March 29, 2023
Greetings Community Advocates!
Spring is in the air – specifically that long-awaited smell of the soil as it emerges from under the snow. In Augusta, after a slower-than-usual start to the Session, we are starting to see the Revisor’s Office publish bills, and committees scheduling public hearings.
GENERAL COMMUNITY UPDATES:
Last week, MaineHousing announced funding for long-term shelter, including $4 million awarded to the Center for Regional Prosperity for a 280-bed shelter near the Portland airport and $3.7 million to the Lewiston Housing Authority for a 25-bed shelter there. “There’s a tremendous need for people to have safe housing and supportive services,” said Cullen Ryan, executive director of Community Housing of Maine. “As you can see looking around the state, we’re lacking housing and lacking safe places for people to be.” All the awarded projects are expected to be up and running by the end of this year.
Last week, we also learned that Portland is planning to temporarily use the Expo Center to house individuals and families until July when the expected private shelter being developed by the Center for Regional Prosperity and Developers Collaborative opens at 90 Blueberry Road. Families and individuals staying at the Expo Center would then be transitioned to the new location.
STATE HOUSE UPDATE:
Scenarios for the next two-year state budget have dominated the news, specifically the discussions around whether the majority will enact a spending plan without minority support. The Legislature can pass a majority budget – with votes for 50% plus one — but bills passed this way and signed into law take 90 days to go into effect. This means such a majority budget would need to be passed by April 1st (before the State’s new fiscal year begins). Alternatively, the Legislature could pass a budget with a 2/3 vote, which wouldn’t need 90 days to take effect; however, getting a 2/3 vote requires more negotiation on both aisles.
It is important to highlight that the Maine state government operates on a two-year budget–also known as the biennial budget–which follows a fiscal schedule that begins July 1 and ends June 30, two years later.
LEGISLATION CONNECTED TO THRIVE2027 GOALS 1, 2, & 3:
UWSM supports public policies that advance Thrive2027, a 10-year initiative to achieve measurable progress in the areas of education, financial stability, and health. Three big issues this session are child care, housing, and mental health.
Here are bills being tracked and monitored, by UWSM, in the First 131st Maine Legislature:
LD 2 – “An Act to Address Maine’s Housing Crisis”
Establishes the Housing First Program within the Department of Health and Human Services to facilitate the delivery of stabilization and support services to residents of properties established or developed to provide permanent housing to persons who have been chronically homeless and to fund technical assistance.
Status: Public hearing scheduled for April 4.
LD 3 – “An Act to Establish the Winter Energy Relief Payment Program to Aid Residents with High Heating Costs”
Provides relief to certain Maine households to assist them with high costs for home heating as well as to support housing.
Status: UWSM testified and the bill has been signed into law.
LD 18 – “An Act to Provide Ongoing Funding for up to 2 Years of Community College for Certain Maine Students”
Provides ongoing funding for high school graduates and individuals who obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma to receive a waiver of tuition and fees for up to 2 years in the Maine Community College System.
Status: Public Hearing has not yet been scheduled.
LD 67 – “An Act to Increase the Number of Educational Professionals by Accepting Out-of-state Certification”
Requires the Department of Education to accept a certificate as an administrator, teacher, educational technician or educational specialist issued by another state, the District of Columbia, a United States territory or other country as qualification for such a certificate in this State
Status: UWSM testified; however, a Work Session has not yet been scheduled.
LD 190 – “An Act to Develop a Long-term Plan to Address Mental Health Needs in Rural Maine”
Status: LD 190 is currently a “concept draft” and a public hearing has not yet been scheduled.
LD 250 – “An Act to Improve Housing by Increasing Housing Options”
Status: LD 250 is currently a “concept draft” and a public hearing has not yet been scheduled.
LD 258 – “An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds, and Changing Certain” Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2023, June 30, 2024, and June 30, 2025.
Status: UWSM testified on a few provisions of the budget.
- Testimony in Support of the Proposed Initiative Related to the Maine State Grant Program
- Testimony in Support of the Governor’s proposed initiative related to New Venture Maine funding
- Testimony in Support of the Proposed Initiative Related to the MCCS Free Community College
- Testimony in support of the Governor’s Proposed Initiatives Relating to Behavioral Health Services and Response to the Opioid Crisis
LD 1050 – “Resolve, Directing the Department of Labor to Request a Federal Waiver to Allow Presumptive Work Eligibility for Asylum Seekers”
Directs the Commissioner of Labor to request a waiver from the United States Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to allow an asylum seeker in the State, if the asylum seeker has applied for asylum and has not been denied, eligibility to work in the State for the 6 months immediately after the asylum seeker has applied for asylum.
Status: The Labor and Housing Committee added an emergency preamble to LD 1050, which means that it would go into effect upon passage instead of 90 days after the session ends in June. UWSM testified on this bill.
UPDATES FROM UWSM:
BIDDEFORD READY! SCHOOL READINESS FAIR
Saturday, April 1, 11 AM—2 PM, JFK Memorial School
Biddeford Ready! is hosting a FREE School Readiness Fair for local families at JFK Memorial School in Biddeford. Families can sign up for pre-K and Kindergarten and enjoy face painting, live music, craft and science activities and more.
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If you would like to know more about how you can advocate for a thriving community, please contact us at email@example.com. Thank you for raising your hand and offering your support as a volunteer, donor, and advocate. Together we are creating a Southern Maine where everyone can thrive.
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