New Laws
(from Maine Townsman, May 1998)
By MMA's 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 prior to the Public Law citation.

Non-emergency legislation becomes effective 90 days after adjournment of the legislative session in which it was enacted. There will be two effective dates this year because the Second Session of the 118th Legislature adjourned for technical reasons on March 31, 1998, then was called back in for a special session, which adjourned on April 9, 1998.

Accordingly, the effective date of non-emergency legislation that was enacted on or before March 31, 1998, will be June 30, 1998. If the new law was enacted on or before March 31, 1998, it is so noted prior to the Public Law citation.

The effective date of non-emergency legislation enacted on or after April 1, 1998, will be July 9, 1998. In the legislation summaries provided below, these laws are identified only by their Public Law citation.

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."

Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

LD 1405 -- An Act to License Timber Harvesters and Deter Timber Trespassing. New title: An Act to Strengthen Laws Regarding Timber Theft and Timber Harvesting. Enacted (3/30/98); PL 1997, c. 648.

This Act strengthens current law by requiring timber haulers to carry a trip ticket when transporting loads of wood. A trip ticket includes the date the wood is hauled, name of landowner, town of origin, name of hauler, and the signature of the truck driver. The Act also requires the Bureau of Forestry to send to the municipalities in which harvesting is taking place a letter of notification providing details on the harvesting activity. That notification will include: 1) name, number and address of landowner, 2) approximate dates of harvesting activities, 3) acres to be harvested, 4) signatures of the landowner and harvester, and 5) a map of the location of the harvesting activity.

LD 1942 -- Resolve, Authorizing the Transfer of Certain State Park Property. Passed (2/10/98); Resolves 1997, c. 87.

This Resolve transfers certain property from the state to the Town of Norway. The property was purchased by the Bureau of Parks and Recreation in 1973 and has been managed by the Town of Norway as a public park and boat launching area since acquisition by the state.

LD 2069 -- An Act to Improve Public Health Protection Against Rabies Infection. Enacted (3/26/98); PL 1997, c. 704.

This Act: (1) clarifies that once an owner identifies an animal as a wolf-hybrid, the animal is to be classified as a wolf-hybrid all of its life; (2) requires the euthanasia of a wolfhybrid that bites people or other domesticated animals and is suspected of having rabies; (3) makes additional changes throughout existing law that require a wolf-hybrid to be euthanized under the same circumstances other domesticated animals are quarantined; (4) requires animal control officers to apply, at the owners expense, to District or Superior Court for an immediate order to seize an animal when the owner fails to comply with a requirement to quarantine or euthanize the animal; (5) creates an authority for municipalities to place liens on the property belonging to the owners of animals that are not properly quarantined in order to recoup the municipal costs of enforcing the quarantine; (6) changes the requirement to vaccinate a cat against rabies from every two years to intervals recommended by a national association of state public health veterinarians; and (7) exempts the owner of a cat from the rabies vaccination requirement when a licensed veterinarian provides a written statement that the cat can not be vaccinated.

LD 2273 -- An Act to Amend the Animal Welfare Laws. Enacted (3/26/98); PL 1997, c. 690.

This Act makes several changes to the animal welfare laws. Of municipal interest, the Act: (1) amends the definition of breeding kennels to include cats; (2) expands the definition of dog to include wolf hybrids; (3) allows an animal control officer to take a dog running at large to an animal shelter (even when the owner is known) if the dog has been found running at large three or more times in a 6-month period; (4) amends provisions pertaining to euthanasia; (5) increases fines for violations pertaining to uncontrolled dogs; (6) removes the requirement that a dog wear a rabies tag; (7) removes the requirement that notices of violations of licensing provisions be sent by certified mail; (8) changes the amount of time a person has to remove an animal in violation of the trespass law from 6 to 12 hours; and (9) increases by five-fold the fines on municipal officials for noncompliance of animal control and welfare regulations.

LD 2286 -- An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Majority of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Regarding Enhancing Forest Resource Assessment. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 720.

This Act makes the following changes to the Forest Practices Act: (1) changes the definition of "clear cut" slightly so that a clearcut occurs if less than 30 square feet per acre of basal area is left on a harvest of 5 acres or more (current law) and the measurement of basal area includes all remaining trees of 4.5 inches diameter at breast height (dbh) (down from 6 inches dbh), removing the 1 inch dbh alternative; (2) requires that the separation zone between clear cuts is a minimum of 250 feet, and for clear cuts on parcels over 100 acres in size requires a clear identification of the separation zone with each clear cut and further specifies that there cannot be any sharing of separation zones among separate clear cuts; (3) provides the Department of Conservation with rule making authority to further develop standards regarding clear cuts; (4) requires the development of forest management plans before clear cuts over 35 acres are begun (down from the current 50-acre threshold); (5) requires from the Director of the Maine Forest Service an annual report on clearcutting; and (6) establishes a forest resource assessment program to be administered by the Director of the Maine Forest Service. The program entails the formation of a number of working groups to gather information and establish standards of assessment regarding ongoing forestry practices as they affect water quality, timber supply, the aesthetic impacts of timber harvesting, biological diversity, public accountability and traditional recreation.

Appropriations

LD 1812 -- New title: An Act to Authorize Department of Transportation Bond Issues in the Amount of $36,985,000 to Match Available Federal funds for Improvements to Municipal and State Roads, Airports, State Ferry Vessels and Terminals, Transit Facilities and Equipment and Rail and Marine Facilities. Enacted; P&SL 1997, c. 82.

This Act will place before the voters in November, 1998, a proposed transportation bond issue with a principal cost of nearly $37 million. $22.5 million of that amount will be borne by the General Fund, and the remaining $14.5 million will be borne by the Highway Fund. The total bond package is expected to leverage over $60 million in matching federal funds. The General Fund portion of the bond will provide funds for improvements to the state’s airports, marine facilities, ferry vessels, ferry terminals, rail and transit facilities. The Highway Fund portion of the bond will provide $4.7 million for DOT highway improvements and $9.75 million to cover half the costs of FY 99’s $20 million Local Road Assistance Program.

LD 1950 -- An Act to Make Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government and Changes to Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 1998 and June 30, 1999. Enacted (3/31/98); PL 1997, c. 643.

This Act is the supplemental budget, which adjusts the state’s biennial (FY 98-FY 99) budget that was enacted in March, 1997.

There are times when the supplemental budget is a routine and relatively non-controversial adjustment of the two-year spending package. This year, because of the dramatic increases in state revenues that were reprojected in December of 1997, and because of the citizens’ tax relief expectations that were initiated with the creation of dedicated tax relief funds during the first legislative session, there was nothing either routine or non-controversial with regard to this supplemental budget. In fact, the supplemental budget became the vehicle for nearly all the spending and tax relief priorities of the 118th Legislature and Governor King.

The components of the supplemental budget of particular municipal interest are:

Tax Relief. As the supplemental budget was in the final stages of being enacted, the tax relief legislation that was also working its way towards enactment was moved into the budget bill. That tax relief package represents a two-pronged approach.

First, the supplemental budget contains the law that will increase the personal exemption under Maine’s income tax law (currently $2,100) to $2,400 for the income tax year beginning on January 1, 1998. An additional increase in the personal exemption to $2,750 would kick in for the income tax year beginning on January 1, 1999. At the $2,750 level, the state’s personal exemption will conform to the federal personal exemption. This approach to income tax relief is projected to reduce state revenues by $30 million in FY 99, $38.6 million in FY 2000, and $44 million in FY 2001.

The supplemental budget also includes the property tax homestead exemption, which is a property tax relief measure paralleled on the existing property tax exemption for veterans of war. Under this new exemption, beginning this year, a homestead owner’s assessment will be reduced for the purposes of taxation by $7,000 in value, as adjusted according to the municipality’s certified assessment ratio. The municipalities, in turn, are to be reimbursed by the state for 100% of the tax revenue lost. That reimbursement will be provided in two installments: 80% of the total estimated revenue loss will be reimbursed by August 15th, and the remaining 20% adjustment will be reimbursed by December 15th.

The Legislature appropriated $46 million for this property tax relief program for its first year. In addition, $715,000 was appropriated to cover the state’s 90% share of the local administration costs "mandated" by this homestead Act.

Finally, the tax relief package provides increased benefits to Maine’s renters under the so-called "Circuit Breaker" property tax and rent relief program. Under current law, 15% of a tenant’s annual rent obligation was deemed to be that tenant’s "rent constituting property taxes" for the purposes of determining the Circuit Breaker benefit. The tax relief package increased that formula so that 18% of the tenant’s annual rent will now be considered that applicant’s property tax obligation. This change is estimated to provide approximately $3 million in additional benefits to Maine’s low-income renters.

General Purpose Aid to Education. The supplemental budget will add over $16.6 million to the General Purpose Aid to Education (GPA) appropriation originally budgeted for FY 99. Before the supplemental budget, the GPA increase for FY 99 was slated to be 3% greater than the amount budgeted for FY 98. The FY 98 appropriation was $558 million, and the scheduled FY 99 appropriation was at a 3% increase, or $575 million. Because of the supplemental budget, the FY 99 GPA increase will now be 6%, increasing the FY 99 appropriation to over $591 million. Language has been added through the supplemental budget, however, to discount the additional 3% allocation when it comes to determining the base-level appropriation for the following fiscal year (FY 2000). In short, the additional $16.6 million is a one-time-only boost to GPA, and will not affect the GPA base in outlying fiscal years.

The budget bill also slightly modified the GPA distribution formula by tweaking the Regional Cost Adjustment (RCA) factor, which is often referred to as the "COLA". The Regional Cost Adjustment is an element of the GPA funding formula associated with the community’s income factor. In addition to a municipality’s mean income, the GPA funding formula takes into account the relative cost of living in the region. In practice, the cost adjustment factor was in some cases significantly dampening or overriding the intended effect of the income factor. LD 1950 corrects for that overcompensation by reducing the weight of the housing component of the calculation used to determine the RCA from 28% to 14% and adjusting the remaining components proportionately. LD 1950 also removes any penalizing aspect of the cost adjustment factor by providing that beginning in FY 99 no RCA can be less than 1.0.

