Last week, the 130th Maine Legislature released its guidelines for public participation in the legislative process in both public hearings and work sessions. These links include information about the delivery of public testimony, participation in committee work sessions, and submission of written testimony.
While the Maine State Chamber's Advocacy team has just begun to review these guidelines, the process appears to be somewhat complicated and rigid. Witnesses must register in advance to testify, as well as indicate their position on the issue under consideration. In addition, it is not clear if committees will cap the number of speakers in any one hearing. It is also strongly encouraged that written testimony be submitted prior to the public hearing.
It is not clear whether these guidelines are meant to evolve or are fixed. They are not without problems. Amendments to bills, whether introduced at a public hearing or work session, do not have to be shared in advance at either. In addition, it appears there is no way to testify on a bill that unexpectedly requires input.
Also, it appears there will be NO front facing testimony options. Obviously, such an option presents a host of issues and problems. However, this means that unless interested parties have access to the internet or a solid telephone connection, providing public input will be limited to the virtual world.
The Maine State Chamber's Advocacy team will be following the progression of these guidelines in the coming weeks. We will share any future clarifications or updates with you as they become available. We encourage you to become familiar with both the public hearings and work sessions guidelines and reach out to Peter Gore if you have any questions.