Maine Legislature Roundup

Suit Up Maine collaborates with other grassroots groups, legislators, and statewide advocacy organizations to identify and track bills on a range of progressive issues each year. The 130th Legislature began in December and adjourned July 19 following an unusual session in which all committee hearings and business were conducted remotely. We tracked more than 60 bills this session. See below to find out where that legislation landed. You can also check out the latest legislative scorecards from our partners with Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Women’s Lobby, and League of Women Voters of Maine

What's new in 2021?

  • The Legislature will conduct much of its business via Zoom this year, including public hearings.
  • Legislators convened in March and May at the Augusta Civic Center instead of the State House for debate and floor votes, and sessions were closed to the public due to COVID-19. But they will reconvene in June at the State House, which will be open to the public beginning May 24. You can watch Senate sessions HERE and House sessions HERE.
  • The public can still testify, but you must register no later than 30 minutes before the hearing begins. Register and submit your testimony electronically HERE
  • You can also submit testimony online and watch the hearings via each committee’s YouTube channel.
  • Check out the FAQ on this page for instructions for submitting testimony on a bill. 
  • Find more in this resource from Maine Equal Justice. 

Upcoming Hearings & Work Sessions

Want to submit testimony for a bill? Check out the FAQ on this page for instructions!

Hearings and work sessions on the bills we’re tracking have concluded.

Upcoming Votes

Legislators will convene at the State House in early June to vote on a host of bills. We’ll add links here to bills with imminent votes closer to that date. At that time, you should call the House at 1-800-423-2900 and the Senate at 1-800-423-6900 and leave messages with your legislators’ names, your name, town, phone number, and how you’d like them to vote. Messages are transcribed immediately and left on legislators’ desks. Not sure who your legislators are? Find them HERE

Maine Legislature Speed Dial

Maine House:
1-800-423-2900 (leave a voicemail)
(207) 287-1400 (speak to staff)
Maine Senate:
1-800-423-6900 (leave a voicemail)
(207) 287-1540 (speak to staff)
TTY: Use Maine Relay 711

Legislative Information Office:
207-287-1692

Not sure who your legislators are? Find them HERE.

Pro Tip: Leave messages at the numbers above with your your name and town, your legislators’ names, a bill number, and how you’d like them to vote. Messages are transcribed and delivered to legislators’ desks throughout the day.


Pro Tip: Emails from constituents are particularly persuasive. Find email addresses HERE.

BILLS THAT PASSED

 

Paid Family and Medical Leave. LD 1559, Resolve, To Create the Commission To Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program. (Emergency) Sponsor: Sen. Matthea Daughtry (D-Cumberland).
The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world without a paid family leave system, even though 85 percent of Americans support the idea. Legislators are proposing a bill to create a commission to study options for a paid family and medical leave (PFML) system in Maine and draft a plan to implement it. Under a similar law in California, one of five states with PFML, 87% of employers report no increased costs as a result of their paid leave program, and 9% report decreased employee turnover. Studies suggest paid family leave reduces the financial burden of illness, boosts worker morale and productivity, and supports economic growth. PFML also encourages parent-infant bonding, promotes breast feeding, and is associated with a 10% drop in infant mortality. In Maine, Black Mainers and women are more likely to work frontline jobs where they have less access to benefits. Women are also more likely to be primary caregivers, and to leave the workforce to care for family. A system of paid leave in Maine would reduce these inequities, and ensure working Mainers don’t have to choose between a paycheck and caring for loved ones. Mainers provide more than $2 billion in unpaid caregiving every year and 1 in 7 low-wage workers in Maine have lost their jobs due to an illness, injury, or family caregiving needs. PFML is popular nationwide and in Maine, with 75.5% of Mainers in favor. Learn more about the bill from Maine Paid Leave Coalition. The Committee on Labor and Housing held a public hearing May 7 (read the testimony) and voted the bill Ought to Pass with broad, tri-partisan support.
PASSED. The bill passed the Senate 23-11, with 2 Republicans joining all Democrats voting in favor, and passed 82-60, with 1 Republican joining all Democrats and independents voting in favor. It is on its way to the governor’s desk! See how your legislator voted

 

Expanding child care in rural Maine. LD 1712, An Act To Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Success. Sponsor: Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
This bill would create a pilot project to expand and enhance available quality child care in Maine by creating the First 4 ME Early Care and Education Program, run by DHHS, to provide comprehensive, high-quality care for at-risk children under age 6 who are not in kindergarten. The project would increase the number of child care slots in Maine by creating up to 5 pilot child care programs sponsored and led by stakeholders in the communities they serve. The programs would expand existing facilities and provide coaching and additional provider support. Funding for the project would come from grants and private donations in addition to state and federal funds. The legislation is supported by a number of child advocacy groups, including Maine Children’s Alliance, Maine Head Start Association, and Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. A similar bill was introduced last year received wide support, but died when the Legislature adjourned early due to the pandemic. The Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing May 20 (read the testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed in the Senate on a voice vote (no roll call) and in the House 84-56 (see how your legislator voted) and was signed into law by the governor.

 

Unemployment system reform. LD 1571, An Act To Strengthen the Unemployment Insurance System To Better Serve Maine Workers. Sponsor: Speaker Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford).**See update below for new bill info. 
This legislation seeks to address the problems created by an outdated state unemployment insurance (UI) system, which was unable to adequately support Mainers who found themselves out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill will begin to address staffing challenges at the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL), a result of budget cuts during the LePage administration that have left the department with half of its 2010 headcount. The legislation will modernize MDOL services and create a navigator system that leverages labor and community groups to help underserved workers access benefits more easily. Before the pandemic, only 1 in 4 Maine workers qualified for unemployment insurance, a problem the legislation addresses by expanding eligibility for more people, including workers who are partially unemployed. LD 1571 supports families of unemployed parents by increasing supplemental benefits for dependent children for the first time in two decades and provides a safety net for people forced to leave work due to the loss of child care, lack of transportation, or similar reasons. It also requires employers to file UI claims for workers impacted by a mass layoff or reduction in hours and penalizes them if they discourage a worker from applying for benefits. This bill was crafted based on feedback from Mainers with personal experience of the UI system during the pandemic, many of whom are freelance and gig workers, self-employed small business owners, independent contractors, and working poor who string together enough part-time work to make ends meet. Learn more about the bill from the Maine AFL-CIO. The Committee on Labor and Housing held a public hearing May 3 (read the testimony) and held two work sessions.
**UPDATE: Speaker Fecteau has combined his bill with another unemployment reform bill, LD 1564, sponsored by Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc), which expands the reforms even further. In addition to the reforms outlined above, LD 1564 also adds transportation, child care, and elder care as legitimate reasons for someone to have left employment through no fault of their own, leaving the eligible for unemployment insurance. Speaker Fecteau and Sen. Vitelli’s bill, LD 1564, received an Ought to Pass majority vote in committee.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the Senate 22-12 and the House 80-51 (see how your legislator voted) and the governor signed it into law.

 

Ban “forever chemicals.” LD 1503, An Act To Stop Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Pollution. Sponsor: Rep. Lori Gramlich (D-Old Orchard Beach).
This bill would ban the use of toxic “forever chemicals” called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in carpets, rugs, and fabric treatments by 2023 and eliminate them in almost all other products by 2030, unless the Department of Environmental Protection indicates their use is unavoidable. PFAS comprise a class of approximately 5000 synthetic compounds used in the manufacture of such items as cookware, food packaging, firefighting foam, and textiles (think Teflon and Scotchgard). These “forever chemicals” contribute to a number of human health issues, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and decreased fertility. PFAS are difficult to contain and remediate and contaminate water through improper wastewater management in industrial facilities, including paper mills common throughout Maine, and through the spreading of industrial and municipal biosolids or “sludge” as fertilizer on Maine’s cropland and forestry lots. As of October 2019, the Maine DEP had more than 30,000 records for 28 different PFAS at 245 locations across the state. Recently, 44 samples taken from farms and other facilities that distribute sludge contained at least one PFAS, with all but two samples exceeding safety levels set by the state in 2019. Six states currently have enforceable drinking water standards and five other states, including Maine, are considering such standards. Nine other states have adopted guidance and/or notification levels for PFAS in drinking water..  Maine currently has guidance in this regard, but the proposed legislation would create more restrictions on PFAS use. Learn more about this bill in this fact sheet from the Environmental Priorities Coalition. The Committee on Environment and Natural Resources held a public hearing May 3 (read the public testimony) and voted unanimously that the bill Ought to Pass as amended.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the House 121-2 (see how your rep voted) and Senate by voice vote (no roll call) and became law without the governor’s signature. 

 

Making absentee voting more accessible. LD 148, An Act to Establish Ongoing Absentee Voting. Sponsor: Speaker Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford). This bill would create an ongoing absentee voter option in Maine, allowing voters who sign up to receive an absentee ballot for all local, state, and federal elections without having to submit a request. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 57.2 million people voted early, absentee, or by mail in 2016, more than double the number in 2004. In Maine in 2016, one-third of all votes cast were made via absentee ballot. In 2020, absentee ballots accounted for more than half of the total. Federal law already allows all overseas voters to request absentee ballots on an ongoing basis, and 15 other states and Washington, D.C. offer some sort of permanent absentee voting option. Ongoing absentee voting is convenient for voters, with 68% of voters in states with permanent absentee laws voted with an absentee ballot in 2018. Permanent absentee ballot voting also reduces the number of absentee ballot requests elections officials must mail and process. And contrary to some claims, studies have found no evidence that absentee voting increases the risk of voter fraud or favors one party over another. LD 148 requires election clerks to match the signature on the back of an absentee ballot envelope with a voter’s registration card and requires clerks to contact voters if there are any problems. Voters are removed from the permanent absentee voter list when they die, move to another town, ask to be removed, or if their voter status is marked inactive or cancelled. Ongoing absentee voter status would go into effect in 2023. A public hearing was held Feb. 8 (read the testimony) and has voted that the bill Ought to Pass as amended. The amended bill allows ongoing absentee ballot voter status only for people over 65 and those with a disability. Voters with this status who have not voted over multiple elections will be removed from the ongoing absentee ballot list. Under the amended version, Maine would join the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nonprofit organization that works to improve the accuracy of voter roles. Participation with ERIC has long been a goal of the League of Women Voters of Maine.
PASSED. The bill passed the House 80-57 and the Senate 21-12 (see how your legislators voted) and will be headed to the governor’s desk soon.

 

Create online voter registration. LD 1126, An Act To Update the Voter Registration Process. Sponsor: Rep. Teresa Pierce (D-Falmouth).
With this bill, Maine would join 40 other states and Washington, D.C. in offering online voter registration (OVR). Studies show that OVR reduces barriers for voting, costs less than paper registration, and increases opportunities for participation—especially among people of color and young voters. A study of Georgia’s online registration system found that 71% of people who registered online turned out to vote, compared with a turnout rate of just 48%-52% among those who registered by mail or in-person. After Arizona launched its OVR system in 2002, the state saw a 24% increase in registration among voters age 18-24, while also slashing the state’s registration costs, from 83 cents for each paper registration to just 3 cents for an online registration. Contrary to some claims, OVR offers a number of security protections to prevent fraud and reduces the risk of errors caused by the manual transcription of paper forms. LD 1126 would allow voters to register, enroll in a political party or change their party affiliation, and submit a name or address change, all online. ID requirements for registering online would be the same as those for registering in person. The Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs held a public hearing on April 5 (read the public testimony) and has voted that the bill Ought to Pass.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the House 81-61 and the Senate 22-12 (see how your legislators voted) and was signed into law by the governor.

