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Bill Would Require State To Reevaluate Rules Around Leasing Public Lands In Maine

The Maine Legislature is considering a measure that would require the state Bureau of Parks and Lands to develop rules around the leasing of public lands. The bill was prompted by a court ruling affecting Central Maine Power’s controversial transmission line project through western Maine.

A 1994 state constitutional amendment requires the legislature to approve by a two-thirds vote any lease of public land that substantially alters its use. In 2014, the bureau leased land that was important to the CMP corridor project. But according to a Superior Court judge, the bureau failed to follow the Maine Constitution.

“Justice Michela Murphy recently ruled there was no finding by the Bureau of Parks and Lands whether or not the uses constituted a substantial alteration in their use,” says Republican state Sen. Rick Bennett of Oxford, the sponsor of the bill that was up for public hearing Thursday.

Bennett says his legislation would not apply to the CMP project but would make sure that the constitutional provision is followed in the future. The bill drew strong support, and no opposition. Advocates of the measure say as trustees of public lands, lawmakers have a duty to make sure they are governed fairly as required under the constitution.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.