Bills to Watch in the Second Session
On November 18, the Maine Legislature published a list of all bill requests that have been accepted into the Second Session by the Legislative Council. Currently, little information is known about these measures except for their proposed titles. It’s not until these requests are officially printed by the Revisor’s Office as Legislative Documents (or LDs) that we’ll know their full contents.
Nonetheless, given the proposed title and sponsors of these bills, here are the notable bill requests approved by the Council that Maine Policy will be following in the Second Session.
Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris)
LR 2863: An Act to Combat Racketeering by Foreign Organizations in Maine Cannabis Markets
This bill is likely a response to recent reporting that Chinese-owned organizations are illegally operating numerous marijuana grows in Maine, buying up single-family homes in rural parts of the state and transitioning these properties to marijuana grows. The presence and proliferation of illegal marijuana in the state negatively impacts the legalized market, and this bill likely aims to stop these outfits to the benefit of producers and consumers.
Sen. Anne Carney (D-Cumberland)
LR 2708: An Act to Protect the Confidentiality of Attorney-Client E-mail Communications for Residents of Jails and Correctional Facilities
Following the controversy surrounding Maine jails listening in on privileged phone calls between inmates and their legal counsel, this bill likely aims to ensure electronic communications between prisoners and lawyers are equally protected. If the bill does only what its title entails, it’s a no-brainer policy that would protect the legal rights of all Maine inmates.
Rep. Kristen Cloutier (D-Lewiston)
LR 2722: An Act to Add the State of Maine to the Compact for Licensing Physician Assistants
Maine should do all it can to make occupational licensing as easy and seamless as possible. If entering into a physician assistant compact removes obstacles to licensure for people who move to Maine or are working here on a short-term basis, that’s exactly what we should do. However, more effective than a patchwork of compacts across various professions and occupational licenses, Maine could follow in the footsteps of other states by enacting the Right to Earn a Living Act or universal licensing reciprocity.
Sen. Chip Curry (D-Waldo)
LR 2609: An Act to Protect Property Owners by Preventing the Use of Eminent Domain to Build Transmission Lines Under the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program
After lawmakers moved to approve the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program, and along with it another proposed transmission line in rural Maine, landowners affected by the proposed path of the transmission line are pushing back. The use of eminent domain by the government is always sketchy and subject to scrutiny, and citizens are right in seeking to compel the government to find a way to build their new pet project without forcibly seizing private land.
Sen. Mattie Daughtry (D-Cumberland)
LR 2638: An Act to Update the Number of Agency Liquor Stores Allowed in a Municipality
It’s funny to think the state of Maine limits how many agency liquor stores can operate in a given municipality–it’s the antithesis of a free market approach. Consumers should determine how many operate in a town based on which businesses survive and which ones fail. While this bill likely tinkers on the margins in terms of the allowed number of stores in each town, anything that allows for greater competition is better.
Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Allagash)
LR 2856: An Act to Provide Investment Incentives to Keep the Portland Sea Dogs in the State
This proposal reeks of corporate welfare, plain and simple. Maine taxpayers should not be underwriting the existence of the Portland Sea Dogs, no matter how much we may love them. They sell tickets, concessions, apparel and other goods that make them more than capable of standing on their own two feet without taxpayer support.
Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland)
LR 2917: An Act to Prohibit Tobacco Sales Near Schools
In their crusade against flavored tobacco, Democrats are now targeting all forms of tobacco products and trying to paint convenient store owners–who largely follow state and federal law–as the boogeyman. So many convenient stores are located near schools because schools serve as the central hub of their communities. People bring students there to school each day, attend sporting events, and attend community gatherings that are often held at local schools. A convenience store’s proximity to a school isn’t to sell underage people tobacco products – it’s simply good business practice. If this bill passes, perhaps Rep. Moonen’s next action will be to prohibit the sale of alcohol, sugary soft drinks, candy, and anything else that is bad for one’s health near a school. Good grief.
Rep. Josh Morris (R-Turner)
LR 2881: An Act to Join the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact
Similar to Rep. Cloutier’s bill above concerning a physician assistants licensing compact, this bill would likely make it easier for dentists and dental hygienists to live and work in Maine.
Rep. Laurie Osher (D-Orono)
LR 2618: An Act to Prohibit Paramilitary Training Camps
This bill is a response to the self-proclaimed neo-Nazi camp that has been started in northern Maine, whose members have been seen throughout the state protesting and holding other gatherings while spewing hateful rhetoric. As lawmakers look to respond to these incidents, they must craft a law – if possible – that can withstand legal scrutiny. They cannot limit the First Amendment rights of certain people because they hold beliefs many find hateful and offensive.
As the Maine ACLU told Maine Public in late August, “It’s ok for people to say horrible ideas and it’s ok for groups of people to gather together to express horrible ideas. The government doesn’t get to decide what ideas are acceptable and what ideas aren’t.” If lawmakers go down this road with Rep. Osher’s bill, they must tread carefully and not violate the First Amendment.
Sen. Teresa Pierce (D-Cumberland)
LR 2929: An Act to Support Municipalities by Repealing the Law Limiting the Municipal Property Tax Levy
Since 2005, Maine has had a law which establishes a limit on how much can be levied in property tax by any town in a given year. Sen. Pierce’s proposal would repeal that law and remove those limits, allowing towns to engage in runaway spending and forcing property taxpayers to pick up the tab. The bill itself makes a mockery of the second session, which is supposed to be the Legislature’s “emergency” session to address matters that are necessary for public health and safety. The only emergency here is the one Mainers’ wallets will experience if Sen. Pierce’s bill passes in the coming session.