Wrapping Up the Session

By State Senator Bill Diamond

In the early hours of the morning last Thursday, after meeting for two very long days, the legislature adjourned.

While we did complete all the business we had before us, including a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget for 2013 and a package of bonds, we are not necessarily done. We left the door open to come back and deal with any vetoes the governor may issue on the bills we passed. The DHHS supplemental budget has already been signed, but the bond bills and a few other bills await the governor’s decision. He has 10 business days including Saturdays to veto any bills passed in our two-day session.

Concerning the bonds, we passed five bond issues adding up to $95.7 million. The largest, $51.5 million, is for highways, bridges, ports and other transportation projects. This is sorely needed and will put people to work now and make a dent in the backlog of projects the state has before it.

We also approved a $20 million bond for Research and Development in technology-intensive industrial sectors; an $11.3 million bond for public higher education; a $7.9 million bond for wastewater and drinking water systems; and a $5 million Land for Maine’s Future bond to preserve our forests, farmlands, deer habitat and working waterfronts for future generations.

All of these bonds required a super-majority of two-thirds of the legislature to pass, and, if signed by the governor, will still need to be approved by the voters of Maine in a general election.

I voted against the DHHS budget that was passed because it relied on too many questionable sources of income to balance the budget. For example, there is a gimmick in the budget that assumes the federal government will waiver existing federal regulations and thus save $11 million. This is highly unlikely and will leave a significant hole in the proposed balanced budget. Ten million dollars was also taken from the education budget to help balance this budget.

This budget cuts far too much from programs that help Maine families, especially children and seniors such as the Home Visitation program (which is aimed at preventing tragedies like the recent death of little Ethan Henderson), and low cost drugs for the elderly.

The official expression for final adjournment of the legislature is adjourning “sine die.” This is Latin for “without day,” meaning that there are no further legislative days left. By not adjourning “sine die,” we will be able to return to deal with the vetoes without going through the extensive process of organizing a “special session.” I will keep you informed as to how things turn out.

As always, if there is anything I can do as your senator, just 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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