The 127th Legislature wrapped up most of its work last week. We will return to the State House next Friday to take up any vetoes from the governor. Here are a few of the measures we have approved.
ADDRESSING THE DRUG CRISIS
We started the session by providing $3.7 million for enforcement, prevention and treatment and continued to work on other measures to address the state’s drug crisis. One of those won our final approval last week. It helps local responses by providing grants for substance abuse assistance pilot programs. The goal is to divert low-level offenders into community-based treatment and support services to reduce the pre-trial costs to jails and the chances of recidivism.
MAKING GAINS ON STUDENT DEBT
We were successful in passing legislation to improve college affordability, build our skilled work force and encourage young people to stay in Maine through an expansion of the Opportunity Maine Tax Credit program. I’m also happy to report that the governor signed my proposal to make sure those who consolidated their student loans would still have full access to the credit.
INVESTING IN INFRASTRUCTURE, RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
We understand that investments in research and development and in our transportation infrastructure are crucial to our economic future. We passed two bond measures we hope will go to the voters in November.
The first would provide $100 million in much-needed funding for construction, repairs and maintenance of the state’s transportation infrastructure. The second would invest $50 million in job-creating research and development initiatives. Of that total, $45 million would go to sectors targeted by the Maine Technology Institute, including biotechnology, composites, forest products and agriculture, aquaculture, information technology and precision manufacturing. The other $5 million would go to the Maine Venture Fund, a professionally managed venture capital fund that invests exclusively in promising Maine companies.
GROWING SOLAR POWER, CREATING CLEAN-ENERGY JOBS
We passed solar legislation based on the work of a broad stakeholders group that would create hundreds of new clean-energy jobs, increase installation tenfold and reduce electricity costs for non-solar consumers. The bill would create a comprehensive solar policy for Maine. We are the only New England state without one and we are now last in the region in solar development and job creation. This legislation is critical to our economic and energy future, and I hope we will be able to override an expected veto.
VETERANS’ MEASURES NOW LAW
A new law based on the work of the Commission to Strengthen and Align the Services Provided to Maine Veterans makes long overdue investments in the state Bureau of Veterans’ Services, take steps to address homelessness and transportation needs and helps veterans and Maine National Guard members attend college.
As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns or if you need assistance with state government.