(Photo by Dan Kirchoff)
(Photo by Dan Kirchoff)
Governor Janet Mills signed a two-year state budget on Monday that neither the right nor the left is overly excited about. But they didn’t shut down the government this time, so, by that measure, it was quite an accomplishment. The proposal keeps Mills’ promise not to raise taxes or, put another way, it effectively locks in former Gov. Paul LePage’s income tax cuts that primarily benefit wealthy people and the heirs of multimillionaires. By spending $7.98 billion over the next two years, it also meets the Republicans’ demand not to go over $8 billion. But it also funds Medicaid expansion, raises teacher base salaries and increases funding for education, so there are some things to like for progressive-minded folks. All in all, it’s a moderate liberal budget, and that was reflected in the generally moderate tone of its crafters.

“Mainers have charged us with crafting a strong, responsible and bipartisan budget that meets the most pressing needs of this state, while both staying within our means and setting aside savings for the future,” said Sen. Cathy Breen (D-Cumberland County), the Senate chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Gov. Mills was a little more celebratory in her remarks on the budget deal.

“By expanding access to health care, improving our education system, delivering property tax relief, and putting money into the Rainy Day Fund, this bipartisan budget invests in Maine’s future and delivers what Maine people want,” said Governor Mills.

The new budget expands property tax relief programs and raises municipal revenue sharing, which is the share of tax revenue that the state sends to cities and towns, from 2.5 percent to 3 percent next year and 3.8 percent the following year. However, this actually amounts to a cut in revenue sharing because it was automatically supposed to rise to its pre-LePage, 5-percent level on July 1. The budget also provides the required $125 million match to expand Medicaid coverage to 70,000 low-income Mainers. It allocates $5 million to support sexual assault and domestic violence services, slightly expands a program to help elderly Mainers buy prescription drugs and adds 62 new child protective case workers. It also provides $5.5 million for drug abuse prevention programs, increases the weekly rate for medication-assisted opioid addiction treatment (MAT) and eliminates the two-year limit for MAT. It also appropriates $5 million for smoking cessation and prevention efforts.

The budget also raises the state’s share of funding for education to a little over 50 percent, still far short of the voter-mandated 55 percent. It also reimburses local municipalities for the cost to raise teacher base salaries to $40,000 a year, provides $18 million for school maintenance and eliminates the “reduced-lunch” category and includes those schoolchildren, instead, in the free-lunch category. The budget increases funding for adult education and provides a 3-percent increase in funding for the University of Maine and the Community College systems. It appropriates $4 million to provide rural development grants to expand broadband, provides more funding for renewable energy and establishes state planning infrastructure focused on energy and climate policy.

While Republican leaders begrudgingly supported the budget, they criticized it for increasing spending and not squirreling away enough money in reserve accounts. They also panned the budget for reducing revenue sharing, even though many of them voted to cut revenue sharing when LePage was governor.

“I am disappointed that $185 million in savings left over from last year will be used to balance the next budget when that money should have been put in the rainy-day fund as insurance against future challenges,” said Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow (R-Lincoln County) in floor remarks last week. “There are some indications that show we will see some form of economic downturn during the life of this budget and we should be better prepared for this.”

Progressives decried the budget for not funding several bills that passed both houses and are now languishing on the Appropriations table — such as LD 1689, which would expand access to safe syringe exchanges and the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. In a statement, the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) echoed the sentiments of many left-leaning activists who rallied in Augusta several times this session for a more progressive tax system, only to see their proposals die a slow death.

“Maine’s budget negotiations are a perpetual challenge because of lopsided tax cuts that rob the state of the resources we need to invest in our schools, our communities, and other priorities that support our economy,” said Garrett Martin, MECEP executive director.

“Reversing LePage-era tax cuts for the wealthiest would have put budget negotiators in a position to fully fund, for the first time ever, our children’s schools and the local services upon which families and businesses rely. While this budget moves in the right direction, it’s failure to un-rig our tax code means these core commitments will remain underfunded.”