The GPA "Pull". The supplemental budget appropriates $39 million to be issued as an extra GPA payment in June of 1998 to make up for the "push" of a one-month GPA payment in 1991 into the FY 1992 fiscal year. The primary purpose of this appropriation is to erase from the bottom line of the state’s annual audit a liability that appears every year because of the one-month payment "push" that occurred in 1991. For most school districts, the GPA "pull" means that instead of getting two GPA checks in July, 1998, one of those checks will come a week earlier, in June, 1998. Typically, school districts have budgeted to include the first GPA payment of a fiscal year in the previous year’s budget, so the GPA "pull" will have little or no effect on the preparation of the FY 99 budget. Because different school districts structure their accounting and budgeting practices differently, however, municipal officials will want to inquire as to the actual effect of this "pull" on a case-by-case basis.

School Renovation. The supplemental budget sets aside $20 million in FY 99 to go into a school renovations fund to provide a mix of grant and loan money to school units for the purposes of needed renovations to school facilities, particularly in the area of life safety, ADA and air quality concerns. This appropriation goes hand-in-hand with LD 2252, which is described under the Education section of this edition of the Maine Townsman.

Maine Criminal Justice Academy. The supplemental budget appropriates $10 million to pay for the renovation of the Oak Grove-Coburn school in Vassalboro to become the new Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Landfill closure. $3 million for the state share of municipal landfill closure costs was appropriated through the supplemental budget. This money was originally in the environmental bond proposal at $3.5 million, but was moved out of the bond package and into a General Fund appropriation, where it was reduced to $3 million. This money will be used to provide the state’s share of the landfill closure costs as the landfill closure program enters into its last year or two of existence.

Homeless Shelters. $500,000 of additional core funding for the state’s homeless shelters was in the supplemental budget, which doubles the typical annual appropriation for that purpose. Under a separate bill, an additional $100,000 was also appropriated for this program (see LD 2283 under the Health and Human Services section of this edition of the Maine Townsman).

5% Increase to TANF Benefits. The TANF program is the new name for the AFDC program, which provides financial support to low income families with children. The supplemental budget appropriates $380,000 for FY 99 for the purpose of increasing the TANF monthly cash benefit by 5%. The state appropriation is connected to an increased federal allocation for the same purpose of over $2.5 million.

SSI for Legal Immigrants. The supplemental budget booked $248,000 for FY 99 to provide Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to the legal immigrants in Maine who could have lost those benefits without state action as a result of federal welfare reform. A related piece of legislation provides eligible legal immigrants with Food Stamp benefits, which also could have been lost to them without state action (see LD 1199 under the Health and Human Services section of this edition of the Maine Townsman).

Lake Water Quality. The supplemental budget appropriates over $450,000 to restore a lake water quality assessment and protection program, administered by the Department of Environmental Protection, that was discontinued during the state’s difficult financial times of the early 1990’s. This funding could parallel and work in concert with another $500,000 for a very similar purpose that the statewide electorate will vote on as part of an environmental bond issue in June, 1998.

Other elements of the supplemental budget that are less directly related to municipal government, but serve to demonstrate the priorities of the 118th Legislature, are:

Rainy Day Fund. The state’s Rainy Day fund has been in existence about a decade and has, until recently, been grossly underfunded. This fund was created to protect the state in the circumstances of sharp declines in state revenue. Before the enactment of this supplemental budget, the maximum amount of money that could be deposited in the Rainy Day Fund was 4% of the total General Fund revenues received by the state in the previous fiscal year. At the 4% cap, as much as $75 million could have been set aside for a "rainy day", but before this legislative session began, only $44 million was actually in the Fund. The supplemental budget increased the maximum cap on the Rainy Day Fund to 5% of the state’s General Fund Revenues. At the 5% cap, as much as $96 could be deposited into the Fund before the maximum is reached. As a result of appropriations made this legislative session, there is now approximately $61 million in the Rainy Day Fund.

Juvenile Corrections. $36 million was supplementally appropriated for two major renovations that are designed to improve the state’s juvenile correction facilities. $18 million is designated for renovations to the Maine Youth Center in South Portland, and $18 million is designated for the correctional facility in Charleston to convert it to a juvenile correctional facility.

Highway Funds. The supplemental budget appropriates $12 million from the General Fund for highway and bridge work to be conducted by the Department of Transportation. This appropriation makes it possible for DOT to maximize federal matching dollars that were just recently made available for the DOT projects.

BETR Reimbursements. $5.2 million to fill a hole in the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement (BETR) account for FY 98 was appropriated in the supplemental budget. An even larger hole of $7.6 million for FY 99 was not appropriated by the Legislature. In the next biennial budget (FY 2000-2001), there is a projected $33 million hole in this account.

Scholarships. $4 million was appropriated to expand the Maine Student Incentive Scholarship Program, which will now be able to offer scholarships up to $1,000 (up from a $500 maximum) for Maine students who meet the standards of eligibility as established by the Finance Authority of Maine.

Economic Development. The supplemental budget appropriates $4 million to the University of Maine system to use in the development or implementation of the Economic Improvement Strategy. This appropriation works in concert with a $20 million bond issue for capital acquisitions associated with research and development projects in Maine (see LD 2205, below).

Straight Appropriation of Potential Bond Issues. At the final stages of enactment, the supplemental budget was expanded to provide straight appropriations of two items that were originally scheduled as bond issues. One of these straight appropriations was $3 million for the Land For Maine’s Future Program. The other was $2 million to assist in the conversion of the Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation to a digital broadcasting system.

Medicaid Payments to Providers. The supplemental budget increases payments to doctors and dentists under the Medicaid program to the tune of nearly $8 million in state money over this biennium, which matches twice as many federal dollars.

Mental Health/Mental Retardation Waiting Lists. The supplemental budget appropriates $4.5 million of state money to reduce the waiting lists for Mental Health and Mental Retardation agency services. The state appropriation leverages twice as much federal money for the same purpose.

Welfare-to-Work. The Department of Labor obtained $1 million of state money through the supplemental budget to increase its welfare-to-work job training programs. The appropriation matches twice as many federal dollars for that same purpose.

Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly. $2 million was appropriated in the supplemental budget so that the list of prescription drugs covered under the low-cost drug program for the elderly could be expanded.

LD 1995 An Act to Appropriate Funds for Library Resource Sharing and for Acquisitions for the Maine State Library. Enacted; P&SL 1997, c. 83.

As printed, this bill would have provided $1.2 million of state support for Maine’s public libraries and $200,000 to increase the Maine State Library’s acquisition budget. As finally enacted, the new law will only provide the $200,000 for the Maine State Library as one-time funding for the acquisition of books and other library resources.

LD 2205 -- An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue in the Amount of $20 Million to Stimulate the Maine Economy through Research and Development. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 718.

This bond issue, if ultimately approved by the voters in November, is designed to improve the state’s economy by beefing-up the state’s research and development efforts in the areas of biotechnology, aquaculture and marine sciences, information technology, advanced materials engineering, and advanced technologies for forestry and agriculture. The $20 million would be distributed as follows: $13.5 million would go to the University of Maine for capital improvements and equipment; $3 million would be allocated to the Marine Technology Fund (administered by the Maine Science and Technology Foundation) to provide matching grants to educational and nonprofit marine research institutions; $1.5 million would be allocated to the Research Challenge Grants Program (also administered by the Maine Science and Technology Foundation) to provide matching funds for all research institutions involved in the targeted technologies listed above; $2 million would be allocated to the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to pay a portion of the costs of designing and building the Gulf of Maine Aquarium Research Facility.

LD 2224 -- New title: An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue in the Amount of $7,000,000 to Construct Water Pollution Control Facilities; to Clean Up Tire Stockpiles; to Investigate, Abate, Clean Up and Mitigate Hazardous Substance Discharges; and to Make Drinking Water System Improvements. Enacted; P&SL 1997, c. 92.

This bond issue hit several snags on the way to enactment. As originally printed, it was a $16 million bond issue. As reported out of the Appropriations Committee, it dropped to a $12.5 million environmental bond issue. Unfortunately, because it was the last proposed bond issue taken up by the Legislature, this bond stumbled across the "90% rule" before it crossed the finish line. The unwritten "90% rule" suggests that in any biennium, the total amount of bond principal to be proposed to the voters should not exceed 90% of the bond principal retired during that same biennium. Because the environmental bond was the last bond proposal on the table, and because the aggregate bond proposals approved by the Legislature this biennium approach 100% of the retired bond debt rather than 90%, sufficient pressure was applied to even further reduce this bond issue to the $7,000,000 level.

As finally enacted, the bond proposal that goes before the voters in November, 1998 will ask them to approve:

t $3.35 million for water pollution control facilities (down from $6 million), which will leverage $10,000,000 in federal matching funds;

t $1.5 million for drinking water system improvements (down from $3 million), which will leverage over $7,000,000 in federal matching funds;

t $1.15 million for the abatement of hazardous substance discharges (down from $1.5 million);

t $1 million for tire pile abatement (down from $1.5 million); and

t Zero dollars for the watershed protection program (down from $500,000). It should be noted that voters will be asked to approve an environmental bond in June, 1998 which was approved by the Legislature in 1997. That bond proposal includes $500,000 for watershed protection purposes.

Business and Economic Development

LD 1922 -- An Act to Expand the Uses of the Economic Opportunity Fund. Emergency enacted 3/12/98; PL 1997, c. 590.

This Act reestablishes the authority of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to use dedicated revenue funds from the Economic Opportunity Program for grants to local and regional nonprofit organizations to foster economic growth activities, including economic conversion, which is coordinated at the regional and state levels. This authority, which used to exist, was repealed on July 1, 1996, and current law limits the granting of these funds to municipalities.

The Act limits this expansion of the use of the fund to FY 98 and FY 99, and limits the total amount that may be granted to nonprofit organizations to $100,000. Funds granted to regional non-profit organizations may only be used for the purposes allowed to municipalities. DECD plans to use the funds as the required match for a federal grant of $250,000 expected to be awarded for "mature" industries’ economic conversion efforts. Mature industries are those with a historical presence in Maine whose processes have not kept pace with technological advances and who struggle to remain competitive. The shoe-making industry would be an example.

LD 2198 -- An Act to Implement the Recommendations Relating to the Review of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation’s Office of the Commissioner, Office of the Consumer Credit Regulation and Office of Licensing and Registration under the State Government Evaluation Act. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 727.

