LD 1739 dead, but the fight to retain school budget voting rights continues…

LD 1739 dead, but the fight to retain school budget voting rights continues…

January 25, 2010 Posted by Maine Heritage Policy Center - No Comments

I served two terms in the legislature and, as part of my
work for MHPC, I have had a fairly regular presence there ever since.  Even so, it is hard even for me to explain
what happened today with regard to LD
1739
and the budget validation process.

 

Actually, what happened with LD 1739 is pretty simple, it
was killed by a unanimous vote of the committee.  This was done after the committee heard an request
to just that from the bill’s sponsor, Rep. McFadden, who claimed that he had
been so swamped with emails protesting his bill that his email system had shut
down.  “It is such a bad bill I would not
vote for it myself,” he said as part of a brief mea culpa before the committee.

 

What happened after the death of LD 1739 is a bit harder to
explain. 

 

Next on the committee’s agenda for the day was a work
session on LD 570.  LD 570, if one were to
look it up online
, consists of a title, “An Act To Improve the Laws
Governing the Consolidation of School Administrative Units,” and that’s it.  It is a so-called “concept draft” which is
really just a legislative vehicle for the committee to use in crafting its own
bill.  The idea seems to be that the
committee will hear, or has heard, a number of bills related to school district
reorganization, and intends to kill all those bills and create a kind of
omnibus bill containing all the provisions the committee thinks are necessary
to “fix” the consolidation law.  As such,
the bill could contain any number of changes to state law, including, it is important
to point out, getting rid of budget validation.

 

In fact, the committee chair, Sen. Alfond, basically said that
LD 570 did contain a provision to get rid of budget validation, though
the committee as a whole seemed to think that what LD 570 contained had yet to
be determined.

 

What happened was this:

 

Before entertaining a motion to kill LD 1739, Sen. Alfond
explained to those who had come to testify on that bill that though they were indeed
killing off LD 1739 without opening it up to public hearing, LD 570 was next up
on the docket for a work session, and since there seemed to be, as far as he
was concerned, a consensus that LD 570 was going to do much the same that LD
1739 would do (kill budget validation), it seemed reasonable to accept public
testimony on budget validation as part of the committee’s work session on LD
570.

 

Again, LD 570, if you read it online, has no language attached
to it whatsoever.  So what is Sen. Alfond
talking about?

 

I essentially asked this question during my testimony. I
told the committee that I had been concerned at the late notice of the public
hearing on LD 1739, which, to my knowledge, was scheduled on Friday.  Sandy MacArthur, of the Maine School
Management Association, agreed with my assessment that the bill has very little
advance notice.  I then expressed concern
that despite the recent demise of LD 1739, the committee seemed, from what Sen.
Alfond suggested, to be interested in getting rid of budget validation anyway.  I got lots of puzzled looks in response to
this and a reply from Rep. Finch that he didn’t know what LD 570 would ultimately
look like and might not vote for it when the time came anyway.

 

Talking with one or two committee members afterward, it
became clear that Sen. Alfond has some kind of agenda for LD 570, though that
does not seem to have been fully shared with the committee. 
Indeed, his suggestion that LD 570 might eliminate budget validation
seems to have been an opinion that much of the rest of the committee does not share.

 

The upshot of all this is that regardless of the defeat of
LD 1739, budget validation remains under threat, this time from members
of the committee itself, starting with Sen. Alfond.

 

My advice?  Rep.
McFadden folded instantly when confronted with hundreds of angry emails
demanding the preservation of budget validation.  Those
emails need to continue, but should be directed to Sen. Alfond and the rest of
the committee.
  Remember, the committee is in
the process, as we speak, of constructing LD 570.  When is it is complete, it will be voted out
of the committee and sent to the full House and Senate without a public
hearing.  The public hearings are
over.  The task before those of us who
support budget validation, therefore, is to keep the pressure on the committee
itself and make sure that LD 570, when they finally do complete it, does nothing to
threaten budget validation.

 

So what to do?  Keep those
calls and emails coming.  A list of
education committee members can be found here.  Send them the same message that brought Rep.
McFadden before his own committee to beg them to put his bill out of its
misery. 

 

In short, LD 1739 is dead, but the fight continues.  We are not out of
the woods yet, but we certainly know which path to follow.  Let them know what you think!