It’s not every day that Liechtenstein’s ambassador to the United States – her name is Claudia Fritsche – writes a letter to the Maine Legislature to weigh in on a bill.
But it happened March 4, when Fritsche urged state lawmakers to vote down L.D. 1120, a bill that would prohibit multinational corporations from using so-called offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes in Maine.
Lawmakers also received a letter from Jean-Louis Wolzfeld, Luxembourg’s ambassador to the United States, opposing the bill.
Both countries are among more than two dozen jurisdictions identified as tax havens in L.D. 1120. In their letters to the lawmakers, Fritsche and Wolzfeld explained why such a designation unfairly blacklisted the two countries and what the impact would be if the bill is enacted.
Fritsche touted Liechtenstein’s cooperation with the United States in fighting “terrorist financing.” (This was apparently a symptom of the country’s secretive banking laws until it began taking steps to improve them.) She added that Liechtenstein didn’t have any investments in Maine, but L.D. 1120 could deter the prospect of future business.
Wolzfeld, meanwhile, suggested the proposal could impede trade growth with the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, or TTIP, a trade agreement between the European Union and the United States. Wolzfeld didn’t explain how L.D. 1120 would impact the trade agreement.
Both ambassadors acknowledged that their countries were previously labeled as tax havens, but said they were working to shed that reputation by ratifying more transparent banking regulations.
It appears that Liechtenstein has been more successful than Luxembourg in those efforts.
In March, Luxembourg was largely blamed for scuttling a deal that would create a data exchange within the European Union to allow all 28 governments to identify and prosecute tax evaders. Proponents of a tougher crackdown say the EU proposal is pretty weak.
L.D. 1120 passed the Democratic-controlled House and Senate and is expected to hit Gov. Paul LePage’s desk this week. Republicans opposed the measure, so it’s likely LePage will veto it.
LePage makes ‘NBC Nightly News’
The governor received some screen time during a broadcast of “NBC Nightly News” last week.
The report focused on the growing heroin epidemic, and specifically, the drug naloxone, or Narcan, which is used to revive those who overdose.
Narcan can be administered by emergency responders, but the governor opposes expanding access to parents or guardians. His opposition was featured in the “NBC Nightly News” segment. During a news conference at the State House in March, reporter Katie Snow asked him why.
“It’s an escape. It’s an excuse to stay addicted,” he said, adding that the focus should be on treatment and prevention.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, LePage’s Democratic challenger this year, referenced the report in a news release issued Friday. “It wasn’t Gov. LePage’s rough talk or outrageous claims that put him on the national news, it was his dangerous actions that are standing in the way of saving lives,” Michaud said. “Maine has a significant problem with drug addiction, and it harms not just the individuals who are addicted but also their families and communities.”
Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, has a bill that would expand access to naloxone to friends and family members of people who are at risk of opioid overdose. The proposal is currently tabled in the House as Gideon tries to gather bipartisan support.
Sex trafficking bill gets final OK
A bill that creates a legal defense mechanism for victims swept up in sex trafficking crimes received final approval by the Legislature last week.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, was designed to give sex trafficking victims a way to avoid prosecution and conviction. The bill also establishes fines on people convicted of sex trafficking. Victims can apply for financial relief from the Victims’ Compensation Fund.
The bill is expected to be signed by the governor, thus completing its long, and at one point controversial, odyssey.
Democrats initially blocked the proposal from being vetted this session, but later relented amid Republican criticism and media scrutiny.
Anti-tax crusader honored
Mary Adams, the longtime advocate for tax cuts and an enthusiastic supporter of LePage, will receive the Maine Republican Party Grassroots Activism Lifetime Achievement Award during the Maine Republican Party Convention later this month.
“Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, a Green or unenrolled voter in Maine, Mary Adams has been advocating for your best interests for decades,” Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said in a prepared statement.
Adams is perhaps best known for her efforts to enact a Taxpayer Bill of Rights in 2006. While that effort failed, she did succeed in repealing the statewide property tax in the mid-1970s.
Also, Adams was one of eight Republican candidates who ran for governor in 1994. She finished sixth in the primary, which was won by Susan Collins, now a U.S. senator.
The House and Senate are expected to hold triple sessions for either parts or all of the week as this year’s session steams toward its scheduled April 16 adjournment. Given that LePage is expected to veto a slew of bills, and take the full 10 days allowed by law to do so, it’s likely that the Legislature will recess on April 16 and return for a so-called “veto day,” just as it did last year.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: