The following is a letter from the newsletter of Representative Bill Pluecker, who represents House District 95 of Appleton, Hope, eastern Union, and Warren.
I wanted to write to you to provide an update about some of the work that is happening in the Legislature in the last couple of weeks and what’s ahead for us.
The House and Senate recently met in Augusta to take care of some of the work that was in front of our committees over the last couple of months.
The biggest item on our list was making a decision on the supplemental budget that needed to be made to take in account budget cuts to balance our state budget following revenue losses stemming from the COVID-19 health pandemic. State government also had to make decisions on how to proceed on having similar tax laws as the federal government in Washington, DC — particularly income taxes on the Paycheck Protection Program and unemployment insurance.
After two very long days, the entire legislature came together in near consensus to assemble a budget with responsible cuts to each department of the state government, no taxes on PPP loans, no taxes on unemployment insurance up to $10,200 for total incomes less than $150,000, adds $8,000,000 to the Rainy Day Fund, and begins a PFAS remediation fund for these forever chemicals that are affecting our farms, our drinking water and our health.
Last week in the Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Committee we heard over 3 hours of testimony for a bill to require legislative approval for certain leases of public lands. This bill would require ⅔’s of all elected members of the Legislature for any use of public reserved lands for transmission lines and facilities and certain other projects, retroactive to 2014.
Our committee also heard a bill I put forward to establish a working farmland access and protection program within DACF and Land for Maine’s Future, and to help coordinate what those two programs are doing already so that we can ensure more farmland stays in the hands of farmers and not redevelopers.
You can read more about this bill here.
The Agriculture Committee decided to advance legislation that would allow Gold Star Families free entry to our state parks and historic sites and establish a Healthy Soils Program.
Last week, I presented a very important bill to the Judiciary Committee to extend the statute of limitations for the discovery of PFAS contaminations on citizens property. This newfound forever chemical has destroyed farmland and nearby drinking wells where it was deployed, and is also quickly being found to be the cause of health issues. You can read more about this bill here.
This coming week, another committee I sit on — the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee — will hear a proposal to add a computer crimes unit within Maine State Police to specifically target online scams that target older Mainers.
And, the Agriculture Committee will hear two of my bills. One of which will direct the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to study alternative cropping systems for farmers affected by PFAS contamination. The other will work to support farms and address food insecurity by tapping into federal funds and private matching grants to allow low-income Mainers to purchase fresh produce from local farmers.
You can follow all of our work online at this link. We regularly meet on Tuesdays & Thursdays at 9:30 a.m.