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Op/Ed: Maine Republicans enacted Regulatory Reform

By David Sorensen

Regulatory reform was the first priority of Maine’s GOP-controlled Legislature 0f 2011-2012, hence the number of the first bill featured below.  Many regulations were out of date or simply too burdensome.  Using decades of one-party rule to their advantage, Maine Democrats had built up an imposing regulatory apparatus that gave their friends in the environmental lobby virtually everything they wanted without balancing the need for private-sector job growth.

These are some of the bills that began to hack away at that regulatory jungle.  There are many more that could arguably be included here, but these represent some of the clearest examples of relief from red tape.

LD 1 – Regulatory Fairness and Reform

LD 1 is a comprehensive overhaul of Maine’s regulatory structure. A special committee of legislators toured the state to learn firsthand from entrepreneurs how state government can help their growth by eliminating red tape and bureaucracy. The ideas were sent to specific legislative committees of jurisdiction to be refined into one comprehensive bill.

The reform:

LD 1798 – LURC Reform

After years of public outcry from residents of northern Maine seeking balance, responsiveness and local control at the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC), the agency that controls land use planning in Maine’s Unorganized Territories (UT), the Legislature responded. LD 1798 enacted the following changes:

LD 1314 – Independent Contractors Defined

One of the most aggravating problems for employers was trying to prevent and fix problems stemming from the gray area of whether certain employees are subject to workers’ compensation and unemployment laws or whether they are independent contractors, exempt from those laws. This bill standardizes the definition of “independent contractor,” reducing confusion about who qualifies for workers’ comp or unemployment benefits and who does not. The bill has been hailed by job creators as one of the best things to come out of the Labor and Commerce Committee during the 125th Legislature.

LD 311 – Harbor Dredging

Harbor towns routinely faced burdensome obstacles when trying to dredge their harbors to allow for safe passage of fishing and recreational boats. The town of Wells, for example, recently spent $180,000 and four years simply to obtain a dredging permit from the DEP. That is unacceptable. This bill allows for maintenance dredging, whereby towns may obtain an original permit for dredging and then dredge the same amount within 10 years again without obtaining another permit. That is common sense.

LD 862 – Increased Lifespan of Permits

Prior to the enactment of this bill, permits issued by the DEP required that development activities begin within two years of the date of issuance and be completed within five years. This put an arbitrary and undue burden on developers, who often require flexibility in construction timeframes. LD 862 provided regulatory relief by requiring the DEP to extend that timeframe by two years: four years to begin activity and seven years to complete it.

LD 281 – Statute of Limitations for DEP Violations

Existing law provided a 10-year statute of limitations after which the DEP could not initiate enforcement action against those violating DEP rules. LD 281 reduced that limitation to 6 years, providing more certainty and flexibility to developers and job creators.

LD 322 – Amend the Informed Growth Act

The Informed Growth Act (IGA) imposed onerous, state-mandated requirements for the procedure by which “big box” stores could move into a town. LD 322 restored local control, allowing local communities to have the ultimate say in whether and when a big box store may move into town.

This reform provides that:

LD 1695 – Retail Permit and License Displays

This bill eliminates the unnecessary requirement of small business owners to publicly display all of their permits and licenses. This opens up wall space in stores and removes the clutter and unsightliness of multiple government documents. Instead, a business owner must simply make the license or permit available on demand at the premises.

LD 49 – Lobster Traps on Docks

LD 49 eliminated the notorious DEP rule that lobstermen could not store their lobster traps on docks. The reasoning behind this rule was that the shadow they cast may inhibit seaweed growth on the harbor floor. This Legislature believes that Maine lobstermen’s convenience and productivity is more important than a few square feet of seaweed.

David Sorensen is the communications director for the Maine Republican Party. For more information, see www.mainegop.com.