This Act implements a series of recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Business and Economic Development regarding the laws governing the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Most of the recommendations have little or no impact on municipal government. One enacted change, however, moves the agency of responsibility for oversight of the internal plumbing code from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Professional Regulation. Enforcement actions for rule violations or municipal ordinance violations will be the joint responsibility of the Department and municipalities.

The Department of Professional Regulation plans to request an additional plumber position in the next budget cycle in order to be responsive to calls from municipal licensed plumbing inspectors concerning the internal plumbing code. In the meantime, one of two state plumbers normally in the field will remain at the Gardiner office to respond to calls. The Department also plans to undertake a much needed review of the internal plumbing code, last revised in the 1970s.

LD 2238 -- An Act to Create the Kennebec Regional Development Authority. Emergency enacted April 3, 1998, P&SL 1997, c. 79.

This Act authorizes the creation of the Kennebec Regional Development Authority, allowing initial participation by the towns and cities presently comprising the Kennebec Valley Economic Development District (the communities of Kennebec and Somerset Counties, and six municipalities of Waldo County). The Authority will be charged with the following: providing for the sharing of costs among municipalities for regional economic development needs; developing infrastructure for employment and economic development opportunities; and generally promoting and enabling economic development among its member municipalities.

The Authority will be governed by its general assembly. Each municipal member will have at least one appointee serving on the general assembly. Municipalities with a state valuation of at least 5% of the aggregate state valuation of all participating municipalities will have an additional appointee for each full 5% of the aggregate state valuation.

Through its general assembly, the Authority will be authorized to buy and sell property, enter into contracts, issue notes and general obligation bonds, buy and sell ownership interests in corporations, accept gifts, grants and services from federal state and private sources, lend money, etc.

With respect to issuing general obligation bonds, the general assembly will have to formally notify all participating municipalities upon ordering the issuance of the bonds. The decision of the general assembly will be final unless the general assembly receives a petition, signed by 10% of all the voters of the participating municipalities within 15 days, requesting that the bond issue be put to referendum.

The Authority will also be authorized to levy a tax among its member municipalities based on a budget developed and presented to the general electorate of the Authority at a budget meeting.

Criminal Justice

LD 65 -- An Act to Amend the Laws Regarding Reimbursement to the Counties for Community Corrections. Emergency enacted with mandate preamble 4/16/98; PL 1997, c. 753.

Currently, county jail revenues are subtracted from the jail’s total expenditures for the purpose of reducing the Department of Corrections reimbursement rate to the counties for housing state prisoners. As originally written, this bill would have prohibited the Department of Corrections from subtracting jail revenues for that purpose.

As enacted, the new law establishes the "County Jail Prisoner Support and Community Corrections Fund" to provide state funding for a portion of the counties’ Community Corrections costs. Beginning July 1 of this year, distributions from the Fund will be made to counties based on a percentage of actual funds reimbursed to counties in fiscal year 1996-1997. The reimbursement rates are:

Androscoggin 8.5%

Aroostook 6.6%

Cumberland 17.6%

Franklin 2.4%

Hancock 3.3%

Kennebec 6.9%

Knox 6.4%

Lincoln 3.7%

Oxford 4.7%

Penobscot 13.7%

Piscataquis 1.3%

Sagadahoc 2.7%

Somerset 5.5%

Waldo 3.7%

Washington 1.8%

York 11.2%

A county that experiences a 10% or greater increase in costs may request an increase in its reimbursement percentage. The request would be presented to the Legislature for action.

The Act also requires each county to submit a report to the Legislature annually, beginning January 15, 1999, describing community corrections programs and expenditures. The Legislature must review the County Jail Prisoner Support and Community Corrections Fund purpose and functions by July 1, 2001.

LD 753 -- An Act to Allow Police to Take Intoxicated persons into Custody. New title: An Act to Require Law Enforcement Agencies to Collect Data Regarding Public Intoxication. Emergency enacted with mandate preamble; PL 1997, c. 756.

This Act requires law enforcement officials to keep records of all incidents of public intoxication. As of April, 1998, monthly reports of public intoxication must be submitted to the Department of Public Safety detailing the number of cases, number of repeat cases, number of persons transported to a treatment facility, number of persons transported to their residence, and the number of persons left at the scene of the incident. The original bill proposed the establishment of a study group, convened by the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, to review and analyze the data reported by law enforcement agencies in the monthly reports of public intoxication. The enacted law has been stripped of the study group, leaving no statutory charge to analyze the data being reported.

LD 2027 -- An Act to Ensure Collection of Essential Data by the Department of Public Safety. Emergency enacted with mandate preamble 3/18/98; PL 1997, c. 608.

This Act requires that law enforcement agencies must update all entries made of missing juveniles within 60 days of original entry by adding medical and dental information.

The new law also requires those convicted of crimes against persons or property (murder, manslaughter, assault crimes, rape, sexual abuse crimes, kidnapping, burglary, arson, etc.) to submit to DNA sampling. Testing is to be performed at the commencement of the term of imprisonment, or at the commencement of the probation period if the sentence does not require immediate imprisonment. The DNA database and data bank will be located at the crime lab and State Police Headquarters in Augusta.

Education and Cultural Affairs

LD 1725 -- An Act to Authorize Interlocal Agreements for Construction and Operation of Public Education Fiber-optic Transmission Systems. New title: An Act to Authorize School Administrative Units to Enter into Multi-year Agreements for Telecommunications Services. Enacted (3/31/98); PL 1997, c. 664.

This Act authorizes school administrative districts to enter into service agreements for not more than 10 years with private entities, such as telecommunications service providers, to purchase telecommunication services for educational purposes, and to enter into interlocal agreements in accordance with interlocal agreement law in Title 30-A MRSA. For the purpose of providing legal and tax exempt status to these interlocal entities, the new law: (1) requires the interlocal entity to create an appointed or elected board that is representative of the school units and municipalities involved in the agreement; (2) authorizes the interlocal entity to purchase telecommunications services and to acquire, purchase, lease or lease-purchase equipment on behalf of the residents of a school district or municipality; and (3) exempts all purchases from taxation.

LD 2044 -- An Act to Promote Access to Public Higher Education. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 758.

This Act allows qualified high school students to receive a state subsidy for up to 3 credit hours per semester in courses taught through the University of Maine System, the Maine Technical College System and the Maine Maritime Academy. The Department of Education is required to pay for 50% of the tuition, while a General Fund appropriation of $75,000 in FY 99 will subsidize the remaining cost for 250 high school students per semester interested in taking college level courses.

LD 2048 -- An Act to Ensure Equitable School Funding. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 724.

As printed, this bill provided a property tax homestead exemption of $10,000 applied to the portion of the property tax assessment attributable to education costs. The bill also required the state to fund 51% of the costs of essential education services as defined by the Legislature.

As enacted, the new law merely removes the 5% cap on year-to-year increases of General Purpose Aid to Education (GPA). The Commissioner of the Department of Education is generally required to recommend no less than the previous year’s GPA appropriation, but the top limit of a 5% increase has been removed.

LD 2142 -- An Act To Establish More Authority to Remove Violent Students from Educational Settings. New title: Resolve, to Establish the Commission to Study Providing Educators with More Authority to Remove Violent Students from Educational Settings. Passed; Resolves 1997, c. 119.

This Resolve establishes the Commission to Study Providing Educators with More Authority to Remove Violent Students from Educational Settings. This Commission will study the establishment and effectiveness of district-wide school disciplinary policies and practices throughout the State and develop a plan to address the growing concerns of violence in the public schools.

LD 2252 -- An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on School Facilities. Emergency enacted 4/16/98; PL 1997, c. 787.

This Act provides for the implementation of recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on School Facilities. The Act does the following:

t Establishes a debt service factor that permits schools that accept tuition students to charge an additional fee to help cover the cost of school construction or renovation;

t Establishes the Maine School Facilities Finance Program within the Maine Municipal Bond Bank to provide capital financing for construction, renovation and maintenance of school facilities and the leasing and purchase of needed equipment and school facilities;

t Establishes the School Revolving Renovation Fund within the Maine School Facilities Finance Program to provide loans to school administrative units for health, safety and compliance repairs, as well as for limited non-emergency repairs, upgrades of learning spaces and small-scale capital improvements;

t Provides for interest-free loans and loan forgiveness for eligible school administrative units;

t Revises the terms of compensation for lease costs of school facilities by phasing out over a five year period (unless the Board of Education grants an exemption) the amount of leased space that will be used to calculate the local share of debt service;

t Requires that school administrative units establish maintenance and capital improvement programs for all school facilities; and

t Provides $425,000 for software for Maine schools to establish maintenance and capital improvement plans and an electronic inventory of school facilities.

$20 million was appropriated through the supplemental budget (LD 1950) for the purposes of financially implementing the Maine School Finance Program which provides qualifying school districts and municipalities access to a combined 30% to 70% grant and no interest loan to fund the cost of renovations and/or minor construction projects. Projects qualifying for first priority funding include roof repairs or replacements; renovations supporting ADA compliance; improvements to air quality; removal of asbestos and the removal of underground oil storage tanks. Projects qualifying for second level priority funding are those projects not directly related to health, safety or compliance issues but are still "deemed" necessary such as repairs to windows, doors and water/septic systems. Third priority level projects (which will be funded by a 20% to 50% grant/no interest loan formula) include upgrades to learning space and small-scale capital improvements.

Health and Human Services

LD 1199 -- An Act to Ensure Adequate Nutrition and Support for Low-income Legal Immigrants. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 731.

As a result of federal welfare reform, many immigrants who are legally residing in the United States could lose their eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and federal Food Stamps. As printed, this bill would have provided state assistance to aged, blind and disabled legal immigrants who would lose access to SSI, and food assistance to low-income legal immigrants who are no longer eligible for Food Stamps. The state-provided SSI benefits were funded through the supplemental budget (LD 1950). This Act appropriates $ 280,000 to fund a Food Stamp program for legal immigrants for FY 99.

LD 1302 -- An Act to Amend the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program. New title: An Act to Amend the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. Enacted (3/26/98); PL 1997, c. 695.

