Maine Legislature Roundup

The 129th Maine Legislature will consider more than 2,000 bills before the session ends in June. Our State Government Working Group collaborates with other grassroots groups, as well as legislators and statewide advocacy groups, to identify and track bills on issues of interest to our members. We add more bills regularly, so check back often for updates. Have suggestions for legislation or resources we should add? Email us at suitupmaine@gmail.com

Upcoming Public Hearings and Work Sessions

Public hearings scheduled for this week on bills we’re tracking. For a full public hearing schedule, visit the Legislature website.

Wednesday, Feb. 20

  • LD 167, Ban food shaming in schools. More info.
  • LD 329, Promoting “good Samaritans” to save lives. More info.

Thursday, Feb. 21

  • LD 589, Block a hate-group sponsored education bill. More info. 

Monday, Feb. 25

  • LD 369, Support for earned paid sick leave. More info.

Upcoming Votes

The House and Senate will vote soon on the bills below. Check the House Advance Calendar and the Senate Advanced Journal and Legislative Calendar for daily schedules. Find contact info for your Representative and Senator.

 

  • LD 94, Book banning in schools. Tell your legislators to vote OUGHT NOT TO PASS. More info.
  • LD 477, Support for federal workers. Tell your legislators to vote OUGHT TO PASS. More info.
  • LD 91, Repeal LePage’s rooftop solar panel tax. Tell your legislators to vote OUGHT TO PASS. More info.

Other Bills We're Tracking

Many bills have not yet been printed, but our list of other bills we’re tracking is already long. We have an overview of legislation HERE, and will add to it throughout the session. You can also check out the 129th Legislature Bill Tracker, organized by Jessica Gorton, co-leader of Capital Area Indivisible and Maine: Rise Up! Be Heard!

Maine Legislature Speed Dial 


Maine House:

1-800-423-2900 
Maine Senate:
1-800-423-6900
TTY: Use Maine Relay 711
Legislative Information Office:
207-287-1692

Pro Tip: On the day of a vote, leave a message for your legislators at the numbers above with your name, town, legislators’ names, bill number, and how you’d like her/him/them to vote.

Find your Representative.
Find your Senator.

Visit the Maine Legislature website.

BILLS WE’RE TRACKING…

BILLS WITH IMMINENT VOTES

 

Oppose book banning in schools. LD 94, An Act To Prohibit the Dissemination of Obscene Material by Public Schools. Primary sponsors: Rep. Amy Arata (R-New Gloucester), Sen. Scott Cyrway (R-Kennebec), and Rep. John Martin (D-Eagle Lake).
This bill would revise an existing state “obscenity law” that prohibits the dissemination of “obscene” material to minors by removing the exception for public schools. According to the
National Coalition Against Censorship, the bill—which is opposed by the Maine Education Association—threatens students’ and educators’ intellectual freedom and would leave schools vulnerable to criminal prosecution if educators choose texts some consider inappropriate under the obscenity statute. A public hearing was held Feb. 4 before the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, which voted unanimously that the bill OUGHT NOT TO PASS.
ACTION: The bill now moves to the House and Senate for a vote. Call your legislators and tell them to vote NO on LD 94. Find contact info for your representative and senator

 

Support for federal workers during shutdowns. LD 477, An Act To Provide Relief to Federal Employees Affected by the Federal Shutdown. Sponsor: Senate Pres. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook).
More than 1,700 Maine federal employees went without paychecks during the recent federal government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history. Even though the government has re-opened, Maine families are struggling to catch up and living under the threat of another shutdown in a few weeks should Congress fail to reach a budget deal. This bill provides for no-interest
loans for certain federal employees
in Maine, by guaranteeing up to 10% of the loans eligible credit unions and financial institutions make to affected employees. Affected employees would be eligible for up to 3 loans, each equal to their monthly after-tax pay, up to $5,000, less unemployment benefits. No interest will be charged on the loans during the shutdown or for 270 days after the shutdown ends.The bill is emergency legislation, meaning it would take effect upon passage. With another federal shutdown looming, thousands of Mainers could soon need the support this bill offers. The Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services held a public hearing Feb. 5 and voted Feb. 12 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS.  
ACTION: The bill now moves to the House and Senate for a vote. Call your legislators and tell them to vote YES on LD 477. Find contact info for your representative and senator

 

Repeal LePage’s rooftop solar panel tax. LD 91, An Act To Eliminate Gross Metering. Primary sponsor: Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham).
This bill would eliminate “gross metering,” a Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rule that allows electricity utility companies to tax solar rooftop panel owners for the energy they generate on their own. The rule went into effect last year when
Gov. LePage vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have blocked it. In December, the PUC exempted large electric customers from gross metering, but homes and small businesses are still subject to the tax. LD 91 replaces gross metering with the “net-energy billing” system used before the PUC rule went into effect and is one of a number of “green energy” bills the Legislature will consider this year. LD 91 is designated “emergency” legislation, meaning it would take effect upon passage. A public hearing before the Committee on Energy Utilities and Technology was held Tuesday, Jan. 29, with the majority of testimony in support of the bill. The committee issued a majority OUGHT TO PASS report.
ACTION: The bill now moves to the House and Senate for a vote. Call your legislators and tell them to vote YES on LD 91. Find contact info for your representative and senator

