On Aug. 2, the Legislature was called back into session one last time to vote on two dozen bills that were vetoed by the governor and address all outstanding business. This proved to be another long day in Augusta, but I’m glad we were finally able to adjourn “sine die,” meaning “without assigning a day,” for the year.
Among the bills considered last week was L.D. 31, “Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Require That Signatures on Direct Initiative of Legislation Come from Each Congressional District.”
It has become apparent that the current referendum process doesn’t encourage those seeking to put issues on the ballot to collect signatures very far north of Portland, and it greatly favors urban areas. This bill sought to strike a more equitable balance, giving rural Maine a voice, by requiring groups collecting signatures to do so in both congressional districts.
Unfortunately, in spite of initial strong bipartisan support, it failed to reach the required two-thirds threshold and was held over until next session.
We also voted on a bill to support solar power in Maine, L.D. 1504. While I heard from a number of constituents in my district supportive of this legislation, which I voted to support, it ultimately succumbed to a veto in the House of Representatives.
Also on the docket was a bill that would have strengthened the distracted-driving law, which can be difficult to enforce, by prohibiting the use of handheld phones and devices while driving. I supported this legislation, but it also failed to overcome the veto.
Other bills that failed to gain enough support included a bill that would have made the act of female genital mutilation a crime in the state of Maine (I supported it), a bill to prohibit the prosecution of minors engaging in prostitution (this bill had unanimous support in the Senate), and a bill to support the professional development of principals (I supported it).
We were able to override the veto on L.D. 1170, “An Act to Reduce Youth Access to Tobacco Products.” This new law, sponsored by my colleague Sen. Paul Davis, will hopefully keep highly addictive tobacco products out of our high schools by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
We passed a number of other measures, including a bill to support nursing facilities and residential care facilities, a bill to improve access to opiate addiction treatment in Maine, a bill to increase the affordability of safe drinking water, a bill to establish a task force to identify special education cost drivers, and a bill to set up retail marijuana testing facilities so we can ensure public safety once the new law, passed on last November’s ballot, takes full effect.
With this, the first session of the 128th Legislature adjourned for the year. We will reconvene in January of next year to begin the second session, which is the shorter of the two and is expected to adjourn next April. We may also meet once more this fall in a special session to vote on proposals approved by the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee.
All said and done, this session was the longest in our state’s history, and it has proven to be a memorable one for the books.
If you would like to contact me about future legislation, please call 287-1505 or email me at email@example.com.
(Sen. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, represents all of Lincoln County except Dresden, plus Washington and Windsor. He is the Senate chair of the Taxation Committee and also sits on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee.)