AUGUSTA – Today, Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford presided over his final legislative session of the 130th Legislature. From the start, it was a session unlike any other. Fecteau was sworn in at the Augusta Civic Center in December of 2020, where the Legislature met through May 2021 so members could complete Legislative duties in-person before vaccinations were available, distanced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maine House and Senate returned to the state house in June 2021 and concluded their work today, having taken up five vetoes issued by Governor Mills. The Legislature adjourned sine die.
This session, Fecteau championed landmark legislation to grow the supply of housing in Maine. LD 2003, “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions received bipartisan support in both Chambers as well as from a wide array of bipartisan stakeholders. The bill marks a significant step toward solving Maine’s housing crisis. The measure will allow duplexes in single-family zones, as well as accessory dwelling units on residential property starting on July 1, 2023. It creates the Housing Opportunity Fund to provide financial and technical assistance to Maine towns as they tackle housing-related issues not addressed in the statewide legislation—such as housing shortages created by short-term rentals—through local initiatives and ordinances. LD 2003 was included in the supplemental budget passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Mills in April.
The Maine Legislature also passed Fecteau’s bills to:
- Establish a labor center in Maine: In a landmark year for union organizing in Maine and across the nation, LD 1816, An Act to establish a new Labor and Community Education Center at the University of Southern Maine. It will establish the center on USM’s Portland campus and enable the Bureau of Labor Education at the UMO to expand its valuable work in labor studies. The labor education center at USM will offer labor education for students, unions and the community at large. It will host regular trainings and workshops, policy seminars, working class oral history projects, conferences, symposia, speakers and films that address issues of concern to Maine’s working people such as labor law and workers’ rights, discrimination, labor history, quality of work life and more.
- Raise the pay of child care workers in Maine: By a vote of 130-0 in the House, the Legislature passed LD 1652, An Act to Build a Child Care System by Recruiting and Retaining Maine’s Early Childhood Educators Workforce aimed at addressing Maine’s child care workforce crisis and putting the sector on a path to long-term growth and stability. The bill enshrines a public investment in Maine’s child care workforce into law, even after one-time federal dollars dedicated to supporting Maine’s child care providers through ARPA dollars expire in the fall of 2022. Speaker Fecteau’s bill would provide Maine’s child care workforce with a monthly wage increase and funds to expand early childhood education programs at Maine’s Career and Technical Education schools.
In 2021, the Maine Legislature passed Speaker Fecteau’s bills to:
- Extend preventative dental care to 217,000 Mainers: The bill shifts Maine’s reliance on emergency-only dental coverage to a preventative dental care model to improve health outcomes and save the state money over time. LD 996, An Act To Improve Dental Health Access for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes received support from public health experts and economists as a smart investment for Maine and passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support. This bill was funded in the biennial budget on July 1. The benefit will go into effect statewide on July 1, 2022.
- Bolster career and technical education centers: LD 144, Act To Fund Capital Improvements to Career and Technical Education Centers and Regions To Bolster Maine’s Future Workforce will provide Maine CTE schools with $20 million in funding for much-needed equipment so Maine’s workforce has access to the tools they need to learn. This is the first statewide investment in CTE schools since a 1998 bond passed for $5 million. This bill was funded in the biennial budget on July 1. Governor Mills provided an additional $20 million using American Rescue Plan funds.
- Make voting more accessible by establishing ongoing absentee voting: This bill LD 148, An Act To Establish Ongoing Absentee Voting will allow Mainers over age 65 and those with disabilities to opt-in to have their absentee ballots sent to them for every election. This bill was funded in the biennial budget and will go into effect January 1, 2023.
- Reform Maine’s broken unemployment insurance system: LD 1564, An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Unemployment Compensation will help employers and employees navigate the unemployment insurance system and make meaningful changes to improve it. This initiative was enacted in 2021 and the workforce navigators have been chosen. They are already helping Maine people navigate layoffs and find new jobs.
- Study barriers to creating housing in Maine: In an affordable housing crisis, LD 609, Resolve, To Establish a Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions will establish a commission to review barriers to producing more affordable housing in Maine. The commission met from August to Demember of 2021 and reported their recommendations to the Labor and Housing Committee in January of 2022.
Speaker Fecteau applauds the Legislature for making important investments in Maine people, through responsible bipartisan budget agreements:
- Passing a bipartisan biennial budget that invests in Maine’s future: The budget included 55 percent state funding for education, a full restoration to revenue sharing by the end of the Fiscal Year 2023, and critical funding for senior living facilities and direct care workers, plus funding for preventative dental care, CTE schools, and investments in the environment. LD 221, An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2021, June 30, 2022 and June 30, 2023 was passed with bipartisan support in June 2021 and was signed by the governor on July 1, 2021.
- Allocating federal pandemic relief funds to aid in Maine’s recovery: On the final day of the special session, the Legislature voted to allocate federal relief funds through LD 1733, An Act To Provide Allocations for the Distribution of State Fiscal Recovery Funds. The $983 million in one-time federal funds makes ongoing large-scale investments in affordable housing, emerging and heritage industries, workforce training, high-speed reliable internet, community colleges and universities, state parks, health equity measures and childcare infrastructure. The bill was signed by the governor on July 19, 2021.
- Passing a supplemental budget that forwards Maine’s recovery: The budget includes first-in-the-nation investments in PFAS testing and mitigation, a rainy day savings fund for education, support for mental and behavioral health needs, and direct $850 checks to Mainers. LD 1995, An Act To Make Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2022 and June 30, 2023was passed with bipartisan support as an emergency measure in April 2022 and was signed by the governor on April 28, making it take effect immediately.
The legislation championed by Speaker Fecteau during the 130th Legislature builds upon his work during his previous three terms. Over the 127th-129th Legislatures, he passed a bill to grow Maine’s co-working spaces and legislation to abolish the subminimum wage for persons with disabilities. His initiative to allow Mainers to text 911 emergencies is now an option for every Mainer in an emergency situation. He sponsored a bipartisan bill that made the single largest investment in housing in Maine’s history, providing tax credits for renovating and constructing new affordable housing. Fecteau fought for LGBTQ+ equality every session of his legislative service. His bill to ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy that was signed into law by Governor Mills in 2020 now protects Maine’s LGBTQ+ youth.