Maine Legislature Roundup
The first regular session of the 129th Maine Legislature was gaveled to a close just after dawn on Thursday, June 20. Legislators considered more than 2,000 bills since convening in December. Our State Government Working Group collaborated with other grassroots groups, as well as legislators and statewide advocacy groups, to identify and track bills throughout the session on issues of interest to our members. There were many important legislative wins, and some hard losses. See below for the final wrap on the dozens of bills we tracked. We’ll be back in January 2020 when the second session begins.
BILLS THAT PASSED
Justice for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse on tribal lands. LD 766, An Act Regarding the Penobscot Nation’s and Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Authority To Exercise Jurisdiction under the Federal Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the Federal Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. Sponsored by Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland). Because of restrictions imposed by the Maine Indian Claims Settlement, tribal courts in the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe are not able to receive the benefit of federal laws designed to protect women from domestic and sexual abuse. This bill would amend the Maine Indian Claims Settlement by transferring jurisdiction over tribal ordinance violations committed by either tribal members or non-members in accordance with federal law. It also grants the tribal courts the authority to set their own sentencing guidelines and specific criminal offenses related to violence against women as authorized by federal law. A public hearing was held May 13. Read the testimony. The bill was tabled during a May 23 work session and again on June 11. No new work session has been scheduled.
PASSED: The bill passed the House and Senate by voice votes (no roll calls) and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature!
Prescription drug reform package. This package of drug reform bills would reduce prescription drug costs for Mainers. Americans are spending much more on prescription drugs now than they did 50 years ago, with the average cost rising from $90 in 1960 to $1,025 in 2017. Rising drug costs force many to choose between paying for their medication and paying for housing or food. When faced with that choice, many adults don’t take their medication as prescribed. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, 28 states passed bills last year to address prescription drug costs. This year, every state in the country is considering at least one bill on the issue. LD 1162, sponsored by Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc), builds on a bill passed last year to promote drug pricing transparency by requiring drug manufacturers to disclose the costs of research, development, marketing, and advertising, as well as the actual cost consumers pay. LD 1504, sponsored by Sen. Heather Sanborn (D-Cumberland), is a recommendation from the Legislature’s Health Care Task Force that would require transparency in drug pricing among manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), and consumers. PBMs yield enormous power over prescription drug coverage by deciding which drugs will be covered by insurance plans and which will be excluded. LD 1272, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and Speaker of the House Sara Gideon (D-Freeport), would create a state-administered program to safely import prescription drugs from Canada at wholesale prices. The program would be designed by the Department of Health and Human Services via a public rulemaking process and approved by the Legislature, and would require federal approval for implementation. LD 1499, sponsored by Pres. Jackson and Speaker Gideon, would create a 5-member board with the authority to set payment rates on prescription drugs and to require drug manufacturers to justify drug prices deemed excessive. Maine would join at least 9 other states that have passed or are considering legislation to create state prescription drug review boards. Board members would serve 5-year terms. The Senate President would appoint 2 members, the Speaker of the House would also appoint 2 members, and the governor would appoint 1 member and name the board chair. Public hearings were held April 16-17 and the Health Coverage committee voted that the bills OUGHT TO PASS.
PASSED: The House and Senate have passed LD 1162 (roll calls), LD 1504 (roll calls), LD 1499 (roll calls), and LD 1272 (roll calls), and they are headed to the governor’s desk for signature!
Climate action bill. LD 1679, An Act To Establish the Maine Climate Change Council To Assist Maine To Mitigate, Prepare for and Adapt to Climate Change. Sponsor: Sen. David Woodsome (R-York).
This bill was introduced by Gov. Janet Mills and would require an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Maine by 2050 and require the state to obtain 100% of its power from renewable sources by 2050. It also establishes a Maine Climate Council to revise the state’s Climate Action Plan and devise strategies to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions and conversion to renewable energy sources. The council would include members of the governor’s cabinet as well as representatives from the state’s fisheries, forestry and agriculture industries, climate scientists and mitigation experts, manufacturers, organized labor, the energy sector representatives, and tribal governments. The council’s first charge with six working groups, whose first duty would be to write a new Climate Action Plan to replace the state’s outdated 2004 Climate Action Plan. The bill incorporates many of the elements of another bill we’ve advocated for, LD 797, which was voted ONTP to allow LD 1679 to move forward. A public hearing was held May 17 (read the testimony) and the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources voted unanimously that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
PASSED: After passing the Senate by a voice vote (no roll call) and the House 107-29 (see how your rep voted), the bill is headed to the governor’s desk!
Make school buses safer. LD 19, An Act To Require Public School Buses To Be Equipped with School Bus Crossing Arms. Primary sponsor: Rep. Jay McCreight (D-Harpswell).
This bill would require all Maine school buses to be equipped with a crossing arm that extends 8-10 feet from the front of the school bus. The arm forces students to walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus, reducing the risk that students will be struck while walking in front of the bus. The exact number of front-of-the-bus accidents is unknown, but they have been reported nationwide, including in Maine. A public hearing was held Feb. 7. Read the testimony HERE. The Committee on Transportation voted that the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended.
PASSED: The bill passed the House and Senate on voice votes (no roll calls) and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature.
Expanding preventive dental care. LD 1453, An Act To Improve Dental Health for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes. Sponsor: Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook).
Maine’s Medicaid program currently provides preventive dental care for children but offers emergency-only coverage for adults. LD 1453 would change that by adding adult preventive, diagnostic, and restorative dental services for adults 21 years and older. Dental disease was the most common reason for ER visits for people age 15-44 who receive MaineCare or who are uninsured. Preventive care is far less expensive than emergency treatment, suggestion adding dental services to MaineCare could actually reduce health care spending. Bill sponsors estimate the federal government would pay between 67-90% of each dental visit. The bill would also create a financial incentive program to encourage dental care providers to increase the number of MaineCare patients they serve. A public hearing was held April 17 and the HHS Committee voted unanimously that the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended. The House and Senate passed the bill unanimously, but it was placed on the Special Appropriations table, where it was amended to just create a working group to design an adult dental benefit in MaineCare.
PASSED: The amended version of the bill, to create a working group to study expanding MaineCare to cover adult dental services, passed and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature.
Presidential primaries. LD 1626, An Act To Implement a Presidential Primary System in Maine. Sponsor: Sen. Louis Luchini (D-Hancock).
This bill would eliminate Maine’s party-run presidential caucuses in favor of a state-run primary system. Democrats and Republicans reported widespread problems with the 2016 presidential caucuses, leading to broad bipartisan support for a law to switch to primaries that passed in both chambers last year, but died on the appropriations table. Supporters say primaries typically have larger voter turnout than caucuses and would cost just under $1 million, with local municipalities bearing the brunt of the cost. If passed, presidential primaries would be held in Maine in March 2020 ahead of the November general election. A public hearing was held April 26 (read the testimony). before the legal affairs committee. The majority of the committee voted OUGHT TO PASS but there were two minority reports, including one OUGHT NOT TO PASS.
