Appropriations Democrats flout Mills in massive last-minute spending spree


The Appropriations Committee convened Tuesday, May 7 with the pressing agenda of deliberating on the funding of special appropriations bills with an estimated $11.4 million left in unallocated revenue. A staggering number of more than 80 bills were swiftly passed, many of which were accompanied by new amendments that significantly altered the funding amount, source, or even the very purpose of bills. This rapid pace of decision-making is particularly noteworthy as the legislative work for this session was slated to conclude on April 17, a full three weeks prior.

It is crucial to note that Governor Mills has already expressed her disapproval of any legislation passed this week. Despite this, the Appropriations Committee moved a multitude of bills off of the Special Appropriations Table so the Legislature can vote on them this Friday, May 10. Regardless of the Legislature’s apparent intent to pass new bills on Veto Day, it is imperative that Gov. Mills remains steadfast in her position and exercises her power to pocket veto any new bills passed.

At the onset of the Tuesday meeting, Sen. Rick Bennett and Rep. Sawin Millett voiced their strong objections to the process, with Sen. Bennett going so far as to label it as “deeply disturbing and problematic.” It was revealed that, behind closed doors, a decision had been made to allow approximately $4 million in new spending to the Senate Democrats and another $4 million to the House Democrats, while Republicans in each body would control about $1 million each. Notably, the Senate Republicans staunchly refused to participate in this process and did not create a list of distributions like the other three groups.

The bills passed from Appropriations included a wide array of legislation. To avoid the small amount of available funding being an obstacle, many bills were reduced in size and transformed from continuing funding obligations to one-time grants. The committee members gave little notice to the fact that one-time funding for school menstrual products (LD 348), addressing food insecurity (LD 2093), and school mental health services (LD 2002) may provide only a little temporary benefit and then rip that help away from the people who received it. Regardless of how one feels about mental health service funding, it is absurd to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single year of funding and then rip the rug out from under the recipients.

The bills passed by the Committee also had many controversial purposes. LD 1432 would require an analysis of the racial impacts of any legislation considered in the future. LD 1558 would ban all tobacco products from retail establishments with pharmacies. LD 2203 would require healthcare coverage for non-prescriptive hormonal contraceptives. LD 471 would establish a state flag commission, addressing an issue already being considered on the 2024 ballot. A bill we’ve previously written about earlier this week, LD 25, would give members of any federally recognized Native American tribe free access to Maine state parks.

Now that the Appropriations Committee has passed these 80 bills from the Special Appropriations Table, the Legislature will consider many or all of them on Veto Day this Friday. While the Legislature has made up its mind, Gov. Mills has a major opportunity to refuse to sign these bills into law, standing up for the law of the land and the proper lawmaking process.