This Act authorizes the Department of Human Services to continue Maine’s TANF program, using money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant funds that replace the federal AFDC program in the United States Social Security Act. It further establishes that in Maine there will be no time limit on receipt of TANF benefits and that victims of domestic violence who would have difficulty participating in ASPIRE-JOBS are exempt from such participation. This Act also places into state law the due process and fairness protections that are currently part of the TANF program, but have been repealed from federal law.

LD 1996 -- An Act to Grant the Legislature Additional Oversight of Medicaid Funds Used by the Department of Human Services for Educational Services. New title: Requiring a Report on the Provision of Medicaid Services. Passed; Resolves 1997, c. 123.

This Resolve requires the Department of Human Services to submit a report to the Legislature on January 1, 1999 outlining Medicaid services provided in or by school administrative units, state intermediate educational units and the Child Development Services System. Medicaid reimbursement for selected educational services can assist school districts financially.

LD 2005 -- An Act to Conform Maine’s Safe Drinking Water Laws with the 1996 Amendments of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Enacted (3/25/98); PL 1997, c. 705.

This Act:

t Authorizes the Commissioner of Human Services to require that all new community water systems and new non-transient non-community systems in operation after October 1, 1999 demonstrate technical, managerial and financial capacity to conform to the Maine’s primary drinking water regulations.

t Enables the Commissioner to issue a variance to a system that does not comply with a state primary drinking water regulation only if public health is not at risk, no other alternative sources of water are available to the system, and on the condition that the system install the best technology or treatment system available.

t Authorizes the Commissioner to grant a variance for noncompliance with containment level or treatment technique to public water systems serving less than 3,300 people. With EPA approval, a variance for systems serving between 3,300 and 10,000 people can be granted.

t Expands the allowable exemptions from Maine’s primary drinking water regulations to include: (1) exemption from the requirement to develop an alternative source of water supply in a "disadvantaged community", and (2) exemption from management or restructuring changes that can not be reasonably made to improve the quality of drinking water.

t Changes the penalty for noncompliance to Maine’s primary drinking water regulations for systems servicing more that 10,000 people from a maximum penalty of $750 to a minimum penalty of $1,000.

t Authorizes the Commissioner through rulemaking to implement a water source quality assessment program to comply with state and federal laws.

t Extends loan availability to eligible municipalities to buy or refinance bonds or notes for the purpose of financing construction on any capital improvement required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Loans will be made available based on a priority list developed by the Department of Human Services.

LD 2137 -- An Act to Address the Crisis in Access to Dental Care for Low-income Children. Emergency enacted 4/2/98; PL 1997, c. 667.

This Act requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to establish a toll-free telephone referral system for children’s dental services under the Medicaid program. This law also requires DHS to annually submit a report to the Legislature detailing the progress DHS has made to ensure that children enrolled in the Medicaid program have the same level of access to dental care as those children enrolled in a private dental insurance program.

LD 2225 -- An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Maine Commission on Children’s Health Care. Emergency enacted 4/16/98; PL 1997, c. 777.

In two steps, this Act expands the level of Medicaid coverage for Maine children. First, Medicaid health care coverage will be made available to children over one year in age and under 19 years of age whose family income is less than 150% of the federal poverty level. Second, a "Cub Care" program will be created to provide a premium-paid level of health care coverage for children of that same age bracket whose family income is less than 185% of the federal poverty level. A General Fund appropriation of $3.38 million in FY 99 will leverage $10.7 million in matching Medicaid funds. This total $14 million state-federal appropriation/allocation will provide health care coverage for 13,300 additional children.

LD 2276 -- An Act to Provide Funding for Law Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services Personnel. Enacted; P&SL 1997, c. 94.

This Act provides the Department of Public Safety with a one-time appropriation of $25,000 to develop a training program for law enforcement and emergency medical services personnel. The training program must cover sudden infant death syndrome, critical incident stress management and interpersonal skills dealing with notification of death or serious injury.

LD 2283 -- An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Interagency Task Force on Homelessness and Housing Opportunities. Enacted; P&SL 1997, c. 86.

The printed bill sought to implement the recommendation of the Interagency Task Force on Homelessness and Housing Opportunities by increasing funding for the Shelter Operating Subsidy Fund (S.O.S.), which provides core funding for the state’s homeless shelters and is administered by the Maine State Housing Authority . Current appropriations for this fund are $500,000 annually. Under the printed bill, the annual appropriation would be increased by $2.65 million annually, to a total appropriation of $3.15 million.

The Legislature addressed LD 2283 in two separate appropriations. The supplemental budget (LD 1950) appropriated an additional $500,000 for the S.O.S. Program. In addition to the funding provided through the supplemental budget, LD 2283 was enacted to provide an additional $100,000 for that purpose. Therefore, the Shelter Operating Subsidy Program has moved from its original FY 99 appropriation of $500,000 to a total of $1,100,000.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

LD 1730 -- An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Great Ponds Task Force. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 739.

On the state's side, this Act:

t Prohibits the use of personal watercraft on four categories of great ponds with the following characteristics: 1) great ponds within LURC (Land Use Regulatory Commission) jurisdiction; 2) great ponds generally not accessible by two wheel drive vehicles; 3) great ponds that have less than one developed unit per shoreland mile; and 4) great ponds with at least one outstanding resource value such as fisheries, wildlife and/or scenic/shore character.

t Extends the state’s authority to develop rules regulating the horsepower of motors allowed on Maine’s great ponds to include rule-making authority over use, operation and type of watercraft.

The second stage of the process would consist of the Commissioner then submitting to the Legislature a report on the recommendations received from the municipalities and accompany the report with legislation to implement the municipal recommendations supported by the Commissioner. The municipal regulation would only become enforceable if ultimately adopted or ratified by the Legislature.

t Requires persons operating personal watercraft to be at least 16 years of age.

t Establishes a 10 horsepower limit on motorboats permitted on two great ponds in Acadia National Parks area: Upper Hadlock Pond and Lower Hadlock Pond, and further prohibits the use of motorized boats on Witch Hole Pond, Aunt Betty’s Pond, Bubble Pond, Round Pond, and Lake Wood.

t Requires the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to ensure that all persons renting motorboats are certified and are promoting motorboat safety. This provision exempts from the certification process those property owners who offer renters the use of their registered personal watercraft as part of a summer cottage rental agreement.

t Provides lake associations not receiving any remuneration from the state with immunity from liability when placing navigational aid markers in great ponds.

t Restricts the use of motorboats and personal watercraft from operation within a 400-foot radius of a water utility or municipal drinking water intake pipe.

t Sets a 78-decibel maximum noise level at a distance of 50 feet from the operating watercraft on airmobile and motorboats.

t Requires the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission, LURC and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to submit to the Legislature in January, 1999 three reports addressing: 1) the use of personal watercraft on great ponds within LURC jurisdiction; 2) agency authority to regulate surface water use; and 3) recommendations for a program of motorboat operation education and safety.

On the municipal side, this Act:

t Creates a two-tiered process for municipalities interested in developing ordinances to govern watercraft use on great ponds. First, after being approved by the local legislative body, an interested municipality would submit its recommendations for regulating the use, operation and type of watercraft on great ponds within the municipality’s jurisdiction to the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, along with an implementation and enforcement plan of the proposed ordinance. The regulation proposed by the municipality would not be enforceable at this stage in the process.

In its printed form, LD 1730 also restored a lake water quality and assessment program administered by the Department of Environmental Protection. That component of LD 1730 was split off from the bill and was ultimately enacted as part of the supplemental budget bill (LD 1950).

Judiciary

LD 1913 -- An Act to Clarify the Confidentiality of Public Employee Information. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 770.

This Act clarifies the issue of confidentiality relating to public employee discipline cases that arose in the context of a 1997 state court decision, Doe v. Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, 1997 Me. 195, A.2d 422. The new law clarifies existing Right-to-Know law by affirming that all preliminary documents regarding discipline against a governmental employee are confidential, but the final written decision prepared by the governmental entity regarding the disciplinary action is a public record provided it imposes or upholds employee discipline. This Act goes further to deal expressly with the circumstance of that decision by the governmental entity being appealed to an arbitrator. Under this new law, if the final decision of an arbitrator completely overturns the disciplinary decision or removes the disciplinary action from the employee’s personnel file, the final written decision is still public except the name of the employee must be deleted from the final written decision and kept confidential, unless the employee publicly discloses that he or she is the subject of the final written decision.

Labor

LD 1454 -- An Act to Amend the Prevailing Wage Laws. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 757.

Prior to this Act, workers employed in the construction of public works contracted by the state had to be paid at least the prevailing hourly rate of wages paid for work of a similar nature in the state. This Act requires that these workers additionally be given at least the prevailing rate of benefits given for similar work performed in the state. Because the prevailing wage provisions in the statutes only apply to state contracts, there is no application to wages or benefits in municipal public works projects.

LD 1955 -- An Act to Restore the Normal Retirement Age for State Employees and Teachers. New title: An Act to Amend the Health Insurance Benefits of State Employees and Teachers Who Retire or Terminate Service. Enacted: PL 1997, c. 652.

As enacted, this law allows employees who have 25 years of creditable service under the Maine State Retirement System who terminate employment but do not retire to continue their health insurance coverage or to restore state health insurance upon retirement. In order to continue the coverage, a terminating employee must pay the cost of coverage plus the cost incurred by the state in administering coverage under the plan. If coverage has not been continued, an otherwise qualified employee may make a one-time election to rejoin the plan at retirement, however, coverage will be subject to preexisting-condition exclusions.

Teachers may make the same type of continuation or restoration of group accident and sickness and health insurance in association with retirement, or if they become members of the Maine Legislature. When school units change plans, terminated teachers must be transferred to the new plan.

LD 2125 -- An Act to Improve Public Sector Labor Relations. Enacted with mandate preamble; PL 1997, c. 773.

This Act requires the continuation of the grievance arbitration provisions of expired public employee contracts that pertain to disciplinary action remain in effect until the parties execute a new contract. Employee positions that deal with development and implementation of policy and prisoners who are in work release programs are exempt from this change.

The mandate in this Act is created because public employers will have to engage in grievance arbitration in certain stalled-contract circumstances. Absent the change of this Act, public employees would take grievance issues directly to the Labor Relations Board during the period when no contract is in force.

LD 2146 -- An Act to Amend the Laws Concerning Participating Local Districts in the Maine State Retirement System. Enacted: PL 1997, c. 709.

