An early look at the Maine’s 130th Legislature

Maine’s 130th Legislature will be sworn in on December 2 and is scheduled to convene Wednesday, January 6, for the first regular session, which normally would last through the third week in June. On Dec. 2., legislators also will vote on constitutional officers, including the secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and state auditor. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap is termed out, but it’s likely the other current officers will be reelected.

Democrats kept control of the Senate with 22 seats, while Republicans have 13. Democrats also retained control of the House, even though they lost 11 seats. They have 80, while Republicans have 67 and there are four unenrolled (aka independents). That means Democrats will determine the makeup of legislative committees.

Having said that, no one really knows what this legislative session will actually look like yet. With COVID cases surging, there’s a lot of speculation and rumors, but we likely won’t know the legislative process until the Legislative Council meets Dec. 3 to start making decisions on the upcoming session. I would expect the Legislative Council, Governor’s Office, and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention will work together on plans for the session.

So let’s look at Senate and House leadership (see photo above). Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, will be back, as will be Majority Leader Sen. Nate Libby, D-Androscoggin, and Assistant Majority leader Sen. Eloise Vitale, D-Sagadahoc. Republicans chose Jeff Timberlake, R-Androscoggin, as Minority Leader, and Matt Pouliot, R-Kennebec, as Assistant Minority Leader.

Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, was elected Speaker of the House, while Rep. Michele Dunphy, D-Old Town, became Majority Leader and Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland. Assistant Majority Leader. House Republicans chose Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, as Minority Leader and Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, as Assistant Minority Leader.

Committee assignments will be announced later. But just looking through the key committees that we deal with, a lot of people are leaving, either because they chose not to run again, were termed out or lost in their reelection bid. At right, you can see the legislators we know will not be back.

Appropriations will need seven new members, including both chairs. That’s going to be significant because in the first regular session we always deal with the biennial budget, and the administration has made it quite clear there is a major shortfall. Judiciary needs four new members, including its Senate chair. Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry will need two new members.

As for our priorities this session, that will become clearer once we know more about how the Legislature will be set up. We do know that in the first regular session they will have to deal with the biennial budget and they will deal with other economic and COVID issues. We do know reports from the Economic Recovery Committee and the Climate Change Council will be delivered in early December for potential action.

Right now one of our top priorities is trying to get legislators, especially new ones, to know about MFPC and what we do. So we’ve sent out congratulatory letters from the council to all legislators and we’ll be working closely with leadership. We hope to participate in decisions that will be made with regards to committee assignments and public hearings. If they go to a Zoom platform that’s a greater opportunity to engage our membership, since they can participate from their homes or offices. We’ll continue to do our conference calls or perhaps Zoom meetings Friday mornings.

We also encourage our members to reach out to their own legislators, especially those who are new to the House or Senate. This is going to be very important for us because we can’t meet them in the State House this session. We’re really going to need a lot of support from the membership on the local level.

So if there’s a new legislator in your Senate or House districts and you have an opportunity to get to know him or her that would be incredibly beneficial. It’s really valuable to have that local connection.

This will be an ongoing discussion and we will keep members up to date on decisions the Legislature makes on how the session will be conducted. We also would be happy to answer any questions. We look forward to working closely with MFPC members in these uncertain times.