Four bills down; 1,796 to go: What the Maine Legislature has accomplished this year

There appears to be a quiet day brewing in Augusta today, with only two committees meeting, and that’s the way it will remain for the next week as the Legislature, for the most part, goes on vacation until Feb. 27.

Six weeks into the 128th Legislature, it’s not as if everyone is bushed from exhaustion — though it’s true that some lawmakers, particularly members of leadership and the Appropriations Committee, spend more time at the State House than you’d probably believe.

So far this session, the activity in the House and Senate has been confined mostly to routine votes to move bills into the committee process. At that end, there have been some long days but the activity is still ramping up. Between now and June, committees will process roughly 1,800 bills.

Out of curiosity, I checked with the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis on Thursday (they’re the folks who keep track of bills, among many other tasks). These figures were current as of Thursday afternoon, before the House and Senate held some late-afternoon sessions due to the snow storm.

  • The 128th Legislature will ultimately consider around 1,800 bills this year, which is a somewhat moving target because some bills will be withdrawn by their sponsors while Gov. Paul LePage and legislative leaders will likely add to the total in the coming months.
  • Of those 1,800 bills, about 640 have been written so far by the Legislature’s Revisor of Statutes office. Lots of work left to do there.
  • Of the 640 written bills, about 550 have been referenced to committee, though several more were referenced Thursday afternoon.
  • Of the 550 that have referenced to committee, a grand total of seven (7) have been reported out of committee, back to the Legislature. Here’s the committees’ soundtrack. Listen, you all need more They Might Be Giants in your lives.
  • Here’s the number you’ve been waiting for: The total number of bills that have received final disposition six weeks into the legislative session is (drumroll) four.

To be fair, this is how it always goes in Augusta. It’s partly a function of bills being bottle-necked at the revisor’s office, but also a choice by legislative leaders. Most of the more important and likely contentious bills won’t come to floor debates for weeks yet. Come May and June, we’ll look back on this ramping-up period with longing.

It could be busier than usual if most of those 1,800 bills come through, said Jon Clark, OPLA’s deputy director. In the past four legislative sessions, the highest number of bills processed was 1,588 in the 125th Legislature. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • The 2015 runner-up for Lewiston mayor is making ‘an announcement’ next week. In a Thursday video on Facebook, progressive activist Ben Chin said he’ll make an announcement on Feb. 23 at Museum L-A in Lewiston. It just so happens that third-term Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald — the conservative who beat Chin in a 2015 runoff despite a 15-1 fundraising deficit in a race for the ages — can’t run for re-election this year because of term limits. Stay tuned.
  • The bill to let the Libertarians be a party in Maine is being introduced today. Instead of requiring the Libertarians and any other fledgling political party to achieve permanent status, LD 295 would require the party’s presidential candidate to receive at least 5 percent of the total general election vote as opposed to the current requirement that 10,000 of the party’s registered voters cast ballots. The bill is retroactive to last year and represents a compromise agreement between the Libertarian Party of Maine Inc. and the Secretary of State’s office, who faced off in court last year over the issue. Passage of LD 295 would give the Libertarians permanent party status in Maine.
  • Marijuana committee hosting public forum. The topic for the meeting will be discussions about implementing legalized recreational marijuana. The forum is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. in room 216 of the Cross Office Building, which is adjacent the State House in Augusta. (NOTE: A previous version of this post incorrectly implied that the meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21.) — Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd

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Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.