BILLS WITH UPCOMING PUBLIC HEARINGS OR WORK HEARINGS

 

Ban food shaming in schools. LD 167, An Act To Prevent Food Shaming in Maine’s Public Schools. Primary sponsor: Rep. Janice Dodge (D-Belfast).
This bill is based on one that died in the Legislature last year. It would ban
“lunch shaming,” the practice of publicly shaming children with unpaid food bills. A 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of all U.S. school districts deny meals, withhold grades, or provide cheaper lunches than other students receive if meal accounts are not paid in full. Lunch shaming occurs in some Maine schools, although the extent of the problem is unknown. LD 167 prohibits schools from publicly identifying students who have unpaid accounts and requires them to communicate only with parents or guardians about unpaid bills. Rep. Chellie Pingree has also co-sponsored a federal measure that would ban lunch shaming. The bill has been assigned to the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.
ACTION: Testify at the public hearing at 11 am, Wednesday, Feb. 20 in Room 208 of the Cross Building. Find out how to do that HERE. If your legislators are among the sponsors or sit on the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, ask them to support LD 167. Can’t attend the hearing? You can submit written testimony in advance to the committee clerk at EDU@legislature.maine.gov and listen to the hearing HERE. Find contact info for your representative and senator

 

Promoting “good Samaritans” to save lives. LD 329, An Act To Exempt from Criminal Liability Persons Reporting a Drug-related Medical Emergency. Sponsor: Rep. Barbara Cardone (D-Bangor).
Maine has one of the 10 highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths in the U.S., which increased 10.9% between 2017-2018, higher than the national average of 6.6%. Studies suggest overdose victims and bystanders who witness a suspected overdose may be reluctant to seek medical assistance for fear of arrest for drug-related crimes. LD 329 would provide immunity from arrest for possession or use of scheduled drugs or drug paraphernalia for anyone experiencing an opioid-related overdose or anyone seeking medical attention for a suspected overdose victim. Forty states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation, known as “good Samaritan” or “911 immunity” laws. Former Gov. Paul LePage vetoed similar bills in the past. In 2017, a Republican-sponsored good Samaritan bill was passed unanimously in both chambers, but fell when House Republicans changed their votes and refused to override LePage’s veto. LD 329 is supported by the Maine Medical Association and the Maine Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services.
ACTION: Testify at the public hearing at 10 am, Wednesday, Feb. 20 in Room 436 of the State House. Find out how to do that HERE. If your legislators are among the bill sponsors or sit on the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, contact them and ask them to SUPPORT LD 329. Can’t attend the hearing? You can submit written testimony in advance to the committee clerk at CJPS@legislature.maine.gov and listen to the hearing HERE. Find contact info for your representative and senator.

 

Block a hate-group sponsored education bill. LD 589, Resolve, Directing the State Board of Education To Adopt Rules Prohibiting Teachers in Public Schools from Engaging in Political, Ideological or Religious Advocacy in the Classroom. Sponsor: Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst).
Sponsored by the hate group David Horowitz Freedom Center, this bill would require the State Board of Education to adopt rules banning public school educators from discussing political or religious issues or other controversial topics in the classroom. The legislation prohibits teachers from discussing any topic included in any state party platform, such as climate change and systemic racism, and would require them to offer information on “both sides” of controversial issues. Teachers who violate the law could be fired. The legislation is modeled—almost verbatim—after language promoted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center promotes anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and other extremist ideology and is known for distributing “hit lists” of students, faculty, and administrators they claim are “subversive.” A center-sponsored initiative called “Stop K-12 Indoctrination” issued a statement about LD 589, claiming it is necessary to stop “education radicals” from teaching about racism, LGBTQ issues, and other topics. ACLU of Maine and the Maine Education Association oppose the bill.
ACTION: Testify at the public hearing at 1 pm, Thursday, Feb. 21 in Room 208 of the Cross Building. Find out how to do that HERE. If your legislators are among the bill sponsors or sit on the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, contact them and ask them to OPPOSE LD 589. Can’t attend the hearing? You can submit written testimony in advance to the committee clerk at EDU@legislature.maine.gov and listen to the hearing HERE. Find contact info for your representative and senator

 

