To the Editor:
With the summer now behind us, here is a review of the first legislative session which concluded in the middle of July.
In a defining way, the Legislature united across many expected political divisions to override an unprecedented number of gubernatorial vetoes. I am proud of that bipartisan work.
As we began this session with Democrats holding the majority in the House and Republicans the majority in the Senate, many expected that our work would be structurally gridlocked. Instead, as a body, the Legislature wasted relatively little time on partisan set pieces and instead focused pragmatically on policy that could gain bipartisan support between House and Senate.
The Legislature considered more than 1,400 bills this year. Nearly three-quarters of these bills received unanimous recommendations from their respective legislative policy committees, jointly chaired by House Democrats and Senate Republicans.
About half of these unanimous reports supported the proposed bills and half recommended against passage. Roughly 30 percent of introduced bills were then enacted by both the House and the Senate.
Midway through the session, the increasingly isolated governor declared that he would veto all subsequently enacted bills that had been sponsored by Democrats. The governor’s veto policy quickly expanded to include all bills regardless of policy or original sponsorship.
By the session’s end, the governor had vetoed 181 enacted bills, including the complete budgets for the state’s general fund and for transportation. In an overwhelmingly bipartisan response, the Legislature overturned 127 of the governor’s vetoes, largely without debate.
In the final day of the session, the governor delivered veto letters for an additional 65 enacted bills. But the Legislature asserted (and the Supreme Court subsequently confirmed) that the governor had missed the constitutional deadline to veto these bills, and that in the interim, they had properly become law.
In this climate, you will understand why I was very gratified to have eight of my own bills become law and to have three more carried over to the second session. Another 16 bills that I cosponsored became law.
Our most significant achievement surely was the enactment of the state budget, avoiding the government shutdowns through which many other states such as New Hampshire and Illinois are still struggling.
I am proud of that work and of the bipartisan leadership from House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate President Mike Thibodeau that resulted, against all odds, in a fair compromise budget that contained property tax relief, lower income taxes for the middle class and more investment in our students and workers. That accomplishment reinforces my belief that public policy-making in Maine has not devolved into the stalemates of posturing and polarization which unfortunately now color the federal legislative process.
While the Bar Harbor Ferry Terminal bond bill officially was carried over to the second session, the funds that I sought were included in the larger $85 million transportation bond bill which the Legislature approved, the governor signed, and which will go to the voters in November.
LD 600, “An Act To Prohibit a Person Convicted of a Crime of Domestic Violence from Possessing a Firearm for a Period of 5 Years and To Better Align Maine Law with Federal Law Regarding Persons Prohibited from Possessing Firearms,” adds to the list of persons prohibited from possessing firearms: fugitives, drug addicts, illegal non-citizens, those discharged dishonorably from military services and those recently convicted of domestic violence. I supported this bill. It became law despite the governor’s veto.
Another bill I co-sponsored, LD 427, “An Act To Address and Mitigate the Effects of Marine Debris,” proposes to enact measures to address and mitigate plastic pollution in the marine environment, including but not limited to micro-debris pollution. For the purpose of this resolve, “micro-debris” means particles of plastic approximately 5 to 10 microns in length that may be ingested by filter-feeding organisms in the marine environment.
It was carried over to second legislative session.
On the education front, a bill I sponsored, LD 131 “An Act To Amend the Laws Related to Public Funding of Charter Schools,” transferred to the state the liability for the full public allocation for charter school funding. It became law with the governor’s signature and was recognized as the second most important bill of the session in a Press Herald op-ed.
As always, I urge the Islander’s readers to let me know their thoughts and concerns about state policy. It remains my honor and privilege to serve as this area’s representative.
Rep. Brian Hubbell