October 5, 2021 Article

Legislative Alert: Special Session, Redistricting, and Cloture

The Legislature gathered for a Special Session last week, September 29th, to vote on legislative redistricting. The final agreement passed successfully and with strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Other than the reappointment to their respective committees of Republican members who had refused to wear masks at the end of the 1st Special Session, a joint order to allow the Legislative Council to submit an amicus brief in the lawsuit against NOAA regarding lobstering regulations, and several significant and heartfelt memorial sentiments, there were no other policy matters or relevant issues considered.  

The Apportionment Commission had met several times this past month, to review and vote on redistricting plans for Maine’s two Congressional Districts, our State House, and Senate Districts, and our County Commissioner Districts. The House and County Commissioner Districts were presented as bipartisan proposals and accepted by the full commission in early September. The Congressional districts were always very similar, but whether Waterville would go back to the 2nd District or remain in the 1st District, as it has been since the last census, remained a barrier to a unified map. The parties did present a bipartisan compromise last week which left Waterville in the 1st District, but moved Augusta and other Kennebec County towns between the current districts into the 2nd District. This resulted in a map which brings several hundred more Biden voters than Trump voters into the 2nd Congressional District, but it is more evenly split than it would have been had Waterville come into the 2nd District. The full commission voted to accept this compromise.

The final sticking point had been the State Senate District maps, but in the afternoon of the final day allowed for the Commission to take action, Monday, September 27th, the parties presented a unified proposal that was accepted by the full commission. A member of the Preti team caught one potential problem with the redrawing of the Senate Districts in Lincoln and Sagadahoc Counties and alerted the Senate leadership. This problem was rectified, with agreement by all parties, in time for the votes in the House and the Senate.

Cloture and Bill Requests

Cloture for the Second Regular Session of the130th Legislature was September 24th, and the list of the titles of these Legislative Requests was recently released. 130th Lists of Bills | Maine State Legislature.  This means any new legislation to be considered in the Second Regular Session convening on Wednesday, January 5th was to be submitted by that deadline. Although the Governor can submit bills at any time, Agencies have already submitted bills, which can be also accessed through the above link.

As is always the case in the Second Regular Session of the Legislature, the “Short Session,” ALL legislation submitted by legislators must receive the support of 6 members of the 10 member Legislative Council in order to be considered this session. All short session bill requests are meant to represent an “emergency” or urgent need that needs to be addressed. This does NOT mean each bill will have an emergency clause and require a two-thirds vote. The Legislature has always defined “emergency” loosely in the Second Regular Session.

The October Legislative Council meeting will be Monday, October 25th, beginning at 10:00 AM. At this meeting, the Council will be considering bill requests for introduction to the Second Regular Session. While bill request language must be submitted to the Revisors’ office by September 24th, they will not begin drafting anything until the Legislative Council has agreed to let the bill in for consideration.

MOST bill requests will NOT be allowed in, but legislators who have had a bill request or requests rejected at the October meeting can file an appeal with the Council. The Council will take up these appeals on Thursday, November 18th. Because the Council is composed of 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans, this selection process becomes partisan.

The work of getting a bill through this process is before the October 25th meeting or between the two meetings if the request failed in the first meeting. The legislators, and/or the advocates who are supporting a bill request, must have conversations with the ten members of legislative leadership to secure a majority of their votes BEFORE the Council meetings. While this may not be possible for every council member, if one can gain the support of one or more member of each party, or the majority party, one is likely to get their support in the behind-closed-doors meetings in which all these decisions are actually made. 

The Preti team will be advocating with Legislative Leadership to assure any relevant bill requests get affirmative votes (or negative votes as the case may be) in the meetings mentioned above, and we will confer with the relevant clients as we proceed. We will also pursue any meetings and conversations necessary for clients to prepare for relevant carry-over bills.

COVID-19 Effects

Much of the summer has been, and the fall will be, spent assessing the continuing repercussions of COVID-19, and opposition to masking and immunization, on schools, businesses, government, and other public institutions, and, of course, individuals and families.

At this time, Governor Mills has mandated immunization for healthcare workers but has postponed the deadline to November 1st. Many health care providers, who have been having difficulty maintaining a stable workforce since before the epidemic, are now facing a crisis in workforce shortages. Preti Flaherty was able to secure significant increases in wages for many of these frontline workers, however, the nationwide workforce shortage, and corresponding competitive wages offered by businesses outside the healthcare industry, continues to create an untenable situation for providers.

Post-secondary and preK-12 schools re-opened at the beginning of September. The pandemic continues to cause families, teachers, and administrators great concern regarding whether to have mask mandates, whether to meet in-person, or be forced to, once again, move to remote learning. Several of our clients are impacted by these issues and whether, or how, the Mills Administration will mandate and/or offer more resources and support to all of Maine’s educational institutions.

Rulemaking and Stakeholder Groups

Rulemaking generated from legislation passed into law last session continues and is of interest to many clients in the areas of healthcare, education, marijuana policy and environmental protection. Every Wednesday, the rulemaking notices are published by the office of the Secretary of State. Our team reviews these on behalf of clients, but the link above will allow you to find information regarding the proposed rules as well.

In addition, several study and stakeholder groups were formed last session. Some of these specifically name clients as being required to be included. The administrators of these groups are starting to reach out to interested parties to nominate members and let the public know when the meetings will occur. 

Our team continues to be in contact with the administration and legislative staff concerning these and many other issues of concern to our clients.

The Second Regular Session of the Legislature will commence on January 5th, 2022 and, by statute, is meant to adjourn on April 20th, 2022. Please do not hesitate to contact us as we all prepare for the coming session.

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