This Act establishes guidelines and procedures consistent with federal law for unionized employees of participating local district to elect not to participate in the Maine State Retirement System (MSRS). Prior to its enactment, non-union employees could choose to opt out of the Retirement System, but union employees could not. MSRS and the Social Security system provide "defined benefit" plans that pay an annuitized benefit through the retirement years. This Act allows union employees to participate in "defined contribution" plans that may or may not pay through a retirement annuity. The defined contribution plan offered by the employer must meet the following criteria in order to be substituted for MSRS or Social Security participation: (1) the plan must meet U.S. Internal Revenue Code requirements for defined contribution plans or deferred compensation plans; (2) the employer must contribute at the same level as would be required for Social Security; (3) the employee must contribute at the same level as those participating in the MSRS; (4) employers must provide educational programs concerning the plan options; (5) the plan must provide a disability benefit, at the cost of the employer; and (6) the employer may change or terminate the plan, but current employees must be allowed a choice to be covered under the new plan.

LD 2230 -- An Act to Implement the Majority Report Recommendations of the Commission to Study the Unemployment Compensation System. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 745.

The original bill recommended replacing the existing experience rating system for employers with an "array contribution" system. The Act does not implement a new contribution system, but requires further study.

The Department of Labor must report to the Legislature by January 1, 1999 on the recommendations and proposed legislation of the department for ensuring the long-term solvency of the Unemployment Compensation Fund, otherwise known as the "solvency plan." The solvency plan should provide for reserves adequate to fund benefits consistent with the historical analysis and future projections necessary to provide long-term solvency. In developing the solvency plan, the department is directed to consider: equitable tax structures that include the array system, adjustments to the taxable wage base, a recommended solvency reserve target amount, a schedule of implementation, alternate revenue sources, benefit structures, and the administration of the Unemployment Compensation Fund.

Legal and Veterans Affairs

LD 1915 -- An Act to Amend the Law Governing the Filing of Municipal Campaign Reports. Enacted (2/17/98); PL 1997, c. 567.

Under current law, a political action committee involved with municipal referenda campaigns can file copies of their reports with the municipal clerks. This Act requires them to file the actual reports.

LD 1917 -- An Act to Amend the Election Laws. Enacted (2/19/98); PL 1997, c. 581.

This Act changes the laws governing the filing of petitions by: (1) clarifying that the petition form for organization of a new party must be approved by the Secretary of State and printed by the voters proposing to form the new party; (2) changing "working" days to "business" days, which is a term defined in law; (3) changing the time for the initial review of an application for a citizen’s initiative or people’s veto referendum from 15 working days to 10 business days, and clarifying that the Secretary of State must either reject the application or respond to the applicant with a revised draft of the legislation within that time; (4) providing for an additional 10 business days for the Secretary of State to review each change or subsequent draft of a citizen’s initiative and respond to the applicant with a revised draft or suggested revisions to the draft within that time (once the applicant has approved the final language of the proposed legislation, the Secretary of State has 10 business days to provide the ballot question to the applicant); (5) clarifying that referendum questions may be printed on a state candidate election ballot or municipal election ballot if approved by the Secretary of State; and (6) establishing the order of questions on a ballot to include a carry-over measure from a previous election, such as a competing measure or citizen initiative that did not receive the majority of votes required to be enacted.

LD 2028 -- An Act to Clarify the Authority of the Chief of the Bureau of Liquor Enforcement to Conduct Appeal Hearings. Enacted (2/19/98); PL 1997, c. 571.

This Act establishes an authority with the Chief of the Bureau of Liquor Enforcement to conduct hearings or appoint a hearings officer to conduct hearings from appeals regarding licensing decisions by municipal officers. Under current law, the Bureau has to appoint a hearings officer for that purpose.

LD 2082 -- An Act to Improve the Integrity of the Citizen Initiative Process. Enacted (3/25/98); PL 1997, c. 637.

This Act changes the time period for submission to the Secretary of State of a direct citizens’ initiative, and the validity of the application for a direct citizens’ initiative, from 3 years to one year, to correspond to the time for validity of petition signatures set forth in the Maine Constitution.

LD 2091 -- An Act Providing for Additional Elections for Ties for School Board Membership. New title: An Act Providing for Additional Meetings in the Event of a Tie Vote at Town Meetings. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 733.

This Act adds language to Title 30-A MRSA, Section 2528(10) extending the circumstances under which municipalities are authorized to hold run-off elections in the event of a tie in a school or municipal board election. Prior to the enactment of this law, a run-off election could be held only when the tie was discovered prior to final adjournment of the annual meeting and the meeting was adjourned to a "day certain". With this change a municipality is authorized to hold a run-off election when: (1) a tie vote is discovered through the recount process after the adjournment of the annual meeting; or (2) a tie vote is discovered prior to adjournment and the meeting is improperly adjourned "sine die."

Marine Resources

LD 2127 -- An Act to Amend the Nonresident Municipal Shellfish License Fee. Enacted (3/4/98); PL 1997, c. 589 (effective date of this Act is January 1, 1999)

Under this Act, if a shellfish conservation ordinance charges $200 or less for a resident license, the fee for a nonresident license may not exceed twice the resident fee. If the ordinance charges more than $200 for a resident license, the fee for a nonresident license may not exceed 1 1/2 times the resident fee.

Natural Resources

(NOTE: Throughout this section, DEP will be used to refer to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection).

LD 1836 -- An Act to Facilitate Delegation of the Federal Waste Discharge Permitting Program. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 794.

This Act facilitates the delegation of wastewater licensing from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to DEP. Delegation means that the DEP will gain authority to administer the federal program and the need for federal permits will be eliminated in favor of a single state-issued license. The fee structure for post-delegation wastewater discharge equals the sum of a base fee (fixed rate for groups representing the most significant discharge), plus a discharge rate in which pollutants are evaluated separately, plus adjustments (for dilution factor, or fixed fee for each point source in same license).

The Act provides for DEP accountability and a phased-in approach to the new fees. DEP will have to report to the Legislature by January 1, 2001 concerning the effectiveness of the program and recommendations for adjustments. Six of the eight new DEP staff members needed to operate the delegation program will be hired in the first year, and the remaining two in the second year, with the license fee increases following the same step pattern. The Act requires the DEP to seek alternate funding sources, such as grants, before implementing the second phase of license fees.

LD 1918 -- An Act to Clarify the Definition of Functionally Water-Dependent Use as it Pertains to the Shoreland Zone. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 726.

This Act amends the mandatory shoreland zoning laws to specifically exclude recreational boathouses from the definition of "functionally water-dependent uses", and to specifically include retaining walls. The Act provides that the exclusion of recreational boat storage buildings from the definition of functionally water-dependent uses is deemed to be incorporated into each municipal shoreland zoning ordinance.

LD 1972 -- An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Interagency Committee on Outdoor Trash Burning. Enacted, PL 1997, c. 672

This Act is a response to the recommendations of an interagency committee on outdoor trash burning. The new law requires those who issue permits for outdoor burning under 12 MRSA 9321-A to consider the public health risk from toxic chemicals in the smoke plume and the practicality of locating the incinerator at lest 300 feet from any abutting property boundary and at least 150 feet from any residential dwelling. However, the setback criteria may not be used as the basis for a permit denial.

The Act also allows the State Planning Office, when allocating resources for technical and financial assistance for waste reduction and recycling programs, to give preference to municipalities that provide a municipal trash collection service or that prohibit residential outdoor trash burning.

LD 2092 -- An Act to Clarify Certain Laws Pertaining to the Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Land and Water Quality. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 603.

The housekeeping provisions that constitute this Act make a variety of technical changes to environmental protection laws, including:

Gravel deposits may be part of a coastal sand dune system;

When a municipality has a "capacity" exemption from the site law, the municipality’s delegated authority to review developments will be suspended for the purposes of site review that can be managed under the capacity exemption. (The capacity exemption provides a less burdensome process for municipalities than that of delegation);

Clarifies the definition of subdivision in the state’s site location of development law to provide that a subdivision is either the division of a parcel of land into five or more lots on more than 20 acres or the division of a parcel of land into 15 or more lots on more than 30 acres if all lots are for single-family residential housing, common areas or open space;

Adds split firewood to the definition of "roundwood" and;

Establishes new criteria for excavation and extraction in medium borrow pits. For medium borrow pits that were not licensed on October 1, 1993, and on which gravel had been extracted to a level less than five feet above, at or below the seasonal high water table, the owner may not further excavate in areas where gravel had been extracted to a level less than five feet above, at or below the seasonal high water table unless a variance is granted by DEP. The medium borrow pit owner may reclaim as a pond the area on which gravel had been extracted to a level at or below the seasonal high water table.

LD 2095 -- An Act to Clarify Certain Laws Pertaining to the Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 624.

This Act makes a series of changes to the environmental protection laws with regard to solid waste management. Among the changes affecting municipal government, the new law:

extends for an additional two-year period a requirement that DEP staff keep daily logs of their licensing and solid waste management activities in order to demonstrate the relationship between license fees paid and licensing services returned to various solid waste landfill ownership entities;

stipulates that failure to pay a solid waste disposal facility annual licensing fee within 30 days of the due date may result in modification, revocation, or suspension of the license;

requires that oil tanks be replaced when the manufacturer’s warranty expires;

holds responsible parties "jointly and severally" liable for damages for injury or loss, loss of use of natural resources, and the costs of assessing natural resources damage;

clarifies the definitions of "lead determination," "lead hazard," "lead inspection," and "lead inspector" and removes interim controls from the definition of lead-based paint activities;

requires the DEP to hold an adjudicatory public hearing on an application for a new or expanded landfill;

provides automatic intervenor status to property owners abutting proposed landfills; and

clarifies that municipal assistance intervenor grants are available to municipal intervenors in the case of solid waste landfill expansions as well as initial solid waste landfill applications.

LD 2105 -- An Act to Reduce Groundwater Contamination from Leaking Oil Storage Tanks. Emergency enacted 3/23/98; PL 1997, c. 613.

