February 28, 2020
Greetings UWGP Supporters,
Welcome to a special edition of United Way of Greater Portland’s (UWGP) Legislative Update, a bi-weekly advocacy and policy newsletter, presented in advance of the referendum vote on March 3, 2020 and the final weeks of the state legislative session.
If you would like to join our growing list of advocates and receive the bi-weekly Legislative Update, sign up below.
Recognizing that laws and policies have the power to strengthen or harm individuals, families, and entire communities, UWGP engages in public policy and advocacy to address barriers and inequities faced by vulnerable populations. This is to improve education, financial stability, and health outcomes in our community.
IN THIS ISSUE
This update includes:
- REFERENDUM + Public Law 154
- HIGHLIGHTS from Augusta
- INVITE to the upcoming Thrive2027 Community Events in Bridgton and Gorham
- LINK to UWGP’s Legislative Rewind
- A MAINE BILLS Watch List
MARCH 3RD REFERENDUM + PUBLIC LAW 154
On Tuesday, March 3, Maine voters will have an opportunity to vote on a Citizens Veto that aims to repeal Public Law 154 (LD 798). If successful, this Citizens Veto would reinstate the religious and philosophical exemptions for school vaccinations. High exemptions rates put our most state’s vulnerable and immunocompromised–that is largely young children and the elderly–at risk of being infected by preventable diseases. Herd immunity works for everyone–children and adults alike.
We encourage everyone to Vote NO on Question 1.
Please note that Maine allows you register to vote at the polls on the day of an election, and you do not need to be registered with a political party to vote on the Citizen’s Veto. Click here to look up your polling place.
In a March 2019 Legislative Update, we discussed our support for Public Law 154 (LD 798) and the importance of maintaining community immunity, especially for our children and vulnerable seniors. To read that testimony click here. As UWGP Director of Health Emily Rines, explained in her testimony , “…a measles outbreak in a community could be devastating. A child is unable to learn if they are battling a preventable and painful disease, as is the child without the ability to be vaccinated. The parent or guardian is unable to maintain a work schedule if they need to be at home or in a hospital with their seriously ill child…” Click here to read that analysis. As a result of that advocacy, supporters like you sent nearly 900 emails to state legislators in support of vaccinations and LD 798. That law is now in danger of being repealed. We encourage all of our supporters to Vote NO on Question 1 this March 3!
HIGHLIGHTS FROM AUGUSTA
An Act To Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Readiness
LD 1760 proposes to launch up to 10 First 4 ME pilot sites under Maine Department of Health and Human Services that would serve at-risk children under 6 years of age who have not entered kindergarten and their parents. The bill funds projects that integrate comprehensive resources and services with traditional center-based and family childcare settings. The resources can include family support, such as home visiting services. This bill also provides for increasing childcare providers’ knowledge, parent engagement and communication, and wraparound supports such as nutrition, mental health services, and connections to other community services as needed.
This bill, which is endorsed by the Thrive2027 Council, speaks directly to mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by taking a comprehensive approach to supporting families with young children based on a model that is proven to work. There is still time to encourage your state legislator to support this important bill: text ME CHILD to 52886 or click here to advocate now.
An Act To Provide Compensation to Family Caregivers
This bipartisan bill creates a new Caregiver Credit, which would put cash in the pockets of unpaid caregivers, compensating those with low- to moderate-incomes for their hard work and the important role they play in meeting the state’s unmet need for care. The Caregiver Credit established in LD 1919 provides a refundable Maine income tax credit of up to $2,000 for low- to moderate-income households that provide at least 150 hours of unpaid care to eligible family members annually. The credit would be available to single filers with annual incomes up to $75,000 and married households with annual incomes up to $150,000. Because the credit would be refundable, most eligible families with low incomes would receive a cash refund when they file their state income taxes. Much like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Caregiver Credit seeks to put more cash in the hands of struggling families. A public hearing was held on Thursday, February 6, 2020, but there is still time to encourage your state legislator to support this important bill. Click here to advocate for LD 1919 now.
