Producer/Host: Amy Browne
Segment 1: Maine’s highest court asked to weigh in on constitutionality of ranked choice voting. After several years of having a Governor that was elected with less than 50% of the vote, Mainers approved Ranked Choice Voting in November, but some legislators and the Maine Attorney General have called into question it’s constitutionality– primarily because the state constitution specifically mentions “plurality” as opposed to “majority”. Last week the state senate voted 24 to 10 in favor of asking the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to weigh in, in a process known as a “solemn occasion”. The move was proposed by Senate President Mike Thibodeau. In the first half of Maine Currents today, we listen in on the debate that ensued.
Segment 2: On Monday the legislature’s Environmental and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on LD103, “An Act to Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers”. The containers the bill seeks to ban are polystyrene, commonly referred to by the brand name “Styrofoam”. This type of packaging has been banned in some municipalities across the state, including Freeport and more recently Portland and South Portland. Supporters of the ban cite environmental and health concerns and they say there are Maine-based paper companies that make an alternative product for hot foods and beverages. Lobbyists for the restaurant and grocery store industries downplay environmental impacts, question the health impacts, and say (in the words of Greg Dugle of the Maine Restaurant Association) that “simply put, [polystyrene] keeps hot food hot and cold food cold” better than any other product.
LD103 was presented by Stanley Zeigler who represents several towns in Waldo County. Representative Zeigler said he was presenting it as a jobs bill, citing industries in Maine that could make the replacement packaging, and also the negative impact of polystyrene pollution on the environment, fisheries and tourism. Representative Deane Rykerson of Kittery spoke in support. Mark Bergeron of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, however, spoke in opposition. He said Maine DEP found some of the terminology in the bill regarding recycling and composting to be problematic. He also said that the department has concerns that they lack the resources to enforce the ban if it becomes law. Today we bring you some of the testimony in favor of, and in opposition to LD103. (A work session on the bill is scheduled for 2/13/17)