2015-03-06 / In the News

Bevy of bills for Legislature to consider

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

As chairman of the State Senate’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, Amy Volk is often asked to submit legislation on behalf of her constituents in District 30, which includes Gorham and parts of Buxton and Scarborough.

As a result, Volk is submitting 18 pieces of legislation for the 127th Legislature to debate later this spring, including one that deals with STEM education; human and sex trafficking; organized retail crime; used cars; eye care; workforce training and job creation; access to medical or death records and term limits.

She said during a workshop session with the Town Council Feb. 18 that several were prompted by folks in Scarborough, including LR 1154: An Act to Clarify Municipal Capacity for Site Location of Development and Encourage Local Development and LR 1066: An Act to Improve Safety and Clarify Responsibilities of Pedestrians and Bicyclists.

The Municipal Capacity legislation, which was prompted by Town Planner Dan Bacon, would give Scarborough the ability to review some development requests instead of passing it along to the state, which can, in turn, be a timeconsuming process. LR 1066, Volk said, is geared toward “Scarborough and other communities becoming more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.”

Karen Vachon, a freshman legislator who represents coastal Scarborough in the House of Representatives, submitted three pieces of legislation, including LR 1174, An Act to Ensure Fair Competition By and Between Maine Tracks on behalf of Scarborough Downs. It is one of 13 gaming bills that are being proposed.

Vachon also submitted legislation that allows low-income families to choose their children’s health insurance and allows political candidates to access apartment complexes while they are campaigning. Vachon, who was asked to leave an apartment complex while campaigning, said the intention is to differentiate between solicitation and campaigning.

All three of her submissions are in the reviser’s office, where official language is being drafted. Rep. Andrew McLean, who represents parts of Gorham and Scarborough, said from there the legislation needs to be co-sponsored before being brought to a public hearing and work session. It is then passed along to the House of Representatives or Senate, then the other chamber before finally being sent to the governor’s office for final approval or denial.

McLean said the 1,700 bills that have been submitted need to be on the governor’s desk by June 17. He said the public can look up bills by sponsor, subject matter or title.

McLean, chairman of the Transportation Committee, has submitted 11 bills, many of them transportation related. Subjects include improving transit service statewide; authorizing a bind to improve highway, bridges, ports, railroads and other facilities; establishing a commission to study transportation funding reform, as well as legislation dealing with herbicide spraying on abandoned railroad lines; modernizing road user fees; impounding cars of habitual toll violators and reducing the burden of property tax.

Transportation funding is a growing problem in the state.

“We are desperately underfunding transportation by $180 million each year,” McLean said. “This is a number not developed by a politician. This is what engineers and (the Department of Transportation) is saying we need to make sure our roads and bridges are safe.”

The situation is not going to get better, McLean said, without a “serious conversation” about the state’s transportation needs. Every three years, he noted, the state spends $2 billion on transportation infrastructure.

Volk said it is not a problem unique to Maine.

“This is not a Maine problem. It is something states all over the country, I believe, are grappling with,” she said.

Rebecca Millett, a member of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee who represents South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and parts of Scarborough in the state Senate has aimed to introduce bills that would: make college more affordable; create community schools; improve the quality of teachers; allow the Circus Conservatory of America to grant baccalaureate degrees and allow the resale of electricity by electric vehicle charging stations.

Scarborough State Rep. Heather Sirocki has submitted legislation dealing with: dental hygienists taking X-rays and prescribing fluoride and antibacterial rinse; enhancing the role of town clerks in the election process, basing the excise tax imposed on a motor vehicle on the price paid; limiting clean election act money to first-time candidates and allowing the governor to retract rules made by executive branch agencies.

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