As the first session of the 128th Legislature comes to a close, we are looking back at some of the bills our Waldo County representatives sponsored.

First term Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler, D-Montville, who served on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, proposed a few bills this session. While none of them passed, the one that made it the farthest was a sunshine bill, LD 23, that passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by the governor.

Sunshine bill

Zeigler’s bill would have made major substantive rules, adopted to comply with federal law or to qualify for federal funds, subject to the same legislative review that other state rulemaking receives.

Currently, only rules that exceed federal requirements are reviewed by the Legislature. Those that do not are exempted from that requirement under the Administrative Procedures Act.

“Federal funds are a cooperative venture between our state and federal governments; however, to accept the suggested requirements without an overview of our state's needs through the legislative process diminishes the state's rights,” Zeigler said in his testimony.

Bridget Rose McKeen of Montville testified in support of the bill about a USDA rule change governing milk distribution that was adopted without legislative review, which she said led to Blue Hill farmer Dan Brown “becoming a criminal,” for selling unlabeled unpasteurized milk from his farm stand.

“No new laws were passed nor people allowed input before the rules governing milk distribution were redefined,” she said. “This then resulted in copious amounts of time and money spent by legislators and citizens trying to pass more bills to make it legal again for a farmer to sell his milk as Maine people have been doing for our entire history. … This is why it is of the utmost importance that all major rules follow the same process, regardless of where they originate.”

The bill passed the House and the Senate without roll call votes, and was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage on April 21. In his veto letter, he argued that the Legislature would not be able to keep up with reviewing of all the rule changes that are made in partnership with the federal government, causing a delay that would negatively impact programs and the Maine economy.

A reconsideration of the veto in the House did not receive the required 96 votes, and failed with a vote of 77 for and 67 against. Reps. Zeigler and Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, voted in favor of the override and Republican Reps. MaryAnne Kinney of Knox, James Gillway of Searsport and Karl Ward of Dedham voted against it.

Styrofoam ban

Zeigler proposed a bill to ban the sale or distribution of disposable polystyrene food service containers, and it was incorporated into a bill that would have phased out the use of plastic shopping bags by retailers. That bill, too, was vetoed by the governor.

Many people testified in support of Zeigler’s bill because of environmental and public health concerns. Styrofoam is known to be carcinogenic, one said. It is nondegradable, and fragments into small pieces that are often consumed by wildlife and marine organisms.

Maine Restaurant Association opposed banning Styrofoam because “it keeps hot food hot and cold food cold better than any other known substance.” Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association also opposed the measure.

The combined plastic bag and Styrofoam bill passed the House April 13 with a vote of 78-68. Herbig and Zeigler supported it, while Gillway, Kinney and Ward opposed it. It passed the Senate with a vote of 27-6 April 20, with Sen. President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, opposed. A veto override vote failed in the House May 16 with a vote of 73-30.

National popular vote for president

Zeigler also proposed a bill to adopt an interstate compact to elect the president of the United States by national popular vote, but another representative, Deane Rykerson, D-Kittery, submitted the same bill a day before, so Zeigler became its co-sponsor. LD 156 would have awarded all of Maine’s electoral college votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

It failed in the House on March 30 by a vote of 66 for and 73 against. Herbig and Zeigler voted for the bill and Gillway, Kinney and Ward voted against it. It failed in the Senate April 4 by a vote of 14 for and 21 against. Thibodeau voted against it.

In testimony, Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, said the bill advances the concept of one person, one vote, and said Alexander Hamilton’s reason for establishing the electoral college — that “a small number of persons, selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations” — was outdated.

Similar bills have been debated across the country since 2006, and the agreement may still take effect if enacted by states possessing a majority (270) of the total electoral college votes. So far it has been enacted in 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes, according to the nonprofit corporation National Popular Vote Inc. Those states are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state, as well as Washington, D. C.

Local produce in schools

Another bill Zeigler proposed did not make it out of committee. “An act to support local agriculture,” LD 1369, which Zeigler called a “concept bill,” would have required schools and state government cafeterias to increase their purchases of local produce by 35 percent by 2038, with exemptions for schools that could not upgrade their facilities to process fresh produce.

 

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