Legislative Action

The Maine Legislature is now in session and we are active!

Garrison Beck is Midcoast Conservancy’s registered lobbyist. We work together as part of the Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition, a partnership of 35 environmental, conservation and public health organizations representing over 100,000 members who work to protect the good health, good jobs and quality of life that our environment provides.

June 2, 2017

LD 1521 – An Act To Amend the Property Tax Laws – In a great win for land trusts, this bill died on May 31. Both the House and Senate voted to accept the Taxation Committee’s Ought Not To Pass report, meaning this bill is going nowhere. Locally, please join us in thanking Senator Dana Dow for voting against this bill in Committee and on the Senate floor.

Here is a breakdown of the roll call votes from our local Representatives. A Yea (Y) vote is in favor of killing the bill, a Nay (N) vote is in favor of the bill. Please join us in thanking those who voted Yea.

Rep. Beebe-Center (Rockland): Yea
Rep. Bradstreet (Vassalboro): Nay
Rep. Casas (Rockport): Yea
Rep. Devin (Newcastle): Excused
Rep. Hanley (Pittston): Nay
Rep. Hawke (Boothbay Harbor): Nay
Rep. Kinney (Knox): Nay
Rep. Pierce (Dresden): Nay
Rep. Sanderson (Chelsea): Nay
Rep. Simmons (Waldoboro): Nay
Rep. Spear (South Thomaston): Yea
Rep. Sutton (Warren): Nay
Rep. Theriault (China): Nay
Rep. Zeigler (Montville): Yea

LD 559 – An Act To Standardize the Law Concerning Property Transfer and To Protect Water Quality – Unfortunately, as was expected, the Governor vetoed this bill and we lost the veto override in the House by 7 votes. Read the Governor’s veto letter.

Here is a breakdown of the roll call votes to override the Governor’s veto from our local Representatives. A Yea (Y) vote is in favor of overriding the veto, a Nay (N) vote is in favor of sustaining the veto. Please join us in thanking those who voted Yea.

Rep. Beebe-Center (Rockland): Yea
Rep. Bradstreet (Vassalboro): Yea
Rep. Casas (Rockport): Yea
Rep. Devin (Newcastle): Excused
Rep. Hanley (Pittston): Nay
Rep. Hawke (Boothbay Harbor): Nay
Rep. Kinney (Knox): Yea
Rep. Pierce (Dresden): Yea
Rep. Sanderson (Chelsea): Nay
Rep. Simmons (Waldoboro): Yea
Rep. Spear (South Thomaston): Yea
Rep. Sutton (Warren): Nay
Rep. Theriault (China): Nay
Rep. Zeigler (Montville): Yea

LD 727 – An Act To Protect the Tax Base of Municipalities by Removing the Property Tax Exemption for Land Held for Conservation or Public Access Purposes – In another win for land trusts, this bill died on May 24. As with LD 1521, both the House and Senate voted to accept the Taxation Committee’s Ought Not To Pass report.

Please join us in thanking those who voted Yea in the House and Senate roll call votes.

Sen. Bellows (Kennebec County): Yea
Sen. Dow (Lincoln County): Yea
Sen. Miramant (Knox County): Yea
Rep. Beebe-Center (Rockland): Yea
Rep. Bradstreet (Vassalboro): Nay
Rep. Casas (Rockport): Yea
Rep. Devin (Newcastle): Excused
Rep. Hanley (Pittston): Nay
Rep. Hawke (Boothbay Harbor): Nay
Rep. Kinney (Knox): Nay
Rep. Pierce (Dresden): Nay
Rep. Sanderson (Chelsea): Nay
Rep. Simmons (Waldoboro): Nay
Rep. Spear (South Thomaston): Yea
Rep. Sutton (Warren): Nay
Rep. Theriault (China): Absent
Rep. Zeigler (Montville): Yea

May 5, 2017

Since our last update there has been a flurry of activity at the State House. Included below is a list of Updates to bills mentioned here previously, as well as New Bills on our radar.

New Bills

LD 1521 – An Act To Amend the Property Tax Laws – Midcoast Conservancy Opposes

This bill was proposed by Governor LePage and is sponsored by Rep. Gary Hilliard. It includes a number of provisions, but most important to land trusts is Part A:

Part A specifies that holding land primarily for conservation or public access purposes is not a benevolent and charitable purpose, which is a condition necessary to obtaining an exemption from property tax. This Part allows a land trust organization to enroll land owned by it in the open space tax law program, which would provide up to a 95% reduction in the assessed value of that land as long as certain conditions are met. This Part also removes the 15,000-acre limit on the size of land that may be enrolled in the open space tax law program.

It is simply unfair to assume that land trusts are not charitable and benevolent organizations. Midcoast Conservancy’s Outdoor Adventure and Learning Hubs program is a perfect example of the ways in which we engage our communities for charitable purposes. We will be testifying at this hearing and will update this page with our testimony as soon as it is prepared.

