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UWSM Legislative Update, 3/9/2022

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
March 9, 2022

Greetings Community Advocates,

It’s almost time to spring forward! As Daylight Savings Time begins and we get closer to the end of the Legislative Session, many decisions will be made by the Maine Legislature this month, making your voice and advocacy that much more important.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HILL:

This time of year is also when Congressional Directed Spending (CDS) application opportunities are presented. So far, we have heard from Senator Angus King’s office, and we expect we will soon hear from the rest of Maine’s Congressional Delegation. We will share their CDS forms as they become available.

Senator King has announced the opening of his Fiscal Year 2023 Congressional Directed Spending (CDS) online portal. This will allow Maine governments and nonprofits to apply for consideration to receive direct federal funding for eligible projects that will have significant and measurable benefits across the state. Authorized in 2021 on a bipartisan basis, CDS funding is included in annual federal appropriations legislation at the request of one or more members of Congress and provides funding for projects with demonstrated civic and community value. Senator King’s FY2023 CDS portal can be found at king.senate.gov/CDS. The current deadline for submissions is Thursday, March 31, 2022.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM AUGUSTA:

In mid-February, Governor Janet Mills released her budget proposal that includes her plan for a projected $822 million state surplus. Her budget was sent to the Maine Legislature for consideration, and the Appropriations and Financial Affairs started hearings on Monday, February 28.

Both the Senate and the House plan to gather in-person this month on the following days: March 9, 17, 22, 24, 29, 31. You can follow the Senate and the House on the Legislature’s website.

All committees continue to conduct business online, and more public hearings and work sessions are scheduled every week.

UWSM is supporting four proposed investments included in the projected $822 million supplemental budget bill LD 1995.

  1. A proposed $12 million investment in ongoing General Fund dollars to increase pay for child care workers and early childhood educators to strengthen our child care system across Maine.
  2. A proposed $8 million investment to improve the state’s Child Welfare System.
  3. A proposed $20 million investment to provide two years of free community college.
  4. A proposed $42.1 million investment in ongoing funding to strengthen the educational opportunity tax credit (“Opportunity Maine”).

PRIORITY BILLS TO FOLLOW:

UWSM advocates for bills supporting the annual public policy agenda approved by the Board of Directors connected to Thrive2027. Read UWSM’s Policy and Advocacy Priorities for 2022.

LD 292 – “An Act To Increase the Minimum Grant Amount under the Maine State Grant Program” (Sponsored by Representative Teresa S. Pierce of Falmouth)

This bill: (1) amends the Maine State Grant Program, administered by FAME (Finance Authority of Maine), to make the minimum grant amount $2,500; and (2) provides ongoing funds of $10 million per year to the program to accomplish this goal.
Status: This bill was carried over from last year. No current work sessions have been scheduled.

LD 296 – “An Act To Provide a Tax Credit for Family Caregivers” (Sponsored by Representative Kristin Cloutier of Lewiston)

This bill establishes the Family Caregiver Grant Pilot Program to expand the number of families that can be served under the Respite Care Fund. The Respite Care Fund is used for the purpose of providing short-term respite care. The pilot program provides grants to eligible family caregivers of up to $2,000 a year and lasts for two years, from October 2022 to September 2024.
Status: This bill was carried over from last year. No current work sessions have been scheduled.

LD 372 – “An Act To Provide Maine Children Access to Affordable Health Care” (Sponsored by Senator Anne Carney of Cumberland)

This bill provides health care to low-income children by increasing eligibility and expanding coverage. Specifically, LD 372 makes changes to the federal CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and Cub Care Program. An amended version raises the maximum eligibility level for family income under the Cub Care program from 200% of the federal poverty level to 300% of the federal poverty level. The amendment also provides coverage under the Cub Care program to people19 and 20 years of age.
Status: The Committee on Health and Human Services voted to pass LD 372 with a divided report.

LD 1807 – “An Act To Expand Nursing Education Programs” (Sponsored by Senator Matthea Daughtry of Cumberland)

This bill seeks $2.5 million for the Maine Community College System to expand its Nursing Education Programs. LD 1807 funds will support the hiring of 30 trained nurses as nurse educators, which will help maintain a meaningful student-faculty ratio. The funds will also pay for the classroom supplies needed for the nursing programs across all community colleges in the state.
Status: Work Session is scheduled for March 10

Take Action: Help advocate for this important bill by contacting the Maine Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. Click here to send a personalized email in less than a minute.

LD 1235 – “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Connect Maine with a World-class Internet Infrastructure” (Sponsored by Senator Richard Bennett of Oxford)

This bill provides $100 million for grants and loans to provide a world-class, affordable high-speed Internet infrastructure to those in Maine with no or bad current connectivity. The funds provided by this bond are estimated to reach 98% of homes and businesses in the state within 5 years.
Status: A hearing on this bill has yet to be scheduled.

LD 1652 – “An Act To Build a Child Care System by Recruiting and Retaining Maine’s Early Childhood Educators Workforce” (Sponsored by Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford)

This bill directs the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to provide ongoing General Fund appropriations in the amount of $4.5 million for education-based and experience-based salary supplements for early childhood educators working with young children from birth to 5 years of age.
Status: The Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee has voted ought to pass, but it has not yet been reported out of committee.

PARTICIPATE IN A PUBLIC HEARING

If you wish to participate in a public hearing during the 130th Maine State Legislature, visit the Maine State Legislature – YouTube Channel. Each committee has its own feed, and at UWSM, we are closely monitoring these three committees: 

  1. Education and Cultural Affairs Committee   
  2. Health and Human Services Committee 
  3. Appropriations and Financial Affairs 

All other committees’ public hearings can be found here

If you would like to know more about how you can advocate for a thriving community, please contact us at advocacy@uwsme.org

To get the Legislative Update delivered to your inbox every other week, sign up at https://p2a.co/tjKEBsH or email advocacy@uwsme.org

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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