AUGUSTA — Rep. Ben Chipman of Portland figured he had nothing to lose Thursday by asking legislative leaders to reconsider his bill requiring municipal candidates to disclose financial information earlier.

After all, they rejected the bill 5-5 the first time around. He needed to change only one mind.

The first-term independent, like many other legislators in the room, had never been through the bill appeal process before. They each had two minutes — not a second more — to make their case. Chipman’s bill was one of 63 whose fate would be decided Thursday.

With a large countdown clock in front of him, Chipman stepped up to the lectern and made his pitch for earlier financial reporting.

He noted that in Portland’s recent 15-way mayoral race, no one knew until 11 days before the election how much money each candidate had, and where it came from. Municipal candidates should be required to report their fundraising activity 42 days before an election, just as legislative candidates are required to do, Chipman said.

“I don’t think it’s fair to leave voters in the dark,” he said.

And to assuage those who don’t want to require clerks in small towns to do extra work, he said the requirement could apply only to cities with a population of 20,000 or more.

But despite his best effort, Chipman didn’t change any minds. The 5-5 vote meant his bill had been killed for a second time. It was an intimidating and fast process, he said.

“These things happen really quick compared to what you’re used to seeing around here,” he said.

The legislative leaders let only 15 move forward for consideration by the full Legislature when it returns in January.

All told, lawmakers will consider about 320 bills next year, which does not include any new legislation proposed by Gov. Paul LePage.

That’s on par with the number considered two years earlier, but far fewer than other recent Legislatures, according to the Legislature’s bill writing office.

Here’s a quick summary of what three bills approved Thursday would do:

“ZAPPER” CRACKDOWN

In a bipartisan effort, Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, and Rep. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, are sponsoring a bill to make it illegal for Maine retailers to buy computer software that under-reports their sales so they can keep a bigger share of the money.

Berry described it as “sophisticated tax evasion software” that caused the province of Quebec to lose an estimated $417 million from restaurants in one year alone. As an example, Berry said the software records a $5 sale as a $4 sale for tax purposes, allowing the restaurant to keep the difference in the register.

The Berry/Knight bill would make this type of software illegal and could carry felony charges for those caught using it, Knight said.

DENTAL LEGISLATION

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, is sponsoring a measure to require dental insurers to cover regular fluoride treatments in children beginning at age 1. Some insurers have recently dropped this from their coverage, he said.

“Dental professionals tell us that this current policy will cause some children in Maine to experience high levels of dental disease that would otherwise be prevented,” he wrote in his appeal letter. “I respectfully suggest this makes this matter an emergency in terms of dealing with it right away.”

VETERANS COURT

Rep. Maeghan Maloney, D-Augusta, successfully argued that her idea for a separate court for veterans with substance abuse problems or mental illness should be considered by the full Legislature.

Maloney, an attorney, said other states have successfully set up courts that consider the special circumstances of veterans, whether it’s post traumatic stress disorder or other issues related to their service. She has pledged to work with U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, to find the money necessary to launch a pilot program.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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