Maine House Completes First Session of 126th Legislature
AUGUSTA — The Maine House officially adjourned early Wednesday morning following an unprecedented legislative session with an obstructionist governor, whose confrontational approach and record-breaking veto spree sought to undermine cooperative efforts.
“Despite the unprecedented challenges of this divided government, we averted a state shutdown crisis, passed a responsible budget, and managed to make a difference for the people of Maine,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “Working Maine families will not see a massive property tax hike proposed by the Governor, Maine kids will have more funds for their classrooms, and Maine people will have access to lower-cost medicine and see their heating costs reduced.”
The Democratically-led Legislature passed a responsible budget that prevented massive property tax hikes and increased funding for public education. The Legislature also passed key measures to close the state’s skills gap, invest in the workforce, and make healthcare more affordable for Maine people. Democrats blocked GOP measures that would have undercut women’s rights, worker protections and public education.
Governor LePage vetoed a record-breaking 83 bills. Republicans overrode only seven of those 83 vetoes, despite many of them having bipartisan or unanimous support.
“Time and again Republicans flip-flopped to rubber-stamp the vetoes of proposals they had previously supported,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. “It was an incredibly frustrating pattern to see Republicans put the Governor’s demands before their constituents.”
Lawmakers considered approximately 1,574 bills this session, with 502 bills becoming law so far.
“Despite the challenges, we accomplished a lot for the people of Maine,” said Rep. Jeff McCabe, the assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “We had good wins and tough losses. We came further than we ever expected on many issues, especially on efforts to accept federal health care dollars to cover more Maine people. We will continue that fight next year.”
Key bills of note include:
· Increased state funding of public education to 47 percent of the total cost, putting Maine on track to increase that level until the 55 percent threshold approved by voters is met
· Restored $125 million in cuts to revenue sharing, blunting massive property tax hikes
· Funded the early education Head Start program and restored funds to programs that help seniors and the elderly pay for their medicine
· Passed bills to fix the controversial GOP “rate hike” law that allowed insurance companies to charger rural Mainers higher rates and permit certain hikes without public review.
. Approved a “CanaRx” law to ensure Mainers can have access to lower cost prescription medicine
· Passed a law protecting infants and toddlers from toxic chemicals like BPA and a separate bill to require industry disclosure of harmful chemicals in food packaging (vetoed)
· Provided a much needed boost to the minimum wage and a “Buy America” bill (vetoed)
· Approved a commonsense measure to encourage background checks for private gun sales to felons, perpetrators of domestic violence and individuals with serious mental illness (vetoed)
· Passed critical environmental laws on alewives, energy efficiency, and air pollution; Approved a bill to recycle paint and mitigate climate change (vetoed)
· Passed key privacy measures to prevent law enforcement from warrant-less surveillance of cell phones and use of drone for surveillance (vetoed)
· Passed a law to prevent teen suicides
· Passed laws to promote local foods and family farms and a bill to label genetically modified foods
The Legislature is likely to reconvene in the coming months to consider bond proposals to send to voters.