March 14, 2018
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today’s snow day allows me an opportunity to report where things are midway through this legislative session. As always, I am grateful for your emails sharing your thoughts and policy concerns. Please let me continue to hear from you as we work through the next month or so of crunch time in Augusta.
Economic growth is increasing the state’s revenue from sales and income taxes yielding a projected $140 million in unallocated surplus for the two-year budget cycle that will end in June 2019. Having that balance in the bank is good news both for the next legislature and also for the next Governor. It also provides some welcome slack for any current supplemental budget deliberations in our Appropriations Committee and removes one possible objection from the Governor regarding implementation of the expansion of Medicaid eligibility that voters directed last November.
- Fiscal Forecast: Revenues In Maine To Exceed Earlier Projections, Maine Public, 2/28/2018
- Report of the Maine State Revenue Forecasting Committee, March 2018
The next milestone in the timeline for Medicaid expansion is April 3. This is the date by which the Maine Department of Health and Human Services must submit an amendment to the Maine State Plan to the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services outlining how the state plans to implement the expansion.
- Why Maine’s governor and voters are in a fight over Medicaid expansion, PBS, December 28, 2017
- No excuse to delay MaineCare expansion, Press Herald, February 18, 2018
- Medicaid Expansion Slowed by LePage Administration. Maine Public, February 22, 2018
With colleagues on my committee, I am working to gain consensus on a package of bonds. Last summer we moved but were unable to enact two bond bills which had the support of the Governor. Those two bills, one for student debt relief and the other for research and development commercialization, are back in our committee. In addition, I am hoping to build support for capital funding for both the University and Community College systems, for transportation, and for improved water quality.
Trump tax plan
Maine periodically makes changes to state tax law to conform with changes to federal code. Conforming to the sweeping changes made in December in Washington including the elimination of the $4050 personal exemption would result in a $250 million state income tax increase. In response, the Governor has proposed both a new zero-percent tax bracket in place of the personal exemption and also an additional reduction in personal, business, and estate taxes totalling $111 million. Also before the legislature this session is an extension of the state tax break for Bath Iron Works and a reevaluation of the benefits of business tax havens. Given the competing priorities for state resources that are already on the table by mutual agreement this session, I am not sure that a sizeable additional tax cuts should appropriately shoulder to the top of the list.
- Maine working to prevent federal tax overhaul from increasing state taxes, Press Herald, February 2, 2018
- LePage puts forward $88 million in tax cuts to adapt to federal changes, Bangor Daily News, March 2, /2018
- LePage plan to align Maine with new IRS code calls for cutting state income taxes by $111 million, Press Herald, March 2, 2018
- Legislative panel backs $60 million in tax incentives for BIW, Press Herald, 3/07/2018
- Push to extend $60 million tax break for Bath Iron Works clears key hurdle, Bangor Daily News, 3/07/2018
- Committee supports extending Pine Tree Development Zone tax havens until 2021, Press Herald, 3/08/2018
- Tax conformity not a top priority for Maine, Bangor Daily News, March 10, 2018
- Expensive tax overhaul wrong move for Maine, Press Herald, March 15, 2018
Preschool and early childhood services
Of all the negotiations about school funding that we closed last July in the current budget, I am most proud of expanding the allocation for new early education programs. As a direct result, forty school districts are proposing new or expanded preschool programs for the upcoming year which will serve over a thousand new young students. In addition, this session we hope to move forward with a new model to ensure that all three to five-year-olds with special needs have access to requisite professional services through their local school districts. A bill that I cosponsored with Speaker Gideon to improve adult education and job training for families in poverty gained unanimous support in committee.
- Maine takes steps to send school aid to the students it will help most, Bangor Daily News, January 30, 2018
- Dozens Of Maine School Districts Launching New Or Expanded Public Preschool Programs, Maine Public, February 2, 2018
- Bipartisan bill to expand education program for low-income Mainers draws support, Press Herald, February 15, 2018
- Anticipating LePage’s reorganization, schools move to take over preschoolers’ special ed, Bangor Daily News, March 11, 2018
Following the horror and unacceptable tragedy of last month’s school shootings, I believe lawmakers at both the federal and state levels must engage immediately in serious discussion about what policy changes must be made in response. At the very least I believe we need to be deliberating on universal background checks for all gun sales, a return to permitting for concealed firearms, tighter regulations for ownership of certain semi-automatic weapons, and magazine size restrictions for all semi-automatics. I don’t claim to know where these boundaries are best set and I’m hoping not to precipitate a predictable debate about the merits and drawbacks of each policy. I do know that many of you are responsible, experienced, and compassionate gun owners and I trust that these events are weighing on your mind as well. Many of you have offered your own suggestions for solutions and, for that, I am very grateful. Events like these can not continue and we all share responsibility for what happens next.
