Updates on LD 1168 & STEWC Testimony

Note to readers: There are two email postings listed first, and then STEWC’s Testimony on LD 1168 is listed last.
On Mon, May 4, 2015 at 9:33 AM, Chris Buchanan <chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net> wrote:
Hi all,

I hope everyone enjoyed the beautiful weekend!  I was up in Sangerville yesterday and everything seemed so alive.  I love seeing the yard sales starting up again.  I hope everyone’s appreciating the sunshine as much as I am!
I wanted to follow up on the previous email about LD 1168 with the reminder that you may still submit written testimony to the Judiciary Committee and call, meet, or email them about the bill before the work session on May 12.
You may build off of the suggestions I made to them in my testimony, use the talking points, or speak from your heart about your own experience with eminent domain, especially the misuse of eminent domain for a transportation project.
Attached are the same resources I’ve sent before, hoping that it’s helpful.
Also, for those of you who read my testimony and noticed that I referenced MDOT’s statewide outreach coordinators who are supposedly being employed by us (taxpayers) to receive ideas, I was intending to attach the MDOT handout as well but the file is too large, so please give a shout if you want to take a look.  You can also find it on the MDOT website.
peace, Chris
On Fri, May 1, 2015 at 10:51 AM, Chris Buchanan <chris(at)defendingwater(dot)net> wrote:

Hi everyone,

Thanks to those of you who submitted testimony and/or came to the State House yesterday to testify on LD 1168 to prevent eminent domain from being used by a private entity through a public private partnership.
My sense was that the committee listened closely to our testimony and is interested in doing something with this bill during the work session.  This is a stark contrast to the mostly unresponsive and seemingly disinterested tranportation committee on LD 506, in my opinion.
The work session will be May 12 at 5pm in the Judiciary Committee, Room 438 of the State House.  During the work session, members must ask members of the audience to comment, there is no open public comment.  I am going to make an effort to meet with a couple committee members before the work session and I am hoping they invite me to provide additional information.
I have asked members of the group, “Maine Matters,” to videotape the session.  It is the time they deliberate and make a decision, and therefore important to record for accountability and learning purposes.
Here is the link where everyone’s testimony will be posted on LD 1168.  They are behind, so it’s not up yet.  I will attach my testimony on behalf of STEWC for those of you interested and encourage others to do so. The only testimony against the bill before the committee was by Nina Fisher of the MDOT.
Have a great weekend everyone and hope to see many of you at the steering committee meeting next week!
Remember anybody can post relevant info about the Corridor to this list, (except for articles unless you provide a description) by emailing your info directly to: stop_the_east_west_corridor@lists.riseup.net
no corridor, no compromise!  Chris

Stop the East-West Corridor

www.stopthecorridor.org

Testimony in Favor of LD 1168                                                               April 30, 2015

 

Dear Senator Burns, Representative Hobbins, and Honorable Members of the Judiciary Committee,

 

Thank you for hearing our comments today on LD 1168. My name is Chris Buchanan, I live in Belgrade, and I am testifying in favor of LD 1168 as the Statewide Coordinator of Stop the East-West Corridor. Stop the East-West Corridor, or STEWC, is a resource and communication hub for a decentralized coalition of Maine residents and organizations who share a multitude of concerns about the private or public-private East-West Corridor proposal that has been introduced to communities around the State and in New Brunswick by Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue and Cianbro Project Manager Darryl Brown.

 

We have also received permission from the Maine Association of Planners to express their support for LD 1168. They are unable to provide testimony due to resource constraints.

 

We are grateful for Senator Davis’s leadership and commitment to the desires of his constituents to provide protection from eminent domain for a transportation project like the East-West Corridor. The Corridor is unfounded in public planning or public need, and is in fact hugely unpopular. Abbot, Charleston, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Garland, Monson, Parkman, and Sangerville, eight communities, have now passed a local ordinance, be it a moratorium, referendum, local-self governance, or land use ordinance, to develop local protection. These actions clearly demonstrate a sense of vulnerability and the need for adequate state policy.

 

As it stands, the only existing legal statute that may authorize development of the Corridor is the Public-Private-Partnership law for Transportation Projects, Title 23 §4251, which is why we continue to address the shortcomings in this law.

 

Eminent domain powers for significant transportation projects should be limited to government agencies acting on behalf of the public.   While LD 1168 effectively seeks to provide this protection, I have been informed by Maine Department of Transportation legislative liaison Nina Fisher that the Department wants to maintain eminent domain authority for private entities under the Public-Private-Partnership Law (Title 23, §4251).   Although we disagree for several reasons and ask this committee to make the changes outlined by LD 1168, we also want to offer the Committee the option to simply eliminate unsolicited proposals from 23 §4251, ensuring that all PPPs are solicited by the Department.

 

Maine’s Sensible Transportation Policy Act (STPA, Title 23 §73) is the guiding law for transportation planning, development, and maintenance in our State. However, the PPP law created a parallel legal pathway for significant transportation development that sidesteps the STPA. Although 23 §4251 sec. 4-I states that a PPP “must comply with…applicable…state…laws…”, sec. 3 states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law…”. The PPP is an explicit provision of law that defines a different process. Also, the two laws blatantly contradict each other in both their reporting requirements (transparent vs. confidential), and public input process (lengthy public input to the Department vs. one public hearing before the Transportation Committee). The PPP also allows leveraging of up to 50% public taxpayer subsidy, and eminent domain powers to private entities for solicited and unsolicited proposals. If the legal pathway for unsolicited proposals were eliminated, only proposals initiated by the Department could access the extensive powers listed above, including eminent domain.

 

The Department’s Deputy Commissioner, Jon Nass, expressed concern about eliminating unsolicited proposals in his testimony before the Transportation Committee earlier this session on LD 506, stating that, “Unsolicited, industry based ideas are key to the PPP law. MaineDOT appreciates good ideas regardless of where they originate.”

The suggestion that eliminating a legal pathway for unsolicited proposals is the same as eliminating private-sector ideas is simply inaccurate and misleading. No proposed or existing laws prohibit consideration of private-sector ideas. On the contrary, the Department has regional outreach coordinators responsible for receiving unsolicited ideas from all over the State, outlined in their brochure, enclosed. Regardless of its origin, the Department may pursue a viable idea that is grounded in Department planning and supported by stakeholders through the PPP statute by soliciting proposals. Eliminating unsolicited proposals in the PPP will ensure that eminent domain may only be used on projects that have gone through an appropriate accountability process with Department oversight.

 

Several of these points are also clearly stated in Rep. Ralph Chapman’s letter to the Transportation Committee for the work session on LD 506, which is enclosed in your packet.

 

If the Department remains concerned about eliminating unsolicited proposals from 23 §4251 for the reasons they have expressed, we suggest simply adding the language, to 23 §4251 sec. 2 stating, “Nothing in this section is intended to prohibit the department from receiving ideas, or to prohibit or otherwise affect programs that do not meet the criteria of this subsection.” Enclosed in our testimony is a draft to reflect these suggestions.

 

We urge you to vote ought to pass on LD 1168, or consider this alternate proposal. Thank you very much for your time. I would be happy to answer questions or discuss details with members of this committee at any time.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

Chris Buchanan

Statewide Coordinator, Stop the East-West Corridor www.stopthecorridor.org

(207) 495-3648

chris(at)defendingwater(d0t)net

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