How YOU Can Help

  • This bill will have a public hearing at 2:00pm on Tuesday, May 9 in the Committee on Taxation. You can submit written testimony to the Committee Clerk, Dianne Dubord, at Dianne.Dubord@Legislature.Maine.gov.
  • You can attend the hearing and present testimony in person. The Committee meets in Room 127 on the first floor of the State House.
  • Here in Lincoln County, our State Senator Dana Dow is the Senate Chair of this Committee. Contact Dana directly to voice your concerns. We emplore Senator Dow to vote against this bill.

Updates

LD 559 – An Act To Standardize the Law Concerning Property Transfer and To Protect Water Quality

This bill has not yet been featured on this page but we need your support. Sponsored by Rep. Gary Hilliard, the bill would require septic systems to be inspected on properties which are sold in the shoreland zone. Current law requires this on the coast, and this bill would extend the requirement to inland shoreland zones. This not only protects a buyer’s investment, it also helps correct or prevent malfunctioning septic systems which may be polluting our lakes and rivers.

***Action Item***

This bill passed the House and Senate and is now headed to the Governor’s desk for a signature. We are preparing ourselves for a veto. In that case, we will ask members, residents, and town officials to contact their legislators and voice your support for this truly common-sense measure.

Read Midcoast Conservancy’s testimony, which included another bill (LD 372) that would have made the inspection requirement state-wide.

Other major supporters of the bill included the Maine Municipal Association (testimony), the Maine Rural Water Association (testimony), the Maine Water Environment Association (testimony), and the Maine Lakes Society (testimony).

LD 1096 – An Act To Improve Shoreland Zoning Rules and Enforcement To Support Municipalities – Midcoast Conservancy Supports

This bill had a public hearing in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee (ENR) on April 19 and work sessions on April 24th, 26th and May 1st and 3rd. The Committee ultimately voted along party lines to pass an amended version of the bill which removes everything from the original bill except the provision that photographs be required when submitting an application for development within the shoreland zone. We strongly support the amended version of this bill. Our own Garrison Beck was recognized by Representative Lydia Blume for his work on this bill. Read Rep. Blume’s testimony here.

Requiring photos for development in the shoreland zone would be a small yet mighty change to improving Maine’s Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act.

  • Photos not only help a town and Code Enforcement Officers enforce the law, but they also protect a landowner against false claims of violation. The Maine Association of Realtors supported this provision of the bill for this reason. Read MAR’s testimony here.
  • Maine Municipal Association supported the photographic requirement as it will ultimately reduce the burden on town staff to verify permit applications. Read MMA’s testimony here.
  • This requirement is also a recommendation of a diverse Shoreland Zoning Working Group from 2015 which included contractors, towns, realtors, and NGOs. Read their final report here.

Read Midcoast Conservancy’s testimony on LD 1096.

***Action Item***

LD 1096 as amended will be headed for a vote in the House of Representatives soon. We need residents and town officials to contact their legislators to voice your support for this bill. Contact Garrison for more information.

LD 727 – An Act To Protect the Tax Base of Municipalities by Removing the Property Tax Exemption for Land Held for Conservation or Public Access Purposes – Midcoast Conservancy Opposes

This bill would remove the exemption from property taxes for land held in conservation, an issue not only for Midcoast Conservancy but land trusts around the state.

The Taxation Committee held a public hearing on April 12 and work session on April 20. Many land trusts testified against the bill, as well as the Maine Coast Heritage Trust (read testimony) and the Maine Association of Nonprofits (read testimony). Read Midcoast Conservany’s testimony.

A majority of the Committee voted in opposition to the bill, including the Committee’s Senate Chair and Lincoln County Senator Dana Dow. We thank Senator Dow for his vote on this bill.

***Action Item***

This bill will soon return to the full House of Representatives for a vote. We need members, residents, and town officials to call their legislators and tell them why this bill is bad public policy and why you value your local land trusts. When the bill reaches the Senate we hope Senator Dow will maintain his position and vote against this bill.

LD 894 – An Act To Increase Funding for the Youth Conservation Corps – Midcoast Conservancy Supports

This bill was voted Ought Not To Pass unanimously at Committee work session on March 29 and is now dead. We are continuing to work on other opportunities for funding Youth Conservation Corps programs throughout the state.

LD 1040 – An Act Regarding Permitting under the Natural Resources Protection Act – Midcoast Conservancy Opposes

This bill was voted Ought Not To Pass unanimously at Committee work session on April 5 and is now dead.

April 11, 2017

Help towns and Code Enforcement Officers enforce shoreland zoning to protect our waters!
Please support LD 1096 – An Act To Improve Shoreland Zoning Rules and Enforcement To Support Municipalities

This bill amends the laws relating to the State’s regulation of the shoreland zone as follows.

1. It requires the Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of Community Development to provide both basic and advanced training to code enforcement officers in the technical and legal aspects of code enforcement. Current law only requires that the office provide basic training to code enforcement officers.