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State Budget – Fiscal Year 2020-21
House (104 Yeas, 38 Nays)

Anne Beebe-Center (D-Rockland) Y
Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport) Y
Michael Devin (D-Newcastle) E
Jan Dodge (D-Belfast) Y
Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) Y
Jeff Evangelos (U-Friendship) Y
Jeffrey Hanley (R-Pittston) N
MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) X
Ann Matlack (D-St. George) Y
Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro) Y
Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) Y
Bill Pluecker (U-Warren) Y
Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) Y
Stanley Paige Zeigler (D-Montville) Y
Senate (25 Yeas, 9 Nays)
Dana Dow (R-Lincoln Cty) Y
Erin Herbig (D-Belfast) Y
Dave Miramant (D-Knox Cty) Y
U= unenrolled; X = absent; E = excused

Amendment Barring Non-Citizens from Voting Fails

The Maine Legislature voted on party lines to reject constitutional amendments (LD 186 and LD 1372) that would have specified that only U.S. citizens may vote in state, county and municipal elections. Republicans submitted the bills in response to an effort by Portland leaders to allow non-citizens to vote in the city’s local elections.

“While it is true that many non-citizens currently residing here in the United States have come for good and wholesome intentions, whether fleeing violence, joining their fellow family members, or simply to partake in our grand bastion of liberty and opportunity, it remains that until the point they have earned the rights and obligations of citizenship we have no reason nor legal reasoning to afford them such rights of citizens,” testified Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro. “To do so is not only a slap in the face to both heritage Americans and immigrants and their descendants alike (or those of us like myself who are a combination of both), cheapening the very essence of what it means to be a citizen, but it would be a reckless and dangerous path which destination cannot be fathomed.”

The bills were opposed by the ACLU and Maine Municipal Association, which argued that they would limit home-rule authority.

“Everyone who pays taxes, lives in community, and sends their children to local schools should have a voice in how their community is governed,” said Meaghan Sway of the ACLU of Maine in testimony. “If Portland or other towns wish to amend their own charters to give their residents a voice in municipal elections, the Legislature should not create a constitutional barrier. The committee should not give in to the urge to stigmatize and de-value non-citizens, and should instead turn its attention to proactive legislation that expands rights and freedoms.”

But Attorney General Aaron Frey said the whole debate is moot because current law already prohibits municipalities from adopting ordinances to allow non-citizens to vote.

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LD 186 — Non-Citizen Voting Ban (Motion to reject)
House (80 Yeas, 52 Nays)

Anne Beebe-Center (D-Rockland) Y
Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport) Y
Michael Devin (D-Newcastle) E
Jan Dodge (D-Belfast) Y
Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) Y
Jeff Evangelos (U-Friendship) Y
Jeffrey Hanley (R-Pittston) N
MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) N
Ann Matlack (D-St. George) Y
Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro) Y
Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) Y
Bill Pluecker (U-Warren) Y
Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) Y
Stanley Paige Zeigler (D-Montville) Y
U= unenrolled; X = absent; E = excused

Local Option Sales Tax Proposal Fails

The Maine Senate last week voted down LD 1254, which would have allowed cities and towns to impose a 1-percent local option meals and lodging tax by municipal referendum. Seventy-five percent of the revenue would have been distributed to the municipality imposing the tax and 25 percent to the Maine Rural Development Authority.

“By targeting meals and lodging, this tax would largely be paid by tourists in the service centers of our fine state,” said Rep. Mike Sylvester (D-Peaks Island), the bill’s sponsor, last week. “The imposition of the tax would be most desirable in cities and towns where large numbers of tourists come. This is due to the fact that our out of state visitors while providing jobs with their presence are a burden on road, police, water and other infrastructure while provide no direct benefit to the municipalities which host them.”

But opponents said the bill would also hit Mainers who don’t live in those communities and it could harm future attempts to fully restore municipal revenue sharing.

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LD 1254 — Local Option Sales Tax
House (73 Yeas, 70 Nays)

Anne Beebe-Center (D-Rockland) Y
Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport) Y
Michael Devin (D-Newcastle) E
Jan Dodge (D-Belfast) Y
Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) N
Jeff Evangelos (U-Friendship) Y
Jeffrey Hanley (R-Pittston) N
MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) N
Ann Matlack (D-St. George) Y
Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro) Y
Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) Y
Bill Pluecker (U-Warren) N
Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) N
Stanley Paige Zeigler (D-Montville) Y
Senate (14 Yeas, 21 Nays)
Dana Dow (R-Lincoln Cty) N
Erin Herbig (D-Belfast) N
Dave Miramant (D-Knox Cty) N
U= unenrolled; X = absent; E = excused

Legislature Passes Bill to Allow Teachers to Negotiate Prep Time

The Legislature passed a bill that would allow teachers to negotiate with school districts over planning and preparation time. Speaking in favor of the bill, Rep. Jan Dodge (D-Belfast), a retired teacher, said the bill was an “important initiative that will improve instruction.” She said that often teachers lose their prep time because they have to cover for other teachers, attend assemblies, proctor tests or attend to other tasks.

