Maine State House in Augusta (Photo: Dan Kirchoff)
Maine State House in Augusta (Photo: Dan Kirchoff)
After six months off, the Maine Legislature reconvened last week with a stack of 182 new bills for the upcoming session. Midcoast legislators are primary sponsors of 15 of them, from the does-it-really-need-to-be-said (requiring a woman’s explicit consent for a pelvic examination while she is unconscious for an unrelated surgery) to the obliquely administrative (several bills submitted on behalf of state agencies and departments). Here’s a list, with descriptions of each, by district:

House District 89 — Holly Stover (D - Boothbay)

LD 1934 An Act Regarding Prior Authorization for Medication-assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder under the MaineCare Program
Removes a MaineCare requirement for prior authorization of drugs used in Medication Assisted Treatment, an approach to opioid addiction that uses medicine in addition to counseling.

House District 92 — Ann Matlack (D - St. George)

LD 1891 An Act To Protect Maine Propane Consumers upon the Termination of an Agreement between a Dealer and a Consumer
Requires propane dealers to pay back customers for propane left over in tanks when their contract ends. “It had come to my attention that this isn’t how it is always done,” Matlack said. “I think this falls along the lines of clarification and stating it up front.”

House District 94 — Vicki Doudera (D - Camden)

LD 1948 An Act To Prohibit, Except in Emergency Situations, the Performance without Consent of Pelvic Examinations on Unconscious or Anesthetized Patients
Requires that a woman give explicit approval to be given a pelvic exam while unconscious, except when it’s within the scope of the surgery being performed. The legislation, which Doudera said was based on laws enacted in other states, is aimed at a practice, first described in a 2010 Globe & Mail article, of allowing medical students to learn pelvic examinations using women who are unconscious for unrelated surgeries. In June 2010, Vice reported that eight states — California, Illinois, Virginia, Oregon, Hawaii, Iowa, Utah and Maryland — had banned the practice. The Associated Press, in May 2018, reported that a dozen states had introduced bills to ban it. “It’s difficult to know how often it is happening [in Maine],” Doudera said, “but it’s clear to me that teaching hospitals throughout the state have differing informed consent procedures, and not all of them deal with this issue.”

House District 95 — Bill Pluecker (I - Warren)

LD 1941 An Act To Reform Corrections Officer Compensation in Maine
Increases, in response to an “emergency” personnel shortage, the salaries of state corrections officers to match those of state police. Corrections officers currently earn $36,690 to 46,300 per year ($17.64 to $ 22.26 per hour). That would increase to the State Police salary range of $ 47,257 to $63,502. The bill includes officers working at Long Creek Youth Development Center.

House District 97 — Jan Dodge (D - Belfast)

LD 1878 Resolve, To Establish the Commission To Study the Use of Adjunct Professors in Maine’s Public University and College System
Would create a commission to look at the costs and benefits of adjunct professors in the state’s higher education system. Dodge, a retired teacher, said she was contacted by state and national service employees unions and heard testimony during the Legislature’s first session about adjuncts with no health insurance and no path to becoming part-time or full-time professors. Dodge said she would like to see conditions improved for adjuncts but understands that might be at odds with the state’s finances. “We have begged our colleges and us to keep tuition as low as possible,” she said. So, I hope there’s some sort of intersection of the X and Y axis where we can make this better.”

House District 98 — Scott Cuddy (D-Winterport)

LD 1889 An Act To Protect the Products of Maine Farmers
Gives the Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry a way to correct administrative errors occuring at slaughterhouses. The bill, according to Cuddy, derives from last year’s widely publicized case of Randy Canarr, a Winterport farmer ordered by the state to destroy 100 pounds of his bacon and other meats because they were mislabeled at the slaughterhouse (ultimately, he was allowed to eat them). “It was one of those situations where the rules really didn’t foresee that happening,” Cuddy said.

