I hope everyone is enjoying summertime. It’s a great time to be active, buy local farm-fresh foods, and check out local free music shows and activities in Portland. For example check out the Alive at Five concert series and other music events happening across the city. 

Inside Augusta

While session may be over for the year, there’s still plenty of work to do in Augusta. Several commissions, task forces, and special study committees meet over the summer to delve deeper into issues the legislature has prioritized. These committees will report back their findings over the next several months.


For example, the budget established two task forces looking at the state’s tax expenditures and non-profits. The Tax Expenditure Review Task Force is aimed at critically looking at the number of tax credits and tax incentives we offer as a state and find out which incentives have the greatest return on investment. The task force has been charged with finding ways to eliminate $40 million in tax reductions before January of 2014.
The second, the Nonprofit Tax Review Task Force will examine the appropriateness of exempting certain sectors of our economy from taxation. This group will also submit a report to the legislature in January of 2014.
There are other committees and task forces meeting over the summer and fall tackling big issues, like healthcare transparency and health insurance exchanges, corrections and the criminal code, long-term aging, and a few others.
I will keep you up-to-date as these committees progress.

Baxter Academy

As many of you know, the Baxter Academy of Technology and Science is slated to open in Portland this September. I have historically voted against charter schools, but after charter schools became law, focus became about how to make sure that students who go to any of Maine’s charter schools will be as successful as possible.
I have been in the news lately for being critical of Baxter Academy’s decision to intentionally collaborate with the hyper-partisan fringe political organization, the Maine Heritage Policy Center.
I have several concerns. First, Baxter Academy is a public entity funded by taxpayer dollars. Baxter Academy is openly courting this partisan political group not only for its fundraising potential, but also for their political clout. This is inappropriate and unacceptable. I am also concerned that this first public activity by Baxter will hurt their credibility and ability to work their students, Portland Public Schools and the City of Portland.

Weakening Pollution Regulations

On Monday, the LePage Administration announced that the Department of Environmental Protection will seek to erode smog regulations in Maine. A quick primer about this policy: Maine was a leader in forming the 13-state regional pact to combat smog and improve air quality. The pact was based on the Clean Air Act, spearheaded by Senator Ed Muskie and in 1990, the Clean Air Act was amended and championed by Senator George Mitchell. As a result, the 13-state regional effort works to control cross-border ozone pollution.


The DEP’s proposed change would end a requirement that new or refitted plants meet the most stringent emission standards, also referred to as the lowest achievable emission rate. Additionally, the proposal seeks to eliminate the requirement that such plants compensate for their emissions by buying offsets on a regulated market.


These rule changes by the DEP were moving forward without consulting legislators and without a public hearing. The Speaker of the House and I wrote an open letter to Govenor LePage urging him and the Department of Environmental Protection to hold a public hearing to discuss the potential rule changes.


I am happy to report that our letter did just that and a public hearing will take place this fall.

ClosingAs always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can reach me at Justin@JustinAlfond.com