extent of enforcement of this helmet requirement.

LD 1637 – An Act Regarding the Boundaries of State and State Aid Highways (Sponsored by Sen. O’Gara of Cumberland County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 188.

This Act provides a method for determining the boundaries of state or state aid roads in cases where there is no recorded layout of the highway or where the boundary is uncertain. Among other notification requirements, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is required to file notice of the clarified boundaries with the municipal clerk. This Act also creates a process of transferring to abutting property owners sections of unused rights-of-way when DOT reconstructs roads in the same general area of a former town or county road and the municipality or county subsequently discontinues sections of the former right of way no longer in use. The process allows the interests in the discontinued road to revert to the abutter rather than DOT.

LD 1638 – Resolve, to Review Traffic Congestion Including Truck Traffic along the Route 1 York Corridor (Sponsored by Sen. Lawrence of York County; additional cosponsors). Emergency enacted 6/10/99; Resolves 1999, c. 64.

For a description of this Resolve, please refer to the Task Force and Study Commission article in this issue of the TOWNSMAN.

LD 2081 – An Act to Make Commercial Vehicle Weight Limits Consistent with Federal Law (Sponsored by Sen. Lawrence of York County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 164.

This Act excludes the portion of the Maine Turnpike designated Interstate 95 and 495 and that portion of Interstate 95 from the southernmost point of the Maine Turnpike to the New Hampshire line from the definition of "Interstate Highway System" which has the effect of establishing the same commercial weight limit on those roadways as applies on other roadways in Maine.

LD 2089 – An Act to Authorize Department of Transportation Bond Issues in the Amount of $56,042,031 to Match Available Federal Funds for Improvements to Highways and Bridges, Airports and State-owned Ferry Facilities; Development of Rail Corridors and Marine Infrastructure; and Replacement of Public Transportation Fleets Statewide (Sponsored by Sen. O’Gara of Cumberland County) (Governor’s bill). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 37.

This Act will send to the voters of Maine a proposal to issue $19.2 million in bonds to be repaid out the Highway Fund and $36.8 million of bonds to be repaid out of the General Fund. If approved by the voters, the General Fund bond will provide revenue for airports ($3 million), state-owned ferry facilities ($1 million), rails ($19.7 million), marine infrastructure ($11.7 million) and public transit ($1.4 million). The $19.2 million Highway Fund bond will provide fund for highway and bridge maintenance improvements. The total transportation bond package will match $112 million in federal highway funds.

LD 2132 – An Act to Consolidate Traffic Movement Permits within the Department of Transportation) (Sponsored by Sen. O’Gara of Cumberland County). Emergency enacted 6/10/99; PL 1999, c. 468.

This Act transfers state agency development review of traffic impact from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to the Department of Transportation (DOT) under the Site Location of Development law. This Act also encourages municipal participation in the traffic permitting process by enabling municipalities to register to issue traffic permits for projects generating 100-200 passengers car equivalents at peak hours. In addition, municipalities can be approved by the DOT on a project-by-project basis to issue permits for projects generating more than 200 passenger car equivalents at peak hours.

LD 2135 – An Act to Make Supplemental Allocations from the Highway Fund and Other Funds for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1999 (Sponsored by Sen. O’Gara of Cumberland County) (Governor’s bill). Emergency enacted 5/10/99; P&SL 1999, c. 12.

This Act makes supplemental allocations and deallocations from the Highway Fund to balance the Highway Fund budget for FY 99. Among other changes, the Act allocates $15 million to the Highway Fund for FY 99 by switching to the modified accrual method of accounting for Highway Fund revenues.

LD 2156 – An Act to Amend the Laws Governing the Construction of Salt and Sand Storage Facilities (Sponsored by Sen. O’Gara of Cumberland County). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 387.

This Act is the product of a working group process made up of legislators, DEP and DOT representatives, several municipalities and MMA. The Act amends the laws governing the municipal construction of sand/salt storage facilities in the following way: (1) repeals the current mandate that municipalities or counties with priority #4 or priority #5 sand-salt storage sites build a storage facility; (2) exempts all storage piles registered before October 1, 1999 from licensing for discharges to groundwater violations; (3) replaces the building mandate on priority #4 and #5 storage areas registered after October 1, 1999 with a requirement that the municipalities and counties with those sites follow best-management-practices, as adopted by rule, with respect to the management of those sites if they want to retain their exemption from DEP licensing requirements and groundwater classification violations; (4) requires the DEP to reassess the priority list given the repeal of the mandate to build storage facilities for Priority #4 and #5 storage areas to make sure they are correctly classified; and (5) establishes a clear priority list and funding formula for distributing sand-salt storage sites reimbursement funds depending on the priority of the site and the time of actual construction. Specifically, 80% of all appropriated funds will be dedicated to remaining priority #1 projects, followed by the remaining priority #2 projects, followed by the priority #3 projects that have been designated as such up to now. 20% of the appropriation will be dedicated to funding priority #4 projects that have already been constructed, followed by any new priority #3 projects that were formerly priority #4; followed by priority #5 projects that have already been constructed. Only those priority #4 projects that are completed before November 1, 1999 will be eligible for state funding.

