AFA Update: Tuesday, February 10-Wednesday, February 11, 2015- Tax conformity and public hearings and work sessions on supplemental budgets

Appropriations met on Tuesday afternoon for public hearings on supplemental bills- including a proposal on the operation of county jails, and a work session on tax conformity. Supporting materials from DHHS are available at the end of this update as well.  Wednesday held further public hearings and work sessions.

Technical challenges prevented audio recording of Tuesday’s meetings. I apologize for any inconvenience.

Wednesday’s meetings can be found here.

Public hearings on supplemental bills

Appropriations held public hearings on two of the Governor’s FY15 supplemental budget bills.

LD 148 An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Marine Resources, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Baxter State Park Authority for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2015

You can find the public testimony here.

A work session for this bill, which received no testimony in opposition, is set for this Friday, February 13.

A public hearing was held for LD 234 An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015

Public testimony is available here.

Sen. Hamper has suggested an amendment to LD 234 to place the State Board of Corrections (SBOC) in “receivership” through the end of this fiscal year. County law enforcement turned out in force. Members of the committee discussed alternatives to receivership including the Governor making the appointments to the board as required by law, changes in statute allowing the Presiding Officers to make those appointments, empowering a new Executive Director to make decisions, and empowering the Commissioner of Corrections or Administrative and Financial Services to address these challenges.

No decision was made on Tuesday.

The text of Sen Hamper’s amendment is below:

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine:

  1. 34-A M.R.S. §1001 is amended to read:
  2. Receiver. Receiver means the Receiver of the Board of Corrections.
  3. 34-A M.R.S. §1816 is enacted to read:
  4. Receiver of the Board of Corrections. The Governor may appoint a Receiver of the Board of Corrections when, in the judgment of the Governor, the State Board of Corrections system, for whatever reason, fails to fulfill the goal of sound fiscal management as set forth in §1801 or fails to meet any other purpose or goal in that subsection.
  5. Appointment. The appointment of the Receiver shall be by the Governor alone. The appointment will be effective at the issuance of a proclamation by the Governor.  The Receiver shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
  6. Powers and Duties of the Receiver of the Board of Corrections. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Receiver, once appointed, shall assume the powers and duties of the State Board of Corrections until such time as the Governor terminates the tenure of the Receiver.
  7. Duration of the Tenure of the Receiver of the Board of Corrections. The tenure of the Receiver shall automatically terminate on June 30, 2015. The Governor may, by proclamation, terminate the tenure of the Receiver of the Board of Corrections.
  8. Liability of the Receiver. Except in cases of intentional wrongdoing, the Receiver shall not be liable except in the Receiver’s official capacity.
  9. Power to Make Formal Complaint to the Governor. The Receiver, may make complaint to the Governor pursuant to the Maine Constitution, Article IX, Section 10. This subsection does not limit the eligibility of others to make complaint under that provision of the Maine Constitution. 
  10. Administrative Support. The Receiver may request the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General and other agencies of the State or the counties whenever necessary. The department shall provide administrative support for the operations of the board, including but not limited to filing public notices, taking meeting minutes and recording decisions.
  11. Compensation. The Governor shall set the compensation for the Receiver appointed under subsection 2.
  12. 34-A M.R.S. §1803 is amended to read:
  13. Stay of the Powers and Duties of the Board of Corrections. When a proclamation is issued pursuant to 34-A M.R.S. §1803, the responsibilities of the members of the State Board of Corrections shall be stayed until the termination of the tenure of the Receiver.

Commissioner Richard Rosen also addressed the change in how wastewater is handled at the Dolby landfill in the Millinocket region. The reduced operation has allowed the use of only the secondary treatment facility by remaining consumers, the State and the town of East Millinocket.

Work session for LD 138, Tax Conformity

Following public hearings AFA took up a work session LD 138, the Governor’s tax conformity legislation. (Information on the Public hearing is here.) Answers provided to the Taxation Committee by Maine Revenue Services (MRS) last week are here.

After discussion surrounding the reinstatement of the Maine Capital Investment Credit, Maine’s version of bonus depreciation, the committee voted unanimously to support LD 138 as proposed.

Wednesday hearings

Joined by the Judiciary Committee, AFA held a public hearing on LD 232 “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of the Attorney General and the Judicial Department for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015”.

