Rep. Russell Black, a key member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, was ordered by committee leaders to stop talking to people about the bill to reform Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission.
Black’s bill to aid the maple syrup industry has also been held up in the Senate, to add to the pressure on the only Republican member of the ACF Committee to oppose a provision in the bill that would allow counties to opt out of LURC by taking on its duties at the county level.
So far, Black is holding tough in a very impressive performance of integrity and strength.
The committee is headed to a showdown on the LURC bill on Thursday afternoon. Last week the committee found some areas of agreement, then broke down after committee member Rep. Karen Foster offered an amendment that addressed two contentious issues including the opt out provision.
This afternoon the ACF Committee was briefed by state agency leaders and others on a host of issues raised by the bill. DEP Commissioner Patty Aho explained how her agency would handle its new regulatory duties for major development projects in the unorganized territories now governed by LURC.
The Forest Service reviewed how it would handle its new forest harvesting regulatory duties that the bill would move to that agency from LURC.
Funding issues were also explored, including the costs to counties if they use the opt out option, and several other key issues.
It was tedious, down-in-the-weeds stuff for most of the work session. When offered another chance to review Rep. Foster’s amendment, the committee expressed information-overload, and postponed that discussion to Thursday’s work session.
I missed the middle part of the afternoon ACF work session, in order to testify before the Taxation Committee on a bill to abolish the chickadee checkoff on Maine’s income tax form that provides important funding to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I wrote about this issue in my Down East column last week.