Through this Act, the DEP hopes to prevent leaks and spills from aboveground oil storage facilities in order to reduce the amount of remediation necessary. The Act accomplishes the following:

It clarifies the authority of the Finance Authority of Maine to make loans and grants to upgrade the condition of above-ground oil storage tanks;

It authorizes expenditures from the Ground Water Oil Clean-up Fund to prevent accidental discharges from above-ground oil storage tanks;

It requires the DEP Commissioner to seek reimbursement of such expenditures; and

It requires the Fund Insurance Review Board to report to the Legislature on the general condition of storage tanks in Maine, the amount of money disbursed for retrofit, repair, or replacement, and recommendations for further disbursements.

LD 2223 -- An Act to Reduce Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles and to Meet Requirements of the Federal Clean Air Act. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 786.

This Act establishes a statewide diesel emissions testing program and expands the motor vehicle inspection program to meet the federal Clean Air Act requirement for a vehicle emission control inspection and maintenance program. The new inspection and maintenance program constitutes a minimum required to satisfy the Clean Air Act and protect Maine from sanctions that could jeopardize federal funding for highway projects or permitting for industrial expansions. The two new inspection programs are as follows:

(1) l Cumberland County only, automobile inspection:

l For vehicles manufactured in 1974 and later, fuel tank caps will be pressure tested.

l For vehicles manufactured in 1996 and later, on board diagnostic systems will be checked.

l From January 1, 1999 through December 31, 1999, the fee for the enhanced Cumberland County inspection will be $9.50.

l Beginning January 1,2000, the enhanced inspection fee will remain $9.50 for vehicles manufactured before 1996, and will increase to $12.50 for vehicles manufactured in 1996 or later.

(2) l Statewide diesel inspection program administered by DEP in cooperation with the Department of Public Safety:

l Only diesel-powered motor vehicles identified by inspectors as potential violators of the emission opacity standards will be tested.

l Program will apply to diesel-powered motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds and that are used in commerce.

l Farm trucks registered as such are exempt.

l Opacity standards will be no more stringent than those applied in the other New England states.

l Operators of diesel-powered vehicles that violate the emission standards will not be fined, but instead will be provided with educational materials regarding the environmental and other benefits of a compliant vehicle.

The Act makes it illegal to operate a gasoline-powered motor vehicle that emits visible smoke, other than water vapor, for longer than five seconds at a time. The penalty for blowing smoke is not to exceed $100 and only one ticket may be issued to a vehicle in a 24-hour period.

DEP and the Department of Public Safety are required to evaluate the enhanced inspection program and report to the Legislature by January 1, 2000 with findings and recommendations for expanding the program.

LD 2233 -- Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Chapter 231: Rules Relating to Drinking Water, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Human Services. Emergency passed 4/3/98; R 1997, c. 114.

This Resolve records the Legislature’s position on final adoption of a "major substantive rule" in accordance with the Maine Administrative Procedures Act.

The Natural Resources Committee reviewed the draft rules, adopted by the Department of Human Services, to consider the issue of drinking water contamination by methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), an ingredient in reformulated gasoline. The Resolve authorizes final adoption of the rule with a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 35 parts per billion for MTBE in drinking water. The Resolve also requires the Department of Human Services to monitor issues relating to MTBE contamination of drinking water and report to the Legislature by January 1, 2000 with a recommendation on whether to retain or reduce the MCL for MBTE. The Resolve authorizes the Natural Resources Committee to report out legislation concerning drinking water MBTE contamination.

LD 2247 -- An Act Relating to Dam Abandonment. Emergency enacted 4/16/98; PL 1997, c. 789.

This Act provides the opportunity for municipalities considering taking over abandoned dams to petition the DEP for a 180-day extension of time to complete their review of and arrangements for a takeover. The Act authorizes, to the extent existing resources may be available, the State Planning Office to provide technical assistance to the participating municipalities seeking ownership of a dam.

LD 2265 -- An Act to Reduce Nonpoint Source Pollution from Existing Sources. New title: An Act to Reduce Nonpoint Source Pollution from Existing Sources, Amend the Shoreland Zoning Laws and Amend the Site Location of Development Laws. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 748.

This Act:

Ungrandfathers" erosion and sedimentation problems that were caused before July 1, 1997. Prior to enactment, mitigation for erosion or sedimentation problems was mandated only for newly undertaken activities after July 1, 1997. Under the new law, owners of property subject to erosion because of "human activity" will have to take and maintain stabilization measures to prevent unreasonable erosion and sedimentation. This provision is effective for property located in the watershed of an at-risk body of water after July 1, 2005, and after July 1, 2010 for property subject to erosion or sedimentation into any protected natural resource.

Enacts an alternative set of rules governing the expansion of structures in the shoreland zone that do not meet the water set back requirement. The existing expansion rule provides for a maximum 30% expansion of the nonconforming structure’s square footage or structural volume; that is, the expansion is tied to the original size of the nonconforming structure. The new shoreland zone alternative allows municipalities to adopt an ordinance that permits the expansion of principal and accessory structures under a regime of maximum aggregate structural square footage allowances. Within the first 75’ setback, the maximum aggregate structural allowance will be 1,000 square feet. Within the 100’ setback, the maximum aggregate structural allowance will be 1,500 square feet. A special expansion allowance can be granted if the property owner creates and maintains a 50’ buffer strip of vegetation along the shoreline. In such cases, the maximum aggregate structural square footage allowance will increase by 500 square feet (to 1,500 square feet within 75’ of the shoreline, and 2,000 square feet within 100’ of the shoreline, the "bonus" expansion). A written plan to implement measures to mitigate nonpoint source pollution must also be approved by the planning board for certain expansions. The buffer requirement will require some planning board interpretation, as well as local enforcement.

Amends the site location of development laws to exempt certain development on former military basis from the traffic threshold that triggers review of that development. The exemption is for development that reuses buildings and associated facilities on the former military base in existence on September 29, 1995. This exemption solves a problem encountered by the Loring Development Authority.

LD 2269 -- An Act to Reduce Mercury Use and Emissions. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 722.

This Act addresses the presence of mercury in Maine’s environment by targeting mercury discharges for reduction efforts. Over the next six years, the statutory provision that allows the HoltraChem Company in Orrington to discharge mercury in connection with its industrial process will be phased out. New standardized testing protocols that clearly define emissions limitations are intended to strengthen the mercury reduction program. Under the new standards, air emission sources may not emit more than 100 pounds of mercury per year after January 1, 2000 and 50 pounds per year after January 1, 2004.

The newly enacted emissions standards will not apply to resource recovery facilities regulated under the Board of Environmental Protection’s Chapter 121 rules until December 19, 2000 and source reduction will be targeted as a means of minimizing impact on municipal waste incinerator facilities. The law directs the Land and Water Resources Council to submit a report and proposal for legislation for source reduction measures such as labeling mercury-added products, setting fees on the sale of mercury-added products, and recycling. The DEP is required to submit a report on testing protocols and evaluations of current discharges.

State and Local Government

LD 1204 -- An Act to Establish the Maine Disaster Relief. Enacted (3/13/98); PL 1997, c. 600.

This Act allows disaster relief workers who are state or municipal employees to leave work for up to 15 days each year when asked by the American Red Cross to respond to a formally-declared disaster. For municipal employees, the Act requires the approval of either the municipal legislative body or the municipal officers. If permission is granted, the employee can be granted the leave without loss of pay or benefits, or through the use of the employee’s compensated time off, or some combination of the two. The Act also amends Workers Compensation law to remove any workers’ compensation liability for state and local government while the employees are serving the disaster relief functions on leave.

LD 1777 -- An Act to Permit the Creation of Cooperative Municipal Fire Districts. New title: An Act to Permit the Creation of Municipal Fire Districts. Enacted (3/26/98); PL 1997, c. 698.

This Act provides for the establishment of cooperative municipal fire districts. The Act provides that any municipality, by vote of its legislative body, may join a fire district, but the actual terms of district formation, such as the number and distribution of district directors, the directors’ term of office, and the district fiscal year are left by this new law to be developed by means of an agreement among the municipalities interested in organizing such a fire district. The only significant difference between a fire district formed under this new law and a similar "fire district" formed under the terms of an interlocal agreement, is that the fire district under this law would have express authority to levy a tax on its member municipalities to obtain the revenues needed to operate the district. The system of district taxation is similar in structure to a county’s or SAD’s taxing authority, except that the formula to determine the apportionment of the tax among the member municipalities is established under this Act by a 2/3’s vote of the district’s Board of Directors.

LD 1941 -- An Act to Amend the Membership Requirement for the Cumberland County Budget Advisory. Enacted (3/6/98); PL 1997, c. 584.

This Act amends the membership requirement of the Cumberland County Budget Advisory Committee to provide that of the three municipal officials on the Committee from each Commissioner’s district, no more than two members may reside in the same municipality.

LD 1974 -- An Act Regarding Maintenance of Private Ways. Enacted (3/30/98); PL 1997, c. 682.

Although this Act does not affect municipal roads, its provisions may be of interest to municipal officials. The Act increases the leverage of private road associations to require financial contributions from all abutters on a private way who benefit from road maintenance conducted by a duly-appointed commissioner. The law amends the existing statute (23 MRSA, Section 3101) to allow road associations incorporated as of March 1, 1998 to obtain court costs and reasonable attorney fees when successful in a collection action against recalcitrant abutters who do not contribute toward the maintenance of the private way. The underlying process of calling a meeting through a notary public, appointing a road commissioner, and assessing the costs of maintenance is already provided by the same law. Exempted from this process are private ways constructed or primarily used for commercial or forest management purposes.

LD 1984 -- An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Secession. Enacted (3/27/98); PL 1997, c. 699.

As originally printed, the bill would have blocked a secession process altogether unless the voters of the entire municipality (both the seceding territory and the non-seceding municipality) voted at referendum to approve the secession.

As enacted, the change to the secession law merely amends a section of the existing secession process to require the territory proposing secession, before it can take that proposal to the Legislature, to make a written request to meet with the municipal officers of the municipality at a regular selectmen’s or council meeting in an attempt to resolve the concerns that led to the secession movement. The Act does not require the municipal officers to hold such a meeting, but whatever does transpire after that formal request, such as the contents of any meetings that are held, would have to be reported to the Legislature by the territory proposing to secede if that proposal is ultimately put before the Legislature. If the two parties to the secession engage in alternative dispute resolution, a report on the results of that process would be required.

LD 2003 -- An Act to Clarify and Enhance Certain Municipal Powers Regarding Solid Waste Disposal. Emergency enacted 3/17/98; PL 1997, c. 602 (this Act applies retroactively to February 1, 1997).