“It is not unreasonable to ask for time in the day to tutor students, to consult with IT, to research supplemental materials, to prepare math manipulatives and science lab components, to conference over test scores to inform lesson units or a multitude of other similar functions,” said Dodge. “On some occasions it might be a quick check in with the guidance department, principal or a school resource officer. There are sometimes crucial contacts and tasks that cannot be easily accomplished outside the parameters and time frames of the school day.”

But Rep. Sawin Millett (R-Waterford), a former Department of Education commissioner who voted for the original teacher collective bargaining bill that banned negotiating over education policy, said it was “unfair to begin to rewrite history and cherry-pick one issue and start a new chapter.”

“You can’t create a separate period of time within a class schedule for all teachers irrespective of the size of the school, the level of grades or the actual current situation of schools in Maine without impacting the schedule,” said Millett. “The schedule is clearly a matter of educational policy. You can’t take a self-contained classroom and create time within the day without bringing another instructor or ed tech in.”

In full disclosure, my employer, the Maine AFL-CIO, lobbied in support of the bill.

Mills Signs Bill to Allow Monhegan Wind Project to Move Forward

Gov. Janet Mills has signed a bill (LD 994) that will direct the Public Utilities Commission to approve a long-term contract for energy capacity from the University of Maine’s proposed Maine Aqua Ventus (MAV) offshore wind project to be sited off Monhegan.

Testifying on the measure UMaine Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development Jake Ward said the developers’ VolturnUS technology is ready for full-scale demonstration and is “recognized as one of the leading floating platform technologies in the world.” In 2017, the Department of Energy awarded UMaine a nearly $40 million grant to support the development of the project, but last year, at the former governor’s urging, the PUC threw a monkey wrench in the project by reopening the terms of a power purchase agreement between MAV and CMP after approving the terms in 2014.

“By awarding this PPA, this bill insures the continued support of the US DOE and the ability of Maine to access the $39.9 million grant funding,” said Ward. “The stakes are high not only for Maine but for the US as there is an international race to develop floating technologies and UMaine represents the US in this race.”

Since 2009, Maine Aqua Ventus — a consortium of private and public entities led by the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center — has been developing the floating wind pilot project. The group proposes to build two 6-megawatt demonstration wind turbines on floating submersible concrete platforms 2.5 miles south of Monhegan Island to provide data to help establish a larger wind farm 20 miles offshore within the next two decades, and potentially in other offshore locations around the world, according to MAV. Offshore wind development has been hampered by the lack of effective and affordable floating platforms and the cost and limitations of fixed offshore structures that can withstand ocean storms.

But some locals, including some fishermen, testified against the bill, saying the test site for the offshore wind project is within the Monhegan Conservation Area and would displce Monhegan fishermen.

“The entire test site for the Maine Aqua Ventus (MAV) offshore wind project is within the Monhegan Conservation Area. Therefore, we are the fishermen most heavily impacted by this project,” the Monhegan Fishermen’s Alliance testified. “The MAV project will directly displace Monhegan fishermen and substantially reduce our livelihood. It is estimated that the wind turbines and the associated mooring system will encompass 10 percent of our historical fishing area for up to 20 years, though it is still unclear what fishing restrictions will be required.”

The Mills administration supported the bill as a way to increase “the amount of homegrown renewable energy available to Maine consumers” and “to create a world-leading industry for floating offshore wind.” However, as Dave Wilby, a wind energy consultant, told the Portland Press Herald last week, Maine may have missed the boat on wind energy investment after years of state control by an administration hostile toward the technology. Most notably, in 2013 Gov. LePage drove the Norwegian energy giant Statoil away, taking with it a planned $120 million investment in a proposed wind farm sited off the Maine coast. The company, now named Equinor, later built Hywind, the first commercial-scale wind farm off Scotland.

“We had a very serious player, then called Statoil, ready to make investments in Maine,” Wilby told the Press Herald. “They currently are making investments in the United States, but elsewhere. They’re still close by. They just understood where the investment opportunity was and they followed it.”

