Maine Legislature has fallen behind as session nears final month

Left: Speaker of the Maine House Sara Gideon (D – Freeport)
Right: Senate President Troy Jackson (D – Aroostook).

AUGUSTA – As of Wednesday, the Maine Legislature had fallen behind in working through the more than 2,000 bills that were introduced this session.

The session has seen some of the more extreme proposals the Maine Legislature has considered in recent years, and that could be a factor in holding up consideration of as many bills.

This week, the legislature still had more than 850 bills sitting in committees, waiting to be reported out to the full legislature. The Office of Reviser of Statutes was still drafting nearly 40 bills for introduction to the legislature and those bills would still have to be sent to committees for consideration. Almost 100 additional bills are ‘out for signature’, those bills would also have to go through the committee process.

Some proposals, such as taxpayer funding of abortion; allowing abortions to be performed without a doctor present; an attempt to eliminate the philosophical and religious exemptions in Maine’s vaccine law; a ‘red flag’ gun confiscation law; a proposal to fund welfare for non-citizens or a proposal to relax Maine’s laws around trafficking fentanyl, heroine and cocaine, have drawn significant controversy.

At the same time, the legislature is considering Governor Janet Mills’ budget proposal, which brings total state spending to over $8 billion, an increase of 11%. That proposal, which would spend 33% of state budget dollars at the Department of Health and Human Services, does not include any additional spending lawmakers decide they want to do, or the more than $2 billion in bonds being proposed.

Speaker Gideon recently admonished members of the House, saying too many Representatives were taking the opportunity to speak in floor debates, and for too many actual legislative motions being made that she said were delaying committee work.

That, however, is the process that lawmakers go to Augusta to participate in on behalf of their constituents, so it is an unusual step for the presiding officer of the chamber to suggest they not do so.

With the goal of wrapping up the legislative session on June 19th, the number of bills still yet to reach the full legislature mean that aside from the legislation that is already in either the Maine House or Senate, lawmakers would need to work through about 35 pieces of new legislation every weekday between now and the deadline.

Because Speaker Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson have not scheduled house sessions for all weekdays (next week the full legislature will only convene Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) the math becomes more difficult by the day if the legislature is to consider all proposals before it.

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