This Act authorizes municipalities, counties, refuse disposal districts, and other quasi-municipal corporations to organize or maintain membership in regional associations for the purpose of facilitating solid waste disposal within the membership’s geographic boundary. The Act also "notwithstands" the laws governing municipal investments and allows the members of such a regional association to invest in solid waste disposal facilities, electric utility companies, electric transmission and distribution utilities, electric power generation facilities, or subsidiary entities formed by electric utilities. The Act was given a retroactive effective date of February 1, 1997 to clarify the legality of a refinancing agreement worked out between PERC, Bangor Hydro-Electric Company, and the municipalities who provide solid waste to the PERC facility.

LD 2112 -- An Act Creating the InforME Public Information Act to Ensure Access to Electronic Public Records. Enacted (3/30/98); PL 1997, c. 713.

This Act creates a new system to provide electronic access to public information. The system is named the Information Resource of Maine and known as "InforME." InforME will be administered by a self-supporting, public-private partnership. The Act expressly prohibits General Fund revenues of the state from being provided for start-up costs.

As envisioned, InforME would be the gateway of computer access to all public information in electronic form within the custody of all state agencies and instrumentalities, including the judicial and legislative branches. InforME would provide opportunities for other public entities and nonprofit organizations, such as municipalities, libraries and schools, to make their public records available through the same site. The basic public information would be available through the InforME system without charge. To the extent a "premium service" was offered, which would consist of bundling or packaging the public information according to a subscriber’s particular interest, fees could be charged for that premium service.

The InforME system is made up of a "network manager", an InforME Board, "data custodians", and "subscribers".

The "network manager" will be a private entity responsible for operating the electronic "gateway" to electronically stored public information.

The "InforME Board" will govern the "network manager". Among its duties, the InforME Board will approve the contract with (and conduct performance evaluations of) the network manager, establish policies and performance criteria, approve premium services offered, and review the revenue and fee structures. The Board consists of 15 voting members and two non-voting members. The voting members are the Secretary of State, the Director of the Bureau of Information Services, the State Librarian, three commissioners of state departments that are major data custodians, two members of the general public, a representative of the University of Maine, a representative of statewide association of municipalities, a representative of a non-profit or user organization advancing citizens' rights of access to public information, and a representative of a statewide association of public librarians. The two non-voting members are a representative of the Judicial Department and the chief executive officer of the company designated as the "network manager".

The "data custodians" are any branch, agency, or instrumentality of state government or any agency or instrumentality of a political subdivision of the state that gathers, stores, or generates public information. Any "data custodian" may voluntarily cooperate with the network manager, through service agreements, to provide the data custodian’s information to the InforME system.

The "subscribers" are persons who will pay a fee for the premium services that will serve to fund the InforME system.

LD 2244 -- An Act to Encourage Intergovernmental Cooperation. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 785.

This Act is the finally enacted remnant of the much more comprehensive recommendation of the Task Force on Intergovernmental Cooperation. As presented to the Legislature, the bill would have allowed the counties to retain more of the Real Estate Transfer Tax than the 10% they currently retain, and created a grant program to help fund the development of regionally-provided services at the county level. These two elements of the bill were deleted in final actions of the Legislature. In its final form, the Act makes some technical changes to county government law in Title 30-A MRSA to clarify that county government can develop services to be provided to willing municipal governments on a voluntary contractual, fee-for-service basis. The Act also adds four legislators to the Task Force on Intergovernmental Cooperation. The Task Force itself is established through the execution of a memorandum of agreement between the Maine County Commissioners Association, the Governor, and the Maine Municipal Association. The only money appropriated for this bill is provided for the legislator’s per diem expenses to participate on the Task Force.

LD 2282 -- An Act to Establish the Boundary Between Harpswell and Brunswick. Enacted (3/30/98); P&SL 1997, c. 80.

This bill defines and describes with greater certainty the location of the common boundary between the Town of Brunswick and the Town of Harpswell.

Taxation

LD 607 -- An Act to Exempt Nonprofit Ambulance and Fire Emergency Services from the State’s Sales Tax. Emergency enacted 4/10/98; PL 1997, c. 723.

This Act amends language in existing sales tax exemption law to provide any incorporated nonprofit fire department or ambulance service with exempt status.

LD 1963 -- An Act to Require the Bureau of Revenue Services to Report on the Incidence of Tax Burdens to Business Sectors of the State’s Economy and to Income Classes of Citizens. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 744.

This Act requires the Bureau of Revenue Services to provide certain information to the Legislature regarding the distribution of the tax burden in Maine ("tax burden incidence") on various sectors of society, including Maine’s residents by income class and the major sectors of Maine’s business and industrial economies. The first report is due by July 1, 1999, and subsequent reports are due every October 1st of the even-numbered years. This Act also requires specific incidence impact analysis with respect to legislative proposals that increase, decrease, or redistribute tax burden within the state’s tax code by more than $20,000,000.

In order to be able to model the state’s tax code to prepare this report, the Bureau of Revenue Services needs to obtain a computer tax modeling software program sufficient to the task. That aspect of this legislation was accomplished in LD 2297 (see below), which authorizes the Bureau of Revenue Services to enter into a lease-purchase arrangement with providers of that kind of software service. The lease-purchase will be paid for with the additional revenues that accrue to the Bureau from performing additional tax audits on out-of-state corporations with a tax liability in Maine.

LD 2056 -- An Act Concerning the Maine State Housing Authority’s Share of the Transfer Tax. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 759.

This Act restores the amount of the real estate transfer tax paid to the Housing Opportunities for Maine Fund (HOME) that was altered several years ago to help balance the state’s budget. The fund is used in a variety of ways for the housing needs or housing aspirations of lower income families in the state. Under current law, 10% of the Real Estate Transfer Tax stays with the county where it is collected. Of the remaining 90% of Transfer Tax revenue, 75% goes to the state’s General Fund and 25% goes to the HOME program. Under this new law, beginning in FY 2000, the counties will still retain 10% of the Transfer Tax, but the split of the remainder between the state’s General Fund and the HOME program will return to 50%-50%. The financial impact of this change to the state’s General Fund was pushed out of the current biennium by timing the change to begin in July, 1999, but in FY 2000 it is expected to reduce revenues to the state’s General Fund (and increase revenues to the HOME program) by over $2.5 million annually.

LD 2120 -- An Act Concerning Technical Changes to the Tax Laws. Emergency enacted 4/2/98; PL 1997, c. 668.

This Act makes a series of technical/housekeeping changes to Maine’s tax code. One change directly affecting municipal government is the repeal of a section of Title 36, Section 652 that limits the property tax exemption that might otherwise be available to "benevolent and charitable" organizations that provide services primarily to out-of-state residents. This section of law was found to be in violation of the Commerce Clause by the U.S. Supreme Court in Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, Maine.

LD 2192 -- An Act to Create a Nonlegislative System to Adjust Municipal Valuations in the Circumstance of Sudden and Severe Valuation Disruption. Enacted (3/27/98); PL 1997, c. 688.

This Act addresses the issue of the two-year lag between any municipality’s April 1st assessment date and the time that municipality’s equalized valuation is finally certified by the State Tax Assessor, at least in those cases when a municipality suffers a sudden and dramatic reduction in property value.

Under the current system, each time this happens the affected municipality has to go to the Legislature and make its case for an expedited state valuation.

Under this new law, an alternative, non-legislative process is authorized.

In order to be potentially eligible for the administrative valuation modification, the municipality must have a relatively high property tax burden as measured by its mill rate. For this purpose, the measure of high mill rate would be the municipal mill rate multiplied by the municipality’s assessment ratio that pertains to residential property. That adjusted mill rate would have to be greater than the statewide average in order for the municipality to be potentially eligible for the expedited state valuation adjustment.

The other moving part in these guidelines is the degree of lost value the municipality suffered between April 1st of the base year and July 1st, fifteen months later. The Act phases-in this eligibility threshold over a two-year period. For the first year (the 1999 state valuation), the municipality would have to have experienced a valuational loss of more than 2% in order to qualify for the adjusted value. For the year 2000 state valuation, and every year thereafter, the lost-value threshold would be 5%. The valuation loss must be due to the closure, removal, replacement, retrofit, obsolescence, disaster, or abatement of property belonging to a single taxpayer.

When these thresholds are met and this level of valuational loss is experienced, the municipal officers would have to notify the State Tax Assessor by August 1st. For example, any municipality that meets thresholds created by this new law (including the 2% loss in valuation) will have to apply for the adjustment by August 1, 1998 for the 1999 state valuation. Upon receiving an application, the State Tax Assessor will incorporate the change-in-value information into the certification of state valuation that is used to determine General Purpose Aid to Education. As a matter of law, that final certification of state value is provided to the Commissioner of Education by February 1st. The modified valuation, as certified, would also be used by the State Treasurer when calculating the distribution of municipal Revenue Sharing.

Because April 1st is the universal date of property tax assessment and the state Constitution requires an entirely equalized apportionment of property taxation, these guidelines will not be available to adjust a town’s state valuation for the purposes of adjusting a county assessment.

LD 2239 -- An Act to Amend the Law Concerning Tax Base Sharing. Enacted (3/23/98); PL 1997, c. 663.

This Act amends the statute governing tax base sharing to clarify that municipalities within tax base sharing agreements do not have to be contiguous to share in a tax base. It also amends that law to allow a tax base sharing agreement to authorize the municipality with the property tax base that is being shared to send the share of the tax base revenues (that normally accrue to the other, recipient municipalities) to another entity.

LD 2243 -- An Act to Encourage Accountability and Return on Investment for Maine Taxpayers from Economic Development Initiatives. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 761.

This Act requires the compilation and communication of information to the Legislature associated with the economic development incentives provided to corporations by state and local government in Maine.

The new law initially focuses on several specific incentive programs, including Employment Tax Increment Financing (E-TIF’s), municipal Tax Increment Financing (TIF’s), the Research Expense Tax Credit, the Jobs and Investment Tax Credit, the Governor’s Training Initiative Program, assistance from the Maine Quality Centers, and the Business Equipment Tax Refund program (BETR).

The DECD Commissioner would be authorized to expand the list of economic development incentive programs covered by this new law through rulemaking.