PASSED: After passing the Senate and House passed the bill (see how your legislators voted), the bill is headed to the governor’s desk!
Support for spousal caregivers. LD 84, Resolve, Directing the Department of Health and Human Services To Allow Spouses To Provide Home and Community-based Services to Eligible MaineCare Members. Sponsored by Rep. Patrick Corey (R-Windham).
Nearly 180,000 Mainers care for a family member at home, a full-time, unpaid job that allows many people with disabilities to remain at home instead of in a nursing home. LD 84 would allow spouses of Section 19 MaineCare recipients to be hired and paid as personal support specialists (PSS), which children and siblings are already allowed to do under current law. Spouses would be hired by a certified home care agency, have to undergo background checks and skills assessments, and could earn around $11-12 an hour. According to Disability Rights Maine, the legislation would address direct care staffing shortages and ultimately save taxpayer money by keeping disabled persons out of nursing homes. A nursing home can cost up to $100,000 per year, and many residents’ care is covered under Medicaid. Paying a spouse to be a PSS could run about $25,000 a year. The majority of testimony at a Feb. 7 public hearing was in support of the bill and the HHS Committee voted that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
PASSED: The bill passed both chambers by voice votes (no roll calls) and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature.
End the discriminatory “gay and trans panic defense.” LD 1632, An Act Regarding Criminal Procedure with Respect to Allowable Defenses. Sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell).
This bill would ban the use of the “gay and trans panic defense” as a defense for physically assaulting or murdering someone. Perpetrators who use this defense claim that their victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity caused them to lose control and physically assault their victim. This defense was most notably used in the 1998 murder case of Matthew Shepard, who died after being beaten, tortured, tied to a fence and set on fire. The two men who murdered him used the “gay panic” defense to excuse their actions. Despite widespread public protest, the defense has been used to defeat or mitigate dozens of murder charges, as recently as last year in Texas. The American Bar Association passed a resolution in 2013 decrying the defense, and four states have enacted laws similar to the one proposed in Maine. Bills in the U.S. House and Senate would ban the defense nationwide, but are stalled amid Republican opposition. Among those testifying in Augusta on May 20 in support of the bill were Mary L. Bonauto, a Portland resident and civil rights project director for the GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). Read all the public testimony. The Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety voted that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
THE BILL IS LAW: The bill passed the House and Senate, with only 1 “no” vote in the entire Legislature, cast by Rep. Chris Johansen (R-Monticello). Gov. Mills has signed it into law!
Automatic voter registration. LD 1463, An Act To Create an Automatic Voter Registration System. Sponsor: House Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport).
The bill would automatically register eligible voters when they receive or renew their Maine driver’s licenses or nondrivers’ IDs at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or when they interact with other approved state agencies, such as MaineCare, unless they decline to be registered. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C. had passed AVR laws by the end of 2018 and 25 other states, including Maine, are considering similar legislation this year. In Oregon, the first state to pass AVR, voter registration has quadrupled and in Vermont, it’s up by 62%. Under LD 1463, voter rolls will be updated automatically, with new address information, for example. AVR will replaces the state’s outdated paper-based system with a modernized electronic system. The bill also allows Mainers to pre-register to vote at age 16, when most first-time drivers receive their license. As with 17-year-old Maine residents, who are allowed to pre-register under current law, their voter registration is activated automatically when they turn 18. States that have pre-registration AVR beginning at age 16 have seen dramatic increases in the numbers of young voters in recent elections. The bill will also reduce voter registration problems that can occur with Maine’s military personnel, who are almost twice as likely to experience registration problems as the general public. AVR has received broad support nationwide from both Republican and Democratic governors, and LD 1463 has bipartisan support, including from Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow (R-Lincoln), who is a co-sponsor. If passed, AVR would go into effect in January 2022. A public hearing was held April 24 (read the testimony) and the Legal Affairs Committee voted 7-5 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended.
THE BILL IS LAW: The House and Senate passed the bill (see how your legislators voted) and the governor has signed it into law!
Green New Deal for Maine. LD 1282, An Act To Establish a Green New Deal for Maine. Sponsor: Rep. Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro).
Unlike the federal bill of the same name, LD 1282 sets specific state goals to address the climate change crisis and protect Maine’s environment, while also devising a strategy to promote economic and job growth. This bill amends the state’s goals for long-term reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and creates an 11-member state task force of representatives from state government, business, climate science, labor, and renewable energy. The task force also must include 1 person under the age of 21 to represent Maine’s youth. The group would be charged with developing a plan by January 2020 for environmental sustainability, renewable energy, and economic growth that includes a goal of 80% reliance on renewable resources for the state’s electricity supply by 2040. The plan must also include training for green jobs and incentives for residential installation of solar energy systems and heat pumps. Under the legislation, commercial electric utilities must demonstrate by 2040 that 80% of their retail electricity sales comes from renewable energy sources. LD 1282 will also work toward a virtual net metering program to encourage installation of solar photovoltaic energy systems on public school buildings. A public hearing was held April 23 (read the testimony) and the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Technology voted the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended. Many elements of the original bill were incorporated into the governor’s climate action bill, which will go for a vote soon. The amended version establishes an apprenticeship requirement for new electricity generation projects and requires the state to incorporate incentives for cost-effective electric and natural gas conservation projects in new school construction projects; and requires new school construction to incorporate solar panel installation.
THE BILL IS LAW: The House and Senate passed the bill (see how your legislators voted) and has been signed by the governor!
A ban on single-use plastic bags. LD 1532, An Act To Eliminate Single-use Plastic Carry-out Bags. Sponsor: Rep. Holly Stover (D-Boothbay).
This bill would ban most single-use plastic bags at retails stores in Maine. Each year, families in the U.S.use nearly 100 billion bags at an annual cost of $4 billion to U.S. retailers. The environmental toll is much higher. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the plastic bags Americans use and 500 years or more for a single plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. At least 800 animal species are affected by marine debris, up to 80% of which is plastic that enters the sea from land. Studies suggest that plastic bag bans work, with towns and countries reporting a drop in plastic waste of up to 95%. Since 2014, 21 towns in Maine have passed ordinances to reduce the use of plastic bags and if LD 1532 passes, the state would become the third with a bag ban. The bill is supported by the Retail Association of Maine. LD 1532 would prohibit retailers from distributing single-use plastic bags, with exceptions for bags such as those used for dry cleaning, to bag raw meat or produce in grocery stores, or newspapers. Retailers would be required to make paper bags made with recycled material available for $.05. The bill would also exempt food pantries and other hunger relief organizations from the ban and SNAP and WIC participants from the paper bag fee. A public hearing was held April 24 (read the testimony) and the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources voted 8-5 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended.
