It took long days and nights, but the Legislature has wrapped up our work for the time being. Maine’s citizen Legislature means that we’re only in session for about half the year, and most legislators have other full-time jobs. We voted on hundreds of bills over the last few weeks, and I’m so grateful to my wonderful colleagues and the dedicated staff who make this all possible, as well as the many Mainers who reach out to share their perspective on the issues. It’s truly a privilege to serve. But with so much going on, I wanted to take a moment and share updates on some of the bills I sponsored this session.
Those of you who know me know that protecting the environment and our natural resources is one of my biggest priorities. This session, I sponsored a bill to add an amendment to the Maine constitution guaranteeing the right to a healthy environment. We rely on our environment for so much – our health, our recreation, our livelihood – and the Pine Tree Amendment would ensure that no government, law or permit can take that away. I also sponsored a bill to help schools switch to more renewable energy resources – without putting an undue burden on property taxpayers.
Another of my priorities is making our elections more fair and accessible for Maine voters. In addition to voting down a series of bills aimed at making it more difficult for Mainers to vote, I sponsored two bills to improve our election processes. The first bill creates semi-open primaries in Maine, so that the hundreds of thousands of independent Maine voters can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary each cycle. Many races are all but decided in the primary, and even though unenrolled voters pay for these elections with their tax dollars, they can’t participate. This bill will help make our process more democratic, while putting some safeguards in place to ensure people don’t abuse the system. Another of my bills closes loopholes in campaign finance rules to make sure Legislative candidates aren’t unfairly enriching themselves while seeking office.
One bill I’m excited about creates a pilot program to expand transportation assistance to Maine seniors and people with disabilities who are on MaineCare. Right now, these folks get help travelling to medical appointments, but they need help with other transportation – like to the grocery store. A lack of transportation leads to isolation, and isolation has been proven to create physical, mental and emotional health problems. The 2016 Shared Community Health Needs Assessment for Lincoln County cites a lack of transportation as one of the biggest health factors leading to poor health outcomes in our communities. This pilot project will help us understand if more transportation assistance to folks on MaineCare leads to better health care outcomes.
Another bill I sponsored seeks to bring recovery centers to more Maine communities, so that people don’t have to travel to Portland or Bangor to get well. When people can stay in their communities and with their families in a supportive recovery environment, they have the best chance of success. Another bill makes deferred disposition programs available to more people guilty of committing low-level crimes, giving them the opportunity to get treatment, work on getting themselves back on the right track and repair the damage they’ve done while staying with their families. I also sponsored a bill to direct some one-time funding to the Frances Perkins Homestead, to help this historic place match the required funding for a very competitive federal grant they were recently awarded.
With the exception of the Pine Tree Amendment, which was carried over for further work next year, all these bills were passed by the Legislature. They have either been signed into law, are awaiting final passage or are awaiting funding in final budget negotiations. I’m incredibly proud of the set of bills I sponsored this session, and I believe they will all make a difference in the lives of people in our communities.
Even though we’re done in Augusta for now, I’m still here to help however I can, or to answer any questions you have about these bills. You can email me at Chloe.Maxmin@legislature.maine.gov, call my cell phone at (207) 200-6224, sign up for my newsletter at mainesenate.org, or follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/ChloeForSenate, even if you don’t have a Facebook account yourself.