Support for earned sick leave. LD 369, An Act To Support Healthy Workplaces and Healthy Families by Providing Earned Paid Sick Leave to Certain Employees. Primary sponsor: Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland).
LD 369 would require businesses that employ more than 5 employees to offer their employees earned paid sick leave and for businesses that employ 5 or fewer workers to offer earned unpaid sick leave. If passed, Maine would become the 11th state to enact earned paid sick leave. According to National Kids Count, nearly 75% of Maine children under age 6 live in homes where both parents work, and AARP of Maine estimates some 178,000 Mainers care for an elderly relative. The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations in the world that does not guarantee earned paid sick leave for employees, which costs businesses about $160 billion a year in lost worker productivity. A study from the Political Economy Research Institute found that earned paid sick leave accounts for 0.5% of total operating expenses for businesses that offer the benefit, a cost the report says is recouped by decreased costs from employee turnover.
ACTION: Testify at the public hearing at 11 am, Monday, Feb. 25 in Room 202 of the Cross Building. Find out how to do that HERE. If your legislators are among the bill sponsors or sit on the Committee on Labor and Housing, contact them and ask them to SUPPORT LD 369. Can’t attend the hearing? You can submit written testimony in advance to the committee clerk at LBHS@legislature.maine.gov and listen to the hearing HERE. Find contact info for your representative and senator

 

Increasing pay equity.  LD 278, An Act Regarding Pay Equality. Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Breen (D-Cumberland).
This bill would promote pay equity by amending the Maine Human Rights act to prohibit employers from asking about a prospective employee’s salary history before a job offer is made. Studies suggest that basing future pay on past salaries only perpetuates wage gaps for women, people of color, and people with disabilities, who are often paid less than their counterparts, even if they possess the same skills and hold the same job. A 2018 study found that Maine women earn 82 cents for each $1 men earn. The pay is even lower for women of color. According to Disability Rights Maine, asking about past income opens people with disabilities up to possible disability-based employment discrimination by forcing them to disclose medical and disability history that may have affected their past wages. The legislation is similar to a pay equity bill that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, only to be vetoed by former Gov. Paul LePage. A public hearing was held Feb. 6, with the majority of testimony in support of the bill. A work session is scheduled for Feb. 25.
ACTION: If your legislator is a bill sponsor or sits on the Committee on Labor and Housing, contact them before the Feb. 25 work session and voice your support for LD 278. You can also submit written testimony to the committee clerk at LBHS@legislature.maine.gov.

 

Creating presidential primaries in Maine. LD 245, An Act To Reestablish a Presidential Primary System in Maine. Sponsor: Sen. Louis Luchini (D-Hancock).
Before the Legislature adjourned in 2018, legislators passed a law to eliminate Maine’s party-run presidential caucuses in favor of a state-run primary system. But the law died on the appropriations table. Lawmakers will try again this session with LD 245. State parties for Democrats and Republicans reported
widespread problems with the 2016 presidential caucuses, leading to broad bipartisan support for a law to switch to primaries. Supporters say primaries typically have larger voter turnout than caucuses. According to a report by the Maine Secretary of State, switching to a state-run primary would cost just under $1 million, with local municipalities bearing the brunt of the cost. If passed, presidential primaries would be held in Maine in March 2020 ahead of the November general election. A public hearing was held Feb. 6. Read the testimony HERE. No work session has been scheduled.
ACTION: If your legislator is a sponsor or sits on the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, contact them and voice your support for LD 245. Find contact info for your representative and senator

 

Making school buses safer. LD 19, An Act To Require Public School Buses To Be Equipped with School Bus Crossing Arms. Primary sponsor: Jay McCreight (D-Haprswell).
This bill would require all Maine school buses to be equipped with a crossing arm that extends 8-10 feet from the front of the school bus. The arm forces students to walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus, reducing the risk that students will be struck while walking in front of the bus. The exact number of front-of-the-bus accidents is unknown, but they have been reported nationwide,
including in Maine. A public hearing was held Feb. 7. Read the testimony HERE. A work session will be held Feb. 21.
ACTION: If your legislators are bill sponsors or sit on the Committee on Transportation, call them before the Feb. 21 work session and ask them to SUPPORT LD19. Find contact info for your representative and senator 

OTHER BILLS WE’RE TRACKING

 

Honoring Maine’s Indigenous People. LD 179. An Act To Change the Name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Primary sponsor: Rep. Benjamin Collings (D-Portland).
This bill would change the Columbus Day holiday, observed on the second day of October, to Indigenous Peoples Day. Proponents of the change, including Penobscot Nation tribal leaders, note that Christopher Columbus did not discover America (and in fact, never came to North America at all) and that a holiday celebrating someone who enslaved and brutalized native people only perpetuates discrimination against Maine’s first inhabitants. The national move to change the date began in the 1970s. Since then, more than 100 cities and six states have since changed the holiday. A number of Maine’s cities have already made the change, including Portland, Bangor, Orono, Belfast, and Brunswick. A public hearing was held Feb. 11. Read the testimony HERE. The committee voted that the bill OUGHT TO PASS but has not yet issued its report.
ACTION: The bill will move to the House and Senate for a vote as soon as the committee issues its report. Call and email your legislators and tell them to pass LD 179 when it comes up for a vote. Find contact info for your representative and senator.

