Inside Augusta

Maine House votes to double annual fee on motor vehicle inspections

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Both the House of Representatives and the Senate met on March 29 for the ninth legislative day of the 130th Legislature’s second session. 

The Senate finally passed over 30 pieces of legislation, including a bill that will allow college athletes in the state to profit from the use of their name, image, likeness and from autographs. The chamber also finally passed a bill preventing retail stores from using abandoned properties in the valuation of facilities that are currently in use and operation.

Both pieces of legislation will be sent to Gov. Janet Mills for signature.

The House of Representatives debated and moved forward a number of bills, including a pair that would increase fees to distribute pet food in the state and inspect motor vehicles. 

The pet food bill was voted on in the Senate on March 24. The Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry produced a divided report on LD 1744. The Senate first voted to take up an amended version of the bill that increased the fee for registering dogs, cats, horses, and certain kinds of livestock and deposited the revenue in the Animal Welfare Fund, but that motion failed by a vote of 11 to 21.

The Senate then voted to take up a different amendment, which increases the registration fee to distribute commercial pet feed from $80 to $100 per product and deposits 60% of the revenue collected in the Animal Welfare Fund and 40% in the General Fund. By a vote of 20 to 12, the Senate adopted that amendment and passed the bill to be enacted.

On March 29, the House voted 77 to 62 to pass to enact the amended bill in concurrence with the Senate. 

The House further voted to adopt LD 2032, which implements recommendations made by a motor vehicle inspection working group. The bill doubles the inspection fee for noncommercial motor vehicles from $12.50 to $25. It also allows the chief of the state police to make an electronic inspection program available for motor vehicle inspections and to charge a fee for use of the program to inspection stations.

Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris) spoke in opposition to the bill.

“This bill received no public hearing. It doubles the fee on car inspections and was printed the same day it was passed to be engrossed. It deserves a roll call at the very least,” Andrews said.

The House voted 95 to 39 to enact the bill, with 26 Republicans joining Democrats in support of the measure. The bill will need to be adopted by the Senate in order to be enacted and moved to Gov. Mills’ desk. 

The House also debated LD 1963, which creates the Education Stabilization Fund, intended to prevent a reduction in the state’s budgeted share of education funding. An amendment to the bill, which was adopted by the House, transfers $30 million from the unappropriated General Fund surplus to the Education Stabilization fund in fiscal year 2021-2022.

Before the chamber voted on the bill, Rep. Sawin Millett (R-Waterford) noted it contained duplicative language from the governor’s supplemental budget proposal. Millett said he was not speaking in opposition to the bill, but to notify members that passage might require further clarification. 

By a vote of 99-38, an amended version of LD 193 was passed to be engrossed. It will need to be adopted by the Senate in order to be enacted.

The House also debated LD 1704. The original language of the bill reduced the estate tax exclusion, from $5.6 million to $1 million, for estates of decedents who died on or after January 1, 2022. 

An amendment, which was adopted by the House, removes the exclusions and requires 50 percent of revenue from the state’s estate tax to be credited to the Maine State Housing Authority and used for the creation of low-income housing units.

Before the House voted to adopt the bill and its amendment, Rep. Mark Blier (R-Buxton) rose to say he could not support the bill because he believed it would contribute to inflation and raise rents. 

“We don’t have a money issue; we have a housing shortage issue,” said Blier.

The House adopted the amendment by a vote of 73 to 58. It will now be sent to the Senate for adoption.

Both chambers also voted to advance LD 859, a bill that allows municipalities to use ranked-choice voting in local elections provided adoption of an alternative voting method was approved at a municipal meeting held at least 180 days before an annual meeting.  

The bill was tabled by the Senate on March 24 after both chambers had passed an amendment that replaced the original bill, which was a concept draft. It was taken up again by the Senate on March 29.

Sen. Joseph Baldacci (D-Penobscot) offered a Senate amendment, which made a minor technical change to the bill. Baldacci’s amendment removes the phrase “annual meeting” and inserts “election.” 

Baldacci’s amendment was adopted by a vote of 18 to 13 and the bill was sent to the House in nonconcurrence.

Following the Senate’s actions, the House voted 69 to 63 to adopt Baldacci’s amendment. Both chambers will still need to vote to enact the bill.

Both the House and the Senate will return for a session on March 31.

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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