This article was written for our April 2019 newsletter and the information may be outdated. You can check the status of these bills at any time by following this link to Maine.gov. Type in the bill number and voila!
The 129th Maine Legislature has been busy considering many legislative proposals. The MLA has been monitoring bills before the Marine Resources Committee, as well as the DMR budget, bond requests and several energy proposals. This session will end by June 19, 2019.
The Marine Resources Committee has held public hearings on most the bills that would affect the lobster industry and has taken final votes on a few. Several bills are still under consideration.
Under Review by the Legislature
- LD 28 An Act Regarding Access to Lobster Licenses, sponsored by Rep McCreight of Harpswell, proposes to give lobster licenses to those who have completed the Apprentice program and been on the waiting list for 10 or more years. The Marine Resources Committee receive a lot of testimony during the public hearing on February 5 which was roughly split between those who supported and opposed the bill. During the February 19 work session, the Marine Resources Committee voted to table this bill due to the many changes that the lobster industry is currently facing as result of herring cuts and potential whale rules. The bill will be reconsidered during the second session in 2020.
- LD 340 An Act to Establish a Temporary Terminal Condition Medical Allowance for Lobster and Crab Fishing License Holders, sponsored by Rep McCreight of Harpswell, proposed to establish a temporary terminal condition medical allowance to allow a person who meets several criteria. On February 26, the Marine Resources Committee voted to pass an amended version of this bill which would not create a new terminal condition medical allowance, but instead, expand the temporary medical allowance. The amendment would allow the lobsterman to haul his own gear during times when he is well enough while the temporary medical allowance is in place. The amendment is pending final review and approval by the Committee.
- LD 430 An Act To Establish and Promote a System of Safe Disposal of Expired Marine Flares, sponsored by Rep McCreight of Harpswell, proposes to establish programs for the collection and disposal of expired marine flares. On March 4, the Criminal Justice voted to support an amended version of this bill. The amendment is pending final review and approval by the Committee.
- LD 618 An Act To Remove Nighttime Restrictions on Lobster Fishing in a Certain Area in the Bay of Fundy, sponsored by Rep Tuell of East Machias, proposes to allow Zone A lobstermen who fish in the U.S. portion of the Gray Zone to haul lobster gear during any time of day between Labor Day and Memorial Day. On March 5, the majority of the Marine Resources Committee voted Ought to Pass an amended version to make this change for the 2019 season but require DMR to report back to the Marine Resources Committee during the second session before the provision is made permanent. The amendment is pending final review and approval by the Committee.
- LD 676 An Act to Simplify Maine’s Lobster Licensing System, sponsored by Rep Faulkingham of Winter Harbor, proposes to eliminate the Class I, II, and III licenses and replace them with a “single” license for an individual and a “crew” license to fish with unlimited crew. The cost of the license and associated fees for the single license would be the same as the current Class I license and fee for the crew license would be the same as the current Class III license. On March 5, the Marine Resources Committee voted to table this bill in order to get more input from the lobster industry.
- LD 955 An Act to Prohibit Offshore Oil and Natural Gas Drilling and Exploration, sponsored by Rep Devin of Newcastle, proposes to prohibit activities relating to offshore oil and natural gas exploration, development and production within the boundaries and jurisdiction of the State. The public hearing is scheduled for March 29 before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
- LD 914 An Act to Enhance the Recruitment and Retainment of Marine Patrol Sergeants, sponsored by Sen Deschambault of York, proposes a 5% salary increase for Marine Patrol Sergeants. Marine Patrol sergeants are seeking to remedy a problem with availability pay so that they are compensated in the same way as IFW sergeants. A public hearing was held on March 5.
- LD 797 An Act to Limit Greenhouse Gas Pollution and Effectively Use Maine’s Natural Resources, sponsored by Rep Tucker of Brunswick, proposes to require that by 2050 the state to reduce net annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels. The public hearing was held on March 13 before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. This is the Governor’s proposal for Maine to address climate change. The ENR Committee is considering several other proposals to address climate change.
