Viewpoint: Delivering results for the people of Maine 



By Rep. Genevieve McDonald 

The last 16 months have been a whirlwind. The pandemic has taken over 880 lives in Maine, caused thousands of layoffs and brought immeasurable instability and uncertainty into our lives. It was a legislative session like no other, and while COVID-19 brought to light the cracks in our systems, it also brought about widespread, bipartisan agreement that big problems can’t be solved with piecemeal solutions. In both D.C. and Augusta, this has spurred the passage of historic pieces of legislation that will bring significant opportunities and economic relief to our communities for years to come. In Augusta, we were able to achieve a bipartisan budget deal that makes historic investments in education funding, health care, property tax relief and climate change mitigation. I’m proud to share that seven of my own bills also became law this year. 

One of my bills that was signed into law, LD 1023, defines intentional balloon releases as an act of littering, addressing an issue that fishermen have wrestled with under the radar for years. It’s an issue I hear about frequently from a wide variety of constituents. Discarded balloons are one of the most common and harmful types of plastic we see on the water. Hopefully, with this new law, more people will realize they shouldn’t be littering, damaging ocean life and negatively impacting our marine ecosystem.  

Another measure I sponsored, LD 994, a bill that decriminalizes the possession of hypodermic syringes, was also signed into law and received unanimous, bipartisan support in the Legislature. This will improve public health and ensure more Mainers affected by drug use and substance use disorder can access sterile supplies, support services and treatment. It will prevent the spread of dangerous infections from used syringes, reduce overdose deaths and divert people away from the criminal justice system. This is an important victory for Maine’s harm reduction and recovery communities and for public health.  

Two additional successful bills I sponsored were LD 1486 and LD 1612, both of which strengthen Maine’s ability to fight child abuse and underage human trafficking. LD 1486 changes the Maine Criminal Code to specify that a person who attempts to patronize prostitution of a minor still commits the crime even when the person they attempt to patronize is posing as a minor for the purpose of a law enforcement investigation. The measure also upgrades the crime of patronizing underage prostitution from a Class D crime to a Class C crime. My other bill, LD 1612, gives the court discretion to allow children under 14 to testify remotely in sexual abuse cases outside of the physical presence of the defendant.

Finally, I was able to pass LD 1605, An Act To License Ambulance Drivers Who Are Not Licensed To Provide Emergency Medical Services. This new law acknowledges the vital work ambulance drivers do and better addresses the needs of small communities with volunteer first responders. Ambulance drivers carry out life-saving duties by assuring that patients arrive swiftly and safely to a medical treatment center, and this law grants them the same protections as their EMT counterparts.  

Looking ahead, even though the Legislature has adjourned, there is still work to be done as some committees continue to meet and working groups assemble to do the research and reporting we voted to assign them. During the off-session, I will be continuing my role as chair of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee (GOC), which audits and investigates state government agencies. Recently, my focus on GOC has been on child welfare. We cannot allow the system to fail a single child. 

It is a profound honor to be serving the people of House District 134 in the Maine Legislature. Even with all the challenges brought on by the pandemic, I’m proud of the work my colleagues and I were able to accomplish this year. However, every victory in the State House, from property tax relief to efforts to protect our environment, is thanks to the people of Maine for speaking out, contacting their legislators and showing up at the polls. 

If you have any questions, concerns or ideas, I would love to hear from you. My email is [email protected] and my phone number is (207) 266-5113.  

 

Rep. Genevieve McDonald represents District 134 in the House of Representatives. The district includes the towns of Frenchboro, Swan’s Island, Southwest Harbor, Tremont, Stonington, Deer Isle, Cranberry Isles, Vinalhaven, Isle au Haut, North Haven and the Marshall Island Township. 

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