AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, would encourage revitalization of Maine downtowns by establishing a forgivable loan for startup businesses to create jobs.
The bill — LD 1343, “An Act To Promote Downtown Revitalization by Creating the Locating Businesses Downtown Loan Program” — received a public hearing before the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday.
The Communities For Maine’s Future Program, or CMF is part of a $25 million bond approved by voters in 2010, and provides competitive grants to municipalities for community development projects. Sen. Chenette’s bill creates the Locating Business Downtown Loan Program within the CMF, designed to provide forgivable loans to businesses looking relocate to a downtown area, village area or along a main street.
“When the downtown in a particular area does well and is vibrant, local municipalities get increased revenues which helps stabilize local tax rates beyond providing jobs to local residents,” said Sen. Chenette, who also sits on the City of Saco’s downtown development organization, Saco Main Street. “This bill provides key supports mechanisms and incentives for new startup businesses to increase economic development and create much needed jobs in our downtown communities.”
AUGUSTA — Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, will host a Town Hall meeting in Saco on April 30 to discuss the Opportunity Agenda.
The Opportunity Agenda, the Democrat’s budget proposal for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, calls for the largest property tax cut in Maine history; invests in jobs and the economy; fully funds public schools; makes college degrees more affordable and attainable; supports families, seniors, children and veterans; and provides meaningful student debt relief.
And it does it all without unnecessary cuts to current services and without raising new taxes.
The Town Hall will take place from 1:00 to 3:00 PM at Saco City Hall. Sen. Chenette will be joined by Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, and Reps. Donna Bailey and Maggie O’Neil of Saco. All members of the public and media are welcome.
A brief presentation will be followed by Q&A with the audience. Media availability to follow.
WHAT: Town Hall meeting to discuss the Opportunity Agenda.
WHO: Sen. Justin Chenette, Sen. Troy Jackson, Rep. Donna Bailey, and Rep. Maggie O’Neil
WHEN: Sunday, April 30, 2017, 1:00 to 3:00 PM
WHERE: Saco City Hall, 300 Main Street
AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, would promote the Opportunity Maine program by adding a full time staffer to the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME).
The bill - LD 1171, “An Act To Sustain and Attract Skilled Workers to Maine by Improving the Job Creation Through Educational Opportunity Program” - received a public hearing Tuesday before the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.
The Educational Opportunity Tax Credit, or EOTC, better known as Opportunity Maine, allows Maine residents with a bachelor’s degree to receive up to $4,000 in tax credits or anyone with an associate’s degree to receive up to $800 tax credits if as long as that person stays in Maine or returns to Maine to live and work after college.
Despite the immense benefit provided by the credit, only a fraction of eligible graduates apply for it when they fill out their tax returns, indicating a lack of awareness for the EOTC.
Sen. Chenette’s bill adds a full-time staffer within FAME to promote the Opportunity Maine program and communicate with high school guidance counselors, college career counseling services staff, and Maine Revenue Services to reach the targeted demographic that would benefit most from the tax credit program. It also allocates $30,000 for marketing of the program.
“Maine students are fourteenth highest in the country in terms of student debt levels, showing there is a clear need for debt relief for young people in our state,” said Sen. Chenette. “The problem is, too few students in Maine are aware of the credit. This bill aims to solve the problem and promote awareness for the program.”
Chenette moves to strengthen ethics law around ‘revolving door’ of legislators becoming lobbyists
AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, would ban legislators from becoming registered lobbyists or being paid for any lobbying activities for at least 4 years after their service has ended.
The after-deadline bill — “An Act to Strengthen the Integrity of the Legislature” — would strengthen ethics laws surrounding the revolving door of legislators and state officials becoming lobbyists after their service.
Under current Maine law, Senators, Representatives, and executive branch state officials cannot become registered lobbyists until a year has elapsed after their service. However, no one is required to register as a lobbyist unless they lobby for more than eight hours in a month. This a loophole allows former lawmakers to participate in lobbying without waiting a year, so long as they stay under the registration threshold.
