On Wednesday, January 20, the Maine State Chamber presented its legislative session preview virtually to a group of 150 registered business leaders from across Maine. The information presented in this session has been recorded and is available on our website.
To open the virtual event, Peter Gore, executive vice president, gave a brief summary of the number and types of bills proposed this session. Committees are now being assigned legislation of jurisdiction, and virtual public hearings will be underway in the coming weeks.
Ben Gilman, general counsel, discussed the issues ahead for the Energy, Utilities and Technology committee and the Environment and Natural Resources committee, as well as key education and workforce related bills.
Linda Caprara, senior government relations specialist, then discussed the issues she anticipates in the Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee and the Taxation committee – most notably, the state’s supplemental and biennial budgets and the review of key economic development investment programs.
In addition to the updates from our advocates, Sen. Cathy Breen (D-Cumberland) was invited to share her perspective as chair of the budget-writing Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee. The committee is waiting for state recommendations for conformity to the federal CARES Act funding legislation before it attempts to make any tax changes. They hope to make changes that are beneficial to the business community while staying true to Maine's tax policy. The committee will meet on January 25 to begin reviewing the state’s budget proposals. Sen. Breen also shared the Maine Climate Council’s report and the Economic Recovery Committee’s report with attendees.
Following Sen. Breen, Peter Gore reminded the group that legislators will be focused on the legislation that addresses the impact of COVID-19 on citizens and businesses. At the same time, they will be considering many subjects that were carried over due to last session’s abrupt end. In the Labor committee, legislators are expected to review proposals related to minimum wage amount and indexing, workplace leave, FMLA, unemployment insurance and benefits, labor laws, workplace regulations, overtime standards, and workers’ compensation.
Health care issues will be reviewed in the committees of jurisdiction and will likely include health insurance costs, markets, and plans; expansion of telehealth offerings; prescription drugs; and, the newly released LD 1, which looks at COVID-19 impacts.
Last week, the 130th Maine Legislature released its guidelines for public participation in the legislative process in both public hearings and work sessions. Each Joint Standing Committee has its own YouTube channel for committee proceedings. Virtual hearings and works sessions certainly pose new challenges. At the same time, they have the potential to open the door for increased participation in the legislative process. We encourage our members to consider weighing in this session on the issues that matter to their business.
Thank you to our Premier sponsor, Hammond Lumber Company, and to our Supporting sponsor, AmeriHealth Caritas. If you have questions about the topics discussed or the legislative process, please contact Peter Gore, Ben Gilman, or Linda Caprara directly.