Bipartisan, business-friendly bill will help boost job growth
Governor Paul LePage signed into law Legislative Document No. 1 on Monday during a ceremony at the Blaine House, creating reforms help to streamline government, cut through red tape and build the Maine economy.
The Governor was joined at the signing by Senate President Kevin Raye, House Speaker Robert Nutting and other members of the Legislature.
Several reforms found in this legislation were introduced through “red tape” workshops held throughout the state by Governor LePage, where nearly 1,000 job creators proposed their ideas and concerns about burdensome regulations that stifle job growth.
“When we work to pass common-sense legislation that effectively assists more jobs to be created, it’s a no-brainer,” said the Governor. “This is a good down payment on the necessary reforms we must make to transform Maine’s business climate.”
This bipartisan legislation was approved unanimously last week by the Maine Senate, and the House endorsed the bill with only three dissenting votes. Both Senate President Kevin Raye and House Speaker Robert Nutting praised the passage of the bill and the effort that went into crafting it.
“LD 1 is an enormous success for Governor LePage, the Maine Legislature and Maine’s job creators,” said Senate President Raye. “We’re moving Maine forward today in a very positive and constructive way to signal that Maine truly is open for business.”
“The reforms of LD 1 strip away many of the unnecessary impediments to doing business that state government creates,” Speaker Nutting said. “It strikes a balance between maintaining necessary, reasonable government safeguards and allowing Maine businesses to flourish.”
In an effort to get the most feedback from job creators and citizens, the Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform held public hearings on LD 1 in several communities. “We visited seven communities around Maine to listen to the concerns of citizens and businesses because we believe that the best solutions come from Main Street, not Augusta,” said Senator Jonathan Courtney, who is Committee Chair.
Courtney also noted that Republicans and Democrats worked closely together to build consensus around a set of solutions that will change the culture of state government in a positive way.
The Governor also commended legislators on both sides of the aisle, as they proved this was a bipartisan piece of legislation that benefits the entire State.
“The regulatory reform law is proof positive that we do our best work together,” said Rep. Emily Cain of Orono, the House Democratic leader. “Democrats rejected the most extreme proposals, and we came together to find moderate compromise to support our business community and our environment.”
The original bill proposed by the governor underwent significant changes after the seven public hearings across the state. Democrats said Maine people rejected environmental rollbacks, including overdeveloping the Maine woods, and permitting toxic chemicals in children’s products.
“We honored the process, listened to the people and put partisan politics aside to craft a law that will improve our business climate,” said Rep. Bob Duchesne of Hudson, the lead House Democrat on the regulatory reform committee. “We asked a lot of tough questions, heard from the business community, the environmental groups, and in the end we have a better result. It’s a bipartisan success story.”
The new measure establishes an environmental self-audit program, strengthens the business assistance office in the Department of Economic and Community Development, streamlines permitting and reduces the size of the Board of Environmental Protection from 10 to seven, among other reforms. It also creates a position within the Secretary of State’s Office to advocate on behalf of certain businesses.
“The new statute is not broad and sweeping,” said Rep. Mike Carey (D-Lewiston), who also served on the committee. “It is a set of incremental, common-sense ideas that Maine businesses asked for.”
During the public hearings, 700 people across the state testified on the measure in over 100 hours of meetings.
“The listening session and the professional work of the committee to come to consensus resulted in a unanimous, non-partisan policy that addresses the real concerns of Maine businesses,” said Rep. Linda Valentino (D-Saco).
The environmental self-audit program provides strong incentives for companies to promptly self-report, correct and prevent violations, including reducing or eliminating penalties and prosecution for environmental violations.
Similar to the federal self-audit program, regulated companies would create a systematic, documented, periodic and objective review of operations and practices. Violations would need to be reported within 21 days and corrected within 60.
A company that is quick to resolve its violation faces no fines or prosecution.
“It’s a carrot, not a stick,” said Rep. Sharon Treat (D-Hallowell). “These are the kinds of moderate reforms that make sense for Maine people.”
Governor LePage is enthusiastic about the multiple reforms in LD 1, which include liaisons for business. “In the Department of Community and Economic Development, there will be business liaisons that will help our job creators get through the maze of government permitting,” Governor LePage said. “These are things that are going to assist in job growth and create a more prosperous Maine.”