 

Ban seclusion and restraints in Maine schools. LD 1373, An Act To Keep All Maine Students Safe by Restricting the Use of Seclusion and Restraint in Schools. Sponsor: Rep. Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth). Maine schools used more than 20,000 restraints and seclusions on Maine students in 2017-2018, a rate 4-11 times higher than the national average. According to a report from Disability Rights Maine, the vast majority of these children—77% of those subjected to restraint and 79% of those subjected to seclusion—are students with disabilities. LD 1373 would end that by banning seclusion, chemical restraints, mechanical restraints and certain physical restraints of students in all Maine schools. The Department of Education passed rules in 2012, known as Chapter 33, governing the use of seclusion and restraints in schools. Advocates say the rules have failed to reduce the use of this treatment and have called on the Legislature to ban the use of restraints and seclusion. Legislators passed a similar measure in 2019, carrying the bill over to 2020 for funding. It died on the Special Appropriations table when the Legislature adjourned early due to the pandemic. Seclusion and restraint are used in schools across the nation, with one report citing their use on more than 100,000 students in 2017-2018. An analysis of that report found that Maine ranked 14th in the use of seclusion and 26th for the use of restraints. As is the case here, the majority of students nationwide who are subjected to this treatment are children with disabilities. Congressional Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to pass a federal bill to ban these practices nationwide, with the most recent version introduced in November 2020, with Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree as a co-sponsor. Learn more about LD1373 in this fact sheet from the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council and Maine Coalition Against Restraint and Seclusion (CARS). The Education Committee will hold a public hearing May 4 (read the testimony) and the majority voted the bill Ought to Pass as amended. The amended version clarifies a few issues and prohibits restraint when it impacts a student’s ability to communicate. The bill was amended again after failing in the Senate, with the final version removing the ban on seclusion. 
THE BILL IS LAW: The bill passed the House 74-63 but failed in the Senate 21-13. The House then passed an amended version of the bill 78-55 and sent it back to the Senate, where it passed 19-15. (See how your legislators voted.) It became law without the governor’s signature.

 

Blocking the “school-to-prison” pipeline. LD 474, An Act Regarding School Discipline for Maine’s Youngest Children. Sponsor: Rep. Victoria Morales (D-South Portland). Studies suggest that children who are suspended or expelled during preschool or elementary school are 10 times more likely to face jail time later in life, a trend known as the “school-to-prison pipeline. LD 474 seeks to block that pipeline by banning expulsions, suspension, or the withholding of recess for children in pre-K through fifth grade, except as provided under the federal Gun-Free Schools Act. Studies link exclusionary discipline—suspensions or expulsions that remove a student from school—to decreased academic performance, increased drop-out rates, lower incomes in adulthood, and a higher risk of future involvement with the criminal justice system.  Exclusionary discipline practices disproportionately affect children with disabilities and children of color, including in Maine. While Black students make up only 4% of K-12 students in Maine, they accounted for 8% of suspensions and 7% of expulsions in 2018, according to an independent analysis by ProPublica. Suspension and expulsion rates are also higher among children with disabilities in Maine. At least one school district in Maine has already taken action. The Lewiston School Committee passed a measure earlier this year that bans expulsions for elementary students, citing a report that found that more than half of expulsions from Lewiston schools in 2013 were among students of color, even though the majority of students in Lewiston are white. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws limiting the use of exclusionary discipline by grade level, usually in the early grades. LD 474 also requires that a list of low-cost or free legal services be included with written notice of an expulsion hearing that is sent to students and parents before the hearing. The Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs held a public hearing April 26 (read the public testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass as amended. Under the amended version, the bill allows for a maximum of 3 days of an out-of-school suspension for pre-K through grade 5 for violent physical behavior, and for the use of recess for restorative practices.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the House 78-53 (see how your rep voted) and the Senate by a voice vote (no roll call) and was signed into law by the governor.

 

Reforming an unjust cash bail system. LD 1703, An Act to Amend the Bail Code. Sponsor: Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland).
Between 60-80% of people in Maine jails are awaiting trial, many simply because they can’t afford the cash bail set by the courts. This system punishes low-income Mainers, forcing them to remain in jail before they even have a chance to defend themselves in court. LD 1703 would address this problem by eliminating cash bail for most Class E misdemeanors, which account for 41% of arrests in Maine and include such offenses as public drinking, disorderly conduct, and petty theft. The bill would not apply to Class E misdemeanors involving sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or violation of condition of release related to those crimes. A 2015 survey found that the average length of pretrial incarceration in Maine was a month and the average cash bail for Class E offenses was $722, an often insurmountable amount for many Mainers awaiting trial, who have a median annual income of just $15,109. Cash bail systems disproportionately disadvantage Black people, who historically have been assigned higher bail amounts. Defendants who can’t afford bail are more likely to be sentenced to longer jail or prison time and more likely to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. Cash bail proponents argue it serves as a guarantee of trial appearance, but New Jersey and Washington, D.C., reported similar or better appearance rates after reforms were implemented there. LD 1703 would also require courts to consider other factors when setting bail, such as a person’s health needs or if they are a primary caretaker. A similar bill introduced last session garnered support from prosecutors. Illinois became the first state to eliminate all cash bail earlier this year, and other states are considering similar measures. Learn more about Maine’s cash bail system from ACLU of Maine. The Committee on Judiciary held a public hearing May 21 (read the testimony) and voted 10-2 that the bill Ought to Pass.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the House 83-57 and the Senate 22-13 (see how your legislator voted) and became law without the governor’s signature.

 

Making health care work for more Mainers. In 2014, Maine ranked 11th in the nation in per capita health care spending, at an average of $9,531 per person. That’s a 49% increase since 2000 and more than $1,500 higher than the national average. A package of health care reform bills seeks to address this issue by reigning in health care spending, holding drug manufacturers responsible for unnecessary price hikes, increasing transparency in prescription drug pricing, and making an emergency supply of insulin available from pharmacies around the state. Called the “Making Health Care Work for Maine,” the package is among a slate of bills the Legislature will consider to increase health care access for Mainers. Learn more about this package below and in this review from Maine Center for Economic Policy. The Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services held public hearings on these bills April 13 (see below for links to testimony) and voted that they all Ought to Pass. Two of the bills, LD 673 and LD 686 have been signed into law and LD 120 is awaiting the governor’s signature. The final two bills, LD 675 and LD 1117, were vetoed by the governor and are now dead (see section below). 

» Reigning in health care spending. LD 120, An Act To Lower Health Care Costs through the Establishment of the Office of Affordable Health Care. Sponsor: Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
This bill, part of the “Making Health Care Work for Maine” bill package, would establish an independent, nonpartisan legislative office charged with creating evidence-based solutions to address the rising cost of health care and limit the amount of annual cost increases.The office would make recommendations to the Legislature to help keep health care costs down and be required to share its findings in an annual report and public hearing. The office is similar to a commission in Massachusetts credited with an estimated $7.2 billion health care savings and with keeping that state’s health care spending growth rate to below the national average for more than a decade. Read the public testimony from the April 13 public hearing.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the House and Senate on voice votes (no roll call) and became law without the governor’s signature.

» Emergency access to insulin. LD 673, An Act to Create the Insulin Safety Net Program. Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Breen (D-Cumberland).
This bill requires manufacturers to provide pharmacies with supplies of insulin to be used by Mainers with diabetes and an urgent need for insulin who don’t have health insurance, a prescription, or can’t afford the cost of the drug. Maners could receive a 30-day supply from a Maine pharmacy for no more than $35. It is modeled after a similar bill passed last year in Minnesota, which has already withstood a legal challenge from the pharmaceutical industry. Read the public testimony from the April 13 public hearing.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the Senate 34-0 and passed the House on a voice vote (no roll call) and was signed into law by the governor.

» Increasing transparency for pharmaceutical companies. LD 686, An Act to Increase Prescription Drug Pricing Transparency. Sponsor: Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc).
This bill would increase transparency in drug pricing by requiring the Maine Health Data Organization to publicly post information they’ve collected from drug manufacturers about plans for price increases each year. Legislators say greater transparency gives consumers more information on drug pricing, makes it easier to spot areas ripe for prescription drug reform, and makes it more unlikely that price hikes will go unnoticed. Read the public testimony from the April 13 public hearing.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the Senate 33-1 (see how your senator voted) and the House by a voice vote (no roll call) and was signed into law by the governor.

 

Ban “no-knock” warrants. LD 1127, An Act To Prohibit the Use of “No-knock” Warrants.*** Sponsor: Rep. Amy Roeder (D-Bangor). This bill would ban the use of no-knock warrants, search warrants that allow law enforcement to enter a specified location without first announcing their presence or purpose for entering. According to results from a recent poll by YouGov Blue, 61% of Maine voters support a ban on no-knock warrants. This comes amid an increase in  national debate over the use of no-knock warrants following the March 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman in Louisville, Kentucky, who was shot when police entered her home with a no-knock warrant. Taylor was not a suspect in the case that led to the warrant. Since Taylor’s death, legislators in 33 states have introduced more than 80 measures that monitor, curtail, or eliminate no-knock warrants. A federal bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, would ban the use of no-knock warrants nationwide. It passed the House in March 2021 (Rep. Chellie Pingree voted for it; Rep. Jared Golden voted no), but has a tough road ahead in the Senate. Around 20,000 no-knock warrants are issued nationally each year and more than 100 people—including civilians and law enforcement officers—have died in no-knock raids since 2010. The bill sponsor plans to amend the legislation to include additional requirements on law enforcement officers serving all search warrants, including requiring that they be in uniform, knock and announce their presence, turn on their body cameras before executing a warrant, and wait 30 seconds after knocking before entering. Search warrants would need to be executed during daylight hours and must include information about who else is in the home. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee held a public hearing April 26 (read the public testimony) and voted that the bill Ought Not to Pass.
***NOTE: Rep. Roeder’s bill was combined with a similar bill, LD 1171, which received a unanimous vote by the committee. The compromise, bipartisan legislation will limit no-knock warrants to situations where police or people in surrounding areas might be at risk of death or bodily harm if police were to announce themselves and would require a judge to verify these conditions before issuing a warrant. It also requires officers on an entry team to wear a police uniform and activate body-worn cameras if required by their department.
THE BILL IS LAW. LD 1171 passed the House and Senate by voice vote (no roll call) and was signed into law by the governor.

 

Avoiding eviction through mediation. LD 1508, An Act To Prevent Homelessness by Establishing an Eviction Mediation Program. Sponsor: Senator Anne Carney (D-Cape Elizabeth). This legislation would establish an eviction mediation program, to encourage landlords and tenants to use mediation to avoid evictions whenever possible. Eviction is a harmful and destabilizing event for families, which can negatively impact employment, health, and achievement. Once someone has been evicted, it becomes very difficult for them to find safe, alternative housing. Intervening before eviction occurs is key to reducing hardship for families, and mediation has been an important tool in achieving better outcomes. In Maine, about 5,300 evictions were filed in 2019. During the pandemic, however, evictions decreased 40%, due in part to federal and state rent relief programs and bans on evictions. Before the pandemic, renters were largely evicted based on nonpayment of rent. Too often, renters do not understand their rights, or lack legal representation during eviction proceedings. Eviction mediation provides a process for landlords and tenants to come to a mutually agreed-upon alternative to eviction with the help of a mediator. Several U.S. cities developed mediation programs during the Great Recession, and have seen positive results. LD 1508 would create a program to encourage mediation between tenants and landlords to avoid eviction, as well as ensure more legal guidance for tenants in eviction proceedings. The Judiciary committee held a public hearing April 27 (read the public testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass as amended.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the Senate 21-14 and in the House 82-61 (see how your legislators voted) and was signed into law by the governor.