Attorney General Mills highlighted the urgent need to fill certain positions, including homicide and child protective prosecutors and Medicaid Fraud Control efforts. Financial orders authorizing the allocation and approval of these initiatives have spent months awaiting the Governor’s approval. Committee members entertained including language in LD 232 to provide this authorization.

Failure to provide the seed money for Medicaid fraud control jeopardizes $900,000 annually. The unit has recovered over $60M from consumers and providers.

Ted Glessner of the Judicial branch presented testimony in favor of the requests for the Judiciary in LD 232. There was significant discussion surrounding the need for additional operational funding for judicial centers.

You can find Gen. Mills testimony and that of others here.

Following that AFA held a Work Session on LD 148 “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Marine Resources, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Baxter State Park Authority for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2015. The only amendment was to correct initiative language for a single reclassification. Rep. Sirocki and Rep. Timberlake expressed concern about the reclassification process. After a discussion LD 148 was voted Ought to Pass with only one vote of dissent.

In the afternoon AFA took up Public Hearings for LD 233 “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management and the Department of Public Safety for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015” and LD 236 “An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Health and Human Services and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015”. The Health and Human Services Committee joined AFA for the hearing on LD 233. Testimony on LD 233 can be found here.

Commissioner Mayhew presented testimony in favor of the Governor’s supplemental proposals.

That and other testimony can be found here.

The bill has several major provisions:

  • $1.3M for Consent Decree needs
  • Adjustments to align anticipated service provider tax revenue with allocations
  • Several position reorganizations and the establishment of 29 new positions at Riverview Psychiatric Center (RPC)
  • Funding for facility and equipment upgrades to RPC
  • $1.6M for additional needs within General Assistance reimbursement to towns
  • $1.9M to continue funding for Health Homes
  • $1.6M for enhanced primary care reimbursement
  • $20M to replace an initiative intended to save $20M that was not implemented by the Department. Rep. Rotundo asked for information on the alternatives that were explored by the department before not pursuing this initiative as directed by the Legislature.
  • $7.6M from the Fund for a Healthy Maine (FHM) for other purposes. Commissioner Mayhew declined to address this initiative, deferring to Commissioner Rosen of DAFS. Melissa Gott, State Budget Officer, promised more information about this “redistribution” for the work session. The Administration represents these funds as glances in the Fund for a Healthy Maine.
  • $4M to pay a portion of a $9.2M federal audit finding regarding overpayments. The department intends to self-fund the remainder ($5.2M) of the recoupment

Regarding the continued challenges at RPC Commissioner Mayhew spoke to efforts to find a different model for the treatment of forensic patients who do not require a hospital level of care.

Workers from RPC offered their perspective on the Governor’s proposals.

Points they shared include:

  • The need for greater mentoring opportunities among staff
  • Different approaches for renovations
  • Increased emphasis on direct care staff over administrative staff
  • Concerns about poor safety safeguards currently

Addressing concerns about RPC’s outpatient transitional unit Rep. Rotundo asked that the administration provide answers to questions from staff.  Last month there was an incident in which a person was shot by an Augusta police officer at the outpatient center. Acting Superintendent Jay Harper talked about the review that is to follow as a “top to bottom.”

Additional information

Late last week DHHS released a series of “fact sheets” presenting the administration’s case on several biennial budget initiatives.  Below is a list of the topics, the sheets are here.

Brain Injury and OCR Waivers
BRAP
Consent Decree
CAH Reimbursement
Drugs for the Elderly
ED Reimbursement
Fund for a Health Maine
General Assistance
Health Homes
Medicare Savings Plan
Methadone
Nursing Facilities
Physician Rates
Primary Care Reimbursement
Riverview
Section 19 Waiver
Section 21 Waitlist
State Funded Long Term Care
SNAP for Legal Noncitizens
SSI for Legal Non-citizens
TANF for Legal Non-citizens

Schedule

Thursday AFA continues discussion of the Governor’s tax proposal. Friday will see work sessions and likely votes on all supplemental bills discussed this week.

Next week, vacation week is the beginning of public hearings on the Governor’s proposed biennial budget. Income tax initiatives will be discussed beginning on the morning of Tuesday, February 17.

The full schedule may be found here.

As always you may listen live here or find audio recordings of meeting here.

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