All of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee members in attendance at yesterday’s committee meeting voted in favor of an amended LURC reform bill, LD 1798. The republicans on the committee offered to make further changes to the bill including removing the controversial “opt-out” provision, clarifying that county commissioners nominated to serve on LURC cannot vote for him or herself, requiring commissioners to meet a certain level of qualification, and making the rules implementing the changes to LURC major substantive which means the Legislature will have to review and approve them.
The bill is significantly improved from what was introduced earlier in the year and we appreciate the hard work of legislators on both sides of the aisle to achieve those improvements.
The most significant rollback and worst provision that would have allowed counties to opt out of LURC jurisdiction has been removed from the bill and that is a significant improvement in the bill.
This time last year we were fighting efforts to abolish LURC altogether, so we are very pleased that LURC will continue to oversee the North Woods and do planning and zoning to guide development to appropriate areas and maintain Maine’s forest resources.
We continue to have concerns about the bill, particularly the provisions that would allow 8 of 9 positions on the LURC Board to be filled by County Commissioners. Our concern is that those county commissioners will be faced with unavoidable situations of divided loyalty where they are trying to further the interests of their county constituents at the same time that they are trying to fulfill their obligations on a state-wide regulatory board.
It will be critical for Maine people to carefully watch the implementation of these changes to ensure that public resources in Maine’s North Woods are protected and that the new LURC board is acting in the best interests of the state.
We recognize the tremendous effort of our activists and supporters for working so diligently to defend LURC. These efforts have paid off in a bill that is much improved.
We also greatly appreciate the considerable efforts of our legislative allies in pushing so hard to improve this bill. Many of them endured tremendous pressure. Specifically, we thank Representatives Jeff McCabe, Jim Dill, Peter Kent, Andy O’Brien, Emily Cain, Terry Hayes, Bob Duchesne, Russell Black, Tom Winsor, Brad Moulton, Les Fossel, Kim Olsen, Dennis Keschl, Meredith Strang Burgess, Jane Knapp, David Richardson, Gary Knight, Jim Parker, Ryan Harmon and Senators Elizabeth Schneider and Tom Saviello. We also thank Senator Raye and the republicans on the ACF Committee for continuing to find ways to address our concerns and for being open to compromise.