THE BILL IS LAW: The bill passed the House and Senate (see how your legislators voted) and has been signed into law by the governor!
This bill bills would expand Maine’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a tax credit that benefits low-income Maine workers by building on the federal EITC program. Nationwide, researchers say the EITC lifts more children from poverty than any other federal program. Children in families that receive an EITC are healthier and do better in school. The program reduces the need for public assistance and promotes wage growth for women. In 2017, 5.7 million people living in poverty—including 3 million children—were aided by the federal EITC. Maine is one of 29 states with a state EITC, although at just 5% of the federal credit, it’s the smallest EITC in New England. In 2016, Maine families received $212 million in federal EITCs and $10 million in state EITCs. LD 1491 would create a work tax credit by increasing the maximum state EITC to 30% of the federal level for people with children. It would also allow low-income college students and home caregivers to access the program; expand eligibility to families with children earning up to $55,000 and adults without children earning up to $27,000; and allow work tax credits to be distributed throughout the year instead of a single installment. These changes amount to an estimated $91 million tax cut for Maine workers. Learn more from Maine Center for Economic Policy in this fact sheet and see if you qualify for an EITC. A public hearing was held May 2 (read submitted testimony). In committee, the bill was amended in committee and is now a “resolve” to create a working group to study ways to streamline applications for tax credits for low-to-middle income Mainers to assist with the cost of basic necessities and to allow for those tax credits to be administered in advance.
THE BILL IS LAW: The House and Senate have passed the bill on voice votes (no roll call), and Gov. Mills has signed it into law.
Protect Internet privacy. LD 946, An Act To Protect the Privacy of Online Customer Information. Sponsor: Sen. Shenna Bellows (D-Kennebec).
This bill blocks Internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Verizon, or Spectrum, from using, disclosing, selling, or giving access to customer personal information without the customer’s permission. In 2017, Republicans in Congress voted to rollback consumer protections that would have blocked this practice at the federal level. As a result, ISPs can store and sell information about customers’ Web browsing history, app usage, location information, and more to third parties, such as advertisers. And there are reports that some ISPs are doing just that, possibly even in violation of other laws. Those charges have prompted the Federal Trade Commission to study how seven of the largest ISPs in the U.S. share customers’ personal information with third parties. A number of states have passed Internet privacy legislation in recent years, and more will consider bills this year. Under LD 946, which is supported by ACLU of Maine, ISPs aren’t allowed to charge a fee or deny service to customers who refuse to allow their information to be shared or sold and requires providers to take steps to protect customers’ personal data from unauthorized distribution. A public hearing was held April 24 (read the testimony). The Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Technology held a work session April 30 and voted 8-1 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
THE BILL IS LAW: After passing the Senate by a voice vote (no roll call) and the House (see how your rep voted), Gov. Mills has signed the bill into law!
Removing barriers to reproductive care. LD 1261, “An Act To Authorize Certain Health Care Professionals To Perform Abortions” (Governor’s Bill). Sponsor: Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport).
This bill would remove barriers to rural Mainers seeking an abortion by allowing advanced practice clinicians (APCs), including physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses, to perform the procedure. Currently, women in Maine seeking an abortion after 10 weeks must travel to Maine Family Planning in Augusta, Planned Parenthood in Portland, or Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor. Maine Family Planning has 17 smaller clinics around the state, but due to the physician shortage in Maine, they are staffed by advanced practice registered nurses. LD 1261, which was introduced by Gov. Janet Mills, would reverse a 1979 statute that bars nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives from performing abortions. The ACLU, the ACLU of Maine, and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit in 2017 to overturn the law. Arguments were heard on that case earlier this year. That suit, and a similar one in Montana, argue that there is no medical justification for barring APCs from performing abortions, a position supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In fact, a 2013 study of nearly 11,500 abortion patients found that first-trimester abortions performed by trained nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified nurse midwives were just as safe as those performed by physicians. Eight states have passed similar bills, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A public hearing was held May 1 (read submitted testimony). The committee voted 7-5 OUGHT TO PASS, but has not yet issued a report.
THE BILL IS LAW: After passing the House and Senate (see how your legislators voted), Gov. Mills has signed the bill into law!
Collective bargaining for loggers and haulers. LD 1459, An Act To Expand Application of the Maine Agricultural Marketing and Bargaining Act of 1973 to Harvesters and Haulers of Forest Products. Sponsor: Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
This bill would help increase pay for loggers and haulers by allowing them to negotiate collectively with landowners, mills, and other buyers, an option current law already provides for potato farmers and lobster fisherman. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, logging workers had one of the highest rates of fatal injury in 2017. Loggers and wood haulers typically work extremely long hours for low pay and no benefits. Under current law, loggers and wood haulers do not have the ability to band together to negotiate for fair wages, safer working conditions, and better hours. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international organization that ensures forests and forest products are responsibly harvested in terms of social, ecological, economic and environmental factors. Ninety-five percent of Maine’s forest is privately owned. Private companies own 61 percent of that land, while family forestland owners hold title to another 33 percent. This gives a lot of authority to landowners over the roughly 24,000 workers in an industry that annually contributes $1.8 billion to Maine’s economy. A public hearing was held April 29 (read submitted testimony) and the Committee on Labor and Housing voted 7-5 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
THE BILL IS LAW: After passing the House and Senate(see how your legislators voted), Gov. Mills has signed the bill into law!
Ban discrimination in reproductive health care. LD 820, An Act To Prevent Discrimination in Public and Private Insurance Coverage for Pregnant Women in Maine. Sponsor: Rep. Joyce McCreight (D-Harpswell).
Currently in Maine, insurers can deny abortion services to pregnant people, even in the case of sexual assault, incest, or if continuing the pregnancy would endanger the mother’s life. But under LD 820, public and private health insurers that provide maternity coverage would also be required to cover abortion services. Although there is no state law prohibiting abortion coverage by MaineCare, current Department of Health and Human Services policy bans the coverage by the public insurance program in most circumstances, a position the ACLU of Maine contends is unconstitutional. The ACLU joined with the Mabel Wadsworth Center, Maine Family Planning, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to challenge the policy in a case currently before the Maine Supreme Court, arguing that the current policy forces low-income pregnant people to continue pregnancies they may want to terminate, which data from the Guttmacher Institute confirms. This bill addresses that discriminatory practice by requiring MaineCare to cover abortion services and requiring the state to cover any costs not covered under the federal Medicaid program. Religious employers would be exempt from the bill. If passed, Maine would become the 13th state to provide state funding for abortions under Medicaid. A public hearing was held March 27. Read the testimony. The HCIFS Committee voted along party lines, 8-5 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
THE BILL IS LAW: After passing the House and the Senate (see how your legislators voted), the bill has been signed into law by Gov. Mills!
