Paul LePage calls Legislature back to tackle food sovereignty, GIS funding

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Maine Gov. Paul LePage, testifies during a House Natural Resources subcommittee oversight hearing on the Antiquities Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage announced Friday he was calling the Legislature back to the State House for a special lawmaking session set to start on Monday, Oct. 23.

“I am calling a special legislative session to address two time sensitive issues,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “First we must amend the recently passed ‘food sovereignty’ law to ensure compliance with federal requirements. The second critical issue is the need to fund the Maine Office of Geographic Information Systems, which was left out of the final version of the budget by the Legislature.”

But two more high-profile issues are enactment of a special law that allows the state to tax and regulate the recreational sale of marijuana as approved by voters last fall and legislation that would either repeal or modify another voter-approved law to move Maine to a ranked-choice voting system were not mentioned by LePage.

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While the governor can call lawmakers back for specific reasons he cannot control what State House leaders decide they want lawmakers to work on once they reconvene.

LePage said the state’s recently enacted food sovereignty law needs to be amended to make it clear that local food sales subject to inspection under federal jurisdiction remain so, and any food products intended for wholesale or retail distribution outside of the local municipality must be in compliance with all food safety laws. According to LePage, the changes would permit the state to continue its system of local inspection, rather than compelling federal inspectors to take over.

“We will not be able to continue growing the local food sector of our rural economy by subjecting Maine farms and businesses to inspectors and regulations based in Washington. If the state program is eliminated, small farms will lose the most,” LePage said.

LePage also contends that the Legislature failed to restore funding to operate the Maine Office of Geographic Information Systems. MEGIS is currently operating on funds that were carried forward from the previous fiscal year. But some State House leaders have said they believe the office is covered in another portion of the state budget recently enacted.

“If the Legislature does not appropriate money to State agencies to properly fund MEGIS, funding will dry up before November. If this happens, the future of MEGIS and the State’s ability to adequately provide GIS services will be in extreme jeopardy,” LePage said.

This story will be updated.

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