AUGUSTA — A proposal by Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau to identify unfunded demands by state government on towns and cities encountered a favorable reception Monday when it was introduced to the Legislature.

LD 1377 would establish the Commission To Study the Reduction of Unfunded and Outdated Municipal Mandates, which would meet at least twice per year to review unfunded and outdated mandates. The next step would be legislative action to eliminate some of the mandates, though Thibodeau’s bill does not address how that would be done.

“I don’t believe any of us who has run for public office has been to a public forum with local officials where this issue has not come up,” said Thibodeau during a State and Local Government Committee hearing Monday on his proposal. “It’s an issue that’s not going to go away until we take it seriously.”

Examples of unfunded mandates include training for firefighters and police, rules and regulations for municipal facilities and a range of staffing requirements. Thibodeau’s bill calls for a study of municipal mandates but does not address public schools or counties.

Rep. Christopher Babbidge, D-Kennebunk, a member of the committee, asked Thibodeau during the hearing whether Thibodeau’s bill was anti-government sentiment in disguise.

“We’ve all heard this national anti-government sentiment,” said Babbidge. “Is this an anti-government bill?”

“It certainly is not,” said Thibodeau. “It is a pro-government bill. The best government is the government that is closest to the people. … If we want to tell local government to do it, let’s fund it. If we don’t have the money to fund it, shame on us for adding to their burden.”

Testifying in support of the bill was Kathy Littlefield, who has been a selectwoman in the town of Waldo for more than four decades.

“In my 42 years of serving … I have lived the gamut of mandates,” she said. “A few have been funded; the vast majority of them are unfunded. To me this is, as they say, a no-brainer.”

Littlefield said that in her small town, the paperwork and recordkeeping associated with things such as maintaining a dog catcher or public health officer can be as burdensome, financially, as the mandate itself.

“A lot of people don’t realize, a lot of those things cost money,” said Littlefield.

The Maine Municipal Association supports the bill, which will move to a work session and votes by the committee in the coming days or weeks.

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