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LD 994 — Monhegan Wind Power
House (85 Yeas, 60 Nays)

Anne Beebe-Center (D-Rockland) Y
Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport) Y
Michael Devin (D-Newcastle) E
Jan Dodge (D-Belfast) Y
Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) Y
Jeff Evangelos (U-Friendship) N
Jeffrey Hanley (R-Pittston) N
MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) N
Ann Matlack (D-St. George) Y
Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro) Y
Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) N
Bill Pluecker (U-Warren) N
Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) Y
Stanley Paige Zeigler (D-Montville) Y
U= unenrolled; X = absent; E = excused

Bill to Allow Towns to Ban Guns at Public Meetings Fails Again

The Legislature once again killed a bill (LD 1470) that would have allowed municipalities to prohibit the carrying of guns into public meetings and voting places. The bill was supported by the Maine Municipal Association, which argued that cities and towns ought to be able to have the right to keep firearms out of government proceedings.

“Under existing law, the state has preempted municipal home rule authority to regulate rearms, with the only exception being the adoption of rearms discharge ordinances related to hunting safety. Under all other circumstances, municipalities cannot regulate the possession of rearms,” wrote Garrett Corbin of the Maine Municipal Association in testimony. “Yet under most other circumstances, since Maine gained statehood, municipalities have been encouraged if not mandated to regulate matters important to local public health and safety.”

But David Trahan of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine said that the proposal would “destroy the long-established principle that state firearm policy is better established by the Legislature” and would create a “hodgepodge of ordinances in the hundreds of municipalities across the state.”

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LD 1470 — Ban Guns at Meetings (Motion to defeat)
House (85 Yeas, 61 Nays)

Anne Beebe-Center (D-Rockland) N
Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport) N
Michael Devin (D-Newcastle) E
Jan Dodge (D-Belfast) N
Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) N
Jeff Evangelos (U-Friendship) Y
Jeffrey Hanley (R-Pittston) Y
MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) Y
Ann Matlack (D-St. George) N
Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro) Y
Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) Y
Bill Pluecker (U-Warren) Y
Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) Y
Stanley Paige Zeigler (D-Montville) Y
Senate (21 Yeas, 14 Nays)
Dana Dow (R-Lincoln Cty) Y
Erin Herbig (D-Belfast) Y
Dave Miramant (D-Knox Cty) N
U= unenrolled; X = absent; E = excused

Legislature Once Again Rejects Bill to Weaken Citizen Referendum

The Legislature also once again rejected a bill (LD 255) that would have amended the Constitution to require that signatures on a citizen-initiative petition come from both congressional districts. The bill was supported by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which has been on the warpath to make it harder to get citizen initiatives on the ballot after fighting off a number of ballot initiatives including a bear-baiting ban and universal background checks for firearms purchases. David Trahan characterized the debate as urban versus rural and northern Maine versus southern Maine.

“As our population migrates further south toward Massachusetts, the distance between urban and rural Maine is growing. According to MapQuest, it takes six hours to travel from Kittery, Maine to Fort Kent, Maine. It takes just four and a half hours to travel from Kittery, Maine to New York City, NY; as a result, political opinions between the ‘two Maines’ are diverse,” wrote Trahan. “As it relates to elected representation this is not an issue, for citizen-initiated referendums, voters in the Second District rural Maine are mostly ignored because petitioners want a quick easy buck.”

But opponents like Rep. John Schneck (D-Bangor) argued that the citizen-initiative process is fine the way it is. “The current system has worked well for a hundred years and there’s very little reason to change it,” said Schneck in a floor speech last week. “The fact that ballot initiatives not only fail to get qualified at the ballot but also at the ballot box shows clearly that the current system is working.”

Legislature Rejects Another Gun Control Bill

The Maine Legislature has voted down a bill (LD 1099) that would have required a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supported the bill, noting that suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents in the U.S. and in Maine and almost half of suicides are caused by firearms.

“Suicides in adolescents are commonly associated with depression and can be highly impulsive. … If access is delayed the deep pain passes and tragedy can be averted,” wrote Deborah Hagler of Harpswell, a practicing pediatrician, on behalf of the AAP. “Most who attempt suicide will not die from suicide. Nine out of 10 will go forward and lead productive full lives unless, of course, the first attempt is with a firearm. Those are lethal 85-90 percent of the time. … States with waiting period laws that delay the receipt of a firearm after the purchase have 51 percent fewer firearm suicides versus states without. Overall these states have about a third less suicides than states that do not have waiting periods. Waiting clearly saves lives.”

