From Augusta

Rep. Owen Casas updates on Maine legislative activity

Posted:  Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - 8:30pm

Greetings constituents of District 94 Camden, Rockport and Islesboro. Rep. Owen Casas here and I thought I would provide an update on legislative activity. Over a series of columns I'll lay out some state issues that are impactful, important and of interest.

Being a political independent I hope for it to be informational and unbiased so you can have some tools to explore individual topics further.

The first regular session of the 128th Maine Legislature has been completed and a Special Session is scheduled for Oct 23.

The Governor’s proclamation of a Special Session calls for dealing with issues surrounding food sovereignty, funding of the Maine Office of Geographic Information Systems, and for the Legislature to "receive communications, and to consider and determine on such measures as in their judgement will best promote the welfare of the State."

When we finished our legislative work sine die on August 2, it was common knowledge that we were going to have a Special Session to deal with Marijuana legalization implementation and Ranked Choice Voting, so I anticipate all of this and more on Oct 23. In preparation for the Special Session, a Public Hearing on LD 1646 "An Act To Bring Maine's Ranked-choice Voting Law into Constitutional Compliance" is scheduled for 10 a.m., Oct 16 in my committee, Veterans and Legal Affairs.

Public education funding – A source of major contention in the state budget concerned the voter approved 3 percent surtax on taxable income over $200,000. Although I did not support the income tax surcharge, I was disappointed that a full repeal passed. Leaving some portion of the surcharge would have provided a long term, more reliable funding source for public education. However there was a onetime appropriation of $162 million in public education funding. This amount still falls short of the state obligation to fund 55 percent, but comes in at roughly 53 percent.

Statewide teachers' contract – Governor LePage proposed a statewide teachers' contract. Many teachers and administrators expressed concerns about this proposal. I did reach out to the bill sponsor to discuss those concerns. Although there were positive amendments added, I could not support it and the bill failed.

A topic with as many implications as this one deserves thoughtful and thorough public input and evaluation; I expect to see similar bills in the near future.

All the best,