 

Encouraging harm reduction through drug policy reform. Maine reported a record 502 overdose-related deaths in 2020, and early figures from 2021 are ominous. The Legislature will consider a number of bills this session that align with a national shift away from the failed “war on drugs” toward a public health approach to drug use and substance use disorder. Studies have found no link between incarceration and reduced substance use, overdose deaths, or drug-related arrests. Widespread, global agreement that substance use disorder is a medical condition, not a moral failing, has prompted a number of states, including Maine, to focus on decriminalization. Legislators considered a number of drug policy reform bills this session, including the ones below.

» Decriminalizing needles. LD 994, An Act To Promote Public Health by Eliminating Criminal Penalties for Possession of Hypodermic Apparatuses. Sponsor: Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington). This bill would eliminate criminal penalties for possession or trafficking of hypodermic apparatuses and syringes. Currently in Maine, possessing 11 or more syringes is punishable by up to 364 days incarceration and a $2,000 fine. Selling, bartering, trading, or exchanging even one syringe for something of value is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Research suggests that injection drug users who are concerned about criminal prosecution from carrying syringes are more than twice as likely to share syringes, greatly increasing their risk for endocarditis and infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, the latter of which has been on the rise in Maine. Advocates say LD 994 could encourage participation in the state’s syringe service programs (SSPs), which are certified by the Maine Centers for Disease Control and seek to reduce the risk of infectious disease and overdose, and connect participants with supports like targeted case management, peer support, substance use disorder treatment, and food and housing assistance. The bill is supported by Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey, the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Maine Centers for Disease Control. The Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a public hearing April 21 (read the public testimony) and voted overwhelmingly that the bill Ought to Pass.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the House and Senate on a voice vote (no roll call) and was signed into law by the governor.

» Expanding recovery centers in Maine. LD 488, An Act To Expand Recovery Community Organizations throughout Maine. Sponsor: Senator Chloe Maxmin (D-Lincoln). This legislation provides funding for recovery community centers in the seven Maine counties that do not already have one: Kennebec, York, Waldo, Hancock, Franklin, Somerset, and Piscataquis. Recovery Community Centers (RCCs) are independent nonprofits led by people in recovery that offer peer-based recovery services, public education, and policy advocacy. While they are not treatment centers, they connect people and their families to those services. Maine currently has 13 RCCs in nine counties, all part of the Maine Recovery Hub, an initiative funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and overseen by the Portland Recovery Community Center (PRCC). In 2020, RCCs offered more than 6,000 activities for more than 55,000 people statewide. Following a decline in accidental overdose deaths, Maine saw a sharp increase in 2020, with 503 deaths. State leaders, providers, and advocates attribute this 25% increase in part to increased social isolation during the pandemic. A top priority in Governor Mills’ recently updated Opioid Response Strategic Plan is to build and support recovery-ready communities by providing funding for additional community-based recovery centers. This legislation makes an important investment in expanding RCCs across the state as a means of providing innovative, community-based services, led by people in recovery, to respond to the needs of Mainers who are in recovery. Learn more in this fact sheet from Maine Recovery Advocacy Project. The Committee on Health and Human Services held a hearing on the bill April 12 (read the public testimony) and voted unanimously that the bill Ought to Pass as amended. This video from Sen. Maxmin explains the amended version.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the House and Senate by voice vote (no roll call) and was signed into law by the governor.

» Drug Sentencing Reform. LD 1675, An Act to Amend Certain Provisions of Maine’s Drug Laws. Sponsor: Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland).
In Maine, the amount of narcotics that trigger felony trafficking charges is far lower than in most other states and, in many cases, low enough that many users face harsh consequences for possessing amounts typical of personal use. Sentences for felony trafficking can range from 10-30 years and unlike 39 other states, Maine does not require a prosecutor to demonstrate an intent to traffic to charge someone with the crime. LD 1675 would change that, bringing Maine in line with other states by amending the law so that drug trafficking charges can’t be levied based simply on the amount of drugs someone has on them. LD 1675 also eliminates the disparity between crack and powder cocaine in Maine’s law, addressing a legacy of drug laws studies designed for the explicit purpose of punishing poor and Black people more harshly. Maine’s felony drug trafficking law has been enforced in ways that disproportionately punish women and Black people. Although Black individuals represented less than 2% of Maine’s population in 2018, they accounted for 21% of Class A drug arrests and 15% of Class B offenses. The number of women arrested for Class A drug crimes in Maine tripled between 2008 and 2018, with 16% of all 2018 felony arrests of women for trafficking. In 2020, 56% of new admissions to Maine’s women’s prison were for drug crimes. The consequences of long-term incarceration on both the individual and their family can be devastating. A felony conviction creates barriers to housing, employment, and even federal student loans. Find more info in this fact sheet from ACLU of Maine. The Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a public hearing May 14 (read the testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the House 80-58 and the Senate 20-15 (see how your legislators voted) and became law without the governor’s signature.

» Drug sentencing reform. LD 967: An Act to Amend the Drug Laws by Decriminalizing the Individual Use or Possession of Schedule, W, X, Y, and Z Drugs. Sponsor: Rep. Anne Perry (D-Calais). This bill would make possession of small amounts of  drugs for personal use a civil offense, instead of a criminal violation. People found guilty would  pay a fine of up to $100; the fine can be waived  by receiving referral for a health assessment for possible substance use disorder treatment or other supportive services. Maine has some of the harshest drug sentencing laws in the country with a far lower threshold for felony possession and trafficking than most other states. Prosecutors don’t even have to prove a defendant’s intent to distribute the drugs in their possession to levy a trafficking conviction, which has a long-term negative effects on a person’s ability to secure housing or employment. Drug arrests in Maine have increased over the last decade, accounting for almost 9% of all arrests in 2018. Arrests for drug trafficking made up more than half of all Class A arrests and more than one-quarter of Class B arrests that year. The rise in drug arrests is particularly high among women, rising 25% between 2008 and 2018. By removing criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of drugs, LD 967 could allow individuals to obtain and keep housing and employment and provide a pathway to treatment. Last year, Oregon became the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize small amounts of drugs, but other states are now considering similar legislation. Research from Portugal found that a 2001 decision to decriminalize small amounts of drugs in that country was associated with an increase in the number of people seeking treatment and a decrease in overdose deaths and HIV among those who use drugs. Drug sentencing reform is under consideration at the federal level as well, with Sen. Angus King (I) sponsoring a bill that would lower some mandatory drug sentencing requirements. Learn more from ACLU of Maine, the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, and the Maine Coalition for Sensible Drug Policy. The Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a public hearing April 30 (read the testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass.
DEAD. The bill passed the House 77-62 but failed in the Senate 18-14. See how your legislators voted

 

Corporate contribution ban. LD 1417, An Act Regarding Campaign Finance Reform. Sponsor: Sen. Louis Lucchini (D-Hancock) This campaign finance reform bill seeks to limit the influence of corporations in state elections by banning corporate donations to candidates for state office and legislator-controlled PACs. Businesses and organizations affected by the ban include for-profit companies, partnerships, non-profit organizations, and professional associations, ensuring that corporations can’t use political contributions to manipulate the legislative process and tip the playing field in their favor on issues of tax incentives, consumer regulation, and workers’ rights. In the 2020 election cycle, corporations gave more than $1.5M to state and federal candidates and candidate-controlled PACs in Maine, with the largest donations coming from the energy, healthcare, and pharmaceutical industries. The bill does not block donations from business owners or their employees or shareholders. LD 1417 would also improve transparency in leadership PACs and candidate campaigns, eliminating the influence of “dark money” by undisclosed donors in Maine’s elections. Nationally, hundreds of millions of dollars of dark money have been spent by anonymous donors to influence climate change, taxation, redistricting, income inequality, and civil rights. Currently, 22 states prohibit corporate contributions to political campaigns, and these donations are also prohibited in federal election campaigns.  Bans similar to that proposed in LD 1417 have been upheld in federal court. Learn more about the bill in this Maine Citizens for Clean Elections fact sheet. The Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs held a public hearing April 26 (read the public testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the Senate 24-10 and the House 80-62 (see how your legislators voted) and the governor has signed it into law!

 

Helping Maine children living in poverty. LD 78, An Act To Protect Children from Extreme Poverty by Preserving Children’s Access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Benefits. Sponsor: Rep. Michele Meyer (D-Eliot).
Between 2010-2019, the number of Maine children living in poverty who received Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) decreased by 73%, with more than 18,000  children losing access to the federal program, which provides assistance to low-income families. The cuts were a result of policies enacted under former Gov. Paul LePage, including inflexible time limits and “full family sanctions,” which required the state to strip TANF aid from entire families if just one parent fell out of compliance with program requirements. In 2019, there were 33,026 children in Maine living in poverty, but only 6,692 of them were receiving TANF benefits. Studies suggest that families who lose TANF benefits have increased risks of homelessness, food insecurity, and even family separation. LD 78 would allow children in a household to continue to receive assistance, terminating benefits only for the parent who is out of compliance. The legislation comes at a critical time, as the number of Maine children living in poverty remains among the highest in New England. Although the full impact of the pandemic on child poverty in Maine is not yet known, the number of Maine children receiving TANF in 2020 rose 8%, the first increase in a decade. The Committee on Health and Human Services (HHS) held a public hearing April 1 (read the public testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass as amended.
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed the House and Senate on voice votes (no roll call) and was signed into law by the governor. 

 

Honoring Maine LGBTQ+ veterans. LD 173, An Act To Restore Honor to Certain Service Members. Sponsor: Rep. Barbara Wood.
This legislation would provide a pathway to a discharge upgrade for veterans who were less than honorably discharged solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Before 1993, service members who engaged in homosexual conduct were likely to receive discharges that were “less than honorable,” denying them access to full VA benefits, such as the GI Bill and health care coverage, that they should otherwise have received under state law. Nationwide, more than 100,000 people were released from the military due to sexual orientation from World War II to the present. Military discharge decisions can only be formally changed by the federal government, but legislation to do this on a national level has been stalled in the U.S. House since 2013. LD 173 would require the Maine Bureau of Veteran’s Services to treat such discharges as honorable, so those veterans would then be entitled to certain rights, privileges, and benefits under state law. New York passed similar legislation in 2019 and federal legislators have recently re-introduced the Restore Honor to Service Members Act. The future of that bill is unclear. For veterans in Maine who were denied the rights and benefits solely because of their sexual identity, LD 173 is an important step in addressing the impact of discrimination in the workplace, and in making reparations. A public hearing was held Feb. 8 (read the testimony) and the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs voted that the bill “ought to pass.” 
THE BILL IS LAW. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers by a voice vote (no roll call) and has been signed by the governor!

 

Increasing racial equity in legislation. LD 2, An Act To Require the Inclusion of Racial Impact Statements in the Legislative Process. Sponsor: Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland). This bill would allow legislators to request “racial impact statements” to measure how proposed legislation might create new or deepen existing racial disparities in Maine. Legislators already use impact statements to predict unforeseen economic or environmental harms before a bill is passed. Racial impact statements offer a similar tool to predict how proposed legislation might negatively affect racial and ethnic populations. Long viewed as a vehicle for dismantling systemic racism in the criminal justice system, racial impact statements are being used to draft legislation in a number of areas, ranging from education policy to budgeting. The nation’s first law requiring racial impact statements was passed in Iowa in 2008. Since then, at least 13 other states have passed or introduced similar measures. Including racial impact statements in Maine’s lawmaking process was one of several recommendations in a report from the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Maine Tribal Populations, released last year. LD 2 would commission a study of how racial impact statements have been employed in other states and how they could be generated and used in Maine, with a pilot project launching in January 2022 during the 130th Legislature’s second regular session. Depending on the results, racial impact statements could be fully implemented beginning in 2023. More details on LD 2 and racial impact statements is available in this fact sheet from the Coalition on Racial Equity. A public hearing was held Feb. 3, with almost all testimony in support of the bill. (Read the public testimony, including testimony submitted by Suit Up Maine.) The Committee on State and Local Government voted 7-5 in support of the legislation.
THE BILL IS LAW. This bill has been signed by the goveror! It passed unanimously in the House and by a vote of 25-7 in the Senate (see how your senator voted).

 

COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights. LD 1, An Act To Establish the COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights. (Emergency) Sponsor: Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford).
This legislation would help Mainers avoid financial or other barriers to getting tested and vaccinated for COVID-19. As of Feb. 14, 2021, 42,529 Mainers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 649 have died. LD 1 would enshrine many of the temporary federal rules related to testing and vaccination into state law, including requiring that all Maine-regulated health insurance plans cover the cost of COVID-19 screening, testing, and vaccination and waive all co-pays. It also eases requirements for telehealth visits and allows health care professionals to prescribe a longer supply of medications to reduce pharmacy visits. Other key provisions include requiring testing sites to inform uninsured Mainers if they charge a testing fee and to provide a list of no-charge testing sites; increasing vaccine distribution capacity by allowing additional health care providers to administer it; and extending coverage to other groups as vaccine approvals are expanded. This legislation would significantly reduce barriers of cost and access to COVID-19 testing and vaccination for Mainers. A public hearing was held Feb. 23 (read the testimony) and Gov. Janet Mills has announced her support for the bill. The Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services had a divided voted on the bill, with two Ought to Pass as amended reports.
THE BILL IS LAW. This bill has been signed by the governor! It passed unanimously in both chambers (no roll call). 

 

BILLS THAT WERE FUNDED SEPARATELY

The following bills were funded through the regular budgeting process, meaning that passing the programs under separate laws was not necessary. 

Expanding dental care for more Mainers. LD 996, An Act To Improve Dental Health for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes. Sponsor: Speaker Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford). MaineCare provides preventive dental care for children but is one of only 10 state Medicaid programs to offer emergency-only coverage for adults. LD 996 would change that by adding preventive, diagnostic, and restorative dental services for adults 21 years and older, expanding dental care to more than 200,000 Mainers. Studies suggest dental disease was the most common reason for ER visits for Mainers age 15-44 who receive MaineCare or who are uninsured. According to the American Dental Association, 1 in 5 low-income Mainers say their mouth and teeth are in poor condition and that the appearance of their teeth has negatively impacted their performance in job interviews. More than 60% of those who failed to seek dental care in the previous year cited cost as the reason. Indeed, Mainers with the lowest incomes are 9 times more likely to have skipped dental care for more than 5 years. Research suggests that preventive dental care is far less expensive than emergency treatment and can improve overall health. In fact, an analysis by the Health Policy Institute suggests that within 3 years of passage, LD 996 could result in a savings of nearly $4 million to the state in reduced medical costs from people with diabetes, heart disease, and pregnant people alone. That investment would yield an economic return of $21.6 million annually through an increase in federal funds and an increase in dental spending, with the largest boost coming to Maine’s rural areas. This bill was first introduced in 2019 and again in 2020. Learn more in this toolkit from Maine Equal Justice. The Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing April 26 (read the public testimony) and voted unanimously that the bill Ought to Pass as Amended. The bill passed the House and Senate by a voice vote (no roll call).
FUNDED. The supplemental budget passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor includes funding to expand MaineCare to cover preventive, diagnostic, and restorative dental services to adults. That means that passing a law requiring funding isn’t necessary.  

 

Feed Maine’s schoolchildren. LD 1679: An Act to Address Student Hunger through Expanding Access to Free School Meals. Sponsor: Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
This legislation would provide breakfast and lunch to all K-12 school children in Maine, part of a growing national trend to expand free school meals, regardless of their ability to pay. Maine has the highest child hunger rate in New England, with 1 in 5 children regularly experiencing food insecurity. Before the pandemic, 44% of school children in Maine were eligible for free school meals, and officials expect that number and child food insecurity to increase as a result of the pandemic. Nationally, Black and Latinx families are twice as likely to be impacted by poverty and food insecurity than white families, making access to free school meals an equity issue. Even with more children eligible for free meals, the current system for collecting family income data and the stigma associated with receiving assistance create barriers to participation. About 75% of schools participating in a 2018 national survey reported unpaid student meal debt. Child nutrition programs such as universal school meals address these issues, while also reducing food insecurity, preventing obesity, improving overall health, and boosting learning and development. A number of U.S. cities already provide free meals to all students, including Houston, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, and New York City. California and Vermont are considering similar legislation to the bill proposed in Maine. The USDA expanded the federal school meal program to all students early in the pandemic, a policy the Biden administration recently extended through the 2021-2022 school year. LD 1679 would ensure all Maine school children would receive meals after that program ends. The Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs held a public hearing May 20 (read the testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass.
FUNDED. The bill passed the Senate 33-0 and the House 117-26 (see how your legislators voted). The supplemental budget passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor includes funding for universal school meals for all Maine schoolchildren beginning in 2022-2023 school year. That means that passing a law requiring funding isn’t necessary.

 

Expanded coverage for postpartum care. LD 265, An Act To Provide Women Access to Affordable Postpartum Care.  Sponsor: Sen. Anne Carney (D-Cumberland)
MaineCare coverage for postpartum care currently ends at 60 days after childbirth, leaving many new mothers without health insurance when they need it the most. LD 265 would allow for 12 months of coverage during the postpartum period, a time when significant health challenges can arise, including pregnancy-related complications such as pelvic floor disorders, pelvic organ prolapse, or a separation in the abdominal wall called diastasis recti. Postpartum depression, another condition that may not appear until months after childbirth, affects about 1 in 9 people and can persist for years. In 2019-20, 21 states and Washington, DC took legislative action to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage. Federal coverage through Medicaid has also been extended to 12 months during the COVID-19 crisis, renewing discussions to make it permanent through federal legislation. This comes at a time when the U.S. has the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths among industrialized nations, one-third of which happen during the postpartum period. Low-income Black, Native American, Alaskan Native, and Latinx women are particularly hard hit, with significantly higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. One out of every three pregnant people in the U.S. experience health insurance disruptions at some point before, during, or after pregnancy. More than half of pregnancy-related mortality is preventable, making continuous health coverage all the more critical. A bill similar to LD 265 was introduced in the Legislature last year, with advocates estimating the proposed expansion would cover 700 Maine women. The bill passed out of committee in early 2020, but the session ended before legislators could vote. A public hearing on LD 265 was held Feb. 24 (read the testimony) and the majority of members on the Committee on Health and Human Services voted the bill “ought to pass.”
FUNDED. The bill passed the House and Senate by a voice vote (no roll call). The supplemental budget passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor includes funding to expand postpartum coverage under MaineCare. That means that passing a law requiring funding isn’t necessary.

 

BILLS THAT DIED

 

Making health care work for more Mainers. In 2014, Maine ranked 11th in the nation in per capita health care spending, at an average of $9,531 per person. That’s a 49% increase since 2000 and more than $1,500 higher than the national average. A package of health care reform bills seeks to address this issue by reigning in health care spending, holding drug manufacturers responsible for unnecessary price hikes, increasing transparency in prescription drug pricing, and making an emergency supply of insulin available from pharmacies around the state. Called the “Making Health Care Work for Maine,” the package is among a slate of bills the Legislature will consider to increase health care access for Mainers. Learn more about this package below and in this review from Maine Center for Economic Policy. The Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services held public hearings on these bills April 13 (see below for links to testimony) and voted that they all Ought to Pass. Two of the bills, LD 673 and LD 686 have been signed into law and LD 120 is awaiting the governor’s signature. The final two bills, below, passed the Legislature but were vetoed by the governor. Although the majority of the Senate voted to override the governor’s veto, the final tally fell short of the two-thirds majority required for the bill to become law over the governor’s objection. 

» Blocking unnecessary prescription price increases. LD 675, An Act to Protect Maine Consumers from Unsupported Price Increases on Prescription Medicines by Creating an Independent Review Process. Sponsor: Sen. Ned Claxton (D-Androscoggin).
Maine is 1 of 5 states considering legislation to block unnecessary prescription drug increases. Prescription drugs account for 10% of overall health care spending in the U.S. This bill would block manufacturers from arbitrarily hiking the cost of prescription drugs without a legitimate reason. The legislation levies fines against any company that raises prices without strong clinical evidence supporting the price increase, as determined by the independent Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, which regularly reviews costs of new and expensive prescription drugs. Any fines collected would be deposited in a new Unsupported Prescription Drug Price Increases Fund, which will be used to offset costs to consumers. Read the public testimony from the April 13 public hearing.
DEAD. The bill passed the Senate 24-10 and the House 81-58 but was vetoed by the governor. See how your legislators voted.

» An end to pharmaceutical price gouging. LD 1117, An Act to Prevent Excessive Prices for Prescription Drugs. Sponsor: Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
This bill would block pharmaceutical industry price gouging by setting a threshold for maximum price increases for common generic and off-patent prescription drugs. A price increase would be deemed excessive if it exceeds 15% of the wholesale acquisition cost of the previous year or 40% of the previous 3 years or $30 for a 30-day prescription. Any price hikes above these levels would trigger a review by the Maine Attorney General, which could lead to a fine. Maine is 1 of 6 states to consider legislation to prevent prescription price gouging. Read the public testimony from the April 13 public hearing.
DEAD. The bill passed the Senate 23-11 and the House 80-60 but was vetoed by the governor. See how your legislators voted.

