Maine Legislature back in session Wednesday

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:26 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - With a new year comes a new session for Maine lawmakers.

The legislature was back at the State House Wednesday for their second regular session. The Maine Constitution requires that the first meeting be held in person.

“I always enjoy the excitement of starting off a new session and stuff like that and possibilities of what we can do for friends family, communities,” said Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.

As the legislature reconvenes for the shorter of the two sessions, there are several hundred bills to be considered.

One that’s top of mind for many is the supplemental budget and how to use the $822 million surplus that’s expected.

“I’d like to see most of it sent back to the people in the form of tax cuts because I think that the economy has rebounded and people are dealing with inflation issues and they really need the money in their pocket,” said Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford.

“Truly make some investments throughout the state trying to help with broadband, with creating good jobs, but in addition to that, we very well may do something for property tax again, we might do something with direct payments. I think we’re going to try and come up with something to help health care workers that are at their brink,” said Jackson.

Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau says this session, he’s focused on things like childcare and housing.

“We need more multi-family housing, we need more housing of all kinds across our state because we’re currently developing 250 units per year and to meet demand, we need 1,000 units per year,” Fecteau said.

Throughout this session, Fecteau says despite the ongoing pandemic, there is no consideration of a vaccine mandate for members of the legislature.

He says they want to make sure there isn’t a barrier to entry in a process as democratic as theirs.

“I understand that Omicron is seemingly more contagious, and so we need to be cognizant of that. We provided all members with N95 masks today,” Fecteau said.

Lawmakers we spoke to say they would like to see the hybrid model of committees meeting in-person with virtual options moving forward.

“I wish we weren’t in this position, but I had more people from my county testify because of Zoom than ever before,” said Jackson.

“People ought to be able to participate in-person or remotely, I think a hybrid model is just the way to go,” Bennett said.

We’re told there are roughly 200 bills from last session that they’ll have to consider with about 150 new ones to look through this session.

They are expecting to be virtual throughout the month of January, but they’ll continue to reassess from month to month.

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