Bipartisan Majority Rejects the Costly, Extreme, and Risky Proposal
Among its actions this week, the Legislature defeated a controversial “regulatory takings” bill that would have cost Maine taxpayers millions of dollars, caused a proliferation of lawsuits, and blocked future laws that may be necessary to protect Maine’s environment, people, and communities. This action came when the House and Senate voted to “indefinitely postpone” LD 1810—which means the bill is now officially dead.
“This risky, costly, and radical proposal would have undermined the laws that protect Maine’s environment and communities,” said NRCM Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim. “Despite a massive effort by lobbyists to force this dangerous bill through the Legislature, a bipartisan majority held firm and refused to support it. Common sense won the day over ideology.”
The original bill would have allowed property owners to receive payments from the State Treasury to compensate them for claimed losses in property values resulting from future land use regulations. Property owners would be allowed to ignore Maine law if the State did not make the compensation payments.
Such proposals have been broadly defeated nationwide based on concerns about their high costs and negative consequences, and previous takings bills have been rejected by the Maine Legislature at least five times since 1995.
In March, a majority of the Judiciary Committee rejected LD 1810, and proposed a complete substitute that would avoid the litigation, costs, and harm to the environment that would have resulted from the bill. But supporters of the original bill worked relentlessly to keep their proposal alive. These efforts peaked during the week of April 9, when the Majority Report from the Judiciary Committee was blocked in the House, and the Minority Report was voted on instead, passing by a one-vote margin.
Lobbyists then attempted for several days to force the bill forward in the Senate, but they faced a bipartisan block of 20 Senators—including Republican Senators Tom Saviello, Roger Katz, Chris Rector, and Earl McCormick—who were firmly opposed to the Minority Report. The Senate adjourned at 2:30 a.m. on April 14 without taking a vote on LD 1810, leaving it to be considered when they reconvened May 15. When the bill finally was scheduled for consideration in the Senate, it was clear that supporters of the Minority Report had failed to recruit any additional support, so they offered a motion to “indefinitely postpone” the bill—and the House followed suit.
“We greatly appreciate the strong leadership provided by both Republicans and Democrats who saw the takings bill for what it was—a thinly veiled attempt to prevent the Legislature from passing laws in the future that will be needed to protect our communities, wildlife habitat, and the character of Maine,” said Maine Audubon’s Staff Attorney Jenn Burns Gray.
The Majority Report proposal from the Judiciary Committee was drafted by Rep. Brad Moulton (R-York) and Rep. Charles Priest (D-Brunswick), with input from Sen. Tom Saviello (R-Franklin), Rep. Bob Duchesne (D-Hudson) and other lawmakers. This proposal would have created a Regulatory Fairness Committee to evaluate the impact of regulations on property owners and initiate legislative solutions. The motions to indefinitely postpone the bill had the result of blocking adoption of the Majority Report.
“The takings bill finally hit the brick wall of reality,” said Sean Mahoney, Maine Director of the Conservation Law Foundation. “The Minority Report was so complex, convoluted, costly, and extreme that it would have been a disaster if passed into law. We’re very pleased that a majority of Maine legislators understood this and voted to kill the bill.”
Maine taxpayers would have had to pay millions of dollars over time to fund implementation of the Minority Report. The fiscal note over the first three years alone was pegged at $1.28 million, and this estimate did not include any of the funds that would be needed to pay possible compensation payments of up to $400,000 per case.
In the very few states in the U.S. that have adopted legislation anything like the Minority Report, studies have revealed that corporate interests, large-scale developers, and attorneys have been the primary beneficiaries. Former State Senator Peter Mills made this point to legislators this year, saying “The primary impact—and its intended impact—is to stymie regulation for the benefit of large landowners with ample resources to paralyze state agencies. That is, in fact, how takings laws have been used in the few states that have enacted them. It’s not a statute for the little guy.”
“The Minority Report would have created multiple paths for developers to receive waivers from Maine law, allowing them to build developments that otherwise would be illegal,” said Didisheim. “Such waivers would have caused an unraveling of the laws that protect Maine’s environment and triggered lawsuits by people who suddenly learned that a massive development, waste dump, or energy project was landing next door to them because the developer had received a waiver from the law.”
“The Minority Report posed a major threat to Maine’s environmental safeguards,” said Maine Conservation Voters Executive Director Maureen Drouin. “That’s why defeating the bill was a top priority for people and organizations throughout Maine who love our clean air, clean water, and healthy communities.” The Maine Clammers Association, Congress of Lakes Association, Maine Municipal Association, and all of Maine’s major conservation and environmental organizations opposed the Minority Report for LD 1810.
Passage of takings bills like LD 1810 has been a high priority for the ultra-right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has promoted model legislation to state legislatures since the early 1990s.