Utilities and Energy

Most of the municipal bills considered by the Utilities Committee made changes to charters of sewer and water districts at the request of those districts.

LD 109 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the Mars Hill Utility District (Sponsored by Rep. Kneeland of Easton). Emergency enacted 4/9/99; P&SL 1999, c. 4.

This Act amends the boundaries of the Mars Hill Utility District to encompass the entire Town of Blaine upon approval by the voters of the Town of Blaine voting in a special or regular town meeting, and upon approval by the Town Council in the Town of Mars Hill.

LD 270 – An Act to Enable Counties to Establish Electricity Agencies (Sponsored by Rep. Goodwin of Pembroke). Enacted; PL 1999, c. 178.

This Act authorizes county government to establish a county electricity agency for the purpose of acting as an aggregator of retail electricity customers. The structure of the governing board of the county electric agency and other administrative details are also established by this Act.

LD 333 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the Department of Electric Works Within the Town of Madison (Sponsored by Rep. Richard of Madison). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 7.

This Act authorizes the Department of Electric Works in the Town of Madison to provide natural gas service should that fuel become available. Such service would be subject to Public Utilities Commission regulation.

LD 551 – An Act to Amend the Lien Enforcement Procedure for the Topsham Sewer District (Sponsored by Rep. Tripp of Topsham). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 6.

This Act changes the lien procedure for the Topsham Sewer District to allow the enforcement of a lien any time after 3 months and before 18 months from the due date of any charge or assessment for which the district has a lien. The changes made by this Act regarding enforcement by the district of liens apply to liens for unpaid assessments due after the effective date of this Act. The enforcement of liens for assessments due prior to the effective date of the bill are governed by the law in effect at the time the assessment came due.

LD 580 – An Act to Clarify the Voting Rights of Persons Residing in Certain Sanitary Districts (Sponsored by Sen. Goldthwait of Hancock County). Emergency enacted 5/24/99; PL 1999, c. 299.

This Act provides that when a sanitary district’s territory does not extend beyond the boundaries of a single municipality and the district’s territory encompasses less than the entire area of the municipality, trustees must be residents of the municipality and a majority of the trustees must be residents of the district.

LD 704 – An Relating to Governmental Aggregation Services (Sponsored by Rep. Mitchell of Vassalboro). Emergency enacted 5/18/99; PL 1999, c. 231.

This Act authorizes the Maine Municipal Bond Bank to organize and administer the cooperative bulk purchase of electricity by local governmental units and non-profit organizations, but places certain controls on that authority by prohibiting the Bank from varying the terms of credit based on an entity’s acceptance or rejection of an aggregation offer and requiring the Bank to provide notice to all entities to which it provides services that there is no obligation to accept aggregation services.

LD 1265 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the Tenants Harbor Standard Water District (Sponsored by Sen. Pingree of Knox County). Emergency enacted 4/16/99; P&SL 1999, c. 8.

This Act revises the territorial limits of the Tenants Harbor Standard Water District. The district is authorized to provide service to customers located outside the district, provided that the cost of extending facilities to those customers is funded by the Department of Environmental Protection.

LD 1364 – An Act to Provide for the Collection of Storm Water in the City of Hallowell (Sponsored by Rep. Cowger of Hallowell). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 15.

This Act allows the Hallowell Water District to transfer, with the consent of the City of Hallowell, the public storm-water drains to the City of Hallowell.

LD 1391 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the Dover-Foxcroft Water District (Sponsored by Rep. Cross of Dover-Foxcroft). Emergency enacted 5/24/99; P&SL 1999, c. 27.

This Act amends the charter of the Dover-Foxcroft Water District, facilitating the transfer of responsibility for fire protection services from the Water District to the Town of Dover-Foxcroft. It strikes references to the transfer of the fire company, authority to tax for the capitalization and operation of the fire company, and removes the fire wardens as officers of the corporation, all of which become unnecessary as the fire service leaves the water district. Emergency enactment allows the transfer issue to be determined finally by local voters in municipal elections to be held by September 30, 1999.

LD 1496 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the Kennebunk Sewer District (Sponsored by Rep. Murphy of Kennebunk). Emergency enacted 5/10/99; P&SL 1999, c. 11.

This Act amends the charter of the Kennebunk Sewer District by amending the district’s boundaries to make them identical to the boundaries of the Town of Kennebunk.

