AUGUSTA — Today, a series of non-emergency laws that were introduced and championed by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus go into effect. These laws include measures to provide access to lifesaving insulin, provide property tax relief, expand access to quality child care and ban corporate contributions to political candidates.
Many of these proposals were inspired by constituents who reached out to their lawmakers during an unprecedented pandemic asking for help, support and relief.
“With more ways to participate in the Maine Legislature than ever before, Mainers set the legislative agenda this session, not special interests, political hacks or lobbyists. It’s how we were able to translate the stories we heard from constituents throughout the pandemic into legislative action, passing laws to rein in outrageous health care costs, provide meaningful property tax relief, honor our veterans and support survivors of domestic violence. That is how the legislative process should be,” said Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “The average Mainer doesn’t care about party labels, they care about whether or not the person who is supposed to represent them in Augusta or D.C. is actually fighting and delivering for them. Quite frankly, it’s what we owe our constituents. Thank you to all the Mainers who showed up this session and never let up. These victories are your victories.”
“This year, we were able to make incredible strides for Maine people, building on the success of previous sessions. From fighting for affordable prescription drugs and quality health care, to reducing the increasing property tax burden facing homeowners, I’m incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish for Maine people,” said Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic. “I’m especially proud that so many of these laws had strong bipartisan support. It just proves that Maine lawmakers are able to work together, bringing all our best ideas to the table, to help the people who sent us to Augusta in the first place.”
“Going into the start of the year, our state was facing incredible challenges. But those challenges also presented the opportunity to change, grow and invest. Our legislative process was more accessible to the public than ever before, and it was wonderful to see so many Mainers sharing their perspective and expertise on the bills we were considering,” said Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick. “The laws we passed this year will help address our state’s immediate problems, and set us up for success well into the future. From campaign finance reform, to investments in education and workforce training, the changes we made this year will have a real impact on everyday Mainers for years to come.”
All non-emergency laws take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns sine die unless otherwise specified. An overview of non-emergency laws sponsored and supported by Senate Democrats is below:
MAKING HEALTH CARE MORE AFFORDABLE + ACCESSIBLE
- Establishing Office of Affordable Health Care (Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash). This session, Maine lawmakers passed a law to establish the Office of Affordable Health Care in an effort to lower health care costs for Maine people as a part of the Making Health Care Work for Maine package. For decades, the rising cost of health care has put Maine families in the impossible situation of trying to figure out how they can afford care for their children and themselves. The Office of Affordable Health Care would analyze all available Maine health data and make evidence-based policy recommendations to state lawmakers. Nine other states have similar offices that have delivered savings for consumers and hospitals. The goal is for Maine to do the same.
Beginning in 2022, the Office of Affordable Health Care is required to hold an annual public hearing on cost trends. A report is due to the governor’s office regarding these trends on an annual basis beginning January 1, 2023.
- Creating the insulin safety-net program (Sen. Cathy Breen D-Falmouth). This session, the Maine Legislature passed a new law to create an insulin safety net program as a part of the Making Health Care Work for Maine package. Too many people in Maine are forced to put their lives at risk because they cannot afford insulin. Since its discovery more than 100 years ago, insulin’s price has skyrocketed, with more Americans skipping doses and in some cases dying due to cost. This program allows eligible Mainers to access an emergency 30-day supply of insulin at any pharmacy for less than $35. It will save lives.
The new law takes effect October 18. However, the deadline for implementation is March 1, 2022. By then, each manufacturer shall establish procedures to make insulin available in accordance with this section and as required under subsections 3 and 4 to pharmacies for dispensing to eligible individuals who are in urgent need of insulin or who need access to an affordable insulin supply.
- Improving drug price transparency (Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic). This year, Maine lawmakers strengthened drug price transparency laws, as part of the Making Health Care Work for Maine package, allowing lawmakers to close loopholes, rein in costs and identify bad actors. For years, pharmaceutical companies have kept the drug, pricing process purposefully in the dark leaving consumers with no choice but to pay up or lose out. Maine lawmakers believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant. This will give lawmakers critical information to address the rising cost of prescription drugs.