HEAR MORE ABOUT LD 1919 IN OUR LEGISLATIVE REWIND
An Act To Create Affordable Workforce and Senior Housing and Preserve Affordable Rural Housing
This bill, which was endorsed by the Thrive2027 Council, expands access to affordable housing in Maine, ensuring more of our neighbors can thrive–not just survive. This session, LD 1645 gained unanimous approval from both the Taxation and Appropriations Committees. Just last week, LD 1645 was enacted without a single objection by both the full House and the full Senate. After announcing her support during the State of the State address, Governor Mills signed the bill on February 12, 2020.
Thank you to United Way advocates who helped LD 1645 pass by sending more than 800 emails of support to their legislators last month!
Our Legislative Rewind recaps our list of bills to watch and includes a deep dive conversation with Representative Maureen Terry and Amy Larkin, a Maine resident, discussing tax benefits like the expanded State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the proposed Caregiver Tax Credit.
Click here to listen to the Legislative Rewind Podcast.
THRIVE2027 COMMUNITY EVENTS
United Way of Greater Portland is hosting a series of Thrive2027 Community Events as a follow up to the 90+ community conversations that helped establish the three Thrive2027 goals. The first two events, held in Portland and Freeport, featured a discussion on ACEs and LD 1760. If you are interested in attending an upcoming event in Bridgton or Gorham, click here to learn more and RSVP.
Maine Bills to Watch
UWGP has embraced Thrive2027, our community’s 10-year effort to achieve measurable progress in the areas of education, financial stability, and health. UWGP is playing its part to ensure the success of Thrive2027 by supporting public policy like those included in the following Legislative Watch List:
L.D. 1096: “An Act To Require That Comprehensive Substance Use Disorder Treatment Be Made Available to Maine’s Incarcerated Population”
This bill requires the Commissioner of Corrections to establish and maintain a substance use disorder treatment program in correctional facilities, which must provide for an assessment on intake, a variety of behavioral and medication-assisted treatment options, and peer support and comprehensive treatment options after release. The bill is still on the Appropriations Table.
L.D. 1466: “An Act To Allow Community-based Organizations To Participate in Diversion Projects for Persons with Substance Use Disorder”
This bill amends the Substance Use Disorder Assistance Program, which provides grants to municipalities, counties, and regional jails to carry out projects designed to reduce substance use, substance use-related crimes, and recidivism, to include community-based organizations as entities eligible for grants under the program. A work session was held on January 27.
L.D. 1572: “An Act To Enact the Maine Fair Chance Housing Act”
This bill establishes the Maine Fair Chance Housing Act, the purpose of which is to ensure that a person is not denied housing based solely on the existence of a history of criminal convictions. There was a work session on February 12.
L.D. 1607: “An Act To Create the Department of Early Care and Learning”
This concept bill proposes to create the Department of Early Care and Learning as a cabinet-level state agency within the executive branch of state government. It was voted Ought Not To Pass on February 6.
L.D. 1760: “An Act To Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Readiness”
This bill would help mitigate ACEs by increasing access to high-quality childcare for at-risk children under 6 years old and provide other wraparound supports to the family. There was a packed house at the public hearing on February 13, but there is still time to encourage your state legislator to support it. Text “ME Child” to 52886 and follow the link when prompted. It takes less than a minute!
L.D. 1935: “An Act To Address the Needs of Pregnant Women Affected by Opioid Use Disorder”
This bill increases and funds treatment options specifically for pregnant individuals who use opioids and wish to seek treatment. On February 14 the committee voted Ought Not To Pass.
L.D. 1974: “An Act To Promote Telehealth”
This bill provides for reimbursement of case management services delivered through telehealth to targeted populations. A public hearing was held on January 22. There was a work session February 27. It was Tabled so that the committee could gather more information before making a decision.
L.D. 2056: “Resolve, To Create the Frequent Users System Engagement Collaborative”
This bill is designed to pull all our expensive emergency systems together to house people experiencing chronic and long-term homelessness, one at a time. Once people are housed, they stop ricocheting through our most expensive systems. This eventually changes the way we help people who are ill and have no place to live while realizing considerable savings of public funds. On February 27 the bill was unanimously voted out of committee.
Looking for a little more analysis on these bills? Click here to stream our Legislative Rewind podcast.
Thank you for raising your hand and offering your support as a volunteer, donor, and advocate. Together we are creating a community where everyone can thrive – where we are all committed and passionate about making Greater Portland even greater.
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