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January 15, 2018

Tax-credit bill for rural lawyers set for public hearing in Augusta

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Ryan Rutledge, left, and Cameron Goodwin, both students at the University of Maine School of Law, spent the summer as law interns in Aroostook County, which has just 75 registered lawyers. A bill that would give tax credits to lawyers practicing in underserved parts of Maine is scheduled to get its first public hearing at the State House in Augusta on Jan. 22.

A bill that would give tax credits to lawyers practicing in underserved parts of Maine is scheduled to get its first public hearing at the State House in Augusta on Jan. 22.

LD 1680 — "An Act to Create an Access to Justice Income Tax Credit" — was drafted by students at the University of Maine School of Law determined to encourage more lawyers to practice in rural areas so that all Mainers have access to justice. It got the green light from the Legislative Council last October after being introduced as an emergency measure.

Amanda Silverman, president of UMaine Law's Finch Society that seeks to promote the practice of law in rural communities, came up with the idea for the bill with Ryan Rutledge, the student group's vice president, during a legislative and administrative law class taught by Professor Jeffrey Thaler.

Rutledge also drew inspiration from his summer in Presque Isle as part of UMaine's Rural Lawyer Pilot Project, a three-year program launched last year that UMaine Law Dean Danielle Conway would like to see permanently endowed.

The access to justice bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, would give an income-tax credit credit to lawyers who begin and practice full-time for at least five years in underserved areas of the state, similar to the existing incentive for dentists.

The Jan. 22 hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. before the Committee on Taxation, which is chaired by state Sen. Dana Dow, D-Waldoboro.

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