The Maine Legislature will be back in action in January. Legislators from both parties agree on some priorities, the biggest of which is helping families and businesses survive and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Republicans and Democrats are like to differ on how that should be accomplished.
Legislators had until the end of the day Friday, December 18th to submit their proposals for legislation they want considered in 2021, but the final language on between 1,000 and 1,200 bills, as well as scheduled public hearings on them, could still be weeks away.
The biggest order of business, as always, is approving a two-year state budget by the end of June in order to avoid a state government shutdown. Those negotiations are likely to be more difficult than normal as the state’s tax revenues have taken a hit from a COVID-restricted economy, although recent revenue reports have not been as dire as they were predicted to be at the start of the pandemic.
Some past legislation is likely to resurrect. Among those will be an effort to end a new law that eliminated religious or philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccines that will be required starting in 2021 for all school-age children. A people’s veto effort to repeal the law was overwhelming rejected by voters in March, with 74 percent of voters agreeing to keep the vaccine mandate.
While processing bills, holding hearings on them and then voting on them will take up valuable time in the Legislature, the process also will be disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions.