Every bill that goes before the Maine Legislature gets a public hearing, offering Mainers an opportunity to make their voice heard on every piece of legislation our elected officials consider. It’s a hallmark of our citizen Legislature and a key step to holding our elected officials accountable. Suit Up Maine testified on more than a dozen bills during the first half of the 130th Legislature, which ended in July. Find our testimony below. We also tracked more than 60 bills during the first half of the session. Learn more about those bills in our Legislature Roundup Wrap-up. The second half of the session will begin in January 2022.
BILLS WE SUPPORTED
Restoring Tribal Sovereignty. LD 1626, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act.
Maine’s government has a long history of breaking promises to the Wabanaki people, resulting in deeply ingrained generational trauma that remains to this day. We applaud the efforts of Maine legislators and Governor Mills for acknowledging that harm and to remaining open to remedies that restore good faith and trust between parties. The bipartisan Task Force on Changes to the Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act performed a critical role in this effort by highlighting long-standing causes of friction and making recommendations to address them, based on mutual agreement and benefit. The recommended changes to the Implementing Act are essential to demonstrating, in good faith, that Maine recognizes the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Penobscot Nation, and Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians as sovereign nations. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: LD 1626 has been held over until the second regular session, which will begin in January 2022.
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.
Maine has a long history of welcoming immigrants to our state, and we have always been the better for it. So, in 1996 when the federal government barred most immigrants from participating in social safety net programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Temporary Aid for Needy Families, Maine stepped in with state funds to ensure immigrants living here had access to the care and aid they needed. That support for new Mainers ended with restrictions included in a budget passed in 2011, which stripped health coverage, food assistance, and other aid from many immigrants. Legislators have the opportunity now to right part of that wrong 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. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: The supplemental budget passed in July restored MaineCare to all eligible pregnant people and those under age 21, regardless of their immigration status. LD 718 has been held over, with a goal of restoring MaineCare to all Maine adults next year.
Increasing racial equity in legislation. LD 2, An Act To Require the Inclusion of Racial Impact Statements in the Legislative Process.
Last summer, racial disparities in Maine were laid bare when it was reported that our state had the nation’s highest racial disparity in COVID-19 cases. Despite making up just 5.7% of Maine’s population, Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) accounted for 33% of those who had tested positive for COVID-19 as of June 2020. While this news made national headlines, it came as no surprise to BIPOC and racial justice advocates in Maine. In a state where nearly 95% of the population is white, the subject of race has been too often ignored in public policy, a glaring omission that LD 2 seeks to address by incorporating racial impact statements into the legislative process. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: LD 2 passed unanimously in the House and by a vote of 25-7 in the Senate and has been signed into law by the governor.
Expanding dental care for more Mainers. LD 996, An Act To Improve Dental Health for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes.
While MaineCare provides preventive dental care for children, ours is one of just 10 state Medicaid programs to offer emergency-only coverage for adults. 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 40% of those Mainers have trouble biting or chewing and 45% experience dental pain occasionally or very often. Nearly 80% of low-income Mainers expect to lose teeth with age compared to just 42% of those with higher incomes. And 64% of those who failed to seek dental care in the previous year cited cost as the reason. LD 996 would change that by adding preventive, diagnostic, and restorative dental services for adults 21 years and older. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: 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.
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.
Of all the bills we have supported over the past four years, LD 1708 is by far one of the most creative—and timely. Creating a consumer-owned utility will accomplish what Maine’s investor-owned utilities will never do: Put control of Maine’s energy future in the hands of Mainers. Pine Tree Power would not only better position us to meet our climate and renewable energy goals, this endeavor would also provide Mainers with a more affordable, reliable electric utility. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: The bill passed in initial votes in the House and Senate but hit a snag on the last day of the session. Legislators will resume debate when the Legislature reconvenes June 30.
Paid Family and Medical Leave. LD 1559, Resolve, To Create the Commission To Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program.
The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world without a paid family leave system, even though 85% of Americans—including 75.5% of Mainers—support the idea. LD 1559 takes a crucial step toward addressing that problem, by creating a commission to develop a plan and implementation strategy for paid family and medical leave (PFML) in Maine. States with PFML report no increased costs as a result of the program, decreased employee turnover, fewer emergency room visits by adult, non-elderly Medicaid recipients, decreased financial burden of illness, improved worker morale and productivity, and lower infant mortality. In Maine and across the U.S., Black people and women are more likely to work front-line jobs with limited access to benefits. A PFML system in Maine would reduce these inequities, and ensure working Mainers don’t have to choose between a paycheck and caring for loved ones. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: The bill passed the House and Senate by wide margins and has been placed on the Special Appropriations table to await a funding decision.
BILLS WE OPPOSED
Oppose anti-abortion legislation. These bills are 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. The bills described below would require health care providers to share medically inaccurate information with their patients (LD 825 and LD 851); subject patients to a medically unnecessary procedure and force a 48-hour delay before they could receive the health care they need (LD 1229); force people who undergo an abortion or who have a miscarriage to foot the bill for burial or cremation of fetal remains (LD 1225); and reverse a law designed to ensure all Mainers have access to legal health care, regardless of their income (LD 748 and LD 915). There is little doubt that this slate of legislation is designed not to improve the health of pregnant people, but rather to the detriment of their care. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: All six bills were defeated in the House and Senate.
Oppose Anti-Vaxx bills. Maine and the world have had an unfortunate glimpse this past year of how quickly an infectious virus can sweep through schools, workplaces, places of worship, residential facilities, and our homes. The end result, as we all know, has been more than a half a million deaths, millions of infections, and long-term illness that forced business closures and a deeply disruptive school year. This public health crisis is exactly what vaccines are designed to prevent. This suite of bills (LD 96, LD 156, LD 833, and LD 1082) would greatly undermine a strong public health law we helped pass in 2019 that was upheld last year by nearly 73% of Maine voters. Maine cannot afford an outbreak of measles, chickenpox, or pertussis that harms our most vulnerable citizens. Our strong vaccine law must be protected. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: All four bills were defeated in the House and Senate.
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. The bills below were heard by the Maine Legislature this session, and all violate the Maine Human Rights Act, a statute passed in 2005 that bans discrimination based on gender identity. Anti-LGBTQ hate groups are reportedly behind the national push to pass anti-trans laws, which are overwhelmingly opposed by the majority of Americans, including most Republicans.
» Reject sports bans for transgender girls and women. LD 926, An Act To Ban Biological Males from Participating in Women’s Sports. 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.
Research suggests that children who play sports have higher self-esteem, better grades, and lower rates of obesity, depression, suicide, and tobacco, drugs, and alcohol use. With benefits such as these, we should be encouraging children to play sports, not entertaining legislation that only seeks to stigmatize kids and subject those who don’t conform to an outwardly feminine appearance to an invasive pelvic exam if their participation on a girls’ or women’s sports team is challenged. LD 926 and LD 1401 are part of a documented, national attack on transgender rights by a coalition of anti-LGBTQ hate groups that has spawned more than 100 bills in at least 33 states to strip trans people of their civil rights, health care, and self-determination. We cannot allow this national campaign of intolerance and hate to get a foothold in Maine. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: LD 1401 was killed in committee. LD 926 was defeated in the House and will go to the Senate on June 30.
» 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.
People who find themselves in need of emergency shelter are in crisis, a situation all too familiar to transgender people, who are at significantly greater risk for intimate partner violence and homelessness. Under this bill, trans girls and women who desperately need shelter could be denied that path to safety, based on a false claim that trans women are predators. It’s a tired stereotype that has no more foundation in fact today than it did when it was used 50 years ago against Black men as a defense for racial segregation. We cannot allow legislation such as this to blow a hole through Maine’s Human Rights Act, opening the door for private emergency shelters to discriminate against anyone, for any reason. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: LD 1238 was defeated in the House and Senate.
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.
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. A 2017 study found that after Florida’s law was passed, firearm homicides increased by 32%. In 68% of the cases in which the “stand your ground” law was used as justification, the person killed wasn’t armed. 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. And now, legislators have introduced “shoot first” legislation here in Maine. Read the full testimony.
STATUS: The bill was defeated in the House 79-62 and in the Senate 20-15 and is now dead.