By Rep. Lynne Williams
As we approach the new year, my wishes for all of you include health, happiness and prosperity, whatever your definition of prosperity is. As challenging as this year has been, every year brings challenges of various types, and it is not surprising that facing medical issues, or the possibility of such, is scary. My own year was one of transitions within transitions – not scary, but somewhat unnerving.
As a new legislator, it was exciting to begin my work in Augusta. However, sitting 6 feet apart from each other, while wearing masks, at the Civic Center did not make it easy to get to know my fellow legislators. Eventually we moved to the House Chamber in the State House and were able to get to interact a little more easily.
As a member of the Transportation Committee, I found my committee work to be an interesting learning experience. I am a big supporter of increasing rail in Maine, and we passed two bills that will study creating light rail between Portland and Lewiston Auburn and extending rail from Portland, through Waterville, and onward to Bangor. I am very excited about both of those possibilities.
I was proud to be the lead House sponsor, along with my lead Senate co-sponsor Troy Jackson, of a bill that will greatly increase oversight of the Office of Marijuana Policy by requiring all their rules changes to come to the Legislature for a vote. This was a truly bipartisan bill, sponsored by four Democrats, three Republicans and one independent, and was passed by a vote of 117-25, a veto-proof majority.
In addition, my bill that would have imposed a minor increase in the real estate transfer tax, but only for properties sold for a million dollars or more, passed out of both Houses, but was then vetoed by the Governor. The income from the minor increase would have gone to help fund affordable housing in the state. Truly an opportunity lost.
On Jan. 5, 2022, we move into the second year of the 130th Legislative Session. There are still hundreds of bills that will have to go through committee hearings and eventually achieve passage or defeat. I am a co-sponsor of a bill put forth by Secretary of State Shenna Bellows that would create a system of electronic titling of vehicles. As the secretary stated, “[this] will help us chart a path forward to reduce bureaucracy for Mainers while streamlining back-end work for state BMV employees and our municipal partners.”
Also in the upcoming second session, I am sponsoring a bill that is a follow-up to the medical marijuana bill we passed this year. This new bill will add details to the law and will direct the Office of Marijuana Policy to prepare economic impact studies prior to adopting any rules impacting small medical marijuana businesses. Such studies are already required by statute when rules changes of any other agency may impact or place an undue burden on small businesses, typically those with 20 or fewer employees. And bills submitted by other legislators will be addressing many topics, including increasing affordable housing, and I think we have an opportunity to make changes for the betterment of all Mainers.
In addition to my legislative work, I have been working hard with the opponents of the proposed semi-closed pen industrial salmon farm proposed for Frenchman Bay. On so many levels, this proposed facility is not in any way appropriate for Frenchman Bay. If you would like to learn more about the proposal, please go to www.frenchmanbayunited.org.
All of this said, and projecting forward, there remains much to be done to improve the lives of Maine citizens and support our small businesses and our creative sectors. I am committed to doing this work and look forward to continuing my efforts in the Legislature for as long as I am able.
Rep. Lynne Williams is an attorney and represents the towns of Bar Harbor, Cranberry Isles, Lamoine and Mount Desert. She is in her first term in the Maine House of Representatives and serves on the Transportation Committee as well as serving as the Legislative Representative to the Zone B Lobster Council.