The Special Session

By State Senator Bill Diamond

This time of year is usually pretty quiet at the Legislature.

There is often a meeting of the Senate to take care of any gubernatorial nominations that require timely confirmation by the Senate, but this is a brief affair that only takes a few hours.

This year things will be different, however. The entire Legislature is planning a full special session for later this month, and I’d like to tell you about some of the issues that are going to be discussed.

First, there will be the gubernatorial confirmations. Instead of just a few, this year we are facing a large number, 92 as of the latest count. Many of these are for various boards and commissions and are re-appointments, but some of them could be quite important. Given the issues at the Turnpike Authority and my position on the Transportation Committee, I will be taking an especially close look at the new appointment to the MTA Board. With some of the governor’s past statements on the environment in mind, the appointees for the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) and the Board of Environmental protection will also warrant special examination.

While this would be a pretty full plate on its own for the Senate, it would not require the full Legislature.  The House will be needed for another major issue we are dealing with. Like all states, Maine redistricts its state and national legislative districts every 10 years based on the federal census. Unlike most states, however, Maine has traditionally done this beginning three years after the census instead of two. A lawsuit was brought concerning this practice with our U.S. Congressional districts, and a federal court said that Maine had to adopt a new redistricting plan by Sept. 30. This will require a two-thirds majority of both chambers of the Maine Legislature. The district lines for the State House and Senate will be redrawn starting in 2013.

In addition to the confirmations and the redistricting, the Legislature will also be considering a bill to strengthen the laws concerning the new street drug known as “bath salts.” Since there are so many appointments and the likelihood that the adoption of a redistricting plan could be very contentious, I would very surprised if the Legislature can complete its business in less than two days. The Legislature will begin the special session on Sept. 27.

Another item that will be taken up at the State House this fall is bonding. No new bonds were considered this last year, all of them were put off until the second session. To get a jump on the process, the Appropriations Committee will hold hearings on bonds starting later this month. Bonds concerning education and research and development will be heard on Sept. 26 with other bonds, by subject area, being heard throughout the fall.

I would like to know if you have any concerns about these issues, or if you would like more information.  You can call my office at the State House at 287-1515 or visit my website, www.mainesenate.org/diamond to send me an e-mail.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.

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