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Maine legislators prepare for 2020 second session with hot-topic bills

This past week, Maine legislators have been debating and paring down the long list of over 400 potential bills to be argued during the 2020 legislative session.

The titles of the bills, which have been released to the public, cover a wide variety of topics. Included are legal marijuana designations, protections from propane explosions and healthcare expansion measures.

During the session, the ten-member body, which currently has a Democratic-majority-approved 133 total bills. Of these bills, 125 were sponsored by Democrats, and eight were sponsored by Republicans.

Although for the second session, which will be starting in January 2020, legislators usually only designate “emergency bills” for debate, during the meeting of the Legislative Council, a high amount of non-emergency bills were approved. By definition, an emergency bill is outlined in the Maine Constitution as a bill that is “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety.”

Some of the non-emergency bills which made it to the debate process focused on improving education resources, such as LR 3054 Title: “An Act to Provide a Sales Tax Exemption for Textbooks,” and LR 2885 Title: “An Act to Strengthen Maritime Education.” Others focused on labor rights and career opportunities, such as LR 2777 Title: “An Act to Set a Minimum Wage for School Support Staff,” and LR 2896 Title: “An Act to Establish a Career Path for Adjunct Professor in Maine’s Public University and College System.”

Other bills are tackling immediate community issues such as propane monitoring and vaping regulations. LR 2834 Title: “An Act Regarding the Use of Propane and Natural Gas Detectors,” is a response to the propane leak which caused an explosion that killed a firefighter in September. The incident was caused by a propane leak that was not properly managed. The bill seeks to prevent further community damage by monitoring propane and natural gas lines more closely in hopes of detecting leaks before they become a community threat. An act would also prevent the sale of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarette) and vaporizers to anyone under the age of 21, which is a direct response to the number of injuries and fatalities suffered by e-cigarette users around the country over the past months.

Also considered, but ultimately rejected, were bills that would increase regulations on firearms, as many have voiced their concern for the rising number of violent gun deaths related to mass shootings around the country. Gun control is hotly debated around the country and here in Maine where many residents are gun owners. However, of the seven potential bills, an act which would make granting a child access to firearms a case of “child endangerment” was rejected.

Other rejected bills included amendments and community standards. LR 2828 Title: “An Act to Conform State Labor Law with Federal Labor Law,” which would protect the First Amendment rights of public employees, was not approved for the second session in Jan. 2020. Another bill that was not approved was an act to prohibit the confinement of egg-laying hens whose eggs were being sold as profit, which is centered at the debate on cage-free and humanely raised chicken products. This legislation may see the state floor in the future requiring cage-free eggs around the state, but for now, the focus stays on health care, climate, education and public safety.

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