More than one-third of the way up the hill to the end of the session, the Maine legislature just shifted to a higher gear and picked up speed. While the state budget remains further down the road, with the Appropriations Committee still in first gear, other committees are pulling away, killing a lot of bad ideas and moving forward some good or even great ideas.
A state budget will obviously not be enacted by March 30, the date at which the Republican-controlled legislature could adopt its own version of the next biennium’s budget. That means the budget will require the vote of two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate, dialing the Democrats into the equation and guaranteeing that Governor LePage’s proposed budget will be significantly changed.
The legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will get its first briefing on the governor’s proposed budget for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on March 23, and will send its suggestions to the Appropriations Committee sometime after that.
I’ve been told that LePage’s proposal is substantially different from the proposal submitted to him by the department’s staff. And the department’s new commissioner, Chandler Woodcock, has yet to weigh in on that budget. It will be fascinating to see what, if any, impact Woodcock has on this important issue with the governor.
This is particularly important because President Obama’s proposed federal budget zeroed out wildlife funding that IF&W depends on for a significant portion of its work, including research on the endangered Canadian lynx. If Congress does not refund that work, Maine will see some very significant changes at IF&W.
Two good ideas got a significant legislative boost last week:
Rep. Jane Eberle’s LD 252 on invasive species won a unanimous “ought-to-pass” recommendation from the Natural Resources Committee. At the bill’s hearing
, we learned that the bill could lead to a state ban on felt-soled waders.
L.L. Bean has already done that. Bean’s Mac McKeever says that the company now only offers rubber-soled waders. In 1996 Bean became the first company to offer rubber-soled waders, to mitigate the transfer of invasive species, and has continued to research and improve their waders since that time.
A 2009 scientific study helped create the sticky rubber that Bean now uses on its soles, which McKeever says offer “excellent traction.” Bean’s “Grey Ghost” waders offer fewer seams and a one-piece tongue to give invasives less chance of hitching a ride. McKeever reports these waders are easier to clean and come with a cleaning brush.
This is all about prevention because waders are one of the major ways that invasives like Didymo move from water to water and state to state. Bean has also donated money to Trout Unlimited to help install wader-washing stations at a few busy Maine river-access locations.
Senator David Trahan’s LD 421 received a unanimous “ought-to-pass” vote from the Taxation Committee last week. For the third session in a row, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine offered this proposal to create a tax credit for those who invest private dollars to improve Maine’s fisheries and water access. At the public hearing, the bill found lots of interest from committee members who broadened the bill’s reach at the bill’s work session by extending the potential projects to saltwater fisheries and access.
While all the action at the legislature merits your attention, Maine anglers ought to get to LL Bean’s 21st Annual Spring Fishing Weekend this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I’ll be there specifically for one very special event. Tom Bie from The Drake Magazine will be in the camping atrium at the Freeport flagship store to show the best films from the past five years of The Drake’s Fly Fishing Film Awards. The showings are at 6 pm on Friday (March 18) and 4 pm on Saturday.
These are short (about five-minute) films and, according to L.L. Bean’s McKeever, “are comprised of some amazing footage shot all over the world. “This is a great opportunity to watch some rarely seen films,” reported McKeever, “probably some of the best out there… these very unique films… have not yet been shown to a general audience.”
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