Two measures proposed by House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, to help communities facing the closure of the Madison Paper Industries mill failed to win support from a legislative council that would have allowed them to be considered as bills this session, according to a news release Thursday from the Maine State House Majority Office.

The proposals included a bill that would have kept hydropower assets as part of the mill for two years and presented separate sales of the two facilities, and a proposed joint resolution asking Congress to address the negative impact of trade agreements on manufacturing in Maine. They follow meetings of Madison officials, state lawmakers and Gov. Paul LePage earlier this week to discuss ways to help the Madison area.

Meanwhile, Madison’s state representative said Republicans still are working on amending L.D. 281, a bill that has been carried over from last year and could give Madison and other communities facing large losses in valuation tax relief in the form of additional state education dollars.

“Everyone knows that if the hydropower assets are sold off separately, this mill will end up as scrap,” McCabe said in the release Thursday. “The governor acknowledged that at our meeting and the Madison officials who were there want us to pursue this option. It’s what Madison and the neighboring communities need if this mill is ever going to employ people in good-paying jobs again.”

In the second legislative session, bills are allowed in only if they win support from six members of the Legislative Council. The council is made up of the 10 legislative leaders.

A 4-6 vote prevented McCabe’s hydropower bill from being allowed in, the release said. His joint resolution failed in a 5-5 vote. All five Republican leaders voted against both proposals being allowed in for the Legislature’s consideration.

“We know that Maine manufacturing is suffering under unfair trade policies that put our workers and employers at a disadvantage. We know that we can compete with anyone and win if we just have a level playing field,” McCabe said. “This was an opportunity for us, united as a Legislature, to tell Congress that they should only accept a deal that works for Maine. We need to make sure our elected officials in Washington, D.C., get the message loud and clear from the entire Legislature.”

Earlier this week McCabe also proposed two other bills that were tabled Thursday. They include a resolve directing the University of Maine to work with the Department of Economic and Community Development to develop a study on the future of the forest products industry, and an act to address job loss and buffer valuation in Maine mill towns.

Madison Town Manager Tim Curtis said Thursday night that he was appreciative of McCabe’s efforts but could see why the resolution to keep the mill’s hydropower assets and mill facility connected might have failed.

“While the town of Madison would have liked to see them kept together, we certainly understand that we can’t tell a private business what to do,” he said.

Rep. Brad Farrin, R-Norridgewock, who represents Madison, also said Thursday that he didn’t see a lot of hope in keeping the hydro assets and mill connected. “There’s no bankruptcy and there are no state or federal dollars involved,” Farrin said. “So I never saw that as a likelihood.”

The best chance of relief for Madison in the wake of the mill’s closure is an amendment to McCabe-sponsored L.D. 281, which is still under consideration, Farrin said.

The bill would ensure communities affected by large losses in tax valuation are able to have the loss recognized by the state immediately as they calculate state education funds.

Sen. Rod Whittemore, R-Skowhegan, and Farrin were both co-sponsors of the bill, and Whittemore is working on an amendment.

Whittemore did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday night.

“I think it’s our best way forward,” Farrin said of the bill.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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