H20 for ME, Maine's Water Dividend Trust
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:
    Sec. 1. 36 MRSA c.720 is enacted to read:
CHAPTER 720
WATER
§4841. Water extracted for resale:
  1. Fee assessed. A fee of 3 cents for each 20 fluid ounces shall be assessed for water extracted from this State for containerized resale. The fee shall be adjusted annually on July 1st to reflect the change in the price of bottled water in the United States for the previous 12months.
  2. Exemptions. Water taken from private wells and not for resale, water sold by regulated utilities for domestic consumption and not for sale in containers of any kind or size and the first 500,000 gallons of water extracted each calendar year for sale by commercial water extraction enterprises, which enterprises are not related to any other water extraction enterprises, shall be exempt from the fee assessed in subsection 1.
  3. Maine Water Dividend Trust established. The Maine Water Dividend Trust, referred to in this section as “the trust,” is established. Funds collected pursuant to subsection 1 shall be deposited in the trust.
  4. Use of trust funds. The trust funds shall be invested on behalf of and for the long-term benefit of the citizens of this State and according to the provisions of this subsection.
    1. Up to 5% of the total funds collected annually from the per-20 ounce fee pursuant to subsection 1 shall be used to administer the trust and to create and pay for the Water Resources Conservation Board pursuant to subsection 7, an independent board authorized to protect and ensure the sustainability of Maine water.
    2. Not less than 95% of the total funds collected annually from the per-20 ounce fee pursuant to subsection 1 shall be deposited into the trust for the citizens of this State.
    3. Subject to sound investment practices, 65% of the trust funds shall be allocated for investment in this State. Fifty percent of that amount shall be allocated for loans to small businesses, as defined by the United States Small Business Administration, and small farms. Up to 15%may be allocated to fund reversed home mortgages to pay property taxes.
    4. Subject to sound investment practices, 25% of the trust funds may be allocated for investment in state, national or global financial and equity products or when authorized by an act of the legislature used to finance the purchase of lands for Land for Maine's Future which become the unencumbered property of the State upon full payment of principal and interest set at the lowest current rate for municipal bonds.
    5. Five percent of the trust funds shall be allocated to the municipalities in the aquifer zones to offset, to the extent possible, the cost of improvements and maintenance of infrastructure affected by water extraction activities.
    6. Five percent of the trust funds shall be allocated for water conservation education, infrastructure maintenance for properties administered by the Land for Maine's Future Board and the Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands.
The allocation of trust funds may not be changed without a majority vote of voters of this State at referendum.
  1. Trust dividends. A trust dividend, when declared by the trust board, shall be paid to each resident of this State who has filed a Maine income tax return for the prior calendar year. The total amount paid in dividends may not exceed 85% of the prior calendar year's trust investment earnings.
  2. Trust administration. The trust shall be administered by an independent 9-member board that includes the Treasurer of State, the State Auditor, 3 members appointed by the Governor, one member appointed by the President of the Senate, one member appointed by the leader of the party with the second highest number of seats in the Senate, one member appointed by the Speaker of the House, and one member appointed by the leader of the party with the second highest number of seats in the House. Appointments to the Board must be confirmed by the Legislature.
  3. Water Resources Conservation Board. The Water Resources Conservation Board is established as an independent board with 9 members. The Commissioner of Conservation and the Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall be members. The Governor shall appoint 3 members. The President of the Senate shall appoint one member, the leader of the party with the second highest number of seats in the Senate shall appoint one member, the Speaker of the House shall appoint one member, and the leader of the party with the second highest number of seats in the House shall appoint one member. Appointments to the Board must be confirmed by the Legislature.
  4. Powers of Water Resources Conservation Board. The Water Resources Conservation Board shall monitor and regulate the amount of water removed from each aquifer to:
    1. Ensure sustainability and that the extraction of water from the aquifer is in no way detrimental to the viability of the aquifer; and
    2. Determine that the extraction of water does not negatively affect lakes or other bodies of water, rivers, streams, wetlands, farming interests, economic development, private wells or public water supplies.
  5. License. In addition to any required local permits, a commercial water extraction enterprise requires a commercial wellhead and borehole pumping license issued by the Water Resources Conservation Board for each wellhead and borehole. An environmental impact study shall be a prerequisite to the issuance of the license. The term of a commercial pumping license shall be ten years from date of issuance of the license. Commercial water extraction enterprises existing on the effective date of this section may be given a reasonable period of time in which to comply with the provisions of this section.
  6. Audit. The State reserves the right to audit the number of gallons of water extracted from wellheads and boreholes licensed under subsection 9 and other documents that it considers necessary in order to calculate the water fee assessed in subsection 1.
SUMMARY
This initiated bill assesses a fee of 3 per 20 fluid ounces for water extracted for resale. It establishes the Maine Water Dividend Trust and requires that funds from this assessment be deposited in the trust. It provides that a dividend from the trust, when declared, must be paid to each resident of this State who has filed a Maine income tax return for the prior calendar year. It establishes the Water Resources Conservation Board to 1) monitor and regulate the amount of water removed from each aquifer; 2) to ensure sustainability and the viability of the aquifer; and 3) to determine that the extraction of water does not negatively affect lakes or other bodies of water, rivers, streams, wetlands, farming interests, economic development, private wells or public water supplies.
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