Protection from preventable childhood diseases. LD 798, An Act To Protect Maine Children and Students from Preventable Diseases by Repealing Certain Exemptions from the Laws Governing Immunization Requirements. Sponsor: Rep. Ryan Tipping (D-Orono).
This bill would eliminate all non-medical exemptions for childhood vaccinations, a policy recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Maine has the 7th highest non-medical opt-out rate in the nation and last year, 5% of Maine kindergartners—about 600 students—had philosophical exemptions, allowing them to attend school without receiving the vaccines required by the state. The Maine Centers for Disease Control recently issued an alert about a possible measles exposure near Portland, followed soon after by a report that Maine’s childhood measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination rate has dropped to 93.8%, below the 95% rate needed to preserve herd immunity. The growing trend increases the risk of outbreaks of preventable diseases that can be deadly to those who cannot be vaccinated due to age or a medical condition. More than 600 cases of measles have been reported in 22 states so far this year, the highest number since measles was eradicated in 2000. Maine also has the nation’s highest whooping cough rate. Studies suggest that less than 1% of Americans are adamantly opposed to vaccines, even though anti-vaccine sentiment on social media appears to be rising. Much of that rise may be attributable to campaigns by social media bots and Russian “trolls” and anti-vax groups that spread false information about vaccines using widely disproven information. LD 798 allows children with an existing individual education plan who have claimed a religious or philosophical exemption to continue to attend school and allows parents and physicians to set an individualized vaccine schedule. Hundreds turned out for a public meeting March 13, with more than 1,300 testimonies submitted. Find more information in our FACT CHECK: Correcting ant-vaccine testimony, an annotated fact-check of inaccurate testimony submitted at the hearing by Sen. Dave Miramant (D-Knox). On April 26, the House passed the bill 78-59 (see how your rep voted). The Senate then passed it 20-15 on May 2, but also passed an amendment to allow religious exemptions (see how your senator voted). A week later, the House rejected the Senate version of the bill, voting 76-65 against a motion to “recede and concur” (i.e., the rejected the Senate version and held firm on the original House version). See how your rep voted. Finally, the bill went back to the Senate, where it was passed 18-17 with no religious exemption (see how your senator voted).
THE BILL IS LAW: After a roller coaster through the Legislature, the governor has signed LD 798 into law!
Ban on conversion therapy. LD 1025, An Act To Prohibit the Provision of Conversion Therapy to Minors by Certain Licensed Professionals. Sponsor: Rep. Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford).
This bill would ban “conversion therapy”—also called “reparative therapy”—a widely discredited practice that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The result of a years-long conversation with stakeholders, including EqualityMaine and GLAD, the legislation would apply to counselors, doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other licensed health care professionals. Many leading medical organizations oppose the practice, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association. A similar bill passed in the Legislature last year, but House Republicans upheld former Gov. Paul LePage’s veto. LePage was the first governor in the country to veto legislation banning conversion therapy. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have already passed laws prohibiting the practice and more than a dozen others are considering similar legislation. A public hearing was held April 10 and the Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services voted 9-2 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS. The House overwhelmingly passed it by a vote of 91-46 (see how your rep voted) and the Senate passed it unanimously by a voice vote (no roll call). After a few failed attempts by Senate Republicans to derail the bill, it was finally enacted 25-9 (see how your senator voted).
THE BILL IS LAW: The governor signed the bill into law on May 29!
Support for earned paid leave. LD 369, An Act To Support Healthy Workplaces and Healthy Families by Providing Earned Paid Sick Leave to Certain Employees. Primary sponsor: Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland).
The amended version of the bill would require businesses that employ more than 10 people for more than 3 months a year to offer their employees earned paid leave that they can take for any reason. If passed, Maine would become the 11th state to enact a bill giving employees paid leave when they’re sick and the first with a law that specifically allows the earned leave to be used for any reason. Nearly 75% of Maine children under age 6 live in homes where both parents work, and some 178,000 Mainers care for an elderly relative. The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations in the world that does not guarantee earned paid sick leave for employees, costing businesses about $160 billion a year in lost worker productivity. A study from the Political Economy Research Institute found that earned paid sick leave accounts for 0.5% of total operating expenses for businesses that offer the benefit, a cost the report says is recouped by decreased costs from employee turnover. The revised legislation, which received bipartisan support from the Labor Committee, would cover 85% of Maine workers (down from 91% in the original bill). Employees would accrue 1 hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours. The revisions expand the bill by allowing employees to take sick leave for any reason, which goes further than existing paid sick leave bills in other states. It would also prohibit municipalities from enacting their own paid leave programs. If passed, the bill takes effect in 2021.
THE BILL IS LAW: The Senate passed the bill unanimously by a voice vote (no roll call) and the House overwhelmingly passed the bill 94-45 (see how your rep voted) and the governor has signed it into law!
Promote “good Samaritans” to save lives. LD 329, An Act To Exempt from Criminal Liability Persons Reporting a Drug-related Medical Emergency. Sponsor: Rep. Barbara Cardone (D-Bangor).
LD 329 would provide immunity from arrest for possession or use of scheduled drugs or drug paraphernalia for anyone experiencing an opioid-related overdose or anyone seeking medical attention for a suspected overdose victim. Maine has one of the 10 highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths in the U.S., which increased 10.9% between 2017-2018 and is significantly higher than the national average of 6.6%. Studies suggest overdose victims and bystanders who witness a suspected overdose may be reluctant to seek medical assistance for fear of arrest for drug-related crimes. Forty states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation, known as “good Samaritan” or “911 immunity” laws. Former Gov. Paul LePage vetoed similar bills in the past. The majority of testimony at a Feb. 20 public hearing was in support of the bill and the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety voted that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
THE BILL IS LAW: The bill passed the House and Senate on voice votes (no roll calls) and has been signed into law by the governor!
Prohibit Indian-Themed Mascots. LD 944. An Act To Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools. Primary sponsor: Rep. Benjamin Collins (D-Portland).
This bill prohibits a public school from having or adopting a name, symbol, or image that depicts or refers to a Native American tribe, individual, custom or tradition and that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead or team name of the school. Although the last of Maine’s Indian-themed mascots was recently retired from Skowhegan Area High School, proponents of this bill, including leaders of Maine’s Wabanaki nations, feel that a law is necessary to ensure that these names and symbols remain in the yearbooks of the past, and that Maine schools should instead honor local connections to Indigenous Peoples by implementing the 2001 law requiring all Maine schools to teach Native American history. Learn about how Indian-themed mascots are harmful. Most people who attended a March 25 public hearing supported the bill. Read the testimony. The Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs voted 7-5 along party lines that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
THE BILL IS LAW: After passage by the House and Senate (see how your legislators voted), the governor signed the bill into law!
Ban food shaming in schools. LD 167, An Act To Prevent Food Shaming in Maine’s Public Schools. Primary sponsor: Rep. Janice Dodge (D-Belfast).
