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Meeting with MDOT & LD 1168

Letter to STEWC email notification list from Chris Buchanan on 4-9-15

Hi everyone,

As many of you know, our bill to close the loophole in the PPP law, LD 506, was unanimously defeated in the Transportation Committee last week, which is a bummer.  But, we’re not done with advocating for better state policy!

We are now asking for your support on LD 1168.  Below and attached are the talking points that we’ve written up for LD 1168 to help people draft testimony.

The public hearing has not been scheduled yet, but this bill will be heard before the Judiciary Committee.

Now is the time to start calling, emailing, and meeting with members of the Judiciary Committee to earn their support.  Note, the Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee is Senator David Burns, so folks in Washington County, we hope you’ll make an effort to get in touch with your Senator!  Judiciary Committee contacts are attached and at this link.

As before, it will be very powerful to receive testimony from municipalities, so while we have time, please share a copy of the bill with your selectboard or council and ask for their support!

You may also begin preparing and submitting testimony.  Emailing testimony, we’ve learned, will get to committee members but may not be part of their official packet, or a part of testimony listed online.  So, it’s best to show up in person and give them 20 copies, or to mail 20 copies, if you want your testimony as part of the official packet.  Info on submitting testimony is attached and will be sent out again.

MDOT.  I met with Nina Fisher from MDOT yesterday, to discuss LD 1168 and understand why they killed LD 506.  Nina said that the MDOT is going to try to kill LD 1168 because they don’t feel like the PPP has any legs without eminent domain powers.  She provided an example of a possible train spur project to Limestone that would need eminent domain, and would be a private entity.  However, Nina said she was going to talk to the executive office about advocating for a clause in the PPP that would eliminate an east-west highway from being a project that could be used by the PPP.  She said she wasn’t sure the governor was ready to do that, but he may be.  If he is agreeable, MDOT would use LD 1168 as the vehicle for making that change to the PPP law, as opposed to advocating to completely kill the bill.

Regarding LD 506, Nina said that the clause in the PPP law, subsection 4i which states, “I. The proposal and the transportation facility must comply with all requirements of applicable federal, state and local laws and department rules, policies and procedures,” means that both solicited and unsolicited proposals must follow the Sensible Transportation Policy Act, go through the normal public hearing process, etc.  She believes that providing the unsolicited proposals clause provides a way to encourage private entities to approach the MDOT with ideas that may be good ideas.  I told her it didn’t seem necessary to me, and that the MDOT was asking for trouble with this loophole, as we have seen with the EWC, but she insists that the MDOT wants to maintain the clause.  Instead, as described above, she offered to discuss the possibility of prohibiting the EWC in the PPP law.  She agreed that the EWC would not pass muster under MDOT scrutiny, and she did not think, even if the Commissioner at MDOT changed and was a super pro-East West Corridor person who gave the EWC a green light, that the legislature would agree and pass it.  She said she thought that legislators perceived that supporting the EWC was toxic, thanks to all of the work of all of you, the people of Maine.

I say, congratulations to everyone on that major accomplishment, which is also very apparent to me!

For those who want to discuss my meeting with Nina more, please feel free to call.

Again, attachments are: 1) LD 1168 talking points, 2) Judiciary Committee contact info, 3) How to Submit Testimony to the Judiciary Committee

Here are the talking points on LD 1168:

LD 1168, An Act to Prohibit the Delegation 

of Eminent Domain Power to Private Entities,

sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis (R-Piscataquis)

 

Concept:

 

LD 1168 prevents eminent domain from being used by a private entity, or in certain Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) on behalf of a private entity, by amending the Public-Private-Partnership for Transportation Projects Law[1], and the law that restricts eminent domain use[2].

 

Talking points:

 

  • Eminent domain is an important tool for State and Local Government to have in order to promote the health, safety, and welfare of its residents; however, eminent domain is a serious power that overrides individual property rights in favor of community rights.  Therefore, State and Local Government Entities should use eminent domain only as a last resort, for vetted transportation projects that can be demonstrated to be in the public’s best interest.

 

  • The law must be clear and the law must reflect that the public interest is the priority interest of concern to State and Local Government when exercising eminent domain power for transportation projects.  Although private entities may be subcontracted by the State or Local Government Entity to fulfill a contract, no public entity should use its eminent domain power to act on behalf of a private entity’s transportation development interest, or to further the economic interests of another country that could be the primary beneficiary of the transportation infrastructure.
    • The proposed East-West Corridor, for example, would allow local territory to be used as a pass-through connecting New Brunswick and Quebec, with primary economic benefits accruing to Canada and profits accruing to foreign investors.
    • In general, since foreign investment and/or ownership is sometimes part of a private project, state and local eminent domain power should not be used to further these financial interests.  

 

  • Maine’s farmland and fresh water must be protected.  Everyone needs good food and water to live a healthy life.  The growth rate of Maine’s young farmers is much higher than anywhere else in the country, 40% versus 1.5%.[3]  Maine farmers shouldn’t feel threatened by private entities to give up their livelihoods and future food security.  We need to support multi-generational farms and the next generation of farmers as much as possible.  New transportation infrastructure development increases risks to water quality, and is likely to result in fragmentation of farmland and wildlife habitat.

 

  • Additional protection from eminent domain for transportation projects will help maintain regional stability.  When a private entity can access the power of eminent domain for a private transportation project, or unsolicited public-private-partnership for a transportation project, as we have learned through experience with the East-West Corridor proposal, many members of the public experience needless trauma, declined economic activity and real estate sales (also known as condemnation blight), and even flight from the region.

 

  • This bill closes previously unaddressed loopholes and shortcomings in our law that became apparent when the East-West Corridor proposal came to the table.  These are lessons that stretch well beyond the East-West Corridor proposal.

[1] Maine Revised Statutes Title 23, Part 5, Chapter 410, subchapter 5, subsection 4251. Public-private partnerships; transportation projects

[2] Maine Revised Statutes Title 1, Chapter 21, subsection 816. Limitations on Eminent Domain Authority

[3] In Maine, More Hipsters Choosing Life on the Farm, Jennifer Mitchell, MPBN 12-11-14

TESTIMONY GUIDELINES Judiciary 2015 Judiciary Committee contacts 127th 2015 LD 1168 Talking Points

 

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