AUGUSTA — The legislative panel that is working to reform Maine’s regulatory environment issued a draft proposal Wednesday that avoids controversial proposals made by Gov. Paul LePage in January.

Led by Republican lawmakers, the Regulatory Fairness and Reform Committee built the bill known as L.D. 1 from testimony at public hearings across the state and bipartisan consensus developed in work sessions that followed.

“I think we did very well. I’m very excited,” said Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton. “There was a little (partisan) jockeying in the beginning, but we’re all on the same page. We want to make the state a better place.”

Some suggestions from LePage, a Republican, were incorporated. They include changes to regulations that would allow beneficial reuse of hazardous materials, as suggested by companies such as Fairchild Semiconductor, and an environment audit policy that offers incentives for companies to self-report violations.

Other proposals by LePage, such as repealing Maine’s Informed Growth Act, adopting a statute of limitations for enforcement against environmental violations and repealing a proposed ban on the chemical bisphenol-A, were relegated to other committees that had similar legislation before them.

LePage initiatives such as eliminating the Board of Environmental Protection and weakening state agencies’ power in court were dropped.

Republicans successfully campaigned last year on a promise to make Maine more business-friendly and reduce regulatory red tape, and lawmakers hope to use L.D. 1 to begin delivering on that pledge.

In some cases, L.D. 1 would clarify and strengthen what already exists, such a small-business ombudsman in the Department of Economic and Community Development.

“A significant component of that was already in law, but we’re looking to make sure that’s more effective, as well as making sure that the position can actually respond to the needs of small business,” said Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond.

The ombudsman would offer small businesses an entry point to navigating state government, according to the draft proposal.

The measure also would create a small-business advocate, in the Secretary of State’s Office, to aid small businesses that feel they have been treated inappropriately by any state agency.

The language in the draft would not allow the advocate to temporarily postpone a disciplinary action by a state agency, as originally proposed by Secretary of State Charlie Summers. Democrats and representatives of the Attorney General’s Office had expressed constitutional concerns about such power.

To improve transparency, L.D. 1 would require state agencies to cite the primary source of information they rely on to create new rules.

To improve efficiency, it would allow municipalities with approved fire and health inspectors to conduct necessary reviews, rather than scheduling inspections only with state officials.

To improve regulatory predictability, the proposal would modify the role of the Board of Environmental Protection, shrinking it from 10 members to seven and more strictly defining which projects would come before the board.

The proposal also would repeal the BEP’s authority to revoke or suspend permits, reconsider its action on a permit or offer advice on enforcement priorities or penalties.

Another part of the legislation is designed to encourage foreign investment in Maine, by asking the commissioner of economic and community development to take steps to participate in the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program offered by the federal government.

“Say someone from away … has lots of money and they want to come to the United States. Well, if they donate $1 million to economic development, we’ll help them accelerate their green card,” said Saviello.

Lawmakers from both parties said not every committee member supports all components of the draft proposal, but each was composed with bipartisan participation.

“We set aside all the rhetoric that we heard and the extreme proposals and we created proposals to address, how do we bring greater clarity to the process, how do we have permits granted in a more timely fashion while making sure that we protect the environment,” Goodall said.

One final public hearing on L.D. 1 is scheduled for 1 p.m. April 14 in Augusta.

“If (the public) likes it, we’d sure like to hear about it,” Saviello said. “So far, I’m getting the feeling that people do.”

Rebekah Metzler — 620-7016

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.