Residents and guests at Harbor Hill raised concerns about cuts to the state budget and other issues during a discussion with Waldo County’s State Senator Mike Thibodeau, R-Waldo, on Tuesday, May 1.

Thibodeau spoke to a group of Harbor Hill residents and guests about state government and some of the more controversial bills and issues the legislature has dealt with this year. He also briefly highlighted the typical process any given bill will go through before it is either rejected or approved.

“A lot of what you read in the newspapers is about issues that are Democrats versus Republicans,” Thibodeau said. “That isn’t always the case. A lot of the time it’s urban versus rural.”

He explained how many issues such as, school funding, often became contentious because urban areas felt the government wasn’t giving them their fair share of services and the rural areas felt the urban areas were getting too many subsidies.

“Serving on the state house is a lot like being on the television program ‘Lost,’” he said. “One day you’ll think you have everything figured out and then the next day you find out the good guy is actually the bad guy and he’s trying to get into your pockets and take your money. It’s kind of fun that way.”

During the discussion, Thibodeau explained how a bill becomes a law and why some bills tend to get more attention than others.

“A bill will go to a committee and then there will be a public hearing, a work period and then a vote on the bill,” Thibodeau said. “When the bill makes its way upstairs it will usually go through if it received a unanimous report. The debate usually happens when you have a divided report on a bill.”

Thibodeau estimated the legislature sees about 1,500 bills each year. He admitted there are many bills he doesn’t know a lot about because they don’t warrant as much discussion. However, he said many of the bills residents hear about in the news are the ones he knows much more about.

“It’s impossible for anybody to know all 1,500 bills. The debated bills – the ones the public talks about – are the ones I know a lot more about,” he said.

Currently, the two most debated topics on the agenda for legislators to consider when they resume their session on May 15 are the state budget and a law that would require the state to pay compensation to any landowner whose property was devalued by 50 percent or more as the result of any new laws being enacted.

When asked what the chances of such an event actually taking place, Thibodeau said land use laws tend to be controversial by nature and there are instances where laws can impact property values. However, he said he was unsure what would happen to the bill.

When the conversation turned towards the state budget and possible cuts to MaineCare, audience members voiced several concerns about whether senior citizens would be impacted as a result of the cuts and if a lack of funding would force assisted living facilities like Harbor Hill in Belfast to close.

“I want to ensure you all that senior citizens are our priority,” Thibodeau said. “There are other programs that will be effected but seniors are the priority.”

Thibodeau, as chairman of the Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee, also discussed how he was disappointed to see a bill from Governor LePage that would have potentially helped to reduce energy costs in the state get defeated.

“We have a renewable portfolio standard in this state that mandates 40 percent of the power generated here comes from a renewable resource,” he said. “The bill would have opened the market up to all renewable energy resources to help create downward pressure on the market.”

Thibodeau explained how some energy suppliers derive a large portion of their revenue by selling renewable energy credits, which are subsidized by ratepayers.