Maine’s business community is largely praising Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to overhaul state regulations in the name of job creation and business growth.

“I applaud the governor for holding true to his word that regulations were going to be a top priority, and I commend the Legislature for setting the issue up,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

“This is about getting Maine standards in line with federal standards,” said Curtis Picard, executive director of the 400-member Maine Merchants Association. “Maine often goes above and beyond federal requirements, and that is a reason Maine has had a challenging business environment.”

On Monday, the LePage administration proposed 63 regulatory changes to the Legislature’s new Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform, which will review LePage’s proposals and make its own. The proposals will be considered for inclusion in L.D. 1 – An Act to Ensure Regulatory Fairness and Reform.

In a prepared statement, the governor said the changes would make the rules more practical and the state more friendly to business.

LePage’s proposals include overhauling Department of Environmental Protection regulations, as well as those of the Land Use Regulation Commission, which is the planning and zoning authority for Maine’s townships, plantations and unorganized areas.

Dan Demeritt, LePage’s communications director, said Tuesday that the business community’s response to the proposals has been positive. “People are pleased that the governor is keeping his commitment to take on the impediments to job growth in Maine,” he said.

The proposals, many of which would align Maine rules with federal rules, follow a series of “red tape audit” meetings held by LePage’s team, at which businesspeople from around the state have highlighted regulations they call costly, cumbersome, confusing, impractical and antithetical to business.

Matthew Polstein, who is developing land for the 1,450-acre Ktaadn Resorts near Millinocket Lake, is pleased that the governor’s proposals include changes to the Land Use Regulation Commission.

But he has concerns about LePage’s proposal to zone 30 percent of the land overseen by LURC for development. Doing so, he said, could “devalue” the natural beauty of Maine’s wilderness.

“If you set aside three million acres for development, it would be a mistake,” he said.

Chris Hall, senior vice president of government relations for the Portland Regional Chamber, said he supports the governor’s proposals, with a few reservations.

Regulatory changes, he said, should be aimed at creating jobs and “increasing people’s paychecks.” But some of the proposals, such as changes to regulations covering electronic waste, could put some recyclers out of work, he said.

“I am not sure how that will create jobs in Maine,” Hall said.

He said the business and environmental communities should avoid being drawn into a debate pitting job creation against environmental stewardship. Those two goals are not incompatible, Hall said.

“I don’t think anyone in the business community thinks we have to sacrifice the quality of our environment to make business better. Let’s just have conversations and see what makes sense,” he said.

Picard, of the Maine Merchants Association, praised the governor’s proposal to repeal the Informed Growth Act, which requires the developer of any project larger than 75,000 square feet to pay $40,000 for a comprehensive community-impact study.

Picard said the regulations have limited large retail development in the state to one project since the law passed in 2007.

According to Jody Harris, director of program services for the State Planning Office, the only project to be approved was Walmart’s expansion in Skowhegan.

“There have been inquiries here and there,” Harris said. “I am not sure why we have had so few.”

 

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or at:

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