Senator Claxton, Representative Martin, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government, my name is Pete Didisheim. I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify on behalf of our 20,000 members and supporters in support of LD 1830, An Act Establishing the Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.
We strongly support this bill to rename the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future (OPIF), and to provide the new office with a new set of responsibilities. We commend the governor for introducing the bill and for selecting Hannah Pingree to serve as Director of the OPIF.
We believe this office can serve a vital role of integrating and coordinating policy development and planning across state agencies, utilizing the best input available from the public and private sectors. In fact, the office already is stepping into this role, bringing innovation and an eye to the future in crafting the governor’s bipartisan climate bill (Act To Establish the Maine Climate Change Council To Assist Maine To Mitigate, Prepare for and Adapt to Climate Change, LD 1679) and working to develop a comprehensive strategy to address Maine’s opioid addiction crisis. In both policy areas, staff of the emerging OPIF has looked at examples of what is working in other states, and how those ideas can be applied here in Maine.
States are our nation’s policy laboratories, and there’s no point in having every state try to reinvent new policies. This new office can serve as a driving force in Maine government to ensure that we are evaluating and importing the best ideas we can find across the land, while also developing new policies that will the unique needs of Maine people, our economy, and our natural resources.
That’s what the predecessor to this new office did, the former State Planning Office, which was dismantled, dismembered, and dispersed in 2012. SPO was a larger operation than what’s envisioned for the OPIF. SPO developed policy, but also had direct service responsibilities, including managing the Land for Maine’s Future program, the Maine Coastal Program, and other grant programs. In general, SPO served the same fundamental purpose of cross-agency policy coordination that’s called for in LD 1830.
SPO performed this function well, in areas such as land-use planning, mercury pollution reduction, downtown development, energy policy, watershed and coastal protection, land conservation, and a host of other issues.
SPO created the Maine Downtown program. It evaluated how transportation systems and state policies were having the unintended effect of encouraging urban sprawl. It shaped Maine’s recycling programs, drafted Maine’s first climate study, coordinated hydropower licensing across agencies, and developed a more integrated approach to state-funded R&D.
At its core, SPO was a policy shop that served the governor by doing high-priority policy development and analysis that wasn’t getting done within a single agency, or couldn’t be done within the stove pipes of individual departments. That function has been missing since the SPO was dismantled, and we’re pleased with this legislation to bring it back.
Maine’s governor, today and in the future, will benefit from this new office that helps provide the Chief Executive with one integrated point of view on some of the most pressing policy challenges facing the state, instead of 10 points of view from 10 different departments. The Maine Legislature and Maine people also will benefit from policy development that will occur within the Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, based on input from internal and external experts, stakeholders, and Maine citizens.
Bottom line: who can be against Innovation and the Future? We encourage you to vote Ought to Pass on LD 1830. I appreciate this opportunity to share my remarks, and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.