Carry-Over Bills to Watch in the Second Session
The Second Session of the Maine Legislature is a different animal than the First Session. In the First Session, lawmakers can propose any number of bills they wish to debate. However, in the Second Session – the so-called “emergency session” as defined in the Maine Constitution – lawmakers may only consider carry-over bills from the First Session and all new bill requests must be screened by the Legislative Council to be admitted into the Second Session.
As we learned earlier this month, lawmakers collectively made 284 requests for new bills. In an upcoming blog post, we’ll dive into the best and worst ideas among those 284 requests. For now, let’s focus on what bills we know for certain lawmakers will debate next year among those already carried over to the Second Session.
The list below is non-exhaustive but contains bills which Maine Policy will be following closely in addition to controversial bills where lawmakers are likely to be at odds with one another, setting the scene for contentious battles in committee and in the chambers.
Arguably one of the worst carry over bills of the session, LD 1578 seeks to force Maine to adopt the National Popular Vote compact, giving away Mainers’ voice in presidential elections to the citizens of the most populous cities and states around the country.
LD 1578, “An Act to Adopt an Interstate Compact to Elect the President of the United States by National Popular Vote”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Arthur Bell (D–Yarmouth)
Summary: This bill would add Maine to an interstate compact that mandates our state’s electoral votes be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote. Under the compact, all of a participating state’s electoral votes are awarded to the presidential slate that receives the most votes in all 50 states and Washington D.C. The compact takes effect when the number of electoral votes held by the participating states equates to a majority of the overall total number of electoral votes. Currently, the compact has been adopted by 16 states and D.C., which together have 205 of the necessary 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Maine’s adoption would bring the compact to 209 votes.
Analysis: This bill is pushed by a well-funded national organization that seeks to replace the Electoral College with a nationwide popular vote. Joining the compact would virtually eliminate Maine’s importance in presidential elections and guarantee that the state’s people and issues are ignored by presidential candidates. It simply does not make sense to award Maine’s Electoral College votes to any candidate other than the ones Maine people support.
Further, Maine, which employs the split-vote system along with Nebraska, already has the most preferable method of allocating Electoral College votes. Two of Maine’s four Electoral College votes are awarded to the winner of the statewide popular vote, and the remaining two votes are allocated to the winner of the popular vote in the First and Second Congressional Districts, respectively. This is the most fair and representative way a state can allocate its Electoral College votes.
In addition to the national popular vote measure, two bills, LDs 1959 and 1991, would establish open primary elections and decide those contests using ranked-choice voting, but they accomplish their ends by different means.
LD 1959, “An Act Regarding Open Primary Elections and Ranked-choice Voting”
Bill Sponsor: Sen. Joseph Baldacci (D–Bangor)
Summary: This bill seeks to open primary elections to all voters regardless of registration status. Currently, Maine’s open primary law states that unenrolled voters (but not voters in the opposing party) are entitled to vote in the primary election of their choice. This bill would go one step further and open primary elections to all voters with no restrictions for state and federal elections. Those primary elections would be conducted using ranked-choice voting.
Analysis: To extend primary voting to members of an opposing political party would give great power to political adversaries, allowing non-members to interfere with the decisions of party members. It is one thing to allow unenrolled voters to participate in partisan elections, it is another entirely to allow Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries and vice versa.
LD 1991, “An Act Regarding Gubernatorial Primary Elections”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Laura Supica (D–Bangor)
Summary: This bill would establish open gubernatorial primary elections. All candidates for governor must appear on the same ballot for the primary election and the winners of those primaries would be calculated using ranked-choice voting. The two candidates with the most votes would be declared the winner of the open primary and those winners would appear as opponents on the ballot for the general election for governor.
Analysis: This bill appears to be a solution in search of a problem. Maine has a long streak of electing independents at various levels of government and had an independent governor in Angus King just decades ago. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having political parties elect their own candidates to face off against each other in primary elections with the winner representing that party in the general election. Having an open primary system for all candidates which utilizes ranked-choice voting makes Maine elections needlessly more complicated for no material benefit.
The most notable carry-over bills concerning regulations relate to the minimum wave, short-term rental restrictions, and new licensing requirements for home builders.
