March News from August

Over the next couple months, state legislative committees will be tackling most of the two thousand or so bills expected to surface in Augusta during 2023. Nearly a thousand bills have been printed as of early March. Here is an update on a few bills related to Maine land trusts.

Sales Tax Exemption

In mid-February, the Taxation Committee held a public hearing on LD 68. Sponsored by Representative Sachs (Freeport) and supported by a broad coalition led by the Maine Association of Nonprofits, this bill would extend the current sales tax exemption to all nonprofit organizations. Under existing state law many, but not all nonprofits are exempt from paying sales taxes. Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) submitted testimony at the hearing, along with representatives from various other nonprofit sectors. Later this year, the Taxation Committee will also consider LD 695, which would only expand sales tax exemption for land trusts.

Subdivision Review

At the request of MCHT, Senator Pierce (Cumberland County) has introduced LD 596, An Act to Exempt Certain Conservation Lots from Municipal Subdivision Review. This bill would amend municipal subdivision law, which is currently triggered when there are at least three divisions of a tract of land in a five-year period. If enacted, a division of land done to accomplish permanent conservation objectives as defined in the bill, would no longer count towards the three in five-year limit. A similar law currently exists for land in the unorganized parts of Maine. LD 596 would make this policy statewide.

Working Waterfront Covenants

In 2005, the Maine legislature enacted the state’s working waterfront covenant law to preserve piers, docks, and other working waterfront infrastructure using a legal device that is like a conservation easement.  Representative Reilly (Westbrook) is sponsoring LD 574 this session. This bill would allow certain nonprofit corporations or charitable trusts that are authorized to hold conservation easements, such as land trusts, to be allowed to hold working waterfront covenants. The goal is to provide a longer list of potential holders to facilitate more working waterfront preservation in Maine.

Future Bills

The legislature’s remaining bill proposals will surface between now and late April. Stay tuned for future updates. Some of the land trust related issues we expect, include, changes to the Open Space Tax Law, a bond to fund recreational trail investments, legislation focused on wildlife habitat and agricultural impacts from renewable energy projects, and a bill to implement recommendations made by the 2020 Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact MCHT’s Public Policy Manager Jeff Romano.