Waldo County legislators lay out plans for current session

By Ethan Andrews | Jan 31, 2019

Belfast — State representatives of Waldo County towns introduced 54 bills for the current session. Counting legislators who live beyond the county line but represent Waldo County towns, the current crop includes four first-time and two returning representatives, and a former rep-turned-senator.

The party balance shifted left in the last election with two seats, including the county's lone senate seat, flipping to Democrats.

Some of the current bills are reprises from past sessions, where they were vetoed or failed to win a majority and could fare better under the new administration. Many are still going through revisions and could be changed in committees. Here's a first look at what our local representatives are taking to Augusta.

Business, work and a future for paper mills?

Moving up to the Senate after four terms in the House, and fresh off an extensive tour of Waldo County businesses, Democratic Sen. Erin Herbig of Belfast has proposed a number of employer-friendly job training and education bills, including a tax incentive to employers who hire apprentices from established apprenticeship programs.

Related bills would establish a community college in Waldo County and form a collaboration with the University of Maine to train workers in six rapidly changing "heritage" industries (paper and pulp, shipbuilding, farming and others) that might survive by pivoting to nontraditional products — as from paper manufacturing to cellulose insulation or paper food containers.

Herbig has made a cause of boosting businesses and encouraging innovation in rural Waldo County. She recently was named chairman of the newly created Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business.

"I always say we're in a Bermuda triangle of workforce opportunities," Herbig said. "You have to drive an hour each way, and that's a barrier to a lot of our employers."

On the worker side of the equation, Herbig is reprising a pitch for paid family medical leave and a measure to protect accrued vacation pay of people collecting unemployment. Both bills were defeated in 2017.

Among her other bills, Herbig is seeking a $20 million bond issue for broadband internet in rural parts of the state.

A bill to help sexual assault victims would extend the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes to 20 years from eight, "which would put us right in the middle (among other states)," she said.

Another would direct more money from the statewide tourism fund to rural communities with smaller startup events. Herbig said funding traditionally has gone to larger organizations, particularly in Southern Maine, at the expense of smaller booster groups that she believes could stretch the money farther — "a thousand bucks in Brooks is a lot different than a thousand bucks in Freeport," she said.

Fair ferries

Herbig is working with Democratic Rep. Vicki Doudera of Camden as Senate sponsor for a bill that would revise ferry rates, which were leveled last year to the dismay of Islesboro riders, whose fares doubled.

Hope for the new administration

Herbig spoke optimistically about the current session, which is her first under a new administration — her eight years in the House coincided with Gov. Paul LePage's two terms as governor. LePage famously vetoed more bills than all of his predecessors combined, including three of Herbig's bills that were sustained in the last session.

As a moderate Democrat, Herbig said, she has always focused on bills with bipartisan support and believes a small shift would have been enough.

"With almost all of my bills, I came really close to overriding the vetoes," she said.

Environmental bills from the county line

New bills coming from either side of the Waldo and Knox county line concern the water's edge. House District 96 Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler of Montville, a Democrat, is seeking a ban on motorized vehicles in the intertidal zone, and District 94 Rep. Doudera wants to amend shoreland zoning to allow non-motorized community recreation trails.

Doudera represents Islesboro along with the Knox County towns of Camden and Rockport. Zeigler represents Belmont, Liberty, Lincolnville, Montville, Morrill, Palermo and Searsmont.

Doudera and Zeigler both have environmental bills on the table. Doudera's would require single-use plastic bottles to contain a percentage of recycled material and have attached caps. Zeigler has put forward bills to ban certain polystyrene containers and create a green bank, which would offer low-interest loans to low- and middle-income families to buy renewable resources, like solar panels.

Zeigler's other bills would determine what constitutes a violation of airspace by a drone, establish a registry for vacation rentals, put the Legislature back in the loop for compliance with federal rules enacted when state lawmakers are not in session, and study Waldo County's restorative justice program with a mind to expanding its use to other areas of the state.

Doudera's other bills would make a Class E felony of improper gun storage, eliminate a tax on private provider nursing care, and require that Department of Health and Human Services home visits be videotaped.

Fish and water; teachers and schools

Fish farming and water protection appear in three bills by House District Rep. Jan Dodge of Belfast, who takes over for Herbig representing Belfast, Northport and Waldo. The bills are inspired by proposals for land-based aquaculture facilities in Belfast and Bucksport. All three proposals are undergoing revisions, but Dodge, a Democrat, painted the broad strokes of what they would do.

