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LD 1778 Summary and Public Hearing Primer

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by Terrilyn Simpson

The director of the Maine State Housing Authority has no accountability to the governor, the legislature or the MaineHousing board of commissioners.

Maine State Housing is the only quasi-governmental agency in the state in which the director has no accountability to its board.

Maine citizens will have an opportunity to voice opinions and offer arguments regarding MSHA director accountability on Tuesday afternoon at a legislative hearing at the state capitol. It will be the first public round in the debate over the MSHA director accountability bill sponsored by Senator Jon Courtney (R-York County).

The public hearing on LD (Legislative Document) 1778 — An Act Relating to the Governance of the Maine State Housing Authority — will be held at 1:00 on Tuesday, January 31 in Room 208 of the Cross Building, located next to the State House.

SUMMARY of LD 1778
This bill removes the provision of law that provides that the Director of the Maine State Housing Authority serves a 4-year term of office. The bill provides that the director does not have a term of office and that the director serves at the pleasure of the commissioners of the Maine State Housing Authority. It also removes the provision of law that states that the powers and duties of the Maine State Housing Authority, with certain exceptions, are vested solely in the Director of the Maine State Housing Authority.

The bill will be heard before the legislative Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development.

Legislative members of the committee include:

  • Senator Christopher W. Rector (R-Knox), Chair
  • Representative Kerri L. Prescott (R-Topsham), Chair
  • Senator Thomas H. Martin, Jr. (R-Kennebec)
  • Senator Troy Dale Jackson (D-Aroostook)
  • Representative Dana L. Dow (R-Waldoboro)
  • Representative Melvin Newendyke (R-Litchfield)
  • Representative Amy Fern Volk (R-Scarborough)
  • Representative Raymond A. Wallace (R-Dexter)
  • Representative John L. Tuttle, Jr. (D-Sanford)* (Ranking minority member)
  • Representative Timothy E. Driscoll (D-Westbrook)
  • Representative Paul E. Gilbert (D-Jay)
  • Representative Robert B. Hunt (D-Buxton)
  • Representative Erin D. Herbig (D-Belfast)
  • Representative David Slagger (Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians)

For members of the public uncertain of guidelines in testifying before a legislative committee, a spokesperson at the legislative information office emphasizes time limits and having written copies of testimony available.

If a large number of people show up to testify, a three-minute time limit is the norm — and if speakers want to have the opportunity to fully make their point and deliver their own punchline, it’s best to adhere to the three-minute rule.

And because members of the committee may be absent or come and go to participate in other committees, speakers are urged to have written copies of their testimony available to hand to the committee clerk when they address the committee. Copies of the testimony will be placed in folders individualized by the bill number for committee members. No other record of public testimony is made available to committee members. An excerpt from the legislative information office brochure on testifying before a legislative hearing is included below:

TESTIFYING AT A LEGISLATIVE HEARING

PREPARING TESTIMONY
If you plan to speak at a public hearing, it is often useful to prepare and distribute your comments in written form. This helps you make clear and concise comments, and ensures that committee members who are not present at the public hearing have the opportunity to receive your input.

In preparing testimony, written or not, make sure you introduce yourself and, if you represent an organization, give the name of the organization. State whether you support the bill, oppose it or are offering suggestions to improve it, and then explain your reasoning. If you do provide written
testimony, bring at least 20 copies and give them to the committee clerk before you testify. Photocopiers are available in the Law and Legislative Reference Library in Room 200 of the State House for a nominal charge.

WHEN YOU ARRIVE
Most committee hearings are held in the State House (the Capitol) or on the second floor of the Cross Office Building. The buildings are connected through an underground connector which can be entered from the ground floor of either building. The committee hearing times and locations are posted on the third floor of the State House and on the second floor of the Cross Office Building.

PUBLIC HEARING PROCEDURES
Speaking order: At the beginning of each hearing, the presiding committee chair will call the public hearing to order and announce the bill to be heard. The legislator who sponsored the bill will introduce the bill, after which, the presiding chair will ask if any other cosponsors wish to testify. Once sponsors and cosponsors have had the opportunity to speak, public testimony is invited. Generally, the public may present testimony in one of three categories in the following order: those favoring the bill, those against the bill, and those neither for nor against the bill but who wish to offer information about the bill. NOTE: The committee may be hearing several bills during a public hearing. Generally the bills are heard in the order in which they are advertised. However, the schedule is subject to change and the length of the hearing on most bills is difficult to predict.