“We need to put more distance between lobbyists and lawmakers and ensure Maine has the toughest ethics laws in the country,” said Sen. Chenette, who serves on the Senate Committee on Conduct and Ethics. “While former legislators may make good lobbyists, it weakens the integrity of the institution by having a government of the lobbyists, by the corporations, and for the bottom line.”
Committee votes down Chenette's ‘pay-to-play’ measure banning lobbyist political contributions
AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted in opposition to LD 413 last week, a bill that would prohibit legislators from accepting donations from lobbyists, corporations and special interests.
The bill, “An Act to Limit the Influence of Lobbyists by Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions,” is sponsored by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco.
State law currently prohibits legislators from accepting donations from lobbyists, lobbyist associate or their employers during the legislative session. Chenette’s bill would extend this prohibition to the entire year, effectively banning all lobbyist contributions.
“The average Mainer can’t afford to hire lobbyists to advocate on their behalf and they shouldn’t have to. I remain resolved to continue to make sure that Mainers get a government that works for them —not big corporations and special interests,” said Sen. Chenette. “While I am disappointed that the committee voted to keep the pay-for-play system in place, I look forward to debating this issue on the senate floor.”
State money would fund treatment in York County Jail, combatting addiction and recidivism
AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted on Wednesday to recommend the passage of LD 377, to send much needed resources to York County to combat drug addiction and recidivism.
The bill, “A Resolve to Establish the York County Jail Drug Detoxification and Rehabilitation Pilot Program,” is sponsored by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco.
The final version of the legislation would provide nearly $1 million annually directly to the York County Jail to offer substance abuse therapy within or attached to the jail. The goal is to provide desperately needed treatment services to inmates with substance use disorders either as residential and/or outpatient community-based services. This pilot project would then report back to the legislature to determine effectiveness and whether to use the program as a statewide model.
“This drug epidemic continues to cause pain and heartache for countless Maine families and is literally costing us lives each and every day,” said Sen. Chenette. “This bill isn’t a magic wand, but aims to get folks cycling through our criminal justice system the help they need to get back on their feet and become healthy and productive citizens.”
The drug crisis reached a new record in 2016, claiming at least one life per day in Maine. Among the 378 recorded deaths during the year, 313 were attributed to opiates.
Drug addiction is especially prevalent in jails and prisons throughout the country. According to a 2010 report by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 85 percent of jail and prison inmates are involved with substance abuse.
Chenette’s bill has earned the endorsement of the Portland Press Herald, as well as York County Sheriff William King, the Maine Sheriffs Association and the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) in Maine.
LD 377 will be taken up by the full Legislature in the coming weeks.
AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, would establish a procedure for recalling elected officials from public office in Maine.
The bill — LD 1125, “An Act to Establish a Recall Procedure for Elected Officials” — received a public hearing before the Veterans and Legal Affairs on Monday.
Current Maine law does not provide for the option of recalling elected officials. Sen. Chenette’s bill establishes such a procedure for elected officials at all levels of government, from the select board to the governor.
“This bill provides an extra level of governmental accountability — a pathway for citizens to retain control over elected officials who are not representing the best interests of their constituents,” said Sen. Chenette. “This is about holding all of us accountable, whether we are serving in municipal government or in Augusta.”
The bill requires that a petition for recall be signed by at least 15 percent of the number of votes cast for that office in the previous election and proportionally based on party affiliation. Petitions would be turned in and reviewed by the Secretary of State. Grounds for a recall must be verified by the Maine Ethics Commission. The grounds for recalling a local or state official would be: neglect of duty, misuse of office or incompetence in the performance of duties, conviction of a drug related crime, criminal conduct, corruption, misappropriation of public funds, obstruction of voter-approved initiatives, or violations of ethics laws. Recall petitions would not be allowed during the first or last six months of the elected official’s time in office.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), there are 19 states that have recall procedures in place for state officials. Additionally, at least 29 states have recall provisions for local elected officials.
LD 1125 faces further action in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and votes in the House and Senate.