Rep. Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) noted in floor remarks last week that there is already a waiting period for people purchasing from licensed dealers.

“To me this bill simply levels the playing field between licensed dealers and private sellers,” she said. “It deals with actual sales, not transfers between friends and family. So let’s get this done and close this gun-show loophole once and for all.”

But testifying for the Gun Owners of Maine, Stephanie Lewis of Wilton said the bill would deprive her of the right to defend herself.

“Criminals don’t obey laws, if they did would they be criminals,” wrote Lewis. “I am a petite female, 5'2" at 128 lbs. I want to be able to protect myself from any type of possible threat such as rape, robbery, or someone threatening bodily harm to me.”

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LD 1099 — Wait to Buy Guns (Motion to Defeat)
House (90 Yeas, 54 Nays)

Anne Beebe-Center (D-Rockland) N
Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport) Y
Michael Devin (D-Newcastle) E
Jan Dodge (D-Belfast) N
Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) N
Jeff Evangelos (U-Friendship) N
Jeffrey Hanley (R-Pittston) Y
MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) X
Ann Matlack (D-St. George) N
Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro) Y
Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) Y
Bill Pluecker (U-Warren) ?
Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) Y
Stanley Paige Zeigler (D-Montville) Y
Senate (24 Yeas, 11 Nays)
Dana Dow (R-Lincoln Cty) Y
Erin Herbig (D-Belfast) Y
Dave Miramant (D-Knox Cty) N
U= unenrolled; X = absent; E = excused

Bill to Ban Pet Shops from Selling Cats and Dogs Passes Legislature

The Maine Legislature has voted to prohibit pet stores from selling cats and dogs, as a way to crack down on puppy mills. The measure (LD 1311) would allow the three pet shops in Maine that are currently selling cats and dogs to continue and it would allow them to transfer the business to a relative to sell the animals. But it would ban new stores from selling cats and dogs. Testifying in favor of the bill, Rebecca Buder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals wrote that most puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills. She argued that while these facilities must be licensed, regulations are limited and enforcement is “abysmal.”

“In fact, USDA-licensed breeders fall far short of what most people would consider humane,” wrote Buder. “For example, the minimum cage size for dogs housed in USDA-licensed facilities is only six inches longer than the dog in each direction. It is legally permissible, and commonplace, for commercial breeders to house breeding dogs in tiny, wire-bottomed cages stacked on top of one another for the dogs’ entire lives. To put this in perspective, a dog the size of an average beagle can be kept in a cage about the size of a household dishwasher for her entire life.”

But Rep. MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) called the bill an “an attack on businesses.”

“This is not going to stop public mills from breeding. That is a national issue,” said Kinney in floor remarks. “And us passing this legislation is not going to stop puppy mill puppies from entering the state of Maine.”

Rep. David McCrea (D-Fort Fairfield) acknowledged that the bill would have a “big impact on puppy mills,” but it would send a clear message that the state wants to diminish the influence that puppy mills.

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LD 1311 — Ban Pet Shops from Selling Dogs & Cats
House (67 Yeas, 79 Nays)

Anne Beebe-Center (D-Rockland) N
Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport) N
Michael Devin (D-Newcastle) E
Jan Dodge (D-Belfast) N
Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) N
Jeff Evangelos (U-Friendship) N
Jeffrey Hanley (R-Pittston) Y
MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) Y
Ann Matlack (D-St. George) Y
Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro) N
Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) N
Bill Pluecker (U-Warren) Y
Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) N
Stanley Paige Zeigler (D-Montville) N
Senate (22 Yeas, 13 Nays)
Dana Dow (R-Lincoln Cty)
Erin Herbig (D-Belfast)
Dave Miramant (D-Knox Cty)
U= unenrolled; X = absent; E = excused

“Student Loan Bill of Rights” Passes

The Legislature has unanimously passed a bill (LD 995) aimed at protecting student loan borrowers from predatory lending practices. Dubbed the “Student Bill of Rights,” the measure sets up a system to oversee student loan servicers and requires the state to investigate servicers that mislead borrowers and commit fraud.

“It is unacceptable that right now, student loan borrowers in Maine who are trying to pay down their student loan debt are being blocked, mislead, manipulated, or being lied to by their loan servicers,” said Sen. Eloise Vitelli, (D-Sagadahoc Cty.), the bill’s sponsor, in a statement. “We need to make sure that student loan borrowers in Maine have protection from unscrupulous loan services, and LD 995 provides the oversight needed to ensure that protection.”