LD 1949 An Act To Amend the Retirement Laws Pertaining to Certain Educational Technicians.
Exempts the lowest level of educational technicians from paying into the state teachers’ retirement fund. Cuddy said level 1 ed techs tend to stay at their jobs for less time and tend to lose money through the current system. “If you work a year, you lose a year of Social Security and won’t have put in enough time to benefit from the state [system],” he said. The bill would be retroactive to July 1, 2018.

House District 134 — Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington)

LD 1887 Resolve to Reduce the Operational Costs of Ferries in the State
Directs the Maine State Ferry Service to seek alternative fuel sources for its ferry vessels — including electricity from renewable sources — to save money on operational costs and help the state meet its climate goals.

LD 1922 An Act To Create a Commercial Menhaden Fishing License
Separates Atlantic menhaden fishing from a broader license category covering several types of pelagic and anadromous fish and puts it in its own category with two types of license.
     McDonald submitted this bill on behalf of Maine Department of Marine Resources. Deirdre Gilbert, DMR’s director of marine policy, said the change was proposed in response to the return of menhaden (pogies) to Maine waters after some years of relative scarcity. Since then, she said, some lobstermen have supplemented their own slower seasons by catching menhaden to sell as bait. Within the new menhaden license, they would be managed separately from traditional commercial menhaden fishermen.
     Since the bill was submitted in September, Gilbert said the department has been talking to fishermen, who haven’t been impressed. “So far people are more concerned with the uncertainty of that structure than they are unhappy about the way things have been going,” she said. “They’ve kind of said leave it alone.… And at the end of the day, if people don’t see value in that structure, that’s fine.”
     Gilbert said the menhaden fishery in Maine is historically episodic — sometimes they’re here, sometimes not. As a result, she’s not sure to what extent warming waters are a factor in the larger catches over the last few years.

Senate District 11 — Erin Herbig (D-Belfast)

LD 1924 An Act To Amend the Real Estate Appraisal Management Company Laws
Gets rid of a 30-day period under current law when appraisers working for a real estate appraisal management company may be removed from the company’s appraiser panel without written notice. According to a representative of the Maine Senate Majority Office, Herbig submitted this bill on behalf of the state Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

LD 1999 An Act To Amend the Maine Education Savings Program
Allow the Finance Authority of Maine to invest money from Maine Education Savings Program in financial institutions based outside of Maine. Currently in-state investment is mandatory.

FAME spokesman Bill Norbert said the finance authority has, in recent years, requested an exemption to the requirement after going through the mandated process. The amendment would allow the authority to consider in-state and out-of-state banks at the same time.
“We don’t anticipate objections from Maine’s lending community,” Norbert said. “It’s not against any banks; it’s just a recognition of the situation.”

LD 2004 An Act To Provide for the 2020 and 2021 Allocations of the State Ceiling on Private Activity Bonds
Submitted for Finance Authority of Maine, this bill is an annual request that sets limits of federal funding for several state institutions, including FAME, Maine Housing Authority and Maine Municipal Bond Bank, that act as pass-through entities for the tax-exempt bonds.

Senate District — 12 David Miramant (D-Camden)

LD 1870 An Act To Create the Maine Lighthouse Trust Registration Plate
Creates a special license plate to support the lighthouse restoration and preservation efforts of Maine Lighthouse Trust.

LD 1925 An Act To Make Technical Changes to Maine’s Marine Resources Laws
Makes three changes to Maine’s marine resources laws:
     Clarifies that the number of elvers, not their weight, will be used to determine if quota has been exceeded.
     Allows a person whose license in a limited-entry fishery has been suspended by a court to, after they have come back into compliance, buy back the suspended license.
     Clarifies that a person who holds a wholesale seafood license with a lobster permit may remove lobster meat from the shell under either a lobster processor license or a lobster meat permit.

LD 1978 An Act To Improve the Disability Retirement Program of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System
Loosens requirements for the state disability retirement program by making changes to who reviews and processes applications, and who performs medical assessments. It relaxes the definition of “disability,” provides a pre-approval payment option for pending applications and requires that attorney fees from successful appeals be reimbursed up to $12,000.