The Legislature was originally scheduled to conclude mid-June, but here we are hurtling into mid-July with work still to do. Are legislators and their staff facing burnout? You bet. Emotions and tensions are the highest they've been this session.
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Here is what still remains before the Legislature can conclude:
- There are a handful of bills awaiting legislative action, including LD 1356, a bill that would increase the percentage of voters required to sign for local ballot questions. This will negatively affect mostly small, rural towns where signature collection is already difficult and rare. Will LD 1356 die as “unfinished business”? Let’s hope so.
- Bills that are awaiting final enactment on the special appropriations table (bills that require funding) need to be dealt with. Legislators plan to tackle these soon.
- Once the Legislature has done that, the Governor does her part: she has 10 days from when bills are enacted to sign or veto them, or they become law without her signature.
- "Veto Day" is on the horizon but hasn't been scheduled yet. On this day legislators can try to override any last-minute vetoes made by the Governor. Ack. This might not be until the week of July 24. That hurts.
- LD 1620 — Mi’kmaq Restoration Act: This historic legislation achieves parity for the Mi’kmaq Nation with the other Wabanaki tribes.
- LD 1690 — Ongoing Absentee Voting: Establishes ongoing absentee voting, where a voter can sign up to be automatically sent an absentee ballot for eligible elections, for all Mainers, and we support it. This bill hasn’t been officially signed into law but could go into effect without the governor’s signature.
- LD 1970 — Maine Indian Child Welfare Act: Establishes procedures and standards for cases involving Wabanaki children that concern custody proceedings, foster care placements, termination of parental rights and adoptions. The legislation codifies state law protections currently enumerated under the federal 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.
Heading Soon to the Governor's Desk:
This bill passed in the House and Senate and awaits the Governor's action. The Governor may choose to sign the bills into law, allow them to be enacted without her signature, or veto them.
- LD 1610 — Protect Maine's Elections: This bill will stop foreign government spending in Maine elections. We support this one. It’s unconscionable that foreign governments are currently permitted to dump millions of dollars into referendum campaigns, the very tool by which Maine voters can directly affect State law, when our own government isn’t even allowed to spend in state elections!
Placed on the special appropriations table:
These bills have been placed on the special appropriations table because they require funding. The bills have passed in the House and Senate, and enactment is pending. It's possible for bills to die on the table, but we remain hopeful that these bills might get their funding.
- LD 577 — Town Websites to Host More Election Info: This bill would provide state support through the office of the Secretary of State for towns to disseminate local election information online. We support this bill.
- LD 1155 — Increasing Legislative Salaries: This bill would increase the overall pay from ~$29,000 to $45,000 for a legislative session (which spans two years). We support this measure and believe this is one way to increase equity and equal representation in the Legislature and encourage more people to run for office.
Failed Veto Override:
LD 2004 — Restore Access to Federal Laws Beneficial to the Wabanaki Nations: The bill initially passed with bipartisan support, but was vetoed by the governor, and then failed to receive 2/3 support in a veto override. Unfortunately, this means the bill is dead. So why the switch on what was deemed popular, bipartisan legislation? It's sad to say that LD 2004 got caught up in the perfect storm of session fatigue, bitterness, and party politics, as well as the governor's strenuous opposition. We'll continue to stand by the Wabanaki for any future legislation, including LD 2007, a tribal sovereignty bill carried over into 2024.
New Maine Law Will End Prison Gerrymandering
Have you heard the good news!? Last week, the governor signed our bill into law that effectively ends prison gerrymandering in Maine.
Prison gerrymandering is the practice of counting incarcerated individuals as part of the district where they're detained — and not by their home address, which is where they lived before and where they vote. This distorts legislative apportionment, beefing up the numbers in the prison district, and under-representing their home community.
Redistricting (or apportionment) occurs after the Census count takes place every 10 years. For Census purposes, people are counted where they reside on Census Day, but this doesn’t work for redistricting, resulting in what some people call prison gerrymandering — it leads to false representations of district size. This bill puts an end to that. Districts should represent the actual communities that people call home.