She noted in a press release that Maine already oversees other loan servicers, including mortgage lenders and payday lenders.

Legislature Defeats Overdose Prevention Site Bill

The Maine House voted 93-47 last week to defeat a measure (LD 949) that would have authorized two certified and medically supervised safe injection sites to allow people to consume drugs without fear of arrest. The centers, which are commonly found throughout Europe, permit drug users to use their own personally acquired illicit drugs while medical staff is available to dispense clean needles, administer first aid to prevent overdose deaths and provide counseling to help people into treatment and recovery. The bill would have exempted clients and staff from criminal liability.

Testifying in support of the bill, Kenney Miller — executive director of the Health Equity Alliance and co-founding member of the Maine Harm Reduction Alliance and the Maine Coalition for Sensible Drug Policy — noted that his organization already works closely with people actively using drugs, provides syringe exchange services and distributes naloxone to keep people alive. He said the Maine Coalition for Sensible Drug Policy — which includes several recovery advocacy groups, churches, the ACLU and the NAACP among others — advocates overdose prevention sites as part of a series of recommendations to reform Maine’s drug laws.

“Because when we set aside our cultural biases, our irrational unfounded fears, the myths and lies we’ve been taught about drug use and drug users: overdose prevention sites work,” wrote Kenney. “As advocates before and after me will likely testify, these facilities have the potential to have a significant impact on the opioid crisis plaguing Maine. They enhance the public health, they facilitate recovery, and they enhance public safety.”

A number of studies have shown that overdose prevention sites do in fact save lives, including a 2011 study published in the medical journal The Lancet and a 2014 study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The latter study found that, contrary to popular belief, the facilities do not increase drug injection, drug trafficking or crime in the neighborhoods where they are located. It also found that not only did overdose deaths decline, but the sites were associated with reduced levels of public drug injections and fewer used syringes littering neighborhoods.

Nevertheless, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency predictably testified against the measure, arguing that the US Department of Justice opposes the facilities and that they would “normalize” drug use.

“Their implementation sends a contradictory and harmful message to all citizens, especially our youth, about the sincerity and necessity of the government’s anti-drug policies and creates the appearance that the government endorses the illegal activity,” said Maine DEA Director Roy McKinney.

Currently, there are no legal overdose prevention sites in the US, although a number of cities have proposed opening such facilities. Miller acknowledged the federal government’s adamant opposition to the facilities, but said that there’s a greater risk in doing nothing.

“How many more Mainers have to lose their children, parents, and loved ones before we are emboldened enough to consider this thoroughly-studied, evidence-based strategy to prevent overdose deaths and facilitate recovery?” he asked. In 2018, 282 people in Maine died of drug overdoses, according to the Maine Attorney General’s office.

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LD 949 — Drug Injection Sites (Motion to Defeat)
House (93 Yeas, 47 Nays)

Anne Beebe-Center (D-Rockland) N
Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport) Y
Michael Devin (D-Newcastle) E
Jan Dodge (D-Belfast) N
Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) Y
Jeff Evangelos (U-Friendship) N
Jeffrey Hanley (R-Pittston) Y
MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) Y
Ann Matlack (D-St. George) Y
Chloe Maxmin (D-Nobleboro) N
Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington) N
Bill Pluecker (U-Warren) N
Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) X
Stanley Paige Zeigler (D-Montville) Y
U= unenrolled; X = absent; E = excused

Governor Mills Signs Death with Dignity Act

Last week, Gov. Mills signed LD 1313, known as the Death with Dignity Act, into law. The new law will authorize physicians to prescribe medication to end the life of people with terminal illnesses if they request the assistance.

“It is my hope that this law, while respecting the right to personal liberty, will be used sparingly,” said Mills in a statement, “that we will respect the life of every citizen, with the utmost concern for their spiritual and physical well-being, and that as a society we will be as vigorous in providing full comfort, hospice and palliative care to all persons, no matter their status, location or financial ability, as we are in respecting their right to make this ultimate decision over their own fate and of their own free will.”

Similar laws exist in Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii and Washington, D.C. Mills also issued an executive order requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to report all actions taken by physicians and others to track the use of lethal medications permitted by LD 1313, including any medical, sociodemographic or geographic factors and trends, to “ensure that the personal liberty and autonomy of all Maine people is protected.”