Based on one that died in the Legislature last year, the bill would ban “lunch shaming,” the practice of publicly shaming children with unpaid food bills. A 2014 report from the USDA found that nearly half of all U.S. school districts deny meals, withhold grades, or provide cheaper lunches if meal accounts are not paid in full. Lunch shaming occurs in some Maine schools, although the extent of the problem is unknown. LD 167 prohibits schools from publicly identifying students who have unpaid accounts and requires them to communicate only with parents or guardians about unpaid bills. The majority of testimony presented at a Feb. 20 public hearing was in support of the bill and the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs voted unanimously that the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended.
THE BILL IS LAW: After passing the House and Senate on a voice vote (no roll call), the bill was signed into law by the governor!
Honor Maine’s Indigenous People. LD 179. An Act To Change the Name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Primary sponsor: Rep. Benjamin Collings (D-Portland).
This bill would change the Columbus Day holiday, observed on the second day of October, to Indigenous Peoples Day. Proponents of the change, including Penobscot Nation tribal leaders, note that Christopher Columbus did not discover America (and in fact, never came to North America at all) and that a holiday celebrating someone who enslaved and brutalized native people only perpetuates discrimination against Maine’s first inhabitants. The national move to change the date began in the 1970s. Since then, more than 100 cities and six states have since changed the holiday. A number of Maine’s cities have already made the change, including Portland, Bangor, Orono, Belfast, and Brunswick. The majority of the testimony at a Feb. 11 public hearing was in support of the bill, which the Committee on State and Local Government voted OUGHT TO PASS.
THE BILL IS LAW: The bill passed the House 88-51 and the Senate 19-14 and the governor has signed it into law! See how your legislators voted.
Ban foam food containers. LD 289, An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers. Sponsor: Rep. Stanley Zeigler (D-Montville).
This bill would ban disposable food containers made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam by January 1, 2020. EPS, a plastic made from non-renewable fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals, isn’t recyclable in Maine. A 2018 report from the International Agency on Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, upgraded the likelihood that styrene is a carcinogen from “possible” to “probable.” In 1990, an effort by Freeport elementary school students led to the state’s first ban of the foam containers. Since then, 15 other towns and cities have followed their example. A number of Maine businesses, including Maine Medical Center, have also banned the containers. If LD 289 is successful, Maine would be the first to pass a statewide ban, although local bans are common in most states.The Committee on Environment and Natural Resources voted the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended following a February public hearing. Read the testimony, which was largely in support of the bill.
THE BILL IS LAW: The bill passed the House 87-51 (see the roll call) and the Senate by a voice vote (no roll call) and the governor has signed it into law!
Increase pay equity. LD 278, An Act Regarding Pay Equality. Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Breen (D-Cumberland).
This bill would prohibit employers from asking about a prospective employee’s salary history before a job offer is made. Research suggests that basing future pay on past salaries only perpetuates wage gaps for women, people of color, and people with disabilities, and a 2018 study found that Maine women earn 82 cents for each $1 men earn. According to Disability Rights Maine, asking about past income encourages disability-based employment discrimination by forcing potential employees to disclose medical and disability history that may have affected their past wages. The legislation is similar to a bill that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, only to be vetoed by former Gov. Paul LePage. The majority of testimony at a Feb. 6 public hearing before the Committee on Labor and Housing was in support of the bill. However, the committee vote was divided, with the majority report OUGHT TO PASS (OTP-AM) as amended and the minority report OUGHT NOT TO PASS (ONTP). The bill will go to the Senate for a vote first, then to the House.
THE BILL IS LAW: After passing the Senate 22-11 and the House 86-54, Gov. Mills signed the bill into law April 12 on her 100th day in office. See how your legislators voted.
Repeal LePage’s rooftop solar panel tax. LD 91, An Act To Eliminate Gross Metering. Primary sponsor: Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham).
This bill would eliminate “gross metering,” a Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rule that allows electricity utility companies to tax solar rooftop panel owners for the energy they generate on their own. The rule went into effect last year when Gov. LePage vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have blocked it. In December, the PUC exempted large electric customers from gross metering, but homes and small businesses are still subject to the tax. LD 91 replaces gross metering with the “net-energy billing” system used before the PUC rule went into effect and is one of a number of “green energy” bills the Legislature will consider this year. LD 91 is designated “emergency” legislation, meaning it would take effect upon passage. The majority of testimony at a Jan. 29 public hearing was in support of the bill, which the Committee on Energy Utilities and Technology voted OUGHT TO PASS.
THE BILL IS LAW: After passing the House 93-48 (see the roll call) and with a voice vote in the Senate (no roll call), Gov. Janet Mills has signed the bill into law!
Protecting Mainers’ Health Care. LD 1, An Act To Protect Health Care Coverage for Maine Families. Primary sponsors: Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and House Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport).
This bill would make patient protections in the Affordable Care Act state law, protecting them should Republicans repeal the federal statute. Insurers would be required to cover essential medical services, such as mental health care and prescription drugs, and to cover people with pre-existing conditions and those over age 55 without charging them higher premiums. It would also allow children to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26. A public hearing was held Jan. 29, with the majority of testimony in support of the bill. The committee voted 10-3 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
THE BILL IS LAW: Gov. Janet Mills has signed the bill into law! The Senate vote was unanimous; the House passed the measure 140-3. See how your legislators voted.
BILLS CARRIED OVER FOR 2020
Health care for more Maine children. LD 1539, An Act To Provide Maine Children Access to Affordable Health Care. Sponsor: Rep.Anne Carney (D-Cape Elizabeth).
This bill would provide health care coverage to thousands of uninsured children in Maine by expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in Maine, known as Cub Care. Cub Care offers low-cost health insurance to children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid (MaineCare). In 2017, 4% of children in Maine were uninsured, the highest rate of any state in New England. 41% of children in Maine are part of a low-income family and 14.2% live in poverty. In 2017, 22,310 children in Maine were eligible for Cub Care. LD 1539 would cover more children through Cub Care by raising the income cap from 200% of the federal poverty level to 325%. The bill would also eliminate the asset test, remove the 3-month waiting period for coverage to begin after the loss of employer-based insurance, extend the program to cover 19 and 20 year olds and noncitizens under the age of 21, and eliminate monthly premiums that blocked many families from receiving coverage for their children. If LD 1539 passes, Maine would join 13 other states that have expanded CHIP coverage to include families earning 300% or more of the federal poverty level. Learn more about the amended bill in this FACT SHEET. A public hearing was held May 2 (read submitted testimony) and the committee has voted OUGHT TO PASS. The House passed the bill 97-47 (see how your rep voted) and the Senate passed it by a voice vote (no roll call). It has not been placed on the Special Appropriations Table to await a funding decision.
CARRIED OVER: The bill has been held over to the next session.
Preventing domestic violence and sexual assault. LD 1171, An Act To Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence and To Support Survivors. Sponsor: Sen. Erin Herbig (D-Waldo).