- Increasing access to lifesaving HIV medication (Sen. Heather Sanborn D-Portland). Mainers at an increased risk of contracting HIV rely on lifesaving medications like PrEP and PEP to lead healthy and happy lives. However, these medications only work if people can access and afford them. This session, the Maine Legislature passed a new law that requires state-regulated health insurance plans to cover this medication and the necessary, associated treatment.
- Helping new parents get the care they need (Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, and Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth). Pregnancy and the early stages of parenthood can be incredibly trying. Making sure expecting and new mothers have access to the medical care they need is vital to their health and the health of their children. This year, the Maine Legislature passed a law, sponsored by Sen. Brenner, that ensures health insurance plans will cover certified midwives as well as certified nurse-midwives. Lawmakers also passed a law, sponsored by Sen. Carney, that ensures mothers can get health care coverage after giving birth to ensure the health and safety of both the mother and child.
The requirements of this act apply to all policies, contracts and certificates executed, delivered, issued for delivery, continued or renewed in Maine on or after January 1, 2022.
SUPPORTING MAINE’S HERITAGE INDUSTRIES
- Supporting quality, good-paying and sustainable paper-making jobs (Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash). For generations, Maine workers have relied on paper mills to earn a living and provide for their families in rural Maine. This session, Maine lawmakers created a tax credit to support good-paying jobs in the forest products industry. As the demand for PFAS-free packing increases, paper mills, like Twin Rivers in Madawaska, can lead the country in the production of sustainable packaging with our support. This will benefit workers, communities and the entire state.
- Creating a Healthy Soils Program (Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough). For generations, Maine farms have helped power our economy and feed Maine people, eventually giving rise to a renowned local foods economy. However, the viability of Maine’s farmland depends on the health of Maine soil. With some of the youngest farmers in the country, we must take steps to ensure that this heritage industry can continue to support families, communities and our overall economy for generations to come. It’s why Maine lawmakers passed a new law that creates a one-stop-shop for farmers in Maine looking to implement best practices for creating healthy agricultural soils and could eventually provide needed funds to support farmers transitioning to healthier soil management.
- Supporting Maine lobstermen and lobster industry (Sen. Dave Miramant, D-Camden). The Maine Legislature passed a law that extends the funding for the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, which was due to end this year. It also makes license surcharges ongoing at their current level. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative does important work to advertise our lobster and increase demand for Maine lobster. The lobster industry depends on the MLMC just as much as our economy depends on our lobster industry.
LOOKING OUT FOR MAINE JOBS + WORKERS
- Helping Mainers save for retirement (Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic). This session, the Maine Legislature passed a law establishing the Maine Retirement Savings Program. This new program provides a way for working Mainers to contribute to a Roth IRA directly from their paycheck. Employers who don’t offer their own retirement savings plans will facilitate a deduction for their employees, straight from their paycheck. These employers cannot contribute any funds to the plan. The deducted funds go into a Roth IRA, following participants from job to job until that person is ready to retire. At least eight other states have – or have passed legislation for – similar programs.
- Investing in competitive workforce training programs (Sen. Joe Rafferty, D-Kennebunk). This session, Maine lawmakers passed a new law that leverages Maine Apprenticeship Program funds to increase apprentice wages. By making critical investments in apprenticeship programs and improving apprenticeship wages, the program will become more attractive and competitive to young Mainers needed to fill workforce shortages. It will also help Maine attract and retain young people in the long run.
- Taking steps toward Paid Family Medical Leave (Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick). Maine lawmakers created a commission to study what a statewide Paid Family Medical Leave program that works for both workers and businesses could look like in Maine. The commission will hear from workers, employers, caregivers and experts, and develop a system that best fits Maine’s needs and demographics.