 

Creating a consumer-owned utility for Maine. LD 1708, An Act To Create the Pine Tree Power Company, a Nonprofit Utility, To Deliver Lower Rates, Reliability and Local Control for Maine Energy Independence. Sponsor: Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham).
This bill would replace foreign investor-owned utilities Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant with a nonprofit consumer-owned utility (COU) called Pine Tree Power Company, to help the state better meet its climate, energy, and connectivity goals, while delivering electricity more affordably and reliably. It will also improve the state’s Internet connectivity by cutting pole access costs. Some 2,000 COUs already provide electricity to more than 49 million people across the U.S., including residents of about 100 communities in Maine. Nebraska, the only state with 100% consumer-owned power, had the nation’s most reliable energy grid in 2017. For three years in a row, CMP has been rated “worst in the nation” for customer satisfaction, has been investigated by the Maine Public Utilities Commission for overcharging customers and their mishandling of solar projects, and was called out by the state’s public advocate about issuing disconnect notices during winter. Unlike for-profit companies such as CMP and Versant, COUs are owned by their customers and usually charge far less for electricity. As of January 2021, for example, CMP and Versant charged 58% more for residential service than Maine’s existing consumer-owned utilities. And because Pine Tree Power would be run by a board elected by Maine voters, the company would be managed for the benefit of customers, not investors. Under LD 1708, which has bipartisan support, Pine Tree Power would purchase the existing assets of CMP and Versant, including poles and other grid systems, with low-interest bonds. No state funds would be used for the purchase or for Pine Tree Power’s operation, and existing CMP and Versant employees would keep their jobs without cuts to their pay or pensions. Learn more about Pine Tree Power from the Our Power coalition. The Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Technology held a public hearing May 20 (read the testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass as amended.
DEAD. After a number of procedural votes, amendments, and floor debates, the bill finally passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by the governor. The majority of the House voted to override the veto, but the final tally fell short of the required two-thirds to see the bill become law over the governor’s objection. See how your legislators voted.

 

Ending forced arbitration. LD 1711, An Act To Enhance Enforcement of Employment Laws. Sponsor: Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
This bill would end “forced arbitration,” which blocks employees from suing their employers over lost wages, unsafe working conditions, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and other labor law violations. Under arbitration, workers must resolve legal disputes through an arbitrator, who is usually chosen by the employer. Only about 1 in 5 workers win their case through arbitration and their financial settlements are usually far lower than they would be in court. Nationwide, about 60 million workers are unable to sue their employers. An estimated 225 Maine employers include forced arbitration provisions in employment contracts, which has allowed employers to pocket about $40 million owed to Maine workers earning less than $13 an hour. Studies suggest violations of Maine’s labor laws are more common than previously reported. A 2019 report found that 7% of Maine workers experience discrimination in the workplace, 5% of hourly wage earners report being paid less than minimum wage at least once in the past year, and another 7% had worked overtime without pay. LD 1711, which would also strengthen current whistleblower protections, addresses this problem as well as a lack of resources within the state Department of Labor. Workers would be allowed to hire a private attorney who would work on behalf of the state, at no cost to taxpayers, essentially increasing the state’s ability to enforce workplace laws without having to hire additional employees. A similar law in California helped the state recoup more than $88 million from employers who violated workplace laws. The legislation would boost funding for the state’s labor law enforcement agency by directing 70% of any financial award to the state, with the remaining 30% going to the attorney and the worker. 
The bill was introduced last session, but died when the Legislature adjourned early due to the pandemic. The Committee on Labor and Housing held a public hearing May 21 (read the testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass.
DEAD. The bill passed the Senate 21-13 and in the House 74-55 but was vetoed by the governor. The majority of the Senate voted to override the veto, but the final tally fell short of the required two-thirds to see the bill become law over the governor’s objection. See how your legislators voted.

 

Clear the waiting lists. LD 962, An Act To Appropriate Funds To Eliminate Waiting Lists for Home and Community-based Services for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism, Brain Injury and Other Related Conditions. Sponsor: Rep. Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth) This bill would provide needed services for adults with developmental disabilities, autism, and brain injury and similar conditions who are currently on waiting lists for health, home and community-based services through MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program. These services are provided through waiver programs for Section 29, Section 21, Section 20 or Section 18 of Medicaid. As of January 1, 2021, there were 2,111 people on waiting lists for these waivers, the majority of whom are young adults who have recently transitioned or are in the process of transitioning from child services to adult care. Of those on the waitlist, 608 are currently not receiving any services at all, while others are covered under different MaineCare sections. Federal funds cover two-thirds of the cost of these waivers, with the state paying for the rest. Although funding for adults with disabilities was increased in the 2019 state budget, an additional $28 million a year ($16.6 million in 2021-22, $40.1 million in 2022-23) is needed to clear the wait lists for these Medicaid section recipients. A similar bill passed out of committee last year but died when the legislature adjourned for the pandemic emergency. The Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing April 21 (read the public testimony) and held a work session May 5.
DEAD. The HHS Committee unanimously voted that  LD 962 Ought Not to Pass, which kills the bill. They chose instead to advance another bill that had many of the same objectives. 

 

Increasing law enforcement accountability. LD 214, An Act To Eliminate Qualified Immunity for Police Officers, Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Evangelos (I-Friendship). This bill would eliminate qualified immunity as a defense by police officers who violate civil rights. Qualified immunity, which protects government employees against civil litigation for their misconduct, is not a Constitutional right but rather a doctrine developed by the courts. LD 214 seeks to restore accountability and rebuild trust in law enforcement following a number of instances of excessive force here in Maine and across the nation. Courts have ruled that an officer who commits even a clearly heinous act is protected unless that particular transgression has been ruled unconstitutional, setting a high bar that few cases can meet. Qualified immunity is often used to protect abusive or criminal officers even when their actions clearly cross the line. This defense has been successfully invoked to protect law enforcement officers who steal, shoot, or destroy the property of the people they are charged with protecting. Opponents to legislation such as LD 214 argue that law enforcement officers could be bankrupted if sued. But research suggests that since officers are almost always indemnified, any costs awarded to plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging civil rights violations by law enforcement are covered by the government that employs them. Other common arguments against bills similar to LD 214 have also been refuted, including claims that the bills open the door to frivolous lawsuits, create personal financial risk for police officers, and will result in fewer people being willing to do the job. Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Massachusetts have all passed laws that end or limit qualified immunity, and nearly two dozen other states are considering similar legislation. The George Floyd Police Reform Bill that recently passed the House would eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement, but it has an uphill road in the Senate. The Committee on the Judiciary held a public hearing April 29 (read the public testimony) and voted 9-1 that it Ought Not to Pass. 
DEAD. The House and the Senate defeated the bill by voice votes (no roll call).

 

Reducing gun violence with stronger background checks. LD 999, An Act Regarding Background Checks in the Sale of Firearms. Sponsor: Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland).
Known as “Darien’s Law,” this bill would require background checks on certain private sales and transfers of firearms, including advertised sales and sales at gun shows. Modeled on the bipartisan Manchin/Toomey bill of 2013 supported by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, LD 999 does not require background checks for sales or transfers between friends, families, and loans for hunting and sporting purposes, in emergency situations, or for antiques. Under current Maine law, people who fail background checks at a licensed dealer can easily purchase a firearm via a catalog or online from an unlicensed seller without a background check. Nationwide, as many as 1 in 9 people who purchase a firearm from the nation’s largest online gun store are blocked from purchasing a gun through legal channels. A 2015 survey found 22% of Americans who purchased a firearm the previous year did so without a background check. Research suggests that states with background checks have lower rates of homicides and suicides involving guns. Stronger background checks on private gun sales are supported by 93% of Americans and supported by 82% of Mainers, including 69% of Republicans. “Darien’s Law” is named for 25-year-old Darien Richardson, who was murdered in 2010 in a Portland home invasion. Although the gun used in the murder was recovered by police, it was purchased at a gun show without a background check, leaving no record of who purchased it. The murder remains unsolved. The Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a public hearing May 3 (read the testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass. Learn more about the bill at www.darienslaw.com/.
DEAD. The bill failed in the House 77-67 and in the Senate 28-7. See how your legislators voted. (In the House, a “no” vote means rejection of the majority “ought to pass” report, which is a vote against the bill. In the Senate, a “yes” vote means acceptance of the minority “ought not to pass” report, which is a vote against the bill.)

 

BILLS WE OPPOSED THAT DIED

 

Oppose “stand your ground” legislation. LD 1138, An Act To Ensure the Right to Self-defense Exists outside the Home by Removing the Requirement To Retreat. Sponsor: Rep. John Andrews (L-Paris). Known as a “stand your ground bill,” LD 1138 would allow people to use lethal force with a gun outside of their home if they perceive that they are in danger, even if they could avoid that danger by retreating or by use of non-lethal force. Studies show that “stand your ground” laws don’t reduce crime or violence, but actually increase it. As many as 50 people are killed each day nationwide as a result of “stand your ground” bills passed in more than half of the states in the U.S. In Florida, the first state to enact this kind of legislation, firearm homicides increased by 32%. In 68% of those cases, the person killed wasn’t armed, as was the case in 2012 when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a man who claimed the shooting was justified under Florida’s law. The man was later acquitted. Research also suggests that “stand your ground laws” are applied more often when the shooters are white: while 45% of shootings of Black people by white people are found justified in states with these laws, only between 9% and 11% are ruled justified when the shooter is Black. The conservative, corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) adopted a model law in conjunction with the National Rifle Association similar to the one passed in Florida, and other states have adopted that language. Find more information on these laws from the Gifford’s Law Center and Everytown for Gun Safety. The Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a public hearing April 26 (read the public testimony) and voted that the bill Ought Not to Pass.
DEAD. The bill was defeated in the House 79-62 and in the Senate 20-15 and is now dead. See how your legislator voted (a “yes” vote means they opposed the bill).

 

Oppose Anti-Vaxx bills. Legislators are pushing several bills this session that would gut a vaccine law passed in 2019 and upheld last year by nearly 73% of Maine voters. That law, which goes into effect this September, eliminated non-medical vaccine exemptions for public and private schools. It passed at a time when Maine had the highest pertussis rate in the nation, a non-medical opt-out rate more than three times the national average, and more than 40 elementary schools with vaccination rates below 85%. Between 1994 and 2013, childhood vaccinations in the U.S. prevented an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes, with a savings of $1.38 trillion in societal costs.High vaccine coverage, enabled by strong school-entry mandates with the allowance for medical exemptions, supports the public health goal of reducing preventable infectious diseases and reducing disruptions that outbreaks bring to our schools and communities, as the nation has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. A decision not to vaccinate imperils the health and safety of entire communities, especially those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Thirty-four states, including Maine, recognize the public health benefits of vaccinations and have prohibited exemptions for reasons of personal belief. The Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs held a public hearing May 6 on the bills below (see below for links to testimony).

» LD 1082, An Act To Improve Educational Opportunities by Exempting Children Who Attend Virtual Public Charter Schools from Immunization Requirements and Expanding Enrollment at Virtual Public Charter Schools. Sponsor: Rep. Heidi Sampson (R-Alfred). This bill would exempt children who attend virtual public charter schools from immunization requirements. Read the public testimony.
DEAD. The bill failed in the House 82-61 and in the Senate 17-15. See how your legislators voted; a Yes vote means they accepted the Ought Not to Pass report and opposed the bill. 

» LD 96, An Act To Create Fairness in the Treatment of Students by Retaining Students with Certain Vaccine Exemptions. Sponsor: Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor). This bill would allow previously exempt students to receive an exemption if they have been made aware of the risks and benefits of immunization by a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, at a time when 48% of Maine’s kindergartens are already under immunity thresholds for diseases like measles, pertussis, and chicken pox. Read the public testimony.
DEAD. The bill failed in the House 77-67 and in the Senate 21-13. (See how your legislator voted; a “Yes” vote means they opposed the bill). 

» LD 156, An Act To Promote School Attendance by Exempting Virtual Public Charter School and Private School Students from Immunization Requirements. Sponsor: Rep. Gary Drinkwater (R-Milford). Would allow virtual public charter school and in-person private school students to claim religious and philosophical exemptions from immunization requirements. The in-person private school exemption from the law could have the disastrous consequence of concentrating hot spots of non-immunized students, increasing the risk of outbreaks. Read the public testimony.
DEAD. The bill failed in the House 81-62 and in the Senate 21-13. (See how your legislator voted; a “Yes” vote means they opposed the bill.)

