As part of an effort to obtain more information for Gorham Times’ readers about Maine’s legislative process, we contacted each of the three members of the Legislature who currently represent Gorham. We asked them to send the Times a list of their top four or five priorities for the current session.
Senator Amy Volk, (R-Scarborough), firstname.lastname@example.org:
An Act To Allow Former Military Medical Personnel To Perform Certain Medical Services: Medics who have been trained by our armed forces often find themselves underemployed in the civilian world, in spite of our health care professional shortage. This bill, which won unanimous support in my committee, will change that by placing certain medical professionals trained by our armed forces on an easier pathway to licensure as medical assistants.
An Act To Enact the Maine Fair Chance Employment Act: This bill is part of the national “ban the box” movement to give job-seekers with prior arrest or conviction records a fair chance at employment by ensuring public employers conduct interviews to determine whether someone is a good fit for a position before they conduct a background investigation. I believe this is an important policy change as one third of Americans have an arrest or criminal record. Over half of the states around the country have already adopted some form of fair-chance policy.
An Act To Provide Economic Security to Maine Families through the Creation of a Paid Family Medical Leave System: This bill would create a program run by the Department of Labor that employees can pay into, on a purely voluntary basis, to ensure that when the time comes to begin their families, seek medical treatment or care for a family member who is ill, they are eligible to receive 66 percent of their wages for a certain period of time. This legislation will make it easier for Maine employers to offer this important benefit in order to recruit young employees to our state.
An Act To Protect Economic Competitiveness in Maine by Extending the End Date for Pine Tree Development Zones: This would extend the Pine Tree Development Zone program for another five years. This program has been instrumental in encouraging new business investments around the state, but my committee hopes to implement certain recommended accountability reforms in order to ensure that the program continues with its original focus on growing industry in rural Maine.
An Act To Protect Maine’s Economy by Slowing the Rate at Which the State’s Minimum Wage Will Increase and Establishing a Training and Youth Wage: This bill was submitted on behalf of the Maine Department of Labor. I support (with amendments) slowing the increase, eliminating or decreasing the frequency of indexing, and establishing a limited or seasonal training wage for teenagers.
Representative Maureen Terry, (D-Gorham), email@example.com:
Addressing the opiate crisis that has taken too many of our friends, family and neighbors: We will work to implement the recommendations of the bipartisan state task force on combating the opiate crisis. The task force made over a dozen recommendations in December for prevention and treatment steps we can take to protect families from the devastating effects of addic- tion. Not all of the recommendations have been assigned LD numbers yet. So far, LD 1682, LD 1711 and LD 1268 are the related bills that will be considered.
Implementing the MaineCare expansion that was passed by Maine voters last November: Republicans, Democrats, Independents and Governor LePage all have a responsibility to implement Medicaid Expansion. It’s the law. The bipartisan Appropriations Committee will continue to work towards implementing Medicaid expansion fully so that 70,000 of our neighbors can finally access affordable healthcare.
Tackling the student debt that is holding back too many young people as they try to start lives for themselves right here at home: We will continue to work on a proposal for a $100 million bond for student debt forgiveness and refinancing. Eligible graduates could get help paying back their loans while working in Maine. Average Maine workers could be college debt free within six years.
Working with local government to make sure Gorham taxpayers have a say in state government: I will continue to keep the lines of communication open so that when local issue crops up, I can make sure we can address it at the state level.
Fighting for Gorham schools to get the funding we need and to prevent state mandates from harming our students: This is a continuing priority for me. While there is no specific bill this session regarding education funding, it is an issue that can arise at any point and I will continue to push for the state to pay their share for our schools.
Representative Andrew McLean, (D-Gorham), firstname.lastname@example.org:
One of my top priorities for this session is implementation of the recommendations from the Task Force to Address the Opioid Crisis in Maine. The bipartisan task force concluded its work in December and made over a dozen recommendations, including early prevention measures and better treatment options to protect Maine families from the effects of addiction. I am proud of the way my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have come together to find solutions to this epidemic.
According to the Maine Attorney General’s office, 185 Mainers died of a drug overdose in the first six months of 2017. In 2016, the total number of deaths was 376. We can and must do more to protect Maine families.
Transportation funding continues to be a focus for me. While we voted for and passed the Department of Transportation’s budget last session, we continue to examine and debate alternative funding sources for maintaining our transportation infrastructure. As I’ve said before, we don’t drive on Democratic roads or Republican roads – we drive on Maine roads – and my colleagues understand that maintaining them is too important to let partisanship get in our way.
Medicaid expansion was approved by the voters last fall and is something the Legislature will be focusing on throughout this session. With expansion, we will see 70,000 Mainers able to access necessary medical care and will also protect and create thousands of new jobs for health care workers across the state.
I also continue to work behind the scenes on the Gorham Connector. We were able to pass LD 905 into law despite a veto from the Governor, and I continued to work with the Maine Turnpike Authority to move this project along. As with many issues, a lot of work involves meetings outside of the official legislative process. This is one such example. I continue to meet regularly with the MTA to discuss the next steps in this process to ensure that the agency is not dragging its feet and help with any bureaucratic issues that may come up.