This bill would provide the first funding increase in nearly 20 years to resource centers that provide support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and lead prevention efforts. The number of domestic violence assaults reported to Maine law enforcement rose sharply since 2013, comprising 40.2% of all reported assaults in 2017. A domestic violence assault is reported in Maine every 2 hours and 5 minutes. Approximately 14,000 Mainers experience sexual assault each year, although far fewer are reported to police. The number of assaults reported in Maine increased by 17% in 2017, possibly due in part to efforts to raise awareness and provide support for survivors. although few report them. Together, Maine’s domestic and sexual violence centers provide direct services to 20,000 Maine survivors each year and offer training and education for 75,000 people in all of Maine’s 16 counties. A public hearing was held April 17 and the HHS Committee voted unanimously that the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended. The House and Senate passed the bill on voice votes (no roll calls).
CARRIED OVER: The bill passed both chambers, but was held over for the next session.
Paid family and medical leave. LD 1410, An Act To Create Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits. Sponsor: Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport).
This bill would create a universal paid family and medical leave (PFML) program that provides 12 weeks of paid family leave or 20 weeks of paid medical leave. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world without a paid family leave system, even though 85% of Americans support the idea. Studies suggest that paid family leave reduces the financial burden of illness–especially for new parents, boosts worker morale and productivity, and supports economic growth. PFML also is associated with a 10% drop in infant mortality. If LD 1410 passes, Maine would become the 6th state (plus the District of Columbia) to implement a paid family leave program. Under a similar law in California, 87% of employers report no increased costs as a result of their paid family leave program, and 9% say the law actually reduced their costs by decreasing employee turnover. Under Maine’s initiative, which would cover 95% of Maine’s workers, all wage and salary employees would be required to contribute less than 1% of their annual salary to a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund, which covers all benefits and program administration costs. Self-employed individuals would be allowed to opt-in and the program requires no contributions from employers or the state. After contributing to the fund for 26 weeks, employees are eligible for 12 weeks of paid family leave or 20 weeks of paid medical leave. Participants are guaranteed job security under the bill. If passed, employees can begin contributing to the fund in January 2021 and begin drawing from the fund a year later. When on leave, employees would receive 90% of their weekly wage up to $415 per week, plus 67% of wages after that. The total weekly benefit would be capped a the state Average Weekly Wage of $830 per week, which is adjusted annually. A public hearing was held April 19 and a work session will be held May 30.
CARRIED OVER: The Committee on Labor and Housing voted May 30 to hold this bill over for the 2020 session.
Restore the social safety net. LD 1317, An Act To Restore Services To Help Certain Noncitizens Meet Their Basic Needs. Sponsor: Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook).
This bill would restore access to critical programs that provide food assistance, health care, and other resources to immigrants in Maine legally who are seeking asylum and those with green cards who have been here for less than 5 years. Access to these programs was granted by state law in 1996 and revoked In 2011 by former Gov. Paul LePage and a Republican-controlled Legislature. As a result, legal immigrants are denied access to social safety net programs, simply because of when and how they arrived in Maine. Programs that assist with food, housing, and health care costs are vital to asylum seekers until they can secure work, a process slowed by federal immigration laws. Asylum seekers are not allowed to apply for work permits until they’ve been in the U.S. for 5 months and processing the permit can take up to a year. A public hearing was held April 12 (read the submitted testimony). The Committee on Health and Human Services voted 9-4 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended, but has not yet issued its report.
CARRIED OVER: After a contentious floor debate, the House passed the bill 88-59. But the session adjourned before the Senate could vote. The bill has been held over until January 2020. However, the governor has the power and resources to restore these services within existing HHS department rules. Please email Gov. Janet Mills and ask her to use her authority to provide general assistance to immigrants who are barred by federal law from working upon their arrival.
State Equal Rights Amendment. LD, 433, RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Explicitly Prohibit Discrimination Based on the Sex of an Individual. Sponsor: Rep. Lois Reckitt (D-South Portland).
More than 100 legislators are co-sponsoring this bill, which would amend the state constitution to prohibit sex discrimination. If passed, Maine would become the 26th state to adopt a state constitutional Equal Rights Amendment. Legislators came close to passing a state ERA in 2017, but Republicans blocked the two-thirds passage required for state constitutional amendments. ERA opponents say sex discrimination is already banned in existing federal law and the 14th and 19th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. However, legal scholars—including Supreme Court justices—have said those amendments don’t prohibit sex discrimination. Current laws only protect federal and state employees and public school students and can be repealed by Congress. Maine ratified the federal Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1974. The Committee on Judiciary held a public hearing March 7. The Committee on the Judiciary voted 9-2 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS. The House passed the bill 87-54 even though every House Republican voted against it (see how your rep voted). The Senate passed the bill 26-9, which kept the bill alive (see how your senator voted) for another chance of 2/3 passage in the House.
CARRIED OVER: The final House vote was not scheduled before the session ended and the bill will be carried over until January 2020.
Ranked-choice voting for presidential primaries. LD 1083, An Act To Implement Ranked-choice Voting for Presidential Primary and General Elections in Maine. Sponsor: Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
This bill would move Maine’s presidential caucuses to primaries and use an instant-runoff system for primary and general presidential elections beginning in 2020. Known as ranked choice voting (RCV), the process ensures that only candidates who win at least 50.1% of the vote are elected to office. Currently, Maine uses RCV only for Congressional elections. This bill would expand that to presidential races and another bill, LD 1196, which has a public hearing April 10, would amend the state Constitution to apply RCV to state races. Maine voters overwhelmingly approved instant-runoff voting in 2016 and again in June 2018. RCV was used twice in 2018, for the gubernatorial primaries and the U.S. Senate and House races. Learn more about RCV on the Maine Secretary of Stage website. A public hearing was held March 20, and more than 500 people submitted testimony. The bill was replaced in committee with new language that requires RCV to be used in general elections only for presidential electors. However, if the state switches to a state-run primary, RCV will be used for presidential primaries. The majority of the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs voted that this amended version OUGHT TO PASS. A minority voted for a different amended version, that would only allow for RCV to be used for presidential electors if it is passed by a voter referendum. The House passed the bill 86-59 (see how your rep voted), but the session adjourned before the Senate could vote.
CARRIED OVER: The bill has been held over. Unless it is taken up in a special session before the Legislature’s scheduled return in January, it’s unlikely RCV will be available for the March presidential primaries. Non-emergency bills go into effect 90 dies after they become law, so even if it passes the Senate in January, it wouldn’t go into effect until after the primaries. While bill sponsors could change its status to “emergency,” allowing the bill to go into effect immediately after the governor signs it, emergency legislation requires two-thirds majorities in both chambers. With Republicans united in their opposition to RCV, the bill would fall short of two-thirds.
