July 25, 2023
Greetings Community Advocates!
Happy summer, the season that most of us here in Maine wait for patiently and the season that most farmers wait for so that they can grow food. Even when we seem to have as much rain as sunshine, we are fortunate to live in this great State of Maine.
Thank you to each and every one of you who participated in our advocacy work this session, including those who reached out to elected officials to advocate for a stronger, more equitable community. We gained new advocates through our advocacy alert tool – Phone2Action.
STATE HOUSE UPDATE
The First Regular Session of the 131st Maine State Legislature is wrapping up its business today, July 25, 2023 with “Veto Day” and the final enactment on remaining bills. This ending session is one of the two sessions in the 131st Legislature and is considered the “long” session.
Governor Janet Mills has signed into law the $800 million supplemental budget, which makes important additional investments in housing, child care, health care, and education, the very issues that United Way of Southern Maine has been championing.
The $800 million budget Governor Mills recently signed is a “part II” of her original $10.3 billion budget proposal. The $9.8 billion “part I” supplemental budget was signed back in March – as a continuing services budget.
If you would like to learn more about what was passed in the supplemental budget bill for the 1st Regular Session of the 131st Legislature, please click here.
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 were child care, housing, and mental health.
We are thankful and grateful to the Legislature addressing issues such as housing, homelessness, education, access to health, and the workforce that are barriers to our communities. We are also grateful to the Executive Branch for including issues that we care about in the Biennial Budget. We hope to keep building relationships with lawmakers in Augusta, and we hope to continue sharing many of the voices from our communities with them.
With your help and support, UWSM is celebrating some wins in this past session:
Bills that passed in this past session:
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: The bill was included in the Governor’s Budget.
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: The bill has been signed into law.
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: This budget bill includes initiatives supported by UWSM:
- $70 million to encourage the development of affordable housing;
- $12 million for emergency shelters and transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness;
- $4 million for health professions loan assistance;
- $60 million in child care investments, which will be used to double the existing stipend for child care workers from $200 to $400 a month and expand a subsidy program for families;
- $15 million to continue the Free Community College enrollment for the next two years
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: This bill was signed into law.
LD 1726 – “An Act to Build Maine’s Economy by Supporting Child Care for Working Families”
- Supports working families by reducing high costs of child care for more families and increasing access opportunities;
- Values child care programs and provides them with stable and timely subsidy reimbursements for children enrolled in care;
- Retains child care educators by increasing their wages for the vital work they do on behalf of young children;
- Prioritizes Maine’s economy and reduce child care challenges for Maine’s workforce allowing businesses to thrive;
Status: This bill was rolled into the budget, which was signed by the Governor.
LD 1799 – “An Act to Expand Maine’s High-quality Early Learning and Care for Children by Increasing Public Preschool Opportunities in Communities”
The bill creates the Commission to Study Expansion of Public Preschool and Early Care and Education and requires the commission to develop a plan and make recommendations to establish a timeline to expand publicly funded preschool programming and provide for expansion to full-day preschool and pathways for child care programs to become publicly funded.
Status: This bill was put on the Special Appropriations Table, and the Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) Committee decided to pass and fund the bill.
Bills Carried Over in the Second Session that starts in January of 2024:
LD 1074 – “An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Fund New Affordable Housing for Low-income Households”
The funds provided by this bond issue, in the amount of $100 million, will be used to build new affordable housing for low-income households through the construction of new structures and adaptive reuse of existing structures.
Status: This bill was carried over.
Bills that Failed in Committee:
LD 67 – “An Act to Increase the Number of Educational Professionals by Accepting Out-of-state Certification”
This bill 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: In March, the House voted for the bill to be Carried Over. A month later, the Senate placed it in Legislative Files, which means the bill has failed.
Again, thank you to all of you for accompanying us through this journey of advancing policies that strengthen community.
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.