Two of the bills concern wastewater effluent from aquaculture facilities — one would study its effect on fish species; the other would add a monitoring requirement for hormones in wastewater from fish farms. A third bill would direct the governor to renominate Penobscot Bay for inclusion in the National Estuary Program, which Dodge believes would help coordinate groups with various interests related to use and preservation of the bay.

The retired teacher introduced a bill to allow teachers and school administrators to serve on the State Board of Education; a bill to bar a wide range of school policies that discriminate against, or shame, students receiving free or reduced-rate lunches; and a bill to change the probation period for new teachers, who Dodge says are increasingly moving between districts and getting stuck in a semi-permanent limbo under the current three-year probation term.

Searsport and Co.

Fellow first-term Rep. Scott Cuddy of Winterport introduced bills to make the corporate tax rate more progressive, give grandparents and great grandparents consideration for visitation rights after a divorce, and require an opportunity for public comment at school board meetings.

Cuddy, a Democrat representing Frankfort, Searsport, Swanville and Winterport. said the Regional School Unit 22 board of directors, on which he serves, has a public comment period. But he was surprised to learn that it isn't required in state statute.

A member of the electrician's union, Cuddy was tapped to sponsor a pair of trades bills from the House speaker's office related to licensing heavy equipment operators and certain mechanical trades.

He also filed a placeholder bill for potential amendments to the law for Maine School for Marine Science, Technology, Transportation and Engineering. The new magnet school is currently in its first year. Cuddy said the bill might be used to expand possible funding sources for a residential program. Another placeholder bill would seek property tax relief for retirees on fixed incomes, many of whom Cuddy met while campaigning.

A final, somewhat obscure, bill would change a requirement that auctioneers log the serial numbers of each piece of currency sold at auction. The bill was requested by a constituent who holds estate sales, Cuddy said.

Editor's note: Cuddy responded after The Republican Journal press deadline and his comments appear only online.

Easter grocery run redux

Second-term Rep. MaryAnne Kinney of Knox is reprising a bill last put forward by Cuddy's predecessor, Rep. James Gillway, that would allow grocery stores up to 10,000 square feet to be open on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

Gillway pushed the bill on behalf of Tozier's in Searsport. Kinney, a Republican, said the current size limit of 5,000 square feet also affects Unity Shop 'n' Save and favors convenience stores, many of which are owned by out-of-state companies.

"These smaller grocery stores are usually locally owned. They're Mainers. It's these mom and pop stores that we'd like to see thrive."

Past opposition to easing the blue law has been largely philosophical. Kinney said she's not a big proponent of people working on those holidays but believes it should be allowed. Her current version includes a clause that requires towns to opt in. Its emergency status would allow it to go into effect immediately. Kinney hopes to see it enacted by Easter.

Kinney is seeking to extend an agricultural equipment sales tax exemption to maple syrup and honey producers. Kinney, who runs a commercial maple syrup production business, said the bill wouldn't apply to her as she hasn't claimed the exemption for the syrup business before and is already eligible through her farm. She brought the bill forward, she said, after hearing from two maple syrup producers who received the exemption in past years but were denied last year.

Safe schools, safe bridge

Republican Rep. Sherman Hutchins of Penobscot, whose district includes Prospect and Stockton Springs, has introduced a bill that would have county police making unscheduled visits to schools as a deterrent to crimes.

"Once a day would be preferable, but as many times as possible in a week. Just stop in and walk through the school, park the car in a prominent spot," he said. "It would discourage, I think, a lot of mischief that might go on otherwise, and it would do it with very little expense because these are people that are already patrolling the area."

Hutchins also sponsored a perennial bill to erect a suicide prevention fence on the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. The bill has failed in the past because of the cost, and Hutchins said he's still waiting to see the price tag. The goal, he said, would be to erect enough of a fence that it would discourage an impulsive decision to jump.

"It's easy to get over the rail, especially on the new bridge," he said. "It's hardly more than you'd put on your front porch."

 

All bill titles and links
Bills labeled "LR" are legislative requests that have not yet been released by the Revisor's Office.

