Crown Politics

Tuesday offered a glimmer of hope for solar energy fans on a dark day for other bills

Good morning from Augusta. It was an under-the-radar kind of busy day in Augusta on Tuesday, with a bill that would slightly liberalize Maine solar policy finding bipartisan support.

But advocates still need to worry about Gov. Paul LePage’s House Republican-assisted veto pen and it looks like several other bills that failed to win two-thirds support in initial votes on Tuesday may also fall victim to it during the Republican governor’s last year in office.

The pared-down solar bill won more support on Tuesday than it did a year ago, but things can change after a veto. The bill would scale back a delayed Maine Public Utilities Commission rule that environmentalists have hammered for requiring a utility customer with solar panels to meter a facility’s gross output to qualify for “net metering,” a credit for energy sold to the grid. It would lift a cap on participants in community solar projects from nine to 50.

It has already won a 28-5 vote in the Senate and it was similar to another bill that won two-thirds support in the House of Representatives initially last year, yet eventually failed to win passage over LePage’s veto. On Tuesday, the new bill was opposed by only 34 Republicans in an initial vote. But we know things can change after a veto, which requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override.

But a host of other bills were caught in a more precarious spot on Tuesday.Those included measures to make it harder for the state to cut or delay cost-of-living increases to retired state workers and teachers, form a 21-member commission to make recommendations to the Legislature on climate change and start a needle exchange program.

The first two bills failed to get two-thirds support, with all but 10 Republicans opposing the first bill, all but seven opposing the second and the third failing to win a two-thirds vote to pass as an emergency measure. Republicans also delayed a bill to fund the shuttered Downeast Correctional Facility in a rules vote. LePage’s veto pen should be back in force soon.

The Fiddlehead Focus / St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Tuesday offered a glimmer of hope for solar energy fans on a dark day for other bills,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Christopher Cousins, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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