The Maine Legislature in a “normal” year would have gone into session on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. The Legislature did not go into session this past week. It’s expected that this unusual legislative session will start to pick up by the end of the month as legislative staff members work through the process of making writing the legislative documents. The first few weeks of January are usually marked by introductory committee meetings and the full body meeting to assign bills to committees. That is happening without the full bodies of the Legislature working in person.
The process of bill assignment has mostly been turned over to the Maine Secretary of the Senate Darek Grant and Clerk of the House Robert Hunt. These two positions are allowed to refer bills when the Legislature is in recess for more than four days.
Meetings have started and are expected to pick up in the next few weeks. On Tuesday, the Appropriations Committee held an orientation meeting ahead of the expected Friday release of Governor Janet Mills’ two-year budget proposal and a more immediate spending plan, while others are still scheduling introductions.
COVID-19 as anticipated will be the focus for Maine legislators during the 2021 session. Bills relating to COVID-19 range from vaccine policy to financial relief for businesses hardest hit by pandemic restrictions, as well as protecting the rights of COVID-19 patients.
There are at least 20 pandemic-related bills that have been filed, while an additional five bills that address COVID-19 and public education. Maine legislators are not alone in pursuing coronavirus-related legislation. More than 3,445 bills have been brought forward in state legislatures since the onset of the pandemic last year, according to a database created by the National Conference of State Legislatures.