- Maine House speaker makes new gun, school safety laws her ‘absolute top priority’, Bangor Daily News, February 24, 2018
- Gun bills may surface in Maine Legislature as national debate rages, Press Herald, February 23, 2018
- Sponsor of bill allowing guns in cars on campuses asks to kill it, Press Herald, 2/28/2018
- Gun-rights and gun-control advocates clash at the State House, Press Herald, 3/01/2018
- Gun Control Advocates, Students Rally at State House, Maine Public, 3/01/2018
Child abuse prevention
Two recent disturbing cases of child abuse have sharpened legislative oversight on children’s protective services.
- LePage administration ending child abuse prevention program, Press Herald, 3/01/2018
- LePage administration to stop funding for child abuse prevention program Sept. 30, Bangor Daily News, 3/01/2018
- What happens when child abuse is reported in Maine, Bangor Daily News, 3/05/2018
- Report Finds DHHS Missed ‘Red Flags’ in Multiple Child Abuse Cases, Maine Public, 3/06/2018
- Watchdog agency may be asked to investigate whether state is doing enough to protect children, Press Herald, 3/07/2018
- Oversight Committee Authorizes Investigation into Handling of Child Abuse Cases, Maine Public, March 9, 2018
This session’s modest solar bill to improve the Public Utility Commission’s rules around net metering passed both the House and Senate. It still faces the prospect of a veto.
- Lawmakers have one more chance to fix nonsensical solar rules, Bangor Daily News, January 16, 2018
- Advocates for home solar projects slam decision by ‘out-of-control’ PUC. Press Herald, February 22, 2018
- Tuesday offered a glimmer of hope for solar energy fans on a dark day for other bills, Bangor Daily News, March 7, 2018
Hybrids and gas tax
Largely because in 2011, the legislature voted in 2011 to stop indexing fuel taxes to inflation, Maine’s State Highway Fund has been unable to keep pace with needs for maintenance and improvement. To partly offset this, the Governor has proposed an additional annual fee on hybrid and electric vehicles. I oppose this increase because I think it fails to address the real reason for the structural funding problem and also because it represents a perverse disincentive towards the public environmental and health benefits of efficient vehicles.
- LePage-backed bill would slap extra annual fee on electric, hybrid cars, Press Herald, February 8, 2018
- Maine needs more money to maintain its roads. Higher gas tax and electric car fees could be part of fix, Bangor Daily News, February 9, 2018
- Owners of hybrids, all-electric vehicles fume over proposal to assess annual fee, Press Herald, February 13, 2018
- Low gas tax, not electric cars, causes shortfall in Maine highway fund, Press Herald, February 15, 2018
- Lawmakers oppose new fees on Maine hybrid and electric cars, Press Herald, February 22, 2018
- Democrats, Republicans Split On Hybrid, Electric Fee, Maine Public, February 23, 2018
In opposition to an initiative from the Trump administration to open all offshore waters to oil drilling, I cosponsored a legislative resolution requesting that Maine be excluded on account of the importance of Maine’s coastal and marine resources. The resolution passed unanimously. Along with 226 other state legislators, I also signed a letter to Interior Secretary Zinke in opposition to the initiative.
- Joint Resolution Memorializing The President Of The United States And The United States Congress To Exclude The State Of Maine From Offshore Oil And Gas Drilling And Exploration Activities, February 15, 2018
- Over 200 Legislators Oppose Proposed Offshore Drilling Program, NCEL, March 5, 2018
Opioid addiction treatment
The staggering increase in overdose fatalities plainly show that we are not responding properly to the crisis of opioid addiction. Over a year ago, the legislature appropriated funding for new pilot treatment programs and we are prepared to expand appropriations for this model if it proves workable. To date, implementation of these opioid health programs has been slow and they have reached too few individuals. MaineCare expansion will provide supplemental funding for addiction treatment and reduce the stress of treatment providers from uncompensated care.
- Medicaid expansion may provide opioid treatment for addicts, Press Herald, October 23, 2017
- Critics say task force recommendations overlook urgency of Maine’s drug crisis, Bangor Daily News, December 15, 2017
- Maine Bill Would Allow Pilot Project For Treating Vulnerable Opioid Addicts, Maine Public, January 18, 2018
- Drug Overdoses Were Up 11 Percent Last Year, Maine Public, February 22, 2018
- Lawmakers Question Performance Of $5 Million Opioid Treatment Program, Maine Public, February 28, 2018
As many of you may know from direct experience, seasonally unemployed workers this year encountered a frustrating new system at the Department of Labor and additional aggravation from being unable either to log in to the new online system or to reach short-staffed Department representatives by telephone. The legislature continues to investigate.
