AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers have submitted nearly 400 bills for consideration for the legislative session beginning in January, reflecting their hopes ahead of the November elections.
There are caveats: We only have bill titles, and the Maine Legislature won’t consider them all in 2016, since all bills submitted in even-numbered years must be deemed an “emergency” by the Legislative Council, a panel of legislative leaders.
But the agenda of Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, is a clear target: Legislators are looking to issue bonds that he has held up, advance his energy agenda or undo welfare cuts.
Guns, voting and Planned Parenthood also could be affected, while other bills would protect cats and dogs from being eaten, split a city and maybe even drug-test your legislator.
Lawmakers will spar over LePage’s agenda — go figure.
LePage’s authority to withhold bonds is being contested: In July, the House of Representatives fell six votes short of overriding a veto of a bill that would have forced LePage to issue conservation bonds that he has stalled in a bid to increase timber harvesting on state lands to fund energy upgrades for low-income Mainers.
House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, and Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, have submitted new bills on bonding. Rep. Michael Timmons, R-Cumberland, would give LePage his harvest increase.
LePage has long called for importing Canadian hydroelectric power, which would be studied under a proposal from House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport. But a bill from Rep. Scott Hamman, D-South Portland, would block a proposed LePage administration rule change to bar Mainers with more than $5,000 in certain assets from getting food stamps.
Laws around Planned Parenthood, guns and voting also would be affected.
Guns and abortion have been hot issues lately, with last week’s mass shooting at an Oregon college and conservative outrage over Planned Parenthood’s use of aborted fetuses for medical research. Rep. Roberta Beavers, D-South Berwick, wants to require background checks on private gun sales or transfers, while three Republicans want to stop state funds from going to Planned Parenthood.
Lawmakers also want to change voting laws, with Rep. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, asking the secretary of state to use vehicle records to register voters automatically at age 18 and Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, proposing fusion voting, which allows two or more parties to list one candidate on a ballot, giving third parties a bigger electoral role.
Many bills stand out for being off the wall, even if they’d solve problems.
A bill from Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, would “prohibit raising cats and dogs for human consumption.” Sen. Peter Edgecomb, R-Caribou, would allow part of that city to secede and form the town of Lyndon, which some rural residents have wanted since 2014.
And for all of you who have wondered what substances your lawmaker is consuming, Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, has proposed a bill requiring random drug testing of legislators.
Let’s see if they pass it — into law, of course.