» LD 833, An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Vaccines by Reinstating Religious Exemptions. Sponsor: Rep, MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox). This bill would reinstate the religious exemption and undo the legislation that 72.5% of Mainers upheld in a popular vote, all at a time when the state can least afford vaccine-preventable outbreaks in schools. Major religions endorse vaccination and have no prohibition against vaccination. Read the public testimony.
DEAD. The bill failed in the House 82-61 and in the Senate 20-14. (See how your legislator voted; a “Yes” vote means they opposed the bill). 

 

Oppose anti-abortion legislation. Republicans in the Legislature have introduced a record-number of anti-abortion bills this session, part of a national attack on reproductive health care. Since January, 536 bills to restrict abortion access—including 146 abortion bans—have been introduced in 46 states, and 61 of those have already been enacted in 13 states. Bill sponsors are trying to take advantage of a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which has already agreed to hear a case from Mississippi that could gut or outright overturn Roe v. Wade. A reversal of the seminal reproductive rights case wouldn’t have an immediate impact on reproductive rights in Maine, which has strong laws protecting abortion rights. But such a ruling would likely empower activists who oppose abortion rights to pursue more stringent restrictions here, either through the Legislature, referendums or the judicial system. The bills currently before the Judiciary Committee this session have little chance of passage in the Legislature, but strong opposition is needed to signal Maine’s support for reproductive rights to national groups behind the coordinated nationwide attack. The Committee on Judiciary held a public hearing May 18 on the six anti-abortion bills below (click on the bill links below to read testimony). All bills received majority Ought Not to Pass votes. 

» LD 748 and LD 915 would reverse a 2019 law that removed discriminatory barriers to abortion care by requiring public and private insurers to cover abortion care, allowing all Mainers to access the medical care they need regardless of their income.
DEAD. LD 748 failed in the House 77-65 and in the Senate 22-13 (see how your legislator voted) and LD 915 failed in the House 77-66 and in the Senate 22-13 (see how your rep voted). 

» LD 825 and LD 851 would require health care providers to give patients inaccurate and misleading information about so-called “abortion pill reversal,” a process shown to cause massive hemorraghing and deemed dangerous and unproven by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 
DEAD: LD 825 failed in the Senate 22-13 and in the House 80-63 (see how your legislators voted). LD 851 failed in the House 80-63 and in the Senate 23-12 (see how your legislators voted).

» LD 1229 would require a 48-hour waiting period before a person could receive an abortion, and subjects patients to unnecessary medical procedures.
DEAD. The bill failed in the House 81-62 and in the Senate 23-12 (see how your legislators voted). 

» LD 1225 would mandate burial or cremation for fetal tissue following miscarriage or abortion. The bill doesn’t indicate who is responsible for burial or cremation costs but does require people who miscarry outside a medical facility to collect the fetal tissue themselves and deliver it to a medical provider or appropriate government agency. Bills such as this are intended to shame people who choose to have an abortion and cause additional grief to those who’ve suffered a miscarriage.
DEAD. The bill failed in the Senate 25-10 and in the House 77-64 (see how your legislator voted). 

 

Oppose anti-trans legislation. In what appears to be a coordinated national attack, legislators in 33 states, including Maine, have introduced more than 100 bills that aim to strip civil rights from transgender children and adults. Three bills will be heard by the Maine Legislature that would ban transgender women from emergency shelters and prohibit trans girls and women from playing girls’ and women’s sports. All the bills violate the Maine Human Rights Act, a statute passed in 2005 that bans discrimination based on gender identity. Anti-LGBTQ hate groups are reportedely behind the national push to pass anti-trans laws, which are overwhelmingly opposed by the majority of Americans, including most Republicans. States that have passed anti-trans legislation are facing a backlash, with the NCAA threatening to move its championship games out of states that pass sports bans like those under consideration in Maine. Passage of such discriminatory legislation could also influence future business plans of close to 100 companies that signed a letter opposing bills that target transgender people. We are tracking the anti-trans bills here in Maine, which we oppose, as well as legislation that expands protections for trans Mainers, which we support. Find more information on the bills below and on the national attack in our new Guide for Trans Allies. The Committee on Judiciary held public hearings May 6 (see below for links to testimony) and voted that the bills Ought Not to Pass. The bills will go to the full Legislature soon for a vote.

» Protect access to emergency shelters for trans girls and women in crisis. LD 1238, An Act To Authorize Shelters That Serve Women To Refuse Access to Persons Who Are Transgender. Sponsor: Sen Lisa Keim (R-Oxford).
This bill would amend the language of the Maine Human Rights Act to exempt private emergency shelters from the anti-discrimination law so that these shelters can deny access to transgender girls and women in crisis. While there is no evidence to suggest that including trans women and girls in women-only spaces poses a threat to cisgender women, a shelter ban poses a very real threat to trans Mainers. Transgender people are nearly twice as likely as cisgender people to experience intimate partner violence and nearly one-third of trans people experience homelessness during their lifetime, including 36% of trans people in Maine. Maine is currently one of 18 states that bans housing discrimination based on gender identity. Sexual assault prevention advocates, educators, and law enforcement officers agree that laws and policies protecting transgender people don’t compromise public safety, claims backed up by a 2018 analysis that found no difference in criminal incidents in municipalities that have nondiscrimination laws and those that don’t. Sen. Lisa Keim, the lead sponsor of LD 1238, is a supporter of a pledge drafted by a known hate group called the Alliance Defending Freedom in support of legislation targeting LGBTQ youth and adults. Read the testimony submitted for the public hearing.
DEAD. The bill failed in the Senate 23-11 (see how your legislators voted) and in the House under the hammer (no roll call). 

» Reject sports bans for transgender girls and women. LD 926, An Act To Ban Biological Males from Participating in Women’s Sports. Sponsor: Rep. Beth O’Connor (R-Berwick) and LD 1401, An Act To Prohibit Biological Males from Participating in School Athletic Programs and Activities Designated for Females at Schools That Receive Federal Funding. (Emergency) Sponsor: Rep. MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox).
These two bills would ban trans girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports in Maine schools and colleges. LD 1401 would block federally-funded schools from allowing trans girls and women to compete in girls’ and women’s sports. LD 926 goes further, requiring any female athlete whose gender is called into question to undergo an invasive pelvic exam and chromosomal study in order to play girls’ or women’s sports. Trans women have been allowed to compete in women’s NCAA collegiate athletics since 2011 and trans girls have participated in girls’ sports in Maine schools since 2013 under a policy from the Maine Principals’ Association. The number of trans students who play sports is already low: Only 12% of trans girls play high school school sports nationwide and only about only about 50 trans women compete in NCAA athletics. Since the MPA enacted its trans-inclusive athletics policy, only about 30 trans students have requested permission to play. This legislation would almost certainly reduce that number further, robbing students of physical and psychological benefits that come with playing sports, including improved self-esteem and grades and lower rates of obesity, depression, suicide, and tobacco, drugs, and alcohol use. Read the testimony submitted for the public hearing for LD 926 and LD 1401. The committee voted LD 1401 Ought Not to Pass, killing the bill.
DEAD. LD 926 was defeated in the House 80-53 (see how your legislators voted) and was tabled in the Senate, where it died when the Legislature adjourned for the session. 

BILLS THAT WERE CARRIED OVER

These bills will be carried over to the second regular session of the 130th Legislature, which begins in January 2022. 

 

Support for family caregivers. LD 296, An Act To Provide a Tax Credit for Family Caregivers. Sponsor: Kristen Cloutier (D-Lewiston).
This bill, which has bipartisan support, would create a pilot grant program to provide support for family caregivers. An estimated 181,000 Mainers provide 152 million hours of care to adult family members who need help with daily activities such as bathing, eating, and dressing. Most of that work is unpaid and may actually cost families lost wages when a caregiver has to leave their job to provide the care a family member needs. In Maine, 14% of workers have had to quit their jobs or reduce their work hours for more than 2 weeks to care for a loved one. A recent study found that the average caregiver loses more than $300,000 in lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these problems. LD 296 would offer $2,000 grants to certified caregivers who provide care to eligible family members, such as a spouse, registered domestic partner, or blood relative age 18 and older. A stakeholder group would create the program and determine income eligibility. A similar bill introduced last year, that would have provided a $2,000 tax credit to eligible caregivers, received unanimous support in committee, but was unable to go for a floor vote before the Legislature adjourned. Learn more in this op-ed from the bill sponsors. The Committee on Taxation held a public hearing May 20 (read the testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass. The bill goes to the House soon for a vote. The bill passed the House and Senate on voice votes (no roll calls) and received funding through Maine’s portion of the American Rescue Plan Act. The bill has been carried over until January when legislators will try to secure permanent funding. 

 

Clear the waiting list for children’s mental health services. LD 496: An Act To Clear Waiting Lists for and Ensure Timely Access to Mental Health Services for Maine Children. Sponsor: Representative Lori Gramlich (D-Old Orchard Beach).
More than 1 in 4 Maine children have at least one mental health disorder, the highest rate in the nation according to a new study. With a months-long waiting list that includes more than 3,300 children needing mental and behavioral health services, the situation is only expected to worsen as a result of stress and anxiety during the pandemic. Maine has a concerning track record when it comes to meeting children’s mental needs. In December 2018, the state released its first comprehensive assessment of behavioral health services in 20 years, citing access to services and a shortage of child behavior health workers as primary barriers to addressing mental health issues among Maine children. Those interviewed for the report cited low salaries as one reason for the lack of providers. The last significant reimbursement rate increase came nearly 15 years ago, and remains low. At an agency reimbursement rate of less than $60 an hour, bachelor level behavioral health professionals are lucky to make an hourly wage of just $16-$17. Providers who aren’t required to have a bachelor’s degree earn even less, at an average of $12.80 per hour. Compounding the issue of pay is a lack of access to care in more rural areas of the state due to a lack of local providers. LD 496 seeks to address this issue by funding a 30% increase in MaineCare reimbursement rates for behavioral and mental health services, a move that would help the state attract and retain providers across Maine. The Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing April 2 (read the public testimony) and voted Ought to Pass as amended. The bill passed the House and Senate by voice vote (no roll call). Bill supporters decided to carry the bill over to try to secure funding in the second half of the session. 

 

Expanding MaineCare transportation coverage. LD 17, Resolve, To Provide Rural Nonmedical Transportation Services to the Elderly and Adults with Disabilities Receiving Home and Community Benefits under the MaineCare Program. Sponsor: Sen. Chloe Maxmin (D-Lincoln).
This bill seeks to create a pilot program to provide seniors and adults with disabilities greater access to their communities by expanding MaineCare coverage of non-medical transportation for basic needs to people who have no other means of transportation. Currently, MaineCare provides reimbursement for transportation for non-emergency medical appointments. LD 17  would expand that coverage to include non-medical appointments for people who receive services through Section 19, which includes seniors and people with disabilities age 18 and over who qualify for nursing facility level of care. Studies suggest that 21% of people 65 and older don’t drive; far more have no transportation options. These non-drivers are more likely to skip doctor’s visits and make fewer trips out to eat, shop, or visit with friends and families. In Maine, 72% of seniors live in communities without access to fixed or flex route transit systems. The legislation would also expand transportation access to people with disabilities, which could allow them to remain independent. Currently, 1,600 people receive Section 19 waivers and could benefit from expanded MaineCare access. The pilot project would last 18 months and be followed by a report outlining how such a program would be implemented statewide. The bill was originally introduced in the 2020 session, and was approved by the Committee on Health and Health Services (read the testimony). An early adjournment due to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented a floor vote on the bill, so it begins the legislative process anew this session. A public hearing was held Feb. 10 (read the testimony) and voted unanimously that the bill Ought to Pass. The bill passed the Senate and House on a voice vote (no roll call) but has been carried over until January to allow legislators more time to secure funding. 

