AFA Update: Tuesday, March 10- Friday, March 13, 2015

This week the Appropriations committee was joined by several committees for public hearings on various aspects of the Governor’s proposed Biennial budget.

  Committee(s)/Departments Testimony Audio
Tuesday, March 10 IF&W, Marine Resources Testimony
Wednesday, March 11 State & Local Government Testimony

and Authorized but Unissued Bonds

Audio
Thursday, March 12 Environment & Natural Resources and Energy, Utilities & Technology Testimony Audio
Friday, March 13 Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development Agency Testimony

Worker’s Comp Board Org Chart

Public Testimony

The morning’s audio was lost due to power failure

Afternoon Audio (Includes public testimony and Work sessions)

Most areas covered this week did not generate significant testimony or controversy. Notable on Wednesday were discussions around funding for debt service and on Thursday the plan within the Department of Environmental Protection to eliminate 23 positions. Today some objected to the continued diversion of low-income housing funds from the HOME fund.

Work Sessions on Supplemental Budget

After taking public testimony on LCRED items the committee took initial votes on LD 232 LD 234, and LD 236 related respectively to the Judicial branch, much of state government (including the jails) and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Marked up copies of these bills can be found here:

LD 232

LD 234

LD 236

Democratic members of the committee pushed for public discussion and consideration of each line.

On LD 232, Sen. Valentino presented a pair of amendments for the Office of the Attorney General.

1) Authorization to spend up to $28,628 to meet the federal match requirements for the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. -Sen. Hamper will not support the amendment citing his belief that “it circumvents the Office of the Governor” and flagged its approval. Rep. Rotundo offered to provide a copy of the actual language. He was unmoved.

2) Authority for the AG to set and approve the compensation for their employees just as the Secretary of State and State Treasurer are permitted to do. – Sen Hamper voiced the same objections.

The Judiciary maintains that they could not possibly have predicted that it would require additional funds to operate the new Capitol Judicial Center. Previously, Kennebec County has paid the operating costs for the court house.

With respect to Indigent Legal Services, Republicans have proposed funding $1.4M of $1.7M requested by the Commission for the remainder of the fiscal year. 10-14 days of delayed payments would result from a $300,000 reduction.

Regarding LD 234, the committee reconsidered their prior approval of the bill. Republican members of the committee have proposed eliminating additional funding for the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission (MITSC). Rep. Winsor feels there is no urgency to the request.

For LD 236 Republicans objected to allowing 2 Mental Health Worker II positions to remain as such until the end of the fiscal year as proposed by front line workers at RPC.

Citing the ragged pace of supplemental requests from the administration, a public hearing is scheduled for next week as well as a further $1M+ request to come, members expressed frustration at the pace of work and information.

Rep. Winsor asked that Alex Porteous of the Department address the administration’s recent assertion. That the $1.5M previously requested for the General Assistance program. Mr. Porteous and Mr. Adolphson stated that the department has the resources to meet its obligations including any funds that may be due to Portland should the city prevail in its court challenge.

Inquiries about a similar retraction for funds previously needed for the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly program yielded identical answers.

The department cited further claims data correcting their forecasts as a reason for the more accurate projections.

Democrats set aside efforts by the administration to sweep $7M in preventive care dollars from the Fund for a Healthy Maine. These funds were set aside last session for FHM purposes.

Democrats propose instead to use funds set aside from the year-end cascade for the purpose of addressing DHHS shortfalls, particularly the possible failure of the $20M cash management initiative.

The administration now asserts that they also do not need $4M to pay part of a $9.2M federal audit finding. They feel they have the flexibility to delay that payment until the beginning of FY16. They plan to “self fund” the other $5.2M.

The plan is to resume work sessions on these bills Monday afternoon.

Sen. Valentino proposed an amendment to direct Personal Services savings from the proposed Riverview positions to the General Fund Unappropriated Surplus as well as instituting a number of accountability and reporting measures including;

  1. A summary of the number of hours of overtime worked by Mental Health Worker positions, Acuity Specialist positions and Nurse positions;
  2. A summary of the number of hours of mandated overtime worked by Mental Health Worker positions, Acuity Specialist positions and Nurse positions;
  3. A summary of the number of reported injuries indicating the job classification, whether or not the event resulted in lost time and the predicted amount of time before the employee returns to a normal workweek;
  4. A summary of the reported injuries between patients;
  5. The training schedule for Mental Health Worker positions, Acuity Specialist positions and Nurse positions including the number of attendees and an explanation of how staff get released to attend training;
  6. A schedule for hiring the positions authorized by this Act; and
  7. Copies of all communications with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services related to recertification efforts.

DHHS Responses

Beginning this week the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has responded to questions asked during public hearings and work sessions.

Relating to Adult Mental Health

Relating to Substance Abuse, Prescription drug assistance and hospitals

Relating to Public and General Assistance

Schedule

Next week public hearings continue as policy committees hold concurrent work sessions on their sections of the budget.

  Time Committee Highlights
Monday, March 16 10:00 AM Veterans and Legal Affairs BABLO, Ethics, Gambling
  1:00 PM Criminal Justice Corrections, Computer Crimes, Capitol Police, MDEA
  3:00 PM AFA Work sessions on LD 232, 234 and 236 (Supplemental budget bills)
Tuesday, March 17 1:00 PM Judiciary AG’s Office, Judiciary, Indigent Legal Services, closure of Madawaska Court
3:00 PM Transportation State Police
Wednesday, March 18 1:00 PM Insurance and Financial Services
3:00 PM Appropriations (only) Cascade, appropriations limitations (LD 1 PL 2005), employee attrition

The full schedule can be found here.

You can always attend hearings and work sessions in Room 228 or listen live here.

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