LD 1376, “An Act to Create a Livable Wage by Increasing the Minimum Hourly Wage”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Benjamin Collings (D–Portland)
Summary: This bill seeks to raise the minimum hourly wage from $13.80 per hour to $15.00 an hour beginning January 1, 2024. It also specifies that on January 1, 2025 and each year thereafter, the minimum wage would increase by the increase in the cost of living.
Analysis: This bill will not yield its intended results and would actually be counterproductive to the low-wage workers it seeks to help. Higher minimum wages often lead to job losses and other curtailments in the economy. Artificial increases in the minimum wage force employers to get creative in order to ensure they can make ends meet. This means hiring more part-time workers and rolling back workers’ hours, often resulting in lost wages. In a 2019 report, the Employment Policies Institute analyzed the potential effects of President Biden’s $15 federal minimum wage proposal and found that, if enacted, the policy would result in a loss of more than 2 million jobs nationwide and cost employers more than $99 billion. The last thing Maine businesses need right now amidst inflation, rising costs and labor market dysfunction is more rules that unnecessarily increase the cost of business.
LD 1929: “An Act to Protect Consumers by Licensing Home Building Contractors”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Tiffany Roberts (D–South Berwick)
Summary: This bill seeks to establish new licensing requirements for contractors who perform residential construction and demolition, and also creates a licensing board to oversee and administer the licensing program.
Analysis: The housing market is largely a product of supply and demand. With low housing availability and high demand across the state, the cost of renting or purchasing a new home is out of reach for many Mainers. Thus, adding new rules that make it more difficult or expensive to build is counterproductive to the Legislature’s collective goal of making housing more affordable. Creating a new licensing regime in this space will only further restrict the market and lead to less construction – the opposite of what the state needs if it wishes to make housing easier to come by for its residents.
Every session, lawmakers debate a number of bills that would alter the state’s tax policy, often in ways that make things more difficult for the average Mainer to make ends meet. For example, last session lawmakers enacted a paid leave program that comes with new payroll taxes which amount to the largest tax increase on Maine workers in decades. Next year, the biggest tax battle is likely to be over the imposition of local-option sales taxes, an idea that has been soundly defeated in numerous legislative sessions but always finds a way to come around again as lawmakers search for more ways to rob Mainers of their hard-earned money.
LD 996 “An Act to Allow a Municipality to Establish a Local Option Sales Tax”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Lori Gramlich (D–Old Orchard Beach)
Summary: This bill allows a municipality to impose a seasonal or year-round local option sales tax on the sale of any goods or services taxed at the state level if approved by local referendum or by a municipality’s legislative body.
Analysis: Maine Policy has long opposed the establishment of a local-option sales tax, as it adds yet another layer of taxation on an already over-taxed citizenry and gives Mainers even more reason to shop in New Hampshire for goods and services. Giving municipalities the power to add a sales tax locally will do nothing to incentivize savings and efficiency, but it will make everything more expensive at a time when inflation has ravaged Mainers’ wallets.
LD 1027 “An Act to Prohibit Local Sales Taxes”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Chad Perkins (R–Dover-Foxcroft)
Summary: This bill prohibits a municipality from imposing a local sales tax.
Analysis: This bill is effectively the opposite of LD 996, actively prohibiting towns from establishing a local sales tax unless specifically authorized by the Legislature. Local-option sales taxes are a bad idea for Maine consumers, plain and simple. While it’s unlikely the current Legislature endorses an idea like this, ensuring towns cannot institute local sales taxes is a worthy goal and truly what’s best for Mainers.
LD 1298 “An Act to Allow a Local Option Sales Tax on Short-term Lodging to Fund Affordable Housing”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Charles Skold (D–Portland)
Summary: This bill would allow municipalities to institute a local option sales tax, though it would be limited to 1% on short-term lodging. Instituting the local tax would require a referendum in the community to take effect. The bill requires revenue collected under the tax to be used by that municipality for programs that support affordable housing.