Prescription drug reform package. Part of a package of five drug reform bills to reduce prescription drug costs for Mainers, LD 1387, sponsored by Pres. Jackson, would enact the Maine Pharmaceutical Drug Safety Act to allow Mainers to import a 90-day supply of certain prescription drugs from Canada in accordance with guidelines established by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
CARRIED OVER: The Health Coverage Committee voted to hold LD 1387 over for the next session.
Support for federal workers during shutdowns. LD 477, An Act To Provide Relief to Federal Employees Affected by the Federal Shutdown. Sponsor: Senate Pres. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
More than 1,700 Maine federal employees went without paychecks during the recent federal government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history. Even though the government has re-opened, Maine families are struggling to catch up. This bill provides for no-interest loans for certain federal employees in Maine, by guaranteeing up to 10% of the loans eligible credit unions and financial institutions make to affected employees. Affected employees would be eligible for up to 3 loans, each equal to their monthly after-tax pay, up to $5,000. No interest will be charged on the loans during the shutdown or for 270 days after the shutdown ends.The bill is emergency legislation, meaning it would take effect upon passage. The Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services held a public hearing Feb. 5 and voted that the bill OUGHT TO PASS. The Senate passed the bill on a voice vote (no roll call). The House passed the bill 92-46 (see how your rep voted), short of the two-thirds majority required for an emergency bill. LD 477 goes back to the Senate, where Sen. Jackson will strip its emergency status, meaning it will only require a simple majority to pass. Without the emergency designation, it will be 90 days before the law goes into effect. It is currently on the appropriations table, awaiting further action.
CARRIED OVER: The bill has been held over for the next session.
BILLS THAT DIED
Gun safety legislation. The Legislature considered 11 new gun safety bills this term, covering Extreme Risk Protection Orders (red flag), background checks, safe storage, high capacity magazines, waiting periods, 3D printed firearms, and firearm collection days. Find information about all of the bills and final roll calls in our Gun Safety Legislation Roundup.
ALL BILLS ARE DEAD. The Legislature defeated all 11 gun safety bills we championed this session, part of a deal between the the governor and legislative leaders and the NRA, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, and Gun Owners of Maine, who agreed to support a weakened “red flag” alternative if all other gun safety legislation was killed in committee or on the floor. That bill, LD 1811, passed and has been signed into law.
Measure climate impact of CMP Corridor. LD 640, Resolve, To Require a Study of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions from the Proposed Central Maine Power Company Transmission Corridor. Sponsor: Sen. Everett Carson (D-Cumberland).
This bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct an independent analysis to determine the total net effect on greenhouse gas emissions of the proposed Central Maine Power New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission project. The 145-mile NECEC power line corridor would cut through hundreds of wetlands, streams, and animal habitats in Franklin, Somerset, Androscoggin, and Cumberland counties to deliver electricity generated by Hydro-Quebec in Canada to customers in Massachusetts. While the project’s proponents claim it is environmentally beneficial and have offered a $250 million package to Maine in exchange for the state’s support, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and others say Mainers would actually see little benefit overall and that any emission reductions would be offset if Hydro-Quebec shifts power from other markets to fulfill the deal. Two studies of NECEC’s environmental impact yielded conflicting results. Eight towns in the corridor’s path have now come out against the project. The Maine Public Utilities Commission recently approved the project, but NECEC still needs approvals from DEP and the Land Use Planning Commission. LD 640 would require the DEP to conduct the study and release its findings by June 1. A public hearing was held before the environment committee in March, with most testimony in opposition to NECEC and in favor of LD 640. The committee voted 10-3 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended and has issued majority and minority reports. LD 640 is an “emergency bill,” meaning it will go into effect immediately upon enactment but requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers. The Senate passed the bill May 9 30-4 (see how your senator voted). The House passed the bill May 23 74-64 (see how your rep voted), short of the two-thirds needed for emergency legislation. The House also passed an amendment to fund the study 87-50 (see how your rep voted). The Senate passed the amended version on May 30 by a voice vote (no roll call).
DEAD: The bill failed to get a 2/3 majority in the House on the second round of voting, which is required for emergency legislation. The bill is dead.
Block a hate-group sponsored education bill. LD 589, Resolve, Directing the State Board of Education To Adopt Rules Prohibiting Teachers in Public Schools from Engaging in Political, Ideological or Religious Advocacy in the Classroom. Sponsor: Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst).
This bill would require the State Board of Education to adopt rules banning public school educators from discussing political or religious issues or other controversial topics in the classroom. The legislation prohibits teachers from discussing any topic included in any state party platform, such as climate change and systemic racism, and would require them to offer information on “both sides” of controversial issues. Teachers who violate the law could be fired. The legislation is modeled—almost verbatim—after language promoted by the “Stop K-12 Indoctrination” project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, classified as a hate group known for distributing “hit lists” of students, faculty, and administrators they claim are “subversive.” ACLU of Maine and the Maine Education Association oppose the bill. The majority of testimony submitted at a Feb. 21 public hearing was in opposition to the bill, which the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs voted unanimously OUGHT NOT TO PASS.
DEAD: The Senate accepted the committee’s unanimous report and the bill is dead.
Oppose book banning in schools. LD 94, An Act To Prohibit the Dissemination of Obscene Material by Public Schools. Primary sponsors: Rep. Amy Arata (R-New Gloucester), Sen. Scott Cyrway (R-Kennebec), and Rep. John Martin (D-Eagle Lake).
This bill would revise an existing state “obscenity law” that prohibits the dissemination of “obscene” material to minors by removing the exception for public schools. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, the bill—which is opposed by the Maine Education Association—threatens students’ and educators’ intellectual freedom and would leave schools vulnerable to criminal prosecution if educators choose texts some consider inappropriate under the obscenity statute. A public hearing was held Feb. 4 before the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, which voted unanimously that the bill OUGHT NOT TO PASS.
DEAD: The House accepted the committee’s unanimous report and the bill is dead.
Ensuring patient protections in short-term health plans. LD 815, An Act To Regulate the Issuance of Short-term, Limited-duration Health Insurance Policies in the State. Sponsor: Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook). LD 1260, An Act Regarding Short-term, Limited-duration Health Plans. Sponsor: Rep. Victoria Foley(D-Biddeford).
These bills address problems inherent with short-term limited duration (STLD) health insurance plans, which offer less coverage than regular plans, usually charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, and don’t cover essential medical services such as prescription drugs and mental health care. Many don’t even cover cancer therapy. The ACA imposed limits on STLD plans to protection patients, but the Trump administration removed those protections last year. LD 815 limits STLD coverage to 3 months and institutes prohibitions designed to protect consumers. It also requires that policies flag all terms and conditions in large-point type to avoid hidden clauses. LD 1260 has the same requirements as 815, but also requires that STLD plans provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. A public hearing was held April 4, with the majority of testimony in support of the bill. The bill was tabled by the committee on April 17, but a work session has been scheduled for April 30.
