AUGUSTA, Maine — For about two months, the Maine House and Senate have been convening in regular sessions at least twice a week, but neither body has taken any substantial votes.
Most of lawmakers’ time has been spent on public sentiments and “moving paper,” or deciding which committee should debate specific pieces of legislation.
That could change this week.
The Senate has a bill on the floor that would change Clean Election laws in Maine for every publicly financed candidate.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the matching funds provision in clean election laws was unconstitutional. Matching funds are triggered when a privately funded candidate spends more money than a publicly funded candidate. Without them, a private candidate could spend significantly more than a public one.
Lawmakers in Maine have wrestled for months about what to do next. Some legislators have favored doing nothing, which would simply strip all references to matching funds from Maine laws.
Others want a viable replacement that attempts to level the playing field for private and public candidates.
The bill before the Senate, LD 1774, simply removes any mention of matching funds from the Maine Clean Election Act, a law approved by voters in the 1990s that allows candidates for the House and Senate to receive public dollars for their campaigns.
However, the Senate also will consider two amendments to that bill, one from Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford; the other from Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta.
The amendments are nearly identical. They both would allow for a set amount of public money based on the campaign, but Patrick wants more money up front and Katz wants less.
Under Patrick’s amendment, a House candidate would get $500 for an uncontested primary, $1,500 for a contested primary and the $5,865 for the general election. A Senate candidate would receive $1,500 for an uncontested primary, $8,000 for a contested primary and $27,296 for the general election.
Under Katz’ amendment, there would be no funds for uncontested primaries. House candidates would get $500 for a contested primary and $4,000 for the general election. Senate candidates would receive $2,000 for a contested primary and $23,000 for the general.
The Senate could begin debate on LD 1774 and those two amendments as early as Tuesday.
Another bill that could be voted on this week by the Senate is legislation that would fund a study for an East-West Highway. The Legislature’s Transportation Committee approved the bill a couple weeks ago but the Senate has yet to take it up.
Gov. Paul LePage is in Biddeford on Monday, first to meet with city officials and then to tour the North Dam mill district. He also plans to visit the University of New England.
No public remarks are expected.
On Tuesday at the State House, Gov. LePage plans to announce his “Business Friendly Communities Initiative.”
The initiative is billed as “a way for the state and communities to partner to reduce red tape and promote job creation.”
On Wednesday, LePage will preside over the annual maple tree tapping at the Blaine House. The event helps kick of the start of Maine’s maple syrup season.