Analysis: LD 1298 is yet another local option-sales tax scheme, though in this case it is aimed at the left’s favorite boogeyman – short-term rentals – and requires redistributive programs for housing assistance. Not only does this measure allow towns to create and impose higher taxes, it also punishes owners of short-term rental units and their potential tenants. Instead of incentivizing towns to remove unnecessarily restrictive zoning, land use and building regulations – all of which would directly impact the housing market – lawmakers continue to falsely claim that short-term rentals are the cause of all of Maine’s housing woes. Increasing taxes and spending more on so-called “affordable housing” does nothing to address the issue or improve building costs.
LD 1893 “An Act to Allow a Municipality to Impose a Fee on Short-term Rentals for the Benefit of That Municipality”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Tiffany Strout (R–Harrington)
Summary: Similar to LD 1298, this bill would allow municipalities to impose a local option tax on short-term rentals. The revenue from the local option tax would be distributed to the municipality imposing it and could only be approved by local referendum.
Analysis: Like many other carry-over bills, LD 1893 would allow municipalities to impose new taxes on residents and tourists who own or rent short-term rentals in Maine. As stated above, these measures are intended to raise more revenue for towns to spend on housing and housing assistance, but do little to relieve pressure on the housing market by making it easier for people to build. Thus, LD 1893 isn’t a real solution but rather a revenue generating scheme for towns.
LD 1215 “An Act to End the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products”
Bill Sponsor: Sen. Jill Duson (D–Portland)
Summary: This bill seeks to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in Maine. This statewide action would follow similar moves at the municipal level, most notably by Portland, Bangor and Brunswick.
Analysis: Though it’s a worthy endeavor to discourage tobacco use among the public – and especially teenagers – this bill is a poorly targeted solution. A similar bill was passed in Massachusetts in 2020 and hasn’t yielded its intended results. Tobacco use remains largely unchanged and while purchases have declined in the Bay State, neighboring jurisdictions like New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have seen substantial increases. This data helps underscore the fact that bans do little to stop usage, but rather force people to cross state lines to purchase their preferred products.
Further, the state now wastes countless amounts of law enforcement time and resources performing inspections and raids across the state in search of flavored tobacco products – previously legal products – instead of enforcing laws that would actually contribute to and improve public safety. This is the epitome of foolish government waste. Don’t expect anything different in Maine if a ban is adopted in the Pine Tree State.
LD 1558 “An Act to Prohibit the Sale of Tobacco Products in Pharmacies and Retail Establishments Containing Pharmacies”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Matthew Moonen (D–Portland)
Summary: This bill seeks to prohibit pharmacies and retail establishments which contain pharmacies from obtaining retail tobacco licenses, ultimately outlawing the sale of tobacco in places like Walgreens, CVS, Hannaford and WalMart.
Analysis: LD 1558 is yet another attempt to restrict tobacco sales, this time by limiting who can sell them. In addition to the arguments made above, by now policymakers should know that prohibition simply doesn’t work. It didn’t work for alcohol in the 1920s and it didn’t work during the federal government’s “War on Drugs.” Thus, it’s uncertain what makes lawmakers think it will work now with flavored tobacco. Instead of people using legal and regulated flavored tobacco products, the prohibition will give rise to illicit counterfeit and more dangerous products. A black market will be created and organized crime will thrive. Harm reduction and education are always the more optimal solutions over prohibitions when dealing with products that come with health risks.
LD 1549 “An Act to Direct the Public Utilities Commission to Seek Informational Bids Regarding Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in the State”
Bill Sponsor: Rep. Reagan Paul (R–Winterport)
Summary: This bill would require the Public Utilities Commission to annually issue a request for informational bids for the creation a small modular nuclear reactor. This is a newer type of small nuclear reactor that has a generating capacity of no more than 350 megawatts and is capable of being constructed and operated at a single site.
Analysis: While this bill does not allow for the construction of a nuclear reactor in Maine, it would force the PUC to start collecting information about the potential costs of moving in this direction so that a full consideration of our energy options is on the table in the future. By requesting informational bids, Maine would have more concrete data on the feasibility of new nuclear technology in Maine. The state’s energy prices have increased significantly over the last decade, particularly in the last few years as the Mills administration has doubled down on costly green energy initiatives like community solar and net energy billing. Keeping all of our energy options open and incentivizing the buildout and generation of all types of energy – nuclear included – would do more to relieve pressure on Maine ratepayers than the current efforts to expand costly, intermittent renewable sources.