- State’s unemployment filing system continues to frustrate Mainers, Kennebec Journal, January 29, 2018
- State still getting complaints about unemployment claims system, Press Herald, February 8, 2018
- Legislators discuss jobless-filing complaints with labor officials, Press Herald, 2/09/2018
- Legislators continue to express concerns about unemployment filing system, Press Herald, 2/28/2018
- Lawmakers still seeking fix for Maine unemployment filing system, Press Herald, 3/08/2018
- Lawmakers rebuke Labor Department over claims of rushing unemployment system, destroying records, Press Herald, March 12, 2018
Jails and juvenile justice
Maine has long-standing organizational and funding problems related to its correctional facilities and county jails. An independent review found the state’s Long Creek Youth Development Center understaffed and overburdened. Last year the legislature requested recommendations for ways to restructure the funding and operations of the system of county jails. The Department of Corrections produced a report but so far has declined to recommend changes.
- Report urges state to overhaul Maine’s entire juvenile justice system, Bangor Daily News, 12/15/2017
- Review finds Long Creek is understaffed and ill-equipped to meet youths’ mental health needs, Press Herald, 12/15/2017
- Here’s more evidence for closing Maine’s youth detention center, Bangor Daily News, January 23, 2018
- Report recommends sweeping changes to Maine jails, including closing some, Press Herald, February 6, 2018
- LePage makes new push to pull control of jails from counties, Bangor Daily News, February 6, 2018
- Maine Corrections Commissioner Defends Proposed County Jail Closures, Maine Public, February 7, 2018
- LePage’s Plan To Close County Jails, Overhaul System Falls Apart, Maine Public, 2/28/2018
- The conversation we need to have about Long Creek Bangor Daily News, 3/01/2018
After last fall’s veto, moving forward with implementation of laws and executive branch regulations for the retail sales of marijuana as directed by the 2016 citizens’ initiative remains a real challenge in this divided legislature. A substantial faction within the legislature would still like to stall beyond this session. Others are vehemently upset that the legislature has failed simply to implement what the voters directed. But the legislature’s marijuana implementation committee has worked diligently and the legislature will vote on their revised compromise in the next few weeks. I regret the confusion that this uncertainty continues to cause to municipal officials statewide.
- Agreement Reached On Retail Marijuana In Maine, But It Could Be Again Delayed, Maine Public. 1/09//2018
- Groups on opposite sides of cannabis issue craft plan to save legalization bill, Press Herald, 1/10/2018
- Maine lawmakers trying to rein in large medical marijuana growers, Press Herald, January 11, 2018
- Legalization panel makes concession, votes to delay social cannabis clubs until 2023, Press Herald, January 17, 2018
- Marijuana Panel Votes To Delay Pot Social Clubs Until 2023, Maine Public. January 18, 2018
- Regulations for selling recreational pot in Maine put on hold, again, Bangor Daily News, January 22, 2018
- LePage likely to veto bill to extend pot sales moratorium – and seek longer delay, Press Herald, January 24, 2018
- Maine recreational pot sales delayed, but until when?, Press Herald, January 31, 2018
- Maine lawmakers won’t extend moratorium on pot sales, but it’s still not for sale, Press Herald, February 2, 2018
- Maine lawmakers can’t find ‘clarity’ on legal pot sales, leaving voter-approved law in limbo, Bangor Daily News, February 2, 2018
- As Maine’s Recreational Pot Law Stalls, Lawmakers Seek To Revamp Medical Marijuana Program, Maine Public. February 7, 2018
- Voter-approved law says Mainers can grow 6 pot plants each, but lawmakers want to make it 3, Press Herald, February 20, 2018
- Lawmakers mull dropping number of pot plants Mainers can grow for own use, Bangor Daily News, February 20, 2018
- Committee’s marijuana regulation bill omits licensing of social clubs. Press Herald, February 21, 2018
- Committee Makes Headway on Recreational Marijuana Legislation. Maine Public. February 21, 2018
- Maine’s pot legalization committee reaches agreement on rewrite of voter-approved law, Press Herald, February 23, 2018
- Lawmakers support sweeping changes to Maine’s medical marijuana rules, Press Herald, 3/08/2018
- Maine tries again to enact major overhaul of medical marijuana rules, Bangor Daily News, 3/08/2018
- Lawmakers Advance Bill That Would Make Over Medical Marijuana Program, Maine Public. 3/08/2018
Representative Brian Hubbell,
Maine House District 135
Bar Harbor, Lamoine, Mount Desert
66 Park Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609
(800) 423-2900 (Augusta)