Lawmakers return to the State House for their second regular session in January. They’re already proposing more than 250 new bills for consideration. Legislative leaders are meeting Thursday to decide which measures will be allowed into the session.
Maine Things Considered host Nora Flaherty spoke with Maine Public reporter Mal Leary about the proposals and what might happen to them.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Flaherty: That is a lot of bills to take up in the four months of the session.
Leary: It certainly is, when you take into account that they have carried over hundreds of bills from the session that ended earlier this year in August. That includes dozens of bonding proposals for all sorts of projects. They add up to hundreds of millions of dollars, and maybe one or two might make it through. As for all these bills that are coming forward, most won’t make it.
Leary: It takes at least six votes to allow a bill into the session. The council’s evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, so every bill will need at least one leader from the other party to support it for it to even be considered in the legislative session that comes in January.
Flaherty: So when I read all these press releases about this representative or that senator proposing legislation, that might not even get considered in January?
Leary: Indeed, I would say it’s likely most will not make it. Part of the reason they’re all issuing those news releases is to try and engender some publicity and maybe get a little support for the bill they’re trying to get into the session. The reality is, with all those bills we’re talking about being carried over, it’s likely that there’s a bill somewhere close enough to the topic that can be amended by the Legislature instead of allowing in a whole new bill which then has to be printed, a hearing held on the proposal and that starts to add up.
Flaherty: So what are some of the bills that are being proposed? Are these new things or have we seen them before?
Leary: Well in some cases they are absolutely new. There’s a proposed constitutional amendment to take away the power of a governor to remove a sheriff from office. I would daresay that there were very few lawmakers if any that knew that the governor had the power to remove a sheriff from office before the flap with the governor and the 16 sheriffs over immigration policies a few weeks ago. So it will be interesting to see if that picks up a Republican vote in the council to even be considered during the session. And then there are other ideas that have been considered in past sessions, like legislation dealing with dangerous dogs and another bill that increases the number of liquor licenses that can be issued.
Flaherty: So if a bill doesn’t make it through this screening, is that it for the bill? Is it done? Does it ever have another way of getting considered?
Leary: Sometimes I think it’s never over up here until it’s over. Lawmakers can appeal next month if their proposal’s rejected but most appeals have been rejected in the past. This is an election year session and many of those on leadership are running for re-election, or they’re running for another office, and they don’t want to be here into May because they let in too many bills for consideration.