LD 1532 – An Act Concerning Liens Held by the Freeport Sewer District (Sponsored by Rep. Bull of Freeport). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 14.

This Act updates the administrative provisions of the Freeport Sewer District’s lien authority. It also authorizes the district, as part of its sewer lien procedure, to send affected parties a second notice of sewer liens and impending foreclosure before the date of forfeiture. The bill also removes an archaic reference.

LD 1569 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the Veazie Sewer District (Sponsored by Rep. Campbell of Holden). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 17.

This Act permits the board of the trustees of the Veazie Sewer District to set the salaries of the trustees provided that the chair of the board may not receive more than $500 per year and the other trustees may not receive more than $400 per year. Under this Act, the trustees are authorized to establish the date of the annual meeting.

LD 1650 – An Act Confirming the Charter of the Addison Point Water District (Sponsored by Rep. Dugay of Cherryfield). Emergency enacted 5/19/99; P&SL 1999, c. 20.

This Act confirms the charter of the Addison Point Water District. Under this Act, the Addison Point Water District is authorized to file a certificate of organization with the Secretary of State.

LD 1723 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the East Pittston Water District (Sponsored by Sen. Kilkelly of Lincoln County). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 18.

This Act amends the charter of the East Pittston Water District by clarifying that a trustee of the district must reside in a household to which the district’s service is provided.

LD 1797 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the Waterville Sewerage District (Sponsored by Sen. Carey of Kennebec County). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 13.

This Act amends the charter of the Waterville Sewerage District to revise the management system for the district. Under the new law, the district will be managed by five commissioners who are residents of the district and appointed by the mayor, subject to city council approval. The law establishes that two commissioners must be members of the minority political party. Other provisions of the new law clarify the district’s right to collect service charges from owners and occupants of real estate serviced by the district.

LD 1977 – An Act to Create the Farmington Falls Standard Water District (Sponsored by Sen. Benoit of Franklin County). Emergency enacted 5/19/99; P&SL 1999, c. 21.

This Act repeals the Farmington Falls Water District, which was created by Private and Special Law 1981, c. 86, but was never approved by referendum. This Act creates the Farmington Falls Standard Water District. It allows the Farmington Standard Water District, if approved, to take the property and franchise of the Farmington Falls Water Company.

LD 1998 – An Act to Fulfill the Requirements of the Electronic Restructuring Act (Sponsored by Rep. Davidson of Brunswick). Emergency enacted 3/30/99; PL 1999, c. 43.

This Act creates a blanket exception to state and local land use regulations so that no state or local approval (beyond the approval of the Public Utilities Commission) normally required by land use law or ordinance is required with respect to the property transactions conducted by utility company and electricity generating companies pursuant to the "divestiture" law that obligates all Maine’s electric utilities to sell their generating assets. In some cases, for example, the sale of electricity generating assets off a utility’s parcel of land would leave a nonconforming lot or create a subdivision on the parcel. This Act allows those sales without the local approval normally required, but all subsequent, post-divestiture land use activities are subject to normal land use review and approval with consideration of cumulative impact as though the during-divestiture and post-divestiture land use changes occurred at the same time.

LD 2040 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the Norridgewock Water District (Sponsored by Sen. Mills of Somerset County). Emergency enacted 6/3/99; P&SL 1999, c. 30.

This Act amends the charter of the Norridgewock Water District in the following ways: (1) it changes the residency of a trustee from being a resident of the district to a resident of the town; (2) it changes the term of the trustees; (3) it eliminates the requirement that the annual meeting must be on March 1; (4) it eliminates the requirement that a quorum must be present to hold a meeting; and (5) it amends the compensation of the trustees.

LD 2044 – An Act Repeal the Charter of the Pleasant River Standard Water District (Sponsored by Sen. Cassidy of Washington County). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 22.

This Act repeals the charter of the Pleasant River Standard Water District. The creation of the district was not approved by local referendum and therefore the district has no legal existence.

LD 2091 – An Act to Amend the Charter of the Richmond Utilities District (Sponsored by Rep. Shiah of Bowdoinham). Enacted; P&SL 1999, c. 23.

This Act modifies the Richmond Utilities District charter to allow the district to increase the debt limit through a district referendum in the same manner as standard water districts. It allows the Richmond Utilities District to charge the ratepayer when filing a lien, a fee not to exceed the cost to the district for giving the notice and for filing and recording the certificate of lien.

LD 2193 – An Act to Allow the Fort Kent Utility District to be Dissolved and Combined With the Town of Fort Kent (Sponsored by Rep. Martin of Eagle Lake). Emergency enacted 5/20/99; P&SL 1999, c. 24.

This Act allows the Fort Kent Utility District to be dissolved and the Town of Fort Kent take over the district’s duties.