Saturday, March 8, 2014
Roll it back? One of the more heated debates of the last legislative session could resurface today when Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, presents his bill to change the state's workers compensation law.
Jackson's bill, LD 443, is a concept draft, but Republicans are preparing for a rollback of changes they pushed through when they held the legislative majority last year.
Those changes included preventing most workers from receiving workers comp benefits after 10 years even if an injury prevented a worker from returning to their job and another provision that doubled the impairment threshold.
The bill enacted in 2012 was supported by the business community but fiercely opposed by Democrats and organized labor, who both argued that the measure would result in a boon for insurance companies.
Republicans countered that the old law did not provide enough incentive for people to find work.
Release the fish: The Legislature could soon give final approval to the emergency bill that would open most of the St. Croix River to alewives by the end of April.
The bill, LD 72, received unanimous support from the Marine Resources Committee last week. It's on the enactment calendar in the House today. The measure requires two-thirds approval from the full House and Senate and would take effect immediately.
The bill ends the state's 18-year blockade of the schooling fish, allowing spring runs of alewives through the fishway at the Grand Falls Dam near Princeton and through much of the St. Croix watershed. The blockade was installed in 1995 when fishing guides feared that the alewives were harming smallmouth bass.
Since then lobstermen, groundfishermen, the Passamaquoddy tribe and environmentalists have pushed to end the blockade.
If passed Wednesday the bill would go to Gov. Paul LePage.
LePage had proposed a phased reintroduction of alewives to the St. Croix, but that proposal was rejected by the committee.
Hospitals, booze: Lawmakers and the LePage administration continue to draw closer to a deal that would repay Maine's hospitals $484 million in backlogged Medicaid reimbursement.
The Legislature's budget-writing committee will continue to work the bill today, but it's clear now that that lawmakers believe that the governor's plan to use a revenue bond to pay the debt is the best way forward.
On Tuesday Attorney General Janet Mills told the committee that the governor's plan was constitutionally defensible, after originally expressing concerns that it wasn't. Additionally, lawmakers have received clearance from the Maine Municipal Bond Bank, which also noted that the bond issuance process would take about 12 weeks.
Lawmakers still need to nail down how exactly the state will use the bond proceeds to fund each hospital.
Non-political item: Given the ongoing news out of North Korea, it was tempting to post the infamous Hans Blix-Kim Jong Il scene from "Team America: World Police," but alas, it's NSFW, or my job security. Instead, here's a screen grab and some advice: Google "Hans Blix, Kim Jong Il."
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.