SUPPORTING SENIORS + VETERANS
- Helping seniors remain in their homes (Sen. Donna Bailey, D-Saco). In the federal spending package, Maine lawmakers revived a program – sponsored by Sen. Bailey and cosponsored by Sen. Joe Rafferty, D-Kennebunk – that would allow the state to pay the property taxes of eligible Mainers, while also taking a lien on their homes. Seniors who qualify can stay in their homes, and the state is able to recoup those costs later.
- Promoting property tax relief for veterans (Sen. Donna Bailey, D-Saco). The new law co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Rafferty, D-Kennebunk, allows municipalities to opt into a program that benefits veterans by keeping their property tax rate credits at a steady rate, unaffected by the change in a town or city’s valuation. It would also provide veterans who rent a $100 annual benefit.
- Helping Maine veterans and their spouses get to work (Sen. Chip Curry D-Belfast). This year, Maine lawmakers passed a new law to help veterans and their spouses transition smoothly into Maine’s workforce whether they are returning home or have chosen to make Maine their home. More than 100,000 veterans or active-duty service members currently live in Maine. The new law would allow veterans, active-duty members of the military and their spouses to obtain a temporary license or certification in Maine if they held a similar license in another state. This would allow these individuals to get to work right away while fulfilling Maine’s licensing requirements, eliminating bureaucratic red tape. This makes moving to Maine and getting a job easy and accessible for those who have served our country.
- Supporting Military-connected students (Sen. Joe Baldacci). Maine lawmakers passed a new law to establish the Purple Star School Program to recognize school administrative units that provide strong services and support for military-connected students and families. It also guarantees that a spouse or dependent child of an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces who is assigned to duty out of the State is eligible for in-state tuition rates and fees at the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System or the Maine Maritime Academy immediately following the deployment. This is so as long as the spouse or dependent child is continuously enrolled in the postsecondary institution.
STANDING WITH SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
- Protecting survivors from discrimination (Sen. Donna Bailey, D-Saco). This year, Maine lawmakers passed a new law to protect survivors of domestic violence from discrimination when it comes to housing and employment. Seeking a protection order through the judicial system should never put an individual’s housing situation or career in jeopardy. This new law will remove barriers that prevent survivors from using the tools available to protect themselves and their family members.
- Keeping survivors of domestic violence safe (Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford). This year, Maine lawmakers passed a law to better protect survivors of domestic violence by making it a Class C crime to violate orders that are similar to protection orders. The proposal was inspired by one of Sen. Deschambault’s constituents who expressed concern about the safety of her niece, who had recently sought protection from the courts after being assaulted by her partner. This new law will ensure that protective measures designed to keep Mainers safe are effective and ensure violators face serious and appropriate consequences.
- Protecting kids from domestic violence (Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham). This session, Maine lawmakers passed a new law to increase training for guardians ad litem to better protect children from domestic violence. The law requires guardians ad litem to receive no less than six hours of core training on domestic abuse and violence, to be developed in collaboration with domestic violence resource centers. Training must include the impacts of domestic violence on children, best practices for recognizing and assessing abuse and its effects on the parenting relationship, and promoting child safety and security.
DELIVERING FOR MAINE STUDENTS + FAMILIES
- Expanding access to child care (Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash). Maine’s child care system isn’t working well for anyone. Maine parents cannot find child care providers with open slots in their communities and child care providers are barely scraping by despite high demand, and many are closing their doors. This new law expands access to child care by working with existing providers to open child care slots, hire and train staff, and improve wages. Pilot projects selected by the Department of Health and Human Services must begin by January 1, 2023.
- Helping vulnerable students graduate (Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston). This session, lawmakers passed a law that would give young students who have experienced education disruption the tools to build a portfolio for high school graduation. Students who experience frequent disruptions to their schooling include those who are relocating, living in foster care, experiencing homelessness and more. This will help improve education outcomes and strengthen Maine’s future workforce. The measure was inspired by New Beginnings in Lewiston. The organization sees the barriers and educational disruptions that homeless youth and youth in foster care experience as they try to finish high school on a regular basis.