Your turn at the podium: When it is your turn to testify, advance to the podium. Address the committee as follows: “Senator Smith, Representative Jones (chairpersons) and members of the committee.” Introduce yourself, indicate who you represent and whether you support the bill, oppose it or are offering suggestions to improve it, and then explain your reasoning. If other speakers have already made your point, let the committee know that you agree with the previous remarks of other speakers, but try to avoid repeating the testimony of previous speakers. When you finish, remain at the podium for a moment, in case committee members want to ask you questions.

Comings and Goings: Many hearings last throughout the day, and many legislators are members of more than one committee. Legislators may need to leave and re-enter the room if they are scheduled to be at a public hearing or work session in another committee. However, they will receive any written information, which is a good reason to provide written testimony.

Work sessions: After the public hearing, a work session is scheduled at which committee members discuss the bill and decide whether to recommend its passage. The public may speak at a work session only if a committee member requests further public input and the presiding chair grants permission. Work sessions on a bill are generally held on a day other
than the day of the public hearing. If you would like to find out when a work session will be held, ask the clerk how to do that.

RESOURCES AVAILABLE
Bills (LDs) and Amendments: Single copies of bills and printed amendments are available upon request at no charge in the Legislative Document Room (Room 102, State House). Legislative Internet Web page: Bills, calendars, schedules and other bill related information are available on the Legislature’s web page at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis

Bill Status Information: Legislative Information Office, Room 121, State House – 287-1692 / TTY# 287-6826

Laws and Rules: Copies are kept in the Law and Legislative Reference Library, Room 200, State House, 287-1600.

Phone Numbers: To leave a message for a member of the House during session call 800-423-2900 and to leave a message for a member of the Senate during session call 800-423-6900. Be prepared to leave a concise message.

Parking: Free parking is available in the parking garage on the corner of State Street and Sewall Street or where spaces are marked “General Parking.” Unauthorized cars will be towed if parked in handicapped parking spaces or any other restricted parking space. One and two hour visitor parking is available on the west side of the Cross Office Building. The visitor entrance to the State House is on the west side of the building.

Special Services: If you plan to attend a public hearing or work session and have any special needs, please call Legislative Information at 287-1692. They will make every effort to accommodate your request. Handicapped parking is available between the State House and Cross Office Building and on the west side of the Cross Building.

The Legislature’s web page contains the public hearing and work session notices. The address is: http://janus.state.me.us/legis; If you can’t get the information you need from newspapers or the Internet, you can call the Legislative Information Office at 287-1692 or 1-800-301-3178 (TTY 287- 6826). Call this office also if you plan to attend a public hearing or work session and you have any special needs. It is helpful to reference the Legislative Document in “LD” number when you call for information about a bill.

Need a paper copy? Contact the Document Room at 287-1408 or send an e-mail with the LD number, the Item number and a mailing address to webmaster_house@legislature.maine.gov

In response to the reader question, “Is it possible to submit written
testimony if one does not attend the hearing?”

In short, yes.

The testimony should contain, at the top of the page, the LD number, an indication of whether the person submitting the testimony is FOR or AGAINST this piece of legislation — or NEITHER (but offering suggestions regarding the proposed bill) and the name and contact information of the person submitting testimony along with the name of any organization the person represents.

Because the committee has the option of going into a work session to consider the bill — and any testimony submitted —  immediately following the public hearing, written testimony from a citizen not able to attend the hearing should be submitted before the hearing.

Written testimony can be emailed, hand delivered by someone other than the person who has authored the testimony or sent via the US Postal Service.

The testimony should be sent or hand delivered to the clerk of the committee hearing the bill.

Testimony sent through the US Postal Service: A minimum of 20 copies should be included.
For LD 1778, send to Committee Clerk Rhonda Miller, Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, 100 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333. Although testimony can be sent via the US Postal Service, on this particular bill (LD 1778), which will be heard on Tuesday, it is unlikely the testimony would reach the clerk in time if mailed through the post office.

Hand delivered testimony should include a minimum of 20 copies and should be given to Committee Clerk Rhonda Miller, Room 208 of the Cross State Office Building.

Emailed testimony for LD 1778 should be emailed to Committee Clerk Rhonda Miller at rhonda.miller@legislature.maine.gov. According to Miller, she is not allowed to print out copies of emails for committee members but can forward emailed testimony electronically to individual committee members.

A list of legislative committees and other legislative information can be found at: http://www.maine.gov/legis/

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently producer for the Howie Carr Show. Follow him on Twitter @Stevie_Rob or send him an email at Steve@HowieCarrShow.com.

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