Senate District 11
Sen. Erin Herbig

LD 67 An Act To Ensure Access to Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault

LD 69 An Act To Provide Economic Security to Maine Families through the Creation of a Paid Family Medical Leave System

LD 70 An Act To Support the Trades through a Tax Credit for Apprenticeship Programs

LR 112 An Act To Support and Encourage the Growth of Career and Technical Education in the State

LR 114 An Act To Provide Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities

LD 354 An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Encourage the Growth and Construction of Broadband Infrastructure in Maine

LR 237 An Act To Recognize Veterans and Law Enforcement Officers

LR 307 An Act To Provide Additional Higher Educational Opportunities in Maine

LR 308 An Act To Attract and Retain Firefighters

LR 310 An Act To Ensure Fair Access and Pricing for Residents Who Use the Maine State Ferry Service

LD 75 An Act To Protect Earned Pay

LR 1008 An Act To Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence and To Support Victims

LR 1163 An Act Concerning the Establishment of Benefit Corporations

LR 1182 An Act To Accelerate Maine's Economy through Public University-led Research and Innovation

LD 371 An Act To Create the Small Communities Tourism Fund

 

House District 94
Rep. Victoria "Vicki" Doudera

LD 102 An Act To Improve the Manufacturing of Plastic Bottles and Bottle Caps

LD 380 An Act To Revise the Calculation of Tolls Established for the Maine State Ferry Service

LD 379 An Act To Protect Children by Requiring the Safe Storage of Loaded Firearms

LR 548 An Act To Eliminate Service Provider Tax on Private Provider Nursing Care

LR 1114 An Act To Amend the Shoreland Zoning and Natural Resources Protection Act Regulations To Allow Nonmotorized Community Recreation Trails in the Shoreland Zone

LR 1127 An Act To Improve Trust with Regard to Home Visitation by the Department of Health and Human Services by Requiring That Visits Be Videotaped

 

House District 96
Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler

LR 9 An Act To Create a Green Bank

LD 289 An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers

LD 285 An Act To Provide for Legislative Review of Federally Mandated Major Substantive Rules under the Maine Administrative Procedure Act

LR 302 An Act To Join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

LR 303 Resolve, Establishing a Commission To Study the Restorative Justice System Used in Waldo County and Expanding the Use of that System beyond Waldo County

LD 290 An Act To Prohibit Motor Vehicle Use in the Intertidal Zone

LD 306 Resolve, Requiring the Department of Public Safety To Study and Determine What Constitutes a Violation of Air Space by a Drone

LR 1336 An Act To Create a Registration Process for Vacation Rentals

 

House District 97
Rep. Jan Dodge

LR 543 An Act To Provide Intensive Case Managers to Counties That Do Not Have County Jails or Regional Jails

LR 665 An Act To Improve Survival Rates of Salmon and Other Migratory Fish Transitioning from Freshwater to Saltwater Environments

LR 666 An Act Regarding Review of Licensed Land-based Aquaculture Facilities and Reporting by the Holders of Licenses for Land-based Aquaculture of Marine Organisms

LR 667 Resolve, Directing the Governor To Renominate Penobscot Bay for Inclusion in the National Estuary Program

LD 176 An Act To Enhance Participation on the State Board of Education

LD 167 An Act To Prevent Food Shaming in Maine's Public Schools

LR 1006 An Act Regarding the Probationary Period for Teachers

 

House District 98
Rep. Scott Cuddy

LR 867 An Act To Encourage Public Participation in Schools

LR 868 An Act To Improve Corporate Tax Fairness

LR 1056 An Act To License Certain Mechanical Trades

LR 1057 An Act To License Heavy Equipment Operators

LR 1225 An Act To Ensure Grandparents and Great-grandparents Have Visitation Rights

LR 1226 An Act To Ease Record-keeping Requirements for Auctioneers

LR 1379 An Act To Amend the Laws of the Maine School for Marine Science, Technology, Transportation and Engineering

LR 2061 An Act To Reduce the Property Taxes of Maine Retirees

 

House District 99
Rep. MaryAnne Kinney

LD 15 An Act To Provide for Municipalities To Allow Grocery Stores up to 10,000 Square Feet To Open on Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas

LD 86 An Act To Provide That Persons Who Produce Maple Syrup and Honey Commercially Are Eligible for the Sales Tax Refund and Exemption for Commercial Agricultural Production

LR 471 An Act To Create a Mental Health Liaison Position in Each County or Regional Jail To Coordinate Treatment and Support Services for Persons Incarcerated and Transitioning from Incarceration

 

House District 131
Rep. Sherm Hutchins

LR 927 An Act To Create Uniform Practices for Medicare Beneficiaries in Small Group Plans

LD 189 An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Long-term Care Insurance

LR 929 An Act To Improve School Safety

LD 203 Resolve, To Add a Safety Fence to the Penobscot Narrows Bridge

LD 190 An Act To Provide Antlerless Deer Permits to Senior Resident Lifetime Hunting License Holders

LR 932 An Act To Increase Opportunity for Maine's Hunting Youth

LR 933 RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine Regarding the Election of Senators

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