A business applying for any of the tax break or economic development programs listed above, except for the BETR property tax rebate or the Research Expense Tax Credit, would have to provide a written statement as part of the application process that identifies the public purpose served by the employer through the use of the governmental incentive, the specific uses to which the incentives will be put, and the business’ employment goals.

In general, the informational reporting requirements kick in when a company receives one of the listed incentives with a value of more than $10,000 in any one year. In those circumstances, an annual report must be supplied to the DECD Commissioner detailing the total value of each development incentive received, the number and wage level of the jobs created or retained because of the assistance, current employment levels of the company and changes in employment level over the previous year, and an assessment of the public purposes served by the provision of the governmental assistance.

In addition to the business reporting requirements, four state agencies will also be required to provide some reports to the Legislature. The State Tax Assessor’s biennial report will identify the value of the tax breaks provided to each participating employer. The Commissioner of Labor will report annually on the funds provided for job training through the Workforce Development and Training program. The Maine Technical College System will report annually on the public funds spent on job training programs. DECD’s annual report will focus on the public funds spent for the benefit of businesses under municipal TIF’s, E-TIF’s, and the Governor’s Training Initiative.

Finally, an Economic Development Incentive Commission is created by this Act. Four legislators, the State Tax Assessor, the DECD Commissioner, and five members of the public would make up this commission, which would have the duties of: (1) gathering information about the various tax break and incentive programs and their effectiveness; (2) making recommendations to the DECD Commissioner about what additional governmental incentives should be added to the list of programs that would trigger the reporting requirements; (3) reviewing the nature of the jobs created or retained by the various initiatives; (4) examining whether the various incentive programs inadvertently provide preferential treatment among various employers, nurture unhealthy competition among communities, or result in public benefits being provided to companies that subsequently move Maine jobs out of state; and (5) making recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature as a result of its review and analysis.

LD 2297 -- An Act Relating to the Taxation of Certain Federal Entities, the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement Program, the Administration of the Tax Laws and to Make a Technical Correction. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 729.

This Act amends the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement Program (BETR) to provide that natural gas pipelines and associated pumping and compression stations, storage facilities, and other appurtenant property are not eligible for BETR reimbursement except for pipelines less than a mile in length that are owned by the business consumer. The Act also provides that property used to generate electricity "primarily" for sale on the power grid is not eligible for BETR reimbursement. Cogeneration facilities that produce power both for sale on the power grid and to provide electricity (and other forms of thermal energy) to industrial users could be partially eligible for BETR reimbursement under this new law provided they do not sell more than two-third’s of their power on the grid. For those cogeneration facilities that sell less than two-third’s of their power on the grid, the amount of BETR reimbursement will be apportioned as a percentage of the amount of useful energy that the facility provides to an industrial facility.

This Act also provides the necessary authority for the Bureau of Revenue Services to obtain a computer tax modeling software program that will allow for the preparation of the tax burden incidence reports to the Legislature that are now required by LD 1963 (see above).

LD 2298 -- Resolve, to Create a Task Force to Study Telecommunications Taxation. Passed; Resolves 1997, c. 121.

This Resolve establishes a task force to study the current system of taxation of telecommunications property. The task force is comprised of 15 members: six legislators, six representatives of the telecommunications industry, one municipal official with expertise in the area of telecommunications taxation, one representative of DECD, and one representative of the Bureau of Revenue Services. The charge to the task force is to identify and recommend methods to eliminate disparate taxation among the various telecommunications systems, compare the telecommunications businesses with other businesses in the state, evaluate strategies to ensure that the taxation of telecommunications property is easily administered and provides predictable revenues, and define the tax base and appropriate taxing jurisdictions between state and local government.

Transportation

LD 726 -- An Act to Increase the Bonding Limits of the Maine Turnpike Authority. Enacted (3/25/98); PL 1997, c. 646.

This Act increases the amount of bonds of the Maine Turnpike Authority which may be outstanding for any lawful purpose of the Authority from $116,000,000 to $170,000,000 and provides that the bonding limit for paying the cost of widening all or any portion of the Maine Turnpike between Exits 1 and 6-A will be $41,000,000.

LD 1939 -- An Act to Amend Certain Motor Vehicle Laws. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 776.

This Act contains a comprehensive set of amendments to motor vehicle licensing and registration laws, almost entirely at the Secretary of State’s level. One change at the local level is that municipal agents will be allowed to issue truck registrations and re-registrations for vehicles up to 9,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (up from 6,000 pounds) without having to go through the special truck registration training. The Act also requires the Commissioner of Transportation to establish, by rule, the Adopt-A-Highway Program in Maine. This program would enable organizations to participate in beautification efforts and obtain a sign identifying their participation.

LD 2031 -- An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicle Laws. Enacted (3/20/98); PL 1997, c. 653.

This Act makes changes to Title 29-A, the motor vehicle code. The changes include: (1) making it clear that a center lane marked as a turning lane cannot be used for passing; (2) requiring people stopped with probable cause for violations of Title 29-A to provide their proper name, address, and date of birth to the law enforcement officer; (3) prohibiting leaving the pavement or the main traveled portion of a way when passing on the left; (4) providing an exemption to the requirement that vehicle operators turn off fog lights and auxiliary lights when approaching or following another vehicle if the lights are installed at the time of manufacture; and (5) prohibiting a person from parking a vehicle on a limited-access highway, on a traffic lane, deceleration lane, acceleration lane, on a bridge, or on the left shoulder of the traffic lanes.

LD 2149 -- An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Working Group on Motor Vehicle Fines, Enforcement and Reimbursement. New title: An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Working Group on Motor Vehicle Fines, Enforcement and Reimbursement and to Change Certain Provisions of the Tax Relief Funds. Enacted; PL 1997, c. 750.

This Act increases the District Court reimbursement to a municipality or county for supplying the Court with a court officer from $10 to $25 a day. The Act also increases the reimbursement rate for municipal law enforcement officers who are required to appear in court from $10 to $25 a day, and adds county law enforcement officers to that reimbursement system. The new law clarifies that the reimbursement is $25 regardless of whether the officer is appearing during regular hours or while working overtime. The $10-per-day reimbursement rate was established in 1991, when the then-current hourly rate reimbursement system was repealed to save the state some money, at the expense of the property tax. Finally, this new law repeals the July, 1998 sunset on a law enacted during the first legislative session prohibiting municipalities from adopting or enforcing local traffic ordinances, thus making the prohibition permanent.

LD 2195 -- An Act Concerning Enforcement of Parking Spaces for Persons with Physical Disabilities. Enacted (3/25/98); PL 1997, c. 673.

This Act authorizes local and county law enforcement agencies to enforce handicapped parking restrictions on private off-street parking areas.

LD 2199 -- An Act to Make Supplemental Allocations from the Highway Fund and Other Funds and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operation of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 1998 and June 30, 1999. Emergency enacted 4/2/98; PL 1997, c. 674.

This Act supplementally allocates funds from the Highway Fund for a variety of state and local transportation programs during the current biennium. Allocations of municipal significance include a $3.2 million FY 99 federal matching allocation to build and repair local bridges and a $1.76 million allocation in FY 99 to create the municipal and state loan program for federal highway projects, Federal Transit Authority projects and other transportation projects.

Utilities

LD 1912 -- An Act to Amend the Charter of the Guilford-Sangerville Water District to Increase the Bond Authorization. Emergency enacted 3/5/98; P&SL 1997, c. 61.

This Act increases the debt limit of the Guilford-Sangerville Water District from $1,500,000 to $1,700,000. It also allows the water district to increase its debt limit by referendum vote without further legislative authorization in the same manner as standard water districts are authorized to increase their debt limits.

LD 1957 -- An Act to Amend the Charter of the Sanford Sewerage District. Enacted (3/20/98); P&SL 1997, c. 74.

This Act amends the charter of the Sanford Sewerage District to allow the district to establish bylaws and to establish the debt limit of the district by referendum. The voters of the Town of Sanford have already accepted the change to the Sanford Sewerage District at the annual town meeting held on May 27, 1997.

LD 1989 -- An Act to Amend the Charter of the Houlton Water Company. Enacted (3/11/98); P&SL 1997, c. 67.

This Act allows the Houlton Water Company to provide fiber-optic cable telecommunications and natural gas services.

LD 2025 -- An Act to Reduce Technical Violations of Maine’s Laws Regarding the Protection of Underground Utilities. Enacted (3/27/98); PL 1997, c. 631.

As printed, this bill would have exempted the state and municipalities from a 1997 amendment to the "dig safe" laws that exposes individuals to penalties for excavating in the area of underground utilities without giving notice to the dig safe "system".

As enacted, this legislation goes in an entirely different direction. No governmental exemptions are provided. Instead, the Act creates a process by which a written clearance can be issued by the dig safe system for an entire area. The written clearance would allow excavations to occur in that area without providing notice to the system. The Act details a process whereby a person applies to the dig safe system to obtain the written clearance; the dig safe system notifies all entities whose underground utilities may be affected by the clearance; and the written clearance is either issued, issued in a modified form, or denied, depending on the responses of the affected underground facility operators. Presumably, the areas for which the written clearance would be sought are extended remote areas that do not contain any underground utilities.

LD 2029 -- An Act to Amend the Charter of the Van Buren Light and Power District. Enacted (3/11/98); P&SL 1997, c. 68.

This Act allows the Van Buren Light and Power District to provide fiber-optic cable service.

LD 2134 -- An Act Related to the Service Territory of the Kennebunk Light and Power District. Emergency enacted 3/30/98; P&SL 1997, c. 72.

This Act exempts from Public Utility Commission approval the extension of service by the Kennebunk Light and Power District to certain areas in the Town of Kennebunk.

LD 2175 -- An Act Relating to the Debt Limit of the Limerick Water District. Emergency enacted 3/31/98; P&SL 1997, c. 75.

This Act removes the current debt limit within the charter of the Limerick Water District if a greater debt limit is established by referendum.

LD 2221 -- An Act to Amend the Charter of the Ogunquit Sewer District. Emergency enacted with mandate preamble 4/3/98; P&SL 1997, c. 78.

This Act establishes a procedure for recall of sewer district trustees and establishes a right to petition for a special meeting of district voters on any matter. The results of such a special meeting are non-binding, but the trustees must consider the vote as the will of the voters of the district.