The shift to a business-friendlier Augusta is lauded as Gov. LePage signs a bipartisan bill into law.
By Rebekah Metzler, MaineToday Media State House Writer
AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage and Republican legislative leaders praised the passage of a regulatory reform package during a ceremonial bill signing Monday on the lawn of the Blaine House.
The measure, L.D. 1, recently passed unanimously in the Senate and with just three dissenting votes in the House.
“This bill is a down payment on what needs to be done to improve the business climate in the state of Maine,” said LePage, a Republican.
Promises of regulatory reform and a streamlining of government were cornerstones of LePage’s campaign for governor last year. L.D. 1 includes reforms to provide more support for small businesses as they negotiate state regulations, loosen environmental regulations to allow beneficial reuse of hazardous materials, and offer incentives for companies to self-report environmental violations.
It reduces the state Board of Environmental Protection from 10 members to seven, creates an advocate to assist small-business people who feel they have been treated inappropriately by any state agency, and allows municipalities with the proper staffing to do fire and health inspections locally.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers crafted the legislation after an initial list of suggestions by the governor’s office generated widespread opposition from environmental groups and residents around the state.
“The people of Maine understand that you can reduce the regulatory burden, but they want to make sure that we protect Maine’s pristine environment, and I will tell you that L.D. 1 has absolutely achieved that goal,” said Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney, R-Sanford.
LePage praised the bipartisan nature of the bill, despite the fact that Democrats on the Regulatory Fairness and Reform Committee opposed many of his initial proposals, such as eliminating the state’s Kids Safe Product Act and removing a ban on bisphenol-A, or BPA, in children’s products, and getting rid of two environmental regulatory bodies and the state’s new electronic waste recycling law.
“We got everybody to look at both sides of the issue and we found compromise, and we need to continue doing that,” LePage said. “This bill was never designed to impact the environment in a negative way; it was always to streamline getting through the process in Augusta.”>/p>
House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said it was “a testament to the committee that worked this bill so hard on a bipartisan basis.”>/p>
House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said the willingness of Republicans on the committee to engage with Democrats produced a better product.
“Democrats made their mark on this bill by pushing back on what we perceived as the most extreme policies that were proposed, whether that was related to BPA or certain positions that we wanted to be added,” Cain said after the press conference. “We believe that common ground was achieved here, because true bipartisan compromise was struck, not only in the process but also in the final bill.”>/p>
LePage said he will pursue more changes in January, at the beginning of the next legislative session.
Rep. Jon McKane, R-Newcastle, who was the House chair of the Regulatory Fairness and Reform Committee, said, “It’s a change in attitude in Augusta, and that’s something that I’ve wanted to see for a long time.”>/p>