House and Senate Debate Minimum Wage

Currently, Maine’s minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. A citizen-initiated referendum that would increase the State’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 is set to appear on Maine’s statewide ballot this fall. This petition was circulated and backed by groups including the Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine AFL-CIO. In an effort to moderate that measure, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and a broad-based coalition of businesses and trade associations recently worked to introduce legislation proposing to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2020. If approved by the Maine House and Senate, it will appear on the ballot this fall as a competing measure to the $12 an hour proposal. The business coalition’s legislation was defeated in the House this week, 78-67. The bill is anticipated to be voted upon by the Senate next week.

Bills Still Being Printed as Legislature Moves into Five-Day Work Week and Double Sessions

The statutory adjournment date for the 2nd Regular Session of the 127th Legislature is April 20. Despite that deadline looming less than a month away, bills are still being printed. One late session bill printed this week, introduced by Senator Justin Alfond, would establish a Presidential primary system in Maine, to replace the current caucus system which was widely criticized in recent weeks. Another late-session bill would create community substance abuse programs, something which could be considered part of an overall theme of the Legislature this session to tackle the drug and opioid addiction crisis in Maine. Beginning next week, the Legislature will be in session five days a week and is expected to conduct double and triple sessions during the day to complete work on bills that have been reported out of the various committees. Despite the scheduled adjournment date of April 20, the Legislature has the option of extending its work period for up to ten legislative days beyond that time.

Annual Legislative Memorial Scholarship Auction Held at Le Club Calumet in Augusta

On Tuesday, March 22, the annual Maine State Legislative Memorial Scholarship Auction was held at Le Club Calumet in Augusta. The event, which brings together legislators, staff, lobbyists, and members of the administration, was first held in 1981. Initially held to raise money for the Gould-Michaud Scholarship Funds, the event now supports the Legislative Memorial Scholarship Fund, which was established in 1995 as the successor of the other Funds. The fund is used to make scholarship awards to Maine residents attending any accredited Maine institution of higher education, in honor of all Legislators and Staff who served the Maine Legislature. The scholarships are awarded to one student from each county in Maine, in amounts up to $1000. This year, over 200 items were auctioned off as participants vied for items ranging from Red Sox tickets to beer to snow shoes.

Possible Supplemental Budget for This Session Yet to be Announced

Word in the hallways is that some members of the Legislature are discussing the possibility of introducing a supplemental budget which would address legislation that has made it to the Special Appropriations table and potentially other programs with large fiscal impacts to the State. No announcement of a budget has been formally made and no such bill has been printed, but interested parties should be on the lookout for this in the next couple of weeks as the Legislature goes into overdrive to complete its work this session.