Welcome to our post-session recap. It’s been a long journey for activists, lobbyists, and legislators, with a session that never wanted to quit. But we’ve finally reached that point where we can report out what happened over the last few months. We’re here to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Overall, this session has been a mixed-bag with a lot of improbable successes and just two big disappointments, but the fight for some bills, like National Popular Vote and tribal sovereignty, isn’t over. The 131st Legislature will pick up again in 2024, and we’ll hit the ground running come January. There’s still plenty to celebrate, thanks to your activism and involvement. So thank you!
Below you’ll find a list of bills that were featured in Under the Dome this legislative session, but it’s not a comprehensive list. We followed over 120 pieces of legislation and testified on over half of those. For a full list of money in politics legislation, see our post-session recap from Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.
🎉 SIGNED INTO LAW 🎉
Bills worth celebrating.
LD 1155 — Increasing Legislative Salaries: Increases the overall pay for legislators from ~$29,000 to $45,000 for a legislative session (which spans two years). We supported this measure and believe this is one way to increase equity and equal representation in the Legislature and encourage more people to run for office.
LD 1620 — Mi’kmaq Restoration Act: This historic legislation achieves parity for the Mi’kmaq Nation with the other Wabanaki tribes.
LD 1690 — Ongoing Absentee Voting: Establishes ongoing absentee voting for all Mainers, where a voter can sign up to be automatically sent an absentee ballot for state and local elections. We supported this one. An ongoing absentee mailing list will increase access to the ballot, especially for voters in rural areas, voters with disabilities, and others who struggle to access polling places. It will also increase participation in local and special elections.
LD 1704 — Prison Gerrymandering Reform: Prevents prison gerrymandering, the practice of counting incarcerated individuals as part of the district where they're detained (and not by their home address), which leads to false representations of district size. We supported this one.
LD 1970 — Maine Indian Child Welfare Act: Establishes procedures and standards for cases involving Wabanaki children that concern custody proceedings, foster care placements, termination of parental rights, and adoptions. The legislation codifies state law protections currently enumerated under the federal 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.
🔍 SIGNED INTO LAW
We’re pretty upset, but we’ll keep an eye on the next steps.
LD 726 — Repealing our corporate contribution ban: This bill repeals our corporate contribution ban from 2021 and requires the Ethics Commission to develop similar legislation and submit a report by February 2024. We'll return in the new year to watchdog the process and ensure that a corporate contribution ban 2.0 passes in the Legislature.
🪦 DEAD BILLS 🤗
And we’re happy about it.
LD 34 and LD 1365 — Photo ID: These bills would have required voters to show photo ID at the polling place. The League always opposes photo ID requirements, because they disproportionately disenfranchise BIPOC, elderly, disabled, and poor voters. We’re glad they’re dead.
LD 237 — Voter Re-registration: This bill would have required voters to renew their voter registration every four years. We have measures in place (Automatic Voter Registration and membership in ERIC, the national voter registration database) that are better solutions for keeping the voter rolls current. We opposed this one.
LD 750 — Giving Candidates More Freedom at the Polling Place: This bill would have removed the restrictions on candidates' speech while engaging with voters at a voting place. We opposed this bill. Currently, candidates may talk to voters at a polling place, but they can't use any language that may try to sway the voter or ask for their vote. This bill would have upset the balance between First Amendment rights and voter intimidation.
LD 1038 — Repealing Ranked Choice Voting (RCV): The title of this bill says it all. We oppose any efforts to repeal RCV.
LD 1055 — Bans Ballot Drop boxes: Yet another unnecessary restriction that would have prevented people from returning their absentee ballots. Drop boxes are secure and convenient and have been enormously popular with Maine voters. We opposed this one.
LD 1356 — Increasing Municipal Signature Requirements: This bill would have increased the percentage of voters required to sign for local ballot questions. This would have negatively affected small, rural towns where signature collection is already difficult and rare. We opposed this one, and we're happy that it's dead.
LD 1416 — Raising the number of signatures for ballot initiatives: This proposed constitutional amendment would have dramatically increased the number of signatures required for a state ballot initiative, making it much harder for initiatives to qualify. We opposed this one.
🪦 DEAD BILLS 😞
And we’re sad about it.
LD 812 — Improving the Absentee Ballot Process: This bill would have improved the accessibility of in-person absentee voting by expanding Clerk's office hours and increasing the absentee ballot processing time. We supported this bill.
LD 1239 — Paid time off to vote and Election Day holiday: This bill would have required employers to give employees time off to vote if needed on Election Day, and make Election Day a state holiday. We supported this one, particularly the paid time off aspect.
LD 1255 — Improving the Security of Voting Places: This bill would have restricted dangerous weapons at polling places, except when carried by on-duty police or locked in motor vehicles. We supported this bill.
LD 2004 — Restore Access to Federal Laws Beneficial to the Wabanaki Nations: This bill would have allowed Wabanaki peoples to benefit from future and most past federal legislation for tribes. We supported this one. This was a big disappointment.
CARRIED OVER INTO 2024
These bills will live to fight another day.
LD 577 — Improving Local Election Information: Not every town has a website, and some towns that do have websites fail to post timely or accurate info ahead of an election. This bill would beef up the website infrastructure for municipalities and counties and have them hosted through the Secretary of State's website. We supported it, but it did not survive the special appropriations process. But there's good news: any bills not voted off the table will carry over into 2024. We'll push for funding then.
LD 1412 — Equal Rights Amendment: This bill would bring the ERA to Maine. We support this one, as we have for years. The federal ERA first passed in the 1970s by the U.S. Congress, but it was not ratified.
LD 1578 — National Popular Vote: This bill would add Maine to the NPV Interstate Compact. NPV becomes effective when states representing 270 Electoral College votes sign on to the agreement. We support this one.
LD 1642 — Strengthening the teaching of Wabanaki studies in schools: This bill strengthens existing requirements around the teaching of Wabanaki studies in Maine schools. We support this one.
LD 2007 — Tribal Sovereignty: This bill would implement the consensus recommendations (released Jan. 2020) of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act. We stand with Wabanaki communities in their long quest for sovereignty.