It is everyone’s favorite time of the legislative cycle – preparing for the second session, or the emergency session, as outlined by the Maine Constitution. On Wednesday, the Legislative Council, a 10-person legislative body tasked with admitting legislation to the second session, will consider 399 bill requests submitted by lawmakers.
For a bill to be admitted for consideration in the second session, it must receive the affirmative vote of six members of the Legislative Council. The body itself is comprised of legislative leadership, including the House Speaker, Senate President, the majority and minority leaders and their assistants in both chambers of the legislature.
Unlike the first session, the state constitution places strict limitations on what type of legislation can be considered in the second session. Article IV, Part Third, Section 1 of the Maine Constitution states:
“The Legislature shall…convene on the first Wednesday after the first Tuesday of January in the subsequent even-numbered year in what shall be designated the second regular session of the Legislature; provided, however, that the business of the second regular session of the Legislature shall be limited to budgetary matters; legislation in the Governor’s call; legislation of an emergency nature admitted by the legislature; legislation referred to committees for study and report by the Legislature in the first regular session; and legislation presented to the Legislature by written petition of the electors under the provisions of Article IV, Part Third, Section 18.”
According to the Maine Constitution, legislation in the second session is reserved for budgetary matters, governor’s bills, emergency bills admitted by the legislature, studies and reports from the first session and citizen’s initiatives.
“Legislation of an emergency nature” is also defined in the Maine Constitution. Article IV, Part Third, Section 16 states:
“An emergency bill shall include only such measures as are immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety; and shall not include (1) an infringement of the right of home rule for municipalities, (2) a franchise or a license to a corporation or an individual to extend longer than one year, or (3) provision for the sale or purchase or renting for more than 5 years of real estate.”
With this in mind, consider some of the “emergencies” lawmakers want to debate in the upcoming session.
LR: 2970 Title: An Act To Create the Maine SpacePort Complex
LR: 2617 Title: An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Renewable Portfolio Standards
LR: 2962 Title: An Act To Ban Commercial Horse Pulling
LR: 2921 Title: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Promote Outdoor Recreation and Land Conservation
LR: 2944 Title: An Act To Minimize Potentially Objectionable License Plates
LR: 2779 Title: An Act To Classify Certain Persons as Employees Rather Than Independent Contractors
LR: 2780 Title: An Act To Increase the Minimum Wage
LR: 2645 Title: An Act To Require a Person Who Owns a Firearm To Purchase Liability Insurance
LR: 2763 Title: An Act To Prohibit the Sale of Vaping Devices and Similar Electronic Smoking Devices
LR: 2839 Title: An Act To Increase the Salary of Legislators and the Governor
LR: 2867 Title: An Act To Promote Economic Development by Increasing Incentives for the Film Industry
LR: 2604 Title: An Act To Prohibit the Use of the State Seal in Political Advertisements and Campaign Materials
LR: 2619 Title: Resolve, To Require Maine To Become an Affiliate of the International Alliance To Combat Ocean Acidification
LR: 2829 Title: An Act To Amend the Definition of the Term “Machine Gun”
LR: 2969 Title: An Act To Ban Persons under 21 Years of Age from Purchasing, Possessing or Using Vaping Products
LR: 2800 Title: An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Repair Maine Forest Service Aircraft
LR: 2974 Title: An Act To Promote Outdoor Recreational Opportunities for Maine Students
LR: 3092 Title: An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Subminimum Wage
LR: 2689 Title: An Act To Require a Person To Carry Liability Insurance on a Snowmobile
LR: 2917 Title: An Act To Revive Film Production in the State by Providing Financial Incentives That Encourage Visual Media Production
LR: 2695 Title: An Act To Prevent Vulgar License Plates
LR: 2670 Title: An Act To Require Operators of Motorized Scooters To Wear Helmets
LR: 2713 Title: An Act To Provide Tax Credits for Employers Who Employ Qualified Apprentices
LR: 2877 Title: An Act To Establish the Last Saturday in October as the Official Day for “Trick or Treat” in Maine
LR: 3059 Title: An Act Authorizing an Instant Lottery Game with Proceeds To Benefit Early Childhood Education
LR: 2765 Title: An Act To Enact Restrictions on Electronic Smoking Devices
LR: 3054 Title: An Act To Provide a Sales Tax Exemption for Textbooks
LR: 2708 Title: An Act To Ban Single-use Plastic Straws, Splash Sticks and Beverage Lid Plugs
LR: 2953 Title: An Act To Prevent Mass Shootings in Maine by Banning Assault-style Weapons
LR: 2984 Title: An Act To Reduce Carbon Emissions in New Construction and Paving
LR: 2897 Title: An Act Prohibiting Certain Confinement of Egg-laying Hens and the Sale of Their Eggs
LR: 2694 Title: An Act To Support Maine Businesses by Authorizing the Imposition of a Surcharge on the Use of a Debit or Credit Card
LR: 3079 Title: An Act To Promote Renewable Energy Resources
LR: 2809 Title: An Act To Provide Revenue Sharing for Counties
LR: 2665 Title: An Act To Repeal the Tax on the Rental of All-terrain Vehicles
LR: 2687 Title: An Act To Allow Nonprofit Organizations in Maine To Sell Raffle Tickets Online
LR: 2646 Title: An Act To Extend the Hours for Serving Alcohol
LR: 2785 Title: An Act To Restrict Parking in Areas Reserved for Charging Electric Motor Vehicles
LR: 3055 Title: Resolve, Directing the Gambling Control Board To Investigate and Propose New Rules Regarding So-called Loot Boxes in Video Games
LR: 2925 Title: An Act To Incentivize the Purchase of Electric Public School Buses
Most of these bills (and plenty others), while well-meaning, plainly fail to meet the emergency standard outlined in the state constitution. Others are the same old virtue signaling by politicians who have never encountered a government “solution” they didn’t like.
Rep. Ben Collings, with his LR 2780, wants to increase the minimum wage before the 2016 ballot initiative has even been fully implemented. Rep. Janice Cooper and Sen. Rebecca Millett want to ban vaping in Maine, and Sen. David Miramant wants to ban plastic straws. Rep. Maggie O’Neil considers prohibiting the confinement of hens and the sale of their eggs to be “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety.”
Some are even good bills that should pass, but simply don’t meet the threshold. Take, for example, Rep. Scott Strom’s LR 2646, “An Act To Extend the Hours for Serving Alcohol.” There’s nothing I want more than to enjoy a fine craft beer at a local pub around 2 a.m., but amending the laws governing the sale of alcohol (unfortunately) does not meet the definition of an emergency as outlined in the state constitution; it’s far better suited as a first session bill.
Ultimately, it will be up to the Legislative Council to determine which bills truly rise to the level of an emergency. The full list of preliminary bill titles (by sponsor) for the second session can be found here.