 

 

State environmental rights amendment. LD 489, RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Right to a Healthy Environment. Sponsor: Sen. Chloe Maxmin (D-Lincoln).
This bipartisan bill would add an amendment to the Maine Constitution asserting that all people in the state have a right to “a clean and healthy environment and to the preservation of the natural, cultural, recreational, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment.” Maine is
one of 11 states considering legislation to create a state environmental rights amendment this year. Montana and Pennsylvania have had similar amendments on the books for nearly 50 years and New York voters will have a chance to amend that state’s constitution this fall. Environmental protection amendments such as this one, which sponsors are calling the “Pine Tree Amendment,” give environmental rights the same weight as other constitutional guarantees, such as freedom of speech, which also offers a high level of legal defensibility. Constitutional amendments in Maine require a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers for the amendment to go on the ballot for voters to decide. The Committee on Environment and Natural Resources held a public hearing March 8 (read the public testimony) and voted 7-3 that the bill “ought to pass.” The bill passed the House and Senate in preliminary votes on April 28, but the legislation has more hurdles to clear, with two-thirds majorities required in both chambers to pass in the next round of voting. Bill supporters decided to carry the bill over until January to allow more time to work with legislators. Learn more about the amendment and its sponsors HERE.

 

Improving the child care in Maine. Maine families spend as much as 22% of their income on child care, according to Maine Children’s Alliance. In Maine, child care costs range from a low of $6,500 for full-time preschool care in Aroostook County to as high as $15,756 for infant care in Cumberland County. In 2018, 73% of Maine parents with children age 6 years and younger work, according to Kids Count. An estimated 52,535 children under age 6 in Maine need child care, but the state’s child care providers can only serve 46,879, according to Child Care Aware of America. The unmet need has increased, as the number of child care centers in Maine declined by 30% between 2011-2018. One report estimated that for every 3 kids in child care, there’s only one available slot. The child care shortage during the pandemic, which kept many parents from returning to work when it was safe to do so, only highlighted this problem. As many as 700,000 parents had to leave the workforce during the pandemic due to a lack of child care, the vast majority of whom are women. Officials say the nation’s economic recovery depends on women returning to the workforce, making the need to increase child care options even more important. Democratic leadership is sponsoring two bills, LD 1652 and LD 1712, to address the issues of a shortage of child workers and a shortage of child care spots.

» Building a better child care system. LD 1652, An Act To Build a Child Care System by Recruiting and Retaining Maine’s Early Childhood Workforce. Sponsor: Speaker Ryan Fecteau. 
This bill would help recruit and retain educators and staff working in child care programs across the state. One reason for Maine’s child care crisis is a shortage of child care workers, due in large part to low wages. Many child care educators live below the poverty line, with an average income of just $26,000 per year. LD 1652 would address this by budgeting $5 million a year to provide wage stipends and scholarships for training and education. Although federal COVID aid packages have included support for child care, that assistance isn’t permanent. With Maine’s aging workforce, recruiting young families to the state is critical, and access to quality child care is a key attraction. The legislation is supported by Right from the Start, a broad coalition of child care professionals and advocates, including Maine Children’s Alliance, Maine Head Start Association, and Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. Learn more about the bill in this fact sheet from the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. The Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business held a hearing May 11 (read the testimony) and voted 10-1 that the bill Ought to Pass. The bill will be carried over until January.

 

Implement rank choice voting for state races. LD 202, RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Implement Ranked-choice Voting. Sponsor: Sen. David Miramant (D-Knox)
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. Senate and House races did not go to RCV in 2020, but it was used in the presidential race following passage of a law in 2019. Following Maine’s success with RCV and its growing popularity among voters, other states began considering adopting instant-runoff voting as well. In 2020, 22 states and Washington, D.C. introduced legislation to use ranked-choice voting in elections at various levels. 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. A similar bill was defeated in the Maine Legislature in 2019. Learn more about RCV from the Maine Secretary of State. The Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs held a public hearing Feb. 10 (read the testimony) and the majority of committee members voted the people Ought to Pass. The bill passed the Senate 21-12 and in the House 77-65 (see how your legislators voted), but the vote in the House failed to reach the two-thirds majority required for a constitutional amendment. Bill supporters decided to carry the bill over until January to allow for more time to work with legislators.

 

Removing barriers to health care for all Mainers. LD 718, An Act To Improve the Health of Maine Residents by Closing Coverage Gaps in the MaineCare Program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Sponsor: Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland).
This bill would expand health care coverage to more Mainers with low incomes by extending MaineCare and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage to noncitizen residents who are ineligible for coverage under the federal health programs, regardless of their immigration status. In 1996, after Congress blocked access to Medicaid and other safety net programs for all but a few categories of immigrants, the Maine legislature took bipartisan action to use state funds to continue coverage in Maine. But in 2011, former Gov. Paul LePage signed a budget that disqualified many immigrants from most benefits, stripping MaineCare coverage from about 1,550 legal noncitizens. LD 718 would reverse that LePage-era policy. Research suggests that providing coverage to noncitizens has positive economic impacts, as delayed care or lack of prenatal care can result in higher long-term costs. Learn more about LD 718 in this toolkit from Maine Equal Justice. The Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing on April 15 (read the public testimony) and voted along party lines that the bill Ought to Pass. The bill passed in the House (see how your legislator voted) but stalled in the Senate over funding. Legislators passed a supplemental budget that included funding to expand MaineCare and CHIP to children and pregnant people, but not to other adults. Bill supported decided to carry the legislation over until the next session in January and try again to secure funding to expand health care to all adult noncitizen residents.

 

Health care for more Maine children. LD 372, An Act To Provide Maine Children Access to Affordable Health Care. Sponsor: Sen. Anne Carney (D-Cumberland)
This bill would bring millions of federal dollars into Maine and provide health care coverage to as many as 10,000 uninsured children in Maine by expanding the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as Cub Care, which offers low-cost health insurance to children whose families don’t qualify for Medicaid (MaineCare). 37% of children in Maine are part of a low-income family and 13.8% live in poverty. In 2018, 5.7% of children in Maine were uninsured—the highest rate of any state in New England. In some Maine counties, the rate is as high as 9.1%. Under current law, Cub Care is only available to children and teenagers at 200% of the federal poverty level, or $25,520 a year for an individual and $43,440 for a family of three. LD 372 would expand eligibility to 300% of the federal poverty level ($38,280 for an individual; $65,160 for a family of three), while also expanding coverage to 19 and 20 year olds and to noncitizens under age 21 years. In addition, the bill would eliminate the current asset test and 3-month waiting period for coverage to begin after the loss of employer-based insurance. At least 13 other states have expanded CHIP coverage and many others are considering it, in large part because of the federal matching dollars of the CHIP program. Every $1 Maine spends on CHIP is matched by $3 from the federal government. This bill passed the Legislature last year, but died on the Appropriations Table when the Legislature adjourned early. A public hearing was held Feb. 24 (read the testimony) and the majority of members on the Committee on Health and Human Services voted the bill “ought to pass.” The bill will be held over until January. 

 

Restoring Tribal Sovereignty.  LD 1626, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act. Sponsor: Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland).
This bill would restore tribal sovereignty to the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians by enacting most of the consensus recommendations from a bipartisan task force convened to address long-standing issues with the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (MICSA) and the state law that accompanied it, the Maine Implementing Act. Passed in 1980, the settlement was a negotiation between the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and the state and federal governments. Even though tribes in Maine never ceded federally recognized rights, the state and courts have for 40 years used language in the settlement to treat the tribes as little more than municipalities, leaving them with fewer rights than all other federally recognized tribes across the country. LD 1626, which is supported by the Wabanaki Alliance, is an omnibus bill to enact most of those recommendations. Learn more about the legislation in our call to action. The Committee on Judiciary tabled the bill May 3 and it will be carried over until the next session.  

 

State Equal Rights Amendment. LD 344, 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).
A bill to amend the state constitution to prohibit sex discrimination will be re-introduced this year. 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. The bill came close again in 2020, but the session adjourned before final votes could be taken. 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. Constitutional amendments must be passed by two-thirds majorities in the Senate and House and then go to the voters for passage. The Committee on the Judiciary has not yet scheduled a public hearing. The bill be held over for the second session. 

 

Payment for unused earned paid vacation. LD 225, An Act Regarding the Treatment of Vacation Time upon the Cessation of Employment. Sponsor. Rep. Amy Roeder D- Bangor.
This bill would require employers to pay workers for any unused earned vacation time if they are laid off or choose to leave their jobs, ensuring workers aren’t penalized for not taking their vacation time. The number of people who forgo their earned paid time off, which includes vacation and sick time, has increased in recent years. In 2019, 55% of employees didn’t use all their PTO—a 9% increase over the previous year—leaving an estimated $65.5 billion in benefits on the table. Although there are no federal laws mandating compensation of accrued vacation time when an employee separates from their employer, eight states have passed laws addressing the issue. Maine, along with 41 other states and the District of Columbia, stipulates that only employers with an “established policy or practice” of paying out vacation time are required to compensate when an employee leaves their job. This leaves many Maine workers vulnerable to lost compensation, a jarring reality for many Maine families in the wake of historic job losses during the pandemic. LD 225 classifies earned vacation as wages, which would be due to employees when they leave. The Committee on Labor and Housing held a public hearing Feb. 10 (read the testimony) and was tabled during its third work session May 7. The bill will be carried over to the second session. 

 

Establishing the Opioid and Substance Use Abatement Fund. LD 1722, An Act To Ensure Access to All Paths to Recovery for Persons Affected by Opioids Using Money Obtained through Litigation against Opioid Manufacturers (EMERGENCY). Sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell).
This bill would require that all funds awarded to the state through any opioid litigation and settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors be deposited into a new Opioid and Substance Use Abatement Fund to be used to address Maine’s substance use crisis through prevention, intervention, treatment,and recovery. All states except Nebraska have filed state and/or federal lawsuits against companies involved in opioid drug production, including opioid manufacturers and distributors. At least one of those suits, has already resulted in a $573 million settlement to be divided among all plaintiffs with a consulting firm for its role in working with opioid companies to perpetuate the epidemic. Maine received $3.1 million from this action, the first multi-state lawsuit to result in substantial payments to states. LD 1722 would ensure that funds from lawsuits awarded to Maine are only spent on the substance use crisis. Decisions about fund expenditures would be made by a new Maine Opioid and Substance Use Abatement Advisory Commission made up of stakeholders, including consumers, providers, families, advocates, public health and addiction professionals, and individuals with expertise in systemic racism and structural health inequity. At least five other states have introduced similar legislation to govern how funds from settlements or court decisions are spent. The Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing May 21 (read the testimony) and held a work session on May 26. The bill will be carried over until January. 