DEAD: The Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services voted that the bill OUGHT NOT TO PASS and the Senate accepted that report.
Reduce carbon pollution. LD 797, An Act To Limit Greenhouse Gas Pollution and Effectively Use Maine’s Natural Resources. Sponsor: Rep. Ralph Tucker (D-Brunswick).
This bill requires the state to reduce carbon pollution by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, a level scientists say is necessary to limit a warming pattern that is already leading to rising sea levels and an increase in droughts and devastating storms. A 2018 United Nations report found that nations have less than 12 years to limit the harshest effects of global warming. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has actually lost ground: Energy-related emissions rose by 3.4 percent in 2018, the second-largest increase in 20 years. LD 797 requires the state to revise its climate action plan with input from the public, as well as advocacy organizations, businesses, farmers, fishermen, and other stakeholders. The plan would be executed by the Department of Environmental Protection and would involve a broad range of tactics that would expand the state’s reliance on renewable energy sources, creating new jobs and reducing carbon pollution. The bill’s goals are similar to those set forth by Gov. Janet Mills, who recently announced that Maine would join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of 22 governors committed to the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which the Trump administration left in 2017. The bill has support from a wide range of organizations, including 34 environmental organizations in the Environmental Priorities Coalition, the Maine Farmland Trust, and others. A public meeting was held March 13, with the majority of testimony in support of the bill. The bill was tabled during a work session March 28. Another work session is scheduled for May 22.
DEAD: The committee voted that the bill OUGHT NOT TO PASS, choosing instead to back an environmental bill from the governor that adopts many of the provisions of LD 797. That bill has not yet had a public hearing.
Ranked choice voting for state races. LD 1477, sponsored by Rep. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth).
This bill would amend the state Constitution to apply instant runoff voting—known as ranked-choice voting (RCV)—to the governor’s and legislative races. RCV ensures that only candidates who win at least 50.1% of the vote are elected to office. Currently, Maine can use RCV only for Congressional elections. Maine voters overwhelmingly approved instant-runoff voting in 2016 and again in June 2018. RCV was used twice in 2018, for the gubernatorial primaries and the U.S. Senate and House races. Following Maine’s success with RCV and its growing popularity among voters, other states are now considering adopting instant-runoff voting as well. Despite criticism from some Republican politicians, RCV does have Republican backers. An exit poll taken on the day of the 2018 midterm elections asked voters whether they think winning at least 50% of the vote in an election is important. There was broad bipartisan agreement, with 93% of Democrats, 72% of Republicans, and 81% of Independents saying candidates should only be elected if they capture more than 50% of the votes cast. Learn more about RCV on the Maine Secretary of Stage website. A public hearing was held before the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, which voted 8-5 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.
DEAD: The bill passed the House and Senate, but failed to secure the two-thirds majority required for passage of a constitutional amendment. The bill is dead.
Improve voter access. LD 619, RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine Regarding Early Voting. Sponsor: Rep. John Schneck (D-Bangor).
This bill proposes a state constitutional amendment to allow municipalities to offer early voting so that registered voters can cast ballots in advance of election day at the polls, just as they would on election day. Currently, Mainers may vote “early” by turning in an absentee ballot in person to their town office. Absentee ballots are collected by town registrars and set aside, to be counted later. Ballots cast via early voting are counted the day they are cast. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have early voting laws on the books, and another 13 states, including Maine, offer early absentee ballot voting. The 2012 Elections Commission unanimously recommended early voting in Maine, citing two pilot programs in 2007 and 2009. A 2013 study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that early voting leads to shorter lines on election day, more voter access, and more chances to correct polling glitches and registration errors early. In 2018, 34% more Mainers voted by absentee ballot than in 2014. If LD 619 is successful in the Legislature, it will go to voters for passage in November. A public hearing was held Feb. 25, with the majority of the testimony in favor of the amendment. The committee voted 8-5 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS as amended. The House held a procedural vote last week, which passed with a party-line vote of 85-55 (see how your rep voted), shy of the two-thirds requires to send a constitutional amendment to voters for approval. This was just the first vote, and constituent pressure could produce a better result on the next round of voting.
DEAD: The bill passed the House 85-55 and the Senate 20-15, but fell short of the two-thirds majority required for a constitutional amendment. The bill is dead.
Block unnecessary voter ID bill. LD 322, An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Election Laws by Requiring Photographic Identification for the Purpose of Voting. Sponsor: Rep. Richard Cebra (R-Naples).
This bill would require Maine voters to present a photo ID in order to vote, a measure Republicans have tried to pass at least 10 times since 1995. In 2012, an Elections Commission convened by the Legislature and Secretary of State recommended against voter ID in Maine. A 2014 study by the U.S. General Accounting Office found that the voter IDs cost close to $60 in some states, disproportionately affected younger voters and people of color, and were associated with as much as a 3% decrease in voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election in states that have them. That suggests as many as 20,000 Mainers may be turned away at the polls in 2020 if LD 322 is passed. According to the League of Women Voters Maine, there is only 1 known case of voter fraud prosecuted in the state in 30 years. The majority of testimony at a Feb. 27 public hearing was against the bill, and the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs voted 8-5 that the bill OUGHT NOT TO PASS.
DEAD: The House (83-53) and Senate (20-13) voted to accept the committee’s majority OUGHT NOT TO PASS report. The bill is dead! See how your legislators voted.
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Other Legislative Trackers
You can also track legislation with trackers from these grassroots groups and advocacy organizations. Know of other trackers we should include? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Natural Resources Council of Maine
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- ACLU of Maine
- Maine Family Planning
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- Maine Equal Justice
- Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services, Maine
- Maine Children’s Alliance
- 129th Legislature Bill Tracker, created by Jessica Gorton, co-leader of Capital Area Indivisible and Maine: Rise Up! Be Heard!
- Follow Your Leader, created by Hugh Briggs with Indivisible Sagadahoc.
HOW DO I…
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You can look up any bill that has been introduced into the Legislature on the Maine Legislature web site, by searching by the bill number, the sponsor’s name, or the bill title.
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Pro Tip: Find out if one of your legislators serves on the committee before you testify and contact her/him/them in advance with your concerns. Find your legislators and their contact information, including email, HERE. Find a list of members of each committee from the drop-down menu of Joint Standing Committees HERE.
Pro Tip: If you’d like to testify but can’t make the hearing, you may submit written testimony via the Legislative Information Office’s online form. While all submitted testimony is shared with committee members and becomes part of the public record, only testimony submitted online by midnight on the day of the bill’s public hearing will be included on the bill’s web page.
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Pro Tip: Committee clerks are a great resource, and every committee has one. They track legislation, sometimes know in advance when a public hearing might be scheduled, and often can provide updates on a bill’s status. They are helpful and respond quickly to inquiries from Maine residents. Find clerks’ contact information on each committee’s page at the link above.
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