 

Protecting Mainers’ Health Care. LD 1, An Act To Protect Health Care Coverage for Maine Families. Primary sponsors: Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and House Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport)
This bill would make
patient protections in the Affordable Care Act state law, protecting them should Republicans repeal the federal statute. Insurers would be required to cover essential medical services, such as mental health care and prescription drugs, and to cover people with pre-existing conditions and those over age 55 without charging them higher premiums. It would also allow children to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26. A public hearing before the Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services was held Tuesday, Jan. 29, with the majority of testimony in support of the bill. The committee voted 10-3 that the bill OUGHT TO PASS. A final language review is scheduled for this week before the bill goes to the Senate and House for a vote.
ACTION: Call and email your legislators and tell them to pass LD 1 when it comes up for a vote. Find contact info for your representative and senator

 

Support for spousal caregivers. LD 84, Resolve, Directing the Department of Health and Human Services To Allow Spouses To Provide Home and Community-based Services to Eligible MaineCare Members. Sponsored by Rep. Patrick Corey (R-Windham).
Nearly 180,000 Mainers care for a family member at home, a full-time, unpaid job that allows many people with disabilities to remain at home instead of in a nursing home. LD 84 would allow spouses of Section 19 MaineCare recipients to be hired as personal support specialists (PSS) and be paid for caring for their partners. Current law allows children and siblings to be reimbursed by Maine’s Medicaid program, but not spouses. Spouses would be hired by a certified home care agency and have to undergo background checks and skills assessments. They could earn around $11-12 an hour. If the bill passes, the Department of Health and Human Services would request approval for the expansion from the federal Centers for Medicaid Services. According to Disability Rights Maine, the legislation would address direct care staffing shortages and ultimately save taxpayer money by keeping disabled persons out of nursing homes. A nursing home can cost up to $100,000 per year, and many residents’ care is covered under Medicaid. Paying a spouse to be a PSS could run about $25,000 a year. Twelve other states have passed similar laws. The Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing was held Feb. 7. The committee has voted, with a majority voting OUGHT TO PASS, but has not yet issued a report.  
ACTION: The bill will move to the House and Senate for a vote as soon as the committee issues its report. Call and email your legislators and tell them to pass LD 84 when it comes up for a vote. Find contact info for your representative and senator

 

 

Most of the 2,000+ bills the Legislature will consider are still being written, so this list will grow. For now, here are some of the bills we’ll be following this session:

 

  • Expand dental care for low-income Mainers. Dental disease is the most common reason for ER visits by adults who are uninsured or MaineCare recipients, a costly—and preventable—problem. This bill would expand MaineCare to cover adult preventive dental services.
  • Bail reform. As many as 40,000 Mainers spend anywhere from a day to months in jail awaiting trial, many with no criminal record who are charged with non-violent misdemeanors. Reforming the cash bond system would not only provide justice for those who can’t afford bail, it would also save the state as much as $100 per day, per inmate.
  • We are also tracking bills that would create paid family and medical leave; provide treatment and prevention for opioid use disorder; offer training and support to lift people out of poverty; ban conversion therapy; expand abortion protections; increase state education funding for schools and teacher salaries; create universal pre-K education; launch a green energy economic plan; limit campaign contributions by lobbyists; and state constitutional amendments for an Equal Rights Amendment, expanding ranked-choice voting to state races, and establishing an early voting option in Maine.

 

Stay tuned to this space for more details! 

Other Legislative Trackers

You can also track legislation with trackers from these grassroots groups and advocacy organizations. Know of other trackers we should include? Email us at suitupmaine@gmail.com.

HOW DO I…

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.

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.

Testify at or attend a public hearing?

All bills and state agency commissioner nominees are assigned to one of 19 standing joint committees and receive a public hearing. You may attend these hearings to observe or to testify. Learn where to go, what to bring, and what to expect in this guide from the Maine Legislature. You can also get some pointers from ACLU of Maine.

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.

Pro Tip: If you’d like to testify but can’t make the hearing, you may submit written testimony to the committee clerk. Find a list of committees and clerks HERE.

Submit testimony or listen to a public hearing if I can't attend in person?

If you’d like to testify but can’t make the hearing, you may submit written testimony to the committee clerk. Find a list of committees and clerks HERE.

All public hearings are broadcast via the Legislature’s website. Visit the Legislative Media Room, select the appropriate room, then select the hearing you wish to listen to.

Pro Tip: You can find the room assignments for public hearings on the legislative calendar.

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.

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.