Next week, Maine’s Legislature begins its first full week of public hearings on a range of legislative proposals. Below is a rundown on a few of the highlights.

Loosening Regulations on Dancing to Karaoke

On Monday, January 23, Sen. Dave Miramant (D-Knox Cty.) will present a proposal before the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee to allow berthing vessels to apply for a special license to serve liquor and beer on overnight voyages. Miramant says the measure is for boats that want to serve local craft beer or wine on cruises. On the same day, Rep. Beth Turner (R-Burlington) will present LD 30, which would allow people to dance at karaoke events that serve alcohol without a special permit. Current law prohibits dancing and “some other forms of entertainment” at establishments licensed to sell liquor for consumption unless the licensee has been issued an amusement permit from the municipality where the establishment is located.

Grant Funding to College Students 

Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland) has sponsored LD 32 to increase the minimum grant amount in the Maine State Grant Program from $1,000 to $2,000. The program provides need-based grants to Maine undergraduate students. Millett has also submitted a bill to establish a special task force of legislators, state education officials and business representatives to examine and review rates of college completion, statewide postsecondary education attainment goals, college affordability and completion, and strategies to enable college completion and support workforce development. The task force would be required to submit its findings and recommendations to the Legislature in December. Both bills will be heard by the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on Tuesday, January 24. 

Health & Life Insurance Regulation

Also on Tuesday, the Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee will consider a bill to prohibit health insurance companies from retroactively reducing payments on claims by pharmacy providers. LD 6, sponsored by Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Penobscot Cty.), would also prohibit insurance carriers from charging or holding a pharmacy provider responsible for any fee related to a claim that is not apparent at the time the claim is processed. 

The committee will also hear LD 12, sponsored by Rep. Catherine Nadeau (D-Winslow), which would prohibit a denial of coverage or an increase in insurance premiums for life insurance, disability insurance or long-term care insurance for living organ donors. The bill would also require the Department of Health and Human Services to educate the public on live organ donations, which often happen between family members or close friends.

Plastic Bag Ban

Next week, Rep. Mick Devin (D-Newcastle) will present LD 57, which would prohibit retailers from using plastic bags after September 1, 2020. A similar bill was defeated last session after the Department of Environmental Protection opposed it. The Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hear Devin’s bill on Wednesday, January 25.

New Science Education Standards

On the same day, Devin will also present LD 49 to the Edcuation Committee, which would require the Department of Education to include the so-called Next Generation Science Standards for kindergarten to grade 12 in the state’s system of learning results and assessment. The measure would replace the current Maine science standards with the new set of standards developed by a consortium of 26 states, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Research Council, as well as the corporate-funded nonprofit Achieve, which is responsible for developing the controversial Common Core standards for English and math. Last session, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the Next Gen science standards because he believed it presented an unfunded mandate to schools. Conservatives have also opposed Next Gen because it includes language that global warming is caused by human activity. 

Pharma Bro Bill

On Thursday, January 26, Rep. Mick Devin will also introduce LD 2, which would prohibit pharmaceutical companies from making bad-faith assertions of patent infringement on various medicines. It’s currently against the law for any person to make a bad faith assertion of patent infringement against another person, with the exception of pharmaceutical companies. Devin says he hopes the bill will get support following  public outrage over Martin Shkreli’s decision to purchase the manufacturing license for an antiparasitic drug and then dramatically raise its price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Over the weekend, the so-called “Pharma Bro” was reportedly pelted with dog excrement at University of California Davis, where campus Republicans had invited him to speak.