- LD 937 An Act Regarding the Sale and Release or Abandonment of Balloons, sponsored by Rep Devin of Newcastle, proposes to subject a person who releases or abandons a balloon outdoors to penalty. It also requires a seller of balloons to register with the Department of Environmental Protection and to display in a conspicuous place at each purchase counter information concerning the risks and safety hazards of balloons. The public hearing is scheduled for March 27 before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
DMR Budget. Governor Mills has proposed a budget for DMR for FY 2020-2021 of $27 million. This budget reflects approximately $13 million in General Fund resources, of which $3 million would support one time capital expenditures to support an upgrade to the Boothbay Lab to allow research to continue and the purchase of five new marine patrol vessels.
Ought Not to Pass
- LD 174 An Act to Promote Youth Participation in the Maine Lobster Fishery, sponsored by Rep McDonald of Stonington, proposed to allow a child 12 years old or younger, who does not hold a student license, to assist a Class I, II or III lobster license holder while lobstering. The Marine Resources Committee moved the bill out of committee on March 19 with a unanimous ought not to pass vote.
- LD 314 An Act to Simplify Apprenticeship Requirements for Student and Apprentice Lobster and Crab Fishing License Holders, sponsored by Rep Faulkingham of Winter Harbor, proposed to allow a person with an Apprentice or Student lobster license an alternate method to demonstrate Apprentice Program completion through verified landings of at least 4,000 pounds of lobster over a period of not less than 2 years. The Marine Resources Committee majority (7) voted ought not to pass, with a minority (5) supporting an amended version of the bill. This bill was voted down by the House on March 19 and killed by the Senate on March 21.
- LD 675 An Act to Provide Equity in the Lobster Promotion License Surcharge, sponsored by Rep Faulkingham of Winter Harbor, proposed to replace the 3-tiered promotion charge with a single promotion surcharge of $310 for all 3 classes of licenses. On March 15, the Marine Resources Committee moved this bill out of committee with a majority ought not to pass vote. MLMC is up for reauthorization in 2021 at which time changes to the funding structure could be considered.
No Public Hearings Yet Scheduled
- LD 941 An Act to Further Define the Monhegan Lobster Conservation Area, sponsored by Rep Devin of Newcastle, is a concept draft which proposes to redefine the status of the Monhegan Lobster Conservation Area.
- LD 956 An Act To Allow Student License Holders To Fish for or Take Lobsters during a Closed Season, sponsored by Rep Devin of Newcastle, proposes to allow a lobsterman with a student license to fish during a closed season if that closed season occurs during an interim between school years.
- LD 936 Resolve, Establishing a Commission To Study the Existing and Potential Effects of Freshwater and Marine Debris on Maine’s Freshwater and Coastal Habitats and Species, sponsored by Rep Devin of Newcastle, proposes to establish a 13 member committee tasked with studying freshwater and marine debris and how it affects Maine’s freshwater and ocean and coastal ecosystems, habitats and species.
There are several bonds seeking funds related to marine issues:
- LD 16 An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Invest in Infrastructure to Address Sea Level Rise, seeks a $50 million bound to improve waterfront and coastal infrastructure in municipalities to address sea level rise.
- LD 400 An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Food Processing Infrastructure in Targeted Areas of the State, seeks $20 million for food processing infrastructure in targeted areas of the State.
- LD 547 An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support Maine Aquaculture, seeks $25 million for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to study and promote Maine aquaculture.
- LD 537 An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Establishment of a Near-shore Coastal Sensor Network, seeks $2 million to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s to establish a near-shore coastal sensor network to gather oceanographic data and track changes in state waters.
- LD 861 n Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Complete the Renovation of a Wharf and Bulkhead in Portland for Marine Research, seeks $3 million to complete the renovation of a wharf and bulkhead at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland.
There is also a $50 million marine jobs bond being worked on to facilitate the growth of commercial fishing and aquaculture related marine businesses.