 

Fixing the “family glitch” in health care. LD 1463, An Act To Make Health Care Coverage More Affordable for Working Families and Small Businesses. Sponsor: Rep. Denise Tepler (D-Topsham).
This bill would fix the “family glitch” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which affects about 34,000 families in Maine. Workers whose employer-provided health insurance premiums cost more than 9.83% of their salary are eligible for ACA subsidies to help offset those costs. But the cost threshold only applies to the worker’s premium, not their dependents, leaving families with high health insurance premiums and no ACA subsidy to help cover the cost. For many families, that means no health insurance. LD 1463 would address the issue by extending a federal Health Insurance Assessment (HIA) on insurance carriers that ended this year in what some called a “gift” to insurance companies. Despite promises to use the added income to help consumers, some companies returned those savings to investors, despite reporting record profits in 2020. New Jersey, Colorado, Maryland, and Delaware have all passed laws to continue collecting the HIA at the state level. Similar legislation has also been proposed in New Mexico. In Maine, an estimated $35.5 million would be generated annually by a state HIA, which would go into a Health Care Affordability Fund to provide subsidies to lower insurance costs for working families stuck in the family glitch, others with low incomes, and Mainers who don’t qualify for MaineCare or ACA coverage. The fund could also be used to provide assistance to small businesses struggling to afford coverage for their employees. Businesses would be allowed to deduct a portion of the fee on their federal taxes, effectively paying 21% less than they were with the federal HIA. The Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services held a hearing May 12 (read the testimony). The bill will be held over until January. 

 

Ban out-of-state toxic waste. LD 1639, An Act To Protect the Health and Welfare of Maine Communities and Reduce Harmful Solid Waste. Sponsor: Sen. Anne Carney (D-Cumberland).
This bill would close a loophole in Maine law that allows disposal of out-of-state waste, including hazardous construction and demolition debris, in state-owned landfills intended solely for waste generated in Maine. This loophole classifies waste as “in-state” if it makes a pit stop at one of Maine’s waste processing facilities, regardless of its place of origin. Casella Waste Systems, the private company that operates the state-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town, has used the loophole to accept tons of out-of-state toxic waste. In 2019, one recycling business sent more than 220,000 tons of waste to the landfill, 90% of which came from outside Maine. Overall, an estimated 40% of the waste buried there comes from out of state. As a result, that landfill has become a dumping ground for toxic waste that threatens to contaminate the area’s drinking water supply and cause damage to sites of historical, cultural, spiritual significance for the Penobscot Nation. Closing the loophole will button-up gaps in current law and prevent ongoing disposal of out-of-state toxic waste in Maine. Learn more from fact sheets and other resources created by the Environmental Priorities Coalition, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Maine Conservation Voters. The Committee on Environment and Natural Resources held a public hearing May 17 (read the testimony). The bill will be carried over until January. 

 

 

Addressing affordable housing and homelessness in Maine. Maine ranks 25th in the nation for housing affordability, with an average rent for a 2-bedroom residence running more than $1,000 a month. The wait list for Maine’s 12,000 Section 8 housing vouchers is more than 20,000 people long, with some applicants waiting years to receive one.Increased demand in combination with limited affordable housing units has resulted in landlords often rejecting vouchers in favor of renters who can pay more. The lack of affordable housing options is one reason Maine has the 12th highest rate of homelessness in the nation and the third highest in New England. The bills below will go to the full Legislature soon for a vote.

» Providing rental assistance. LD 473, An Act To Create the Maine Rental Assistance Program. Sponsor: Rep. Victoria Morales (D-South Portland).
Maine does not provide enough affordable housing assistance to meet the demand, with a wait list of 20,000 people for section 8 vouchers. 59% of renters who qualify face a severe cost burden, spending more than half their income on housing and utilities. For an extremely low-income family of four, that means annual income not over $25,100. Yet the income required to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at HUD’s fair market rate for Maine is $41,156. The lack of affordable housing options is one reason Maine has the 12th highest rate of homelessness in the nation and the third highest in New England. LD 473 would address this issue by creating The Maine Rental Assistance and Voucher Guarantee Program, within Maine State Housing Authority. The program would provide financial help for up to 1,000 Maine households and create a network of housing counselors to help people find and keep stable housing. The Committee on Labor and Housing held a public hearing March 3 (read the testimony) and voted that the bill Ought to Pass. The bill passed the House 82-61 and the Senate 22-12 (see how your rep voted) and received funding through Maine’s portion of the American Rescue Plan Act. The bill has been carried over until January when legislators will try to secure permanent funding. 

» Support for emergency housing shelters. LD 211, An Act To Support Emergency Shelter Access for Persons Experiencing Homelessness. Sponsor: Rep. Kristen Cloutier (D-Lewiston).
According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, there were an estimated 2,106 people in Maine experiencing homelessness as of January 2019, an increase over previous years. Nearly one-quarter of those who were homeless for the 2019 Point in Time analysis were under the age of 18 and one-third were people of color, high figures considering just 18.5% of Maine’s population are children and only about 5% are people of color. Although data from 2020 are pending, early estimates indicate a sharp increase in homelessness in Maine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of unsheltered people thought to be on the rise as well. Maine’s emergency housing shelters were already short on beds and the pandemic has tested them even further. LD 211 would provide an additional $3 million a year through 2023 for Maine’s emergency shelters. A similar bill was voted out of committee in 2020, but the Legislature adjourned before legislators could vote on it. LD 211 had a public hearing before the Committee on Labor and Housing on Feb. 17 (read the testimony) and received a majority “Ought to pass” vote by committee members. The bill passed the House and Senate by voice vote (no roll call) and received funding through Maine’s portion of the American Rescue Plan Act. The bill has been carried over until January when legislators will try to secure permanent funding. 

» Supporting housing programs and stabilizing property taxes. LD 1337, An Act To Increase Affordable Housing and Reduce Property Taxes through an Impact Fee on Vacant Residences. Sponsor: Rep. Christopher Kessler (D-South Portland).
This bill would address Maine’s housing crisis by encouraging owners of homes that stand vacant for half the year to put those homes to use for housing, while raising millions of dollars to fund housing programs and stabilize property taxes for Maine residents. An estimated 140,000 residences in Maine—19% of all the homes in the state—remain vacant much of the year, the largest percentage in the country. Under LD 1337, an owner of a residential property that is not used as a primary residence for at least 6 months of the year would pay an impact fee of .05% of the home’s assessed value. The bill exempts most Mainers, including snowbirds, people with low incomes, and those with seasonal camps, and owners could avoid the fee by renting out their residence. The bill’s sponsors note that while many of Maine’s coastal towns are in the midst of a dire housing crisis, far too many homes remain empty much of the year. In Kennebunkport, for example, 47% of the homes are seasonal or vacant. A recent demand for housing has sparked a dramatic increase in housing prices over the past year, with prices up 20%. Those high prices come at a time when there are fewer houses for sale and amid a serious lack of affordable rental housing, leaving many Mainers unable to find or afford a home. In fact, a study by the Maine State Housing Authority found that rent was unaffordable in 15 of the state’s 16 counties and home prices were too high for families with media incomes in 7 counties. LD 1337 addresses that by directing half the funds raised from the impact fee to the HOME Fund, which provides funding to build affordable housing and provide assistance to home buyers and owners and services for homeless individuals. The other half would be used to reimburse municipalities for the homestead property tax exemption. Learn more about LD 1337 in this fact sheet from Rep. Kessler. The Committee on Taxation held a public hearing April 14 (read the public testimony) and has held multiple work sessions. The bill will be carried over until January. 

Other Legislative Trackers

 A number of advocacy organizations we work with maintain legislative trackers as well, often tracking far more bills than we can. Find links to them below. 

 

Legislative Advocacy Training

Advocacy organizations we work with offer trainings to help you learn how to effectively lobby your legislators.

 

  • Maine Women’s Lobby: Bill Bites weekly livestream lunches with legislators every Thursday from 12:15-12:30 pm. Sign up here. 
  • Natural Resources Council of Maine: Take Action Toolkit, with tips on contacting legislators, testifying, and writing LTEs. Find it here.
  • ACLU of Maine: Legislative Action Center, with tips on testifying and the legislative process. Find it here.
  • Maine Equal Justice: Advocacy 101 training program on advocacy and leadership skills. Find it here.
  • League of Women Voters of Maine: Legislative advocacy webinars and other resources. Find it here.
  • Maine People’s Alliance: Lobby Team trainings and updates every Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30-11:30 AM.  Find it here. 

How do I…

 

Find my legislators?

Not sure who your legislators are? Find a list of all your state and federal elected officials HERE. Or visit the Legislature website to find a full list of all Maine Senators and Maine Representatives.

Look up a bill?

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. Bills are added to the search once they have been printed and assigned an LD number.

Easily track legislation?

The Legislature considers thousands of bills each session. We track several dozen key bills, as do a number of advocacy organizations (see above for links). You can also search for a bill by LD number or text search.

Pro Tip: You can also sign up to receive email alerts on House and Senate calendars, legislation status, public hearings dates, and more through the Maine Legislature Mailing List.

Submit testimony in support of a bill?

All bills and state agency commissioner nominees are assigned to one of 18 standing joint committees and receive a public hearing. Usually, you can attend these hearings to observe or to testify. However, due to the pandemic, testimony cannot be offered in person at the State House this session and must instead be offered virtually via Zoom or via a toll-free number during committees’ public hearings. To provide oral testimony, you must register no later than 30 minutes before the hearing begins. If you can’t attend the hearing, you can submit written testimony electronically. Here’s how:

  • Visit the legislative testimony page HERE
  • Select Public hearing
  • Select the committee that is hearing the bill
  • Select the date and time of the hearing
  • Select the appropriate bill number
  • Upload your testimony!

You can find committee assignments and public hearing dates and times in our bill briefs or on the bill’s website. While you can submit testimony at any time and it will be shared with committee members and become 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.

Have questions? A list of committee clerks and their contact information is below. 

People with special needs who require accommodations to participate in a hearing should contact the Legislative Information Office as soon as possible by phone (207) 287-1692 or email lio@legislature.maine.gov.

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

Legislative committee clerks

Watch or listen to the House and Senate during a session?

House and Senate sessions are livestreamed via the House Chamber Live Video or the Senate Chamber Live Video. You can also watch live or recorded legislative committee meetings via YouTube. Find the committee channel HERE.

Find my legislators' committees?

Find out where your legislators serve on the list of Joint Standing Committees.

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.

Find out how my legislators voted?

Check the websites for the House Roll Call and Senate Roll Call. Individual roll calls are also listed on the bill listings.

Pro Tip: Some bills will pass by a voice vote, also called “under the hammer,” in which unanimous approval is presumed unless an objection is raised. Voice votes do not have a roll call.

Learn how a bill becomes a law in Maine?

Thousands of bills can be introduced in a single legislative session. Many don’t get far but those that do travel a complicated path. Learn more about how a bill becomes law in Maine in this overview from the Clerk of the House and Secretary of State.

Pro Tip: The Legislative Information Office is a nonpartisan public information office whose staff can answer questions about the legislative process, bill status, committee meetings, and just about anything else related to the Legislature.

You can reach them at 207-287-1692 or by email at webmaster_lio@legislature.maine.gov.

Find a copy of the Maine State Constitution?

Read the Maine State Constitution and other session laws and statutes on the Maine Legislature website.

Register to vote?

Really want to effect change in Maine government? Vote! Find information about registration on the Secretary of State webpage.