AUGUSTA – The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee will take public testimony today on five bills, three of which deal in some way with the state’s debt.

Rep. Kathleen Chase, R-Wells, is sponsoring L.D. 830, which would set a state debt limit of 5 percent of General Fund revenue.

L.D. 1153 would give the state treasurer more power to oversee borrowing and give the treasurer a seat on the board of the Maine Turnpike Authority.

And L.D. 807 would repeal the bonding authority of the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority.

After the 1 p.m. hearing on those bills, the committee will take further comment on changes in Gov. Paul LePage’s latest budget package.

The most significant proposed change is the elimination of all state funding for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network — $2 million a year.

The cut constitutes 20 percent of the network’s operating budget.

THE STORY OF A SPEAKER

A new book called “Mr. Speaker!” by James Grant profiles one of Maine’s forgotten politicians — Thomas B. Reed, a Republican who was speaker of the U.S. House in 1888.

The book, recently highlighted by The Wall Street Journal, describes Reed as a reformer who worked to make the House more efficient.

“The 51st Congress passed far more bills than its predecessors and spent a staggering amount of money, earning it the epithet ‘the billion-dollar Congress,’” according to the Wall Street Journal story. “Reed didn’t mind, declaring that the U.S. was, after all, a billion-dollar country.”

NEW DEP HOTLINE

Businesses that navigate the state’s environmental regulatory process can now get help via a toll-free hotline answered by an official in the Department of Environmental Protection.

Julie Churchill, the new director of the department’s Office of Innovation and Assistance, will answer the hotline, (800) 789-9802. Churchill has been the department’s small-business ombudsman since 2008.

The hotline was established as part of LePage’s initiative to “improve Maine’s regulatory climate and create a stronger culture of cooperation between state government and Maine people and businesses,” according to a statement issued by the DEP.

The Office of Innovation and Assistance has four employees who are available to travel statewide and offer cost-free permitting guidance, including step-by-step assistance with completing permit forms and confidential compliance assistance without fear of penalties or fines.

The Department of Economic and Community Development also has a hotline, for businesses to call to get help with state licensing, permitting and regulatory issues. The “Red Tape Hotline” is 624-7486.

SCHEDULE AMPS UP

The House and Senate will meet four days this week, as they turn the corner toward the home stretch of the session.

Meeting days are set for Monday through Thursday for the next two weeks. And the schedule has the typical disclaimer — afternoon or evening sessions will be held as needed.

Statutory adjournment is June 15.

BOXING VOTE

A bill that would bring professional boxing back to Maine passed at the committee level on an 11-2 vote.

The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee endorsed the bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Peterson, D-Rumford.

The committee made one minor change to the original bill. It added language to allow members of the boxing oversight board to be compensated by funds brought in by prize fights.

The bill now heads to the House and Senate for consideration.

REVIEW DELAYING BEP WORK

Two consecutive meetings of the Board of Environmental Protection have been canceled, likely because of recent scrutiny about members’ eligibility.

Concerns were raised by the governor’s office about whether some members are serving legally, after Darryl Brown was forced to resign as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Brown’s resignation, and revelations about a little-known state and federal law regarding conflict of interest, prompted Gov. LePage to ask BEP members to submit financial documents for review. Board Chairwoman Susan Lessard has said that the Attorney General’s Office is now reviewing the members’ paperwork.

MaineToday Media State House Writers Susan Cover, Tom Bell and Rebekah Metzler contributed to this column.