Monday, Oct. 18 saw a slew of new Maine laws officially go into effect. Our constitution mandates that in most cases, laws passed by the Legislature go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns, and Oct. 18 was that day. The Legislature covered a lot of ground this year, so I want to take a moment to give you an overview of the laws we passed and how they will affect your life.
Health care access and affordability was an issue long before the pandemic. To make sure that people who rely on insulin aren’t forced to risk their health by rationing or going without their medicine due to cost, we created the insulin safety net program. Under this program, an emergency 30-day supply of insulin will be available to eligible individuals at any pharmacy for $35 or less by March 2022. To help new mothers and their babies get a healthy start, we passed a law to ensure that mothers have access to the care they need in the months after giving birth. We also established the Office of Affordable Health Care to study the reasons why Mainers pay so much for care and to suggest policies on how we can address this at the state level.
To support Maine’s economy and help fill gaps in critical industries, we invested in competitive workforce training programs by raising the wages apprentices earn. We created the Maine Retirement Savings Program, which will help workers whose employers don’t offer a retirement savings plan prepare for their retirement by putting money away throughout their career. This will help small businesses attract and retain workers, support Mainers as they plan for life after work and help taxpayers by reducing seniors’ reliance on state and federal programs. We also invested in our heritage industries by passing laws like the one that creates the Maine Healthy Soils Program, which will give farmers the resources and tools they need to maintain healthy, fertile soil to support their crops for years to come.
Property taxes have long been a burden for Maine people, especially our seniors. To help seniors stay in their homes and part of their community, we revived a program that allows the state to pay seniors’ property taxes so they can remain at home. The state recoups these costs from participants’ estates later.
Several of the laws that went into effect last month were the result of bills I sponsored. Among them is a new law that will limit the language allowed on state-issued vanity license plates to prohibit obscenities, references to sex acts, and derogatory references to groups protected by the Maine Human Rights Act. I wrote about this bill and the inspiration for it – outreach from many of my constituents – in a previous column for The Windham Eagle.
Also effective as of Oct. 18 are laws I sponsored to increase the penalty for sex trafficking a child; to strengthen the training guardians ad litem must undergo in recognizing and understanding the effects of domestic violence on children; and to dedicate one-mile sections of Maine roads to the 12 state troopers who have died in the line of duty.
The laws I wrote about above are just part of the picture. It doesn’t include over 100 emergency bills that went into effect immediately earlier this year because they were urgent and received bipartisan, two-thirds support in both the House and the Senate. This includes bills to phase out the sale of products containing harmful PFAS chemicals in Maine by 2030; to put more local foods in Maine schools; to study barriers to constructing affordable housing; and a slew of bills to help Maine small businesses survive the pandemic.
The Maine Legislature is currently scheduled to reconvene in January, when we’ll be considering a slate of new measures. Most of my bills facing votes in the new year focus on improving Maine’s child welfare system, and I look forward to sharing more about those as they move through the process.
Like everyone, the legislature was working under difficult and unusual circumstances this past year. It highlighted for me the need to focus on passing bills that would make a real difference in the lives of Maine people, and I believe we accomplished that. If you have questions about any of these new laws, an issue you want to discuss or a challenge I can help you solve, please reach out any time. You can send me an email at email@example.com or call my office at 207-287-1515. <