2. It increases the maximum per day civil penalty for a specific violation of a municipal land use law or ordinance from $2,500 to $5,000 and increases the maximum per day civil penalty for a specific violation of a municipal shoreland zoning ordinance occurring within an area zoned for resource protection from $5,000 to $10,000.

3. It provides that municipal shoreland zoning ordinances must require an applicant for a permit for development within the shoreland zone to provide to the municipal permitting authority preconstruction and postconstruction photographs of the shoreline vegetation and development site.

Midcoast Conservancy’s Garrison Beck helped to develop this bill. This bill will have a public hearing in the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources at 1:00pm on Wednesday, April 19. Read Midcoast Conservancy’s testimony.

Keep the property tax exemption for land held in conservation!
Please oppose LD 727 – An Act To Protect the Tax Base of Municipalities by Removing the Property Tax Exemption for Land Held for Conservation or Public Access Purposes

This bill addresses the effect of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision in Francis Small Heritage Trust, Inc. v. Town of Limington et al., 2014 ME 102, by specifying that holding land primarily for conservation or public access purposes is not a benevolent or charitable purpose, which is a condition necessary to obtaining an exemption from property tax. The change applies to property tax years beginning on or after April 1, 2018.

Read our testimony on LD 727 here.

How YOU can help:

  • This bill will have a public hearing at 1:00pm on Wednesday, April 12 in the Committee on Taxation. You can submit written testimony to the Committee Clerk, Dianne Dubord, at Dianne.Dubord@Legislature.Maine.gov.
  • Here in Lincoln County, our State Senator Dana Dow is the Senate Chair of this Committee. Contact Dana directly to voice your concerns.

March 31, 2017

Support Environmental Jobs for Youth!
Please support LD 894 – An Act To Increase Funding for the Youth Conservation Corps

Our 2017 YCC Crew: Gabi, Brianna & Eli

Each summer we hire three youth employees for our Youth Conservation Corps program. For several weeks they work with landowners to reduce pollution going into our lakes and rivers. The program provides jobs and training in environmental fields using science and math and is made possible by our many supporters including partial funding using state funds.

The bill will refund the program by providing $40,000 to Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) programs around the state. Funds would be split between all the organizations which operate YCC crews, and is available to any organization planning to start a YCC.

Your support will make a difference!

How YOU can help:

  • Submit testimony directly to the committee without having to come to Augusta. Clearly indicate which bill you are referencing (LD 894) and that you support it. In a word document attached to your email, send the testimony to the Committee Clerk, Steven Langlin, at Steven.Langlin@Legislature.Maine.gov.
  • If you live in Palermo, Liberty, or Montville, your representative S. Paige Zeigler is on this committee. Contact him before the hearing on March 22 to tell him you support this bill and would like his support as well. Click here for Rep. Zeigler’s contact information.

Ideas for writing your letter:

Protect Maine’s Natural Resources!

Please oppose LD 1040 – An Act Regarding Permitting under the Natural Resources Protection Act

Maine’s Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA) is one of the fundamental laws which gives the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the authority to protect all of Maine’s water resources (rivers, streams, wetlands, groundwater, and lakes). All of us benefit from clean water which is part of what makes Maine special and is crucial for growingMaine’s economy in recreation and tourism.

The Legislature is considering 13 changes that would significantly weaken the Act and directly harm to Maine’s water resources. Examples include:

  • redefining what constitutes a stream, meaning fewer streams would be covered under the Act and thus be more prone to pollution.
  • eliminates language that allows DEP to look for alternative locations when an activity harms habitats and fisheries: A major principal in the Act’s successful history.

How you can help:

 

Land Conservation:

There are a number of bills this session which will seek to change how nonprofit organizations are taxed on the land they hold, whether it be land trusts, universities, or hospitals. Recently printed is LD 727, An Act To Protect the Tax Base of Municipalities by Removing the Property Tax Exemption for Land Held for Conservation or Public Access Purposes. This bill would make land held for conservation or public access purposes is not eligible for exemption from property taxes. Stay tuned!

Water Conservation:

Lots going on here. We have proposed a bill which has been sponsored by Representative Lydia Blume of York which would make many improvements to Maine’s Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act. An Act To Improve Shoreland Zoning Rules and Enforcement To Support Municipalities would give towns and Code Enforcement Officers more tools to help them enforce one of the primary laws which protect our lakes and rivers from pollution caused by development. No schedule yet for this bill.

Also related to water, we are supporting two bills which address the inspections of septic systems. Unchecked, septic systems are potentially an out-of-sight source of major nutrient pollution to our water ways, contributing to harmful algae blooms. Two bills sponsored by Representative Gary Hilliard of Belgrade and Representative Lydia Blume of York address these issues. Rep. Hilliard’s bill, LD 559, would require septic systems in any shoreland zone, coastal or inland, to be inspected when the property is sold. Rep. Blume’s bill, LD 372, would require any septic system in the state to be inspected when the property is sold.

See our testimony on both bills here.

2017.

Together we are a force for nature!