- Protecting Mainers from predatory student lenders (Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic). The student debt crisis is one of the steepest hurdles our economy faces, preventing many Mainers from starting a business, buying a home or saving for emergencies or retirement. To help protect Mainers who are just trying to responsibly pay down their student debt, we passed a law to protect borrowers of private student loans and their cosigners from unfair practices.
CLEANING UP OUR GOVERNMENT
- Banning corporate campaign contributions (Sen. Louie Luchini, D-Ellsworth + Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash). Getting money out of our politics and our government is essential to ensuring that our government works for Maine people, not corporations. That’s why Maine lawmakers fought so hard to ban corporate campaign contributions. For too long, special interests have dominated the rhetoric in our politics and corporate donations have drowned out the voices of everyday Maine people. By banning corporate campaign contributions, Maine lawmakers made clear that our democracy is not for sale.
- Closing loopholes in campaign finance law (Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro). Too many politicians in Augusta have been using PACs as personal slush funds. Whether it be buying tires, expensive clothes, or paying family members, PACs have been unregulated for too long. Maine lawmakers passed a new law to prevent legislators from using PACs for personal enrichment.
- Removing barriers to the ballot box (Sen. Louie Luchini, D-Ellsworth). Democracy is at its best when everyone can participate. This year, Maine lawmakers made permanent many of the innovative measures the state put in place to make voting accessible and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those changes include maintaining secure drop-off boxes for absentee ballots, continuing the online absentee ballot tracker, and offering guidance to help clerks “cure” ballots to make sure citizens’ votes are accurately registered.
IMPROVING ACCESS TO SAFE, AFFORDABLE HOUSING
- Empowering municipalities to build affordable housing (Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford). Maine lawmakers passed a law to help municipalities support affordable housing and housing services for people who are experiencing homelessness.
- Establishing an Eviction Mediation Program (Sen. Anne Carney D-Cape Elizabeth). This session, Maine lawmakers passed a new law to establish an eviction mediation program to ease the eviction process for tenants and families, as well as landlords. Either party can request these services in forcible entry and detainer actions. The program also provides information on rental, housing and legal counseling and assistance to tenants. Mediation is waived and a case moves to an immediate hearing if required to prevent irreparable damage to the dwelling or serious physical harm to a person.
- Reducing harmful chemicals in rental homes (Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor). This new law creates a program designed to reduce lung cancer rates in Maine by creating a program for landlords and other homeowners to receive incentives to test their buildings for radon more frequently. The program will reward, recognize, promote and assist landlords, homeowners and home builders who participate in mitigation activities with a gold standard designation.
STRIVING FOR JUSTICE
- Standing up for Human Rights (Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop). The Maine Legislature passed a law to address inconsistencies in the protections provided in different areas of jurisdiction under the Maine Human Rights Act to ensure the law provides the intended inclusive protection. As Sen. Hickman put it in his testimony, “We need to get the language right so that the law means what it says and does what it means.”
- Closing disparities in prenatal care (Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth). This session, Maine lawmakers passed a law directing the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations to study and propose solutions to disparities in access to prenatal care throughout the state. The new law hopes to close racial disparities in prenatal care to improve outcomes for more mothers and children. Data from 2019 highlights significant racial disparities in access to prenatal care in Maine.
- Improving access to menstrual products (Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth). This session, Maine lawmakers passed new laws to eliminate sales tax for the purchase of menstrual products and allow schools to accept donations to provide menstrual products to students free of charge. Typically, individuals are not required to pay sales tax on items considered necessary for survival. For too long, menstrual products have been considered a luxury item and not a necessity. The new law, sponsored by Rep. Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, and co-sponsored by Sen. Breen, eliminates the pink tax and corrects this injustice. The other new law sponsored by Sen. Breen protects donors of menstrual products from liability so they can give the products to schools and nonprofit groups without facing risk.
- Memorializing the victims and heroes of COVID-19 (Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland). This new law will create a memorial on State House grounds for COVID-19 victims and first responders to the COVID-19 crisis.