Maine’s Permanent Commission on Racial, Indigenous & Tribal Populations (PCRITP) have released a report detailing the legislative initiatives they are supporting for the second session of the 131st Legislature.
The PCRITP was created by the Legislature in 2021 and tasked with “eliminating disparities for historically disadvantaged racial, indigenous and tribal populations in the State.”
In practice, PCRITP has become a taxpayer-funded lobbyist organization for left-wing ideology and Critical Race Theory (CRT).
The January report, entitled “Justice for all,” centers around the state racial equity commission’s advocacy of policies aimed at dismantling what the commission calls “systemic and structural racism” in Maine’s laws.
The PCRITP report includes a graphic of an iceberg meant to be a visualization of “systemic, structural, and institutional racism” in interpersonal relations, media, government, schools, the justice system, and at other levels of society.
“Systemic, Structural, and Institutional Racism are all terms that describe the way that racism becomes embedded in, around, and across our society in ways that privilege white people at the expense of Latino, Asian, Indigenous, and other racially-oppressed people,” the report’s description of the iceberg reads.
The racial equity commission’s policy priorities are divided into six categories: housing, tribal relations, public health, workers’ rights, education, and hate groups and hate crimes.
- LD 1664 – An Act to Increase Reimbursement Under the General Assistance Program
- LD 1710 – An Act to Establish the Maine Rental Assistance and Guarantee Program and Amend the Laws Regarding Tents and the Municipal General Assistance Program
- LD 1074 – An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Fund New Affordable Housing for Low-income Households
- LD 226 – An Act to Address Maine’s Affordable Housing Crisis
- LD 1877 – An Act to Reduce the Number of Children Living in Deep Poverty by Adjusting Assistance for Low-income Families
Under the housing category, PCRITP supports the passage or funding of the five bills listed above.
The housing bills are primarily aimed at increasing state funding for affordable housing projects.
LD 226 would direct $160 million towards affordable housing construction over the next four years, and LD 1074 would provide $100 million in bond funding for homeownership assistance and affordable home construction.
“Creating a future where all Maine people, our families, and our communities can thrive
requires active political intervention into long-standing social and economic processes that feed poverty cycles for rural, racial, Indigenous, and tribal populations,” the commission wrote.
Other measures supported by the commission relate to Maine’s municipal welfare program, General Assistance.
LD 1664 would increase state reimbursement to municipal General Assistance spending from 70 percent to 90 percent, and LD 1710 would establish a statewide rental assistance program through the Maine State Housing Authority (MaineHousing).
LD 1877 would adjust provisions related to Maine’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program, including providing for a clothing allowance and payment for certain transportation services.
- LD 2007 – An Act to Advance Self-determination for Wabanaki Nations
In terms of tribal relations, the PCRITP supports the passage of LD 2007, sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), who is also one of the co-chairs of the commission.
“People in Maine know that our communities thrive when we have the ability to choose our own paths. The Wabanaki, the first people to call this land home, know this, too,” the commission’s report reads. (As a factual matter, the earliest known inhabitants were not the Wabanaki but a group archaeologists refer to as the “Red Paint People“.)
“The Permanent Commission strongly supports legislation that recognizes the inherent rights of Wabanaki tribal nations to self-determination so that all of us can grow and thrive together,” the report states.
In the view of the Permanent Commission, Maine’s 1980s Settlement Acts have “prevented Wabanaki tribes from benefiting from the economic growth seen by other federally recognized tribes.”
In July 2023, during the first session of the 131st Maine legislature, Gov. Janet Mills successfully vetoed LD 2004, a similar bill also sponsored by Speaker Talbot Ross aimed at allowing the Wabanaki Nations greater flexibility in interacting with the federal government and pursuing economic development.
- LD 1975 – An Act to Implement a Statewide public Health Response to Substance Use and Amend the Laws Governing Scheduled Drugs
The Permanent Commission is advocating the passage of LD 1975, a bill that would decriminalize the possession of all controlled substances in Maine, as well as of drug paraphernalia.
The bill would also establish a “Substance Use, Health and Safety Fund” which would provide grants to substance use recovery agencies and organizations.
“We all struggle with something and for many this includes addiction,” PCRITP wrote in their report. “But today, our criminal legal system emphasizes punishment over rehabilitation and incarcerates racial, Indigenous, and tribal populations at a higher rate than white Mainers.”
The commission claims that there is a “stigma against Black people as drug traffickers” which leads to “false accusations with real consequences,” citing data pointing to racial disparities in drug-related incarceration rates.
“Imagine a world where we treat each other with care —a world where people aren’t locked away for their mistakes but offered a way to heal, where treatment resources are widely available, helping people overcome their challenges,” the commission’s report reads.
- LD 525 – An Act to Protect Farm Workers by Allowing Them to Organize for the Purposes of Collective Bargaining
- LD 1483 – An Act to Protect the Rights of Agricultural Workers
In their January report, Maine’s racial equity commission claims that “farmworkers in Maine lack the basic rights needed to address unfair treatment and unsafe working conditions.”
According to the commission, current state law in Maine regarding farm workers “disproportionately impacts immigrant communities and Mainers of color.”
“Currently, farmworkers are not subject to Maine’s minimum wage or overtime laws,” the report states. “They cannot discuss bettering their working conditions without fear of being fired for doing so.”
The commission is supporting LD 525, a bill that would allow Maine’s agricultural workers to unionize and initiate collective bargaining, as well as LD 1483, which would guarantee that the state’s farm workers have access to certain service providers during work hours.
- LD 1642 – An Act to Strengthen the Teaching of Wabanaki Studies in Maine Schools
- LD 2001 – An Act to Establish the African American Studies Advisory Council and Require Funding for African American Studies
The two bills supported by the commission under the category of education are geared towards bringing Wabanaki and African American studies into curriculums statewide.
“Learning about the realities of what Indigenous and African American populations have
faced should not be relegated to elective studies,” the commission states. “These stories deserve to be centered and are foundational to our collective understanding of America and Maine.”
These passage of these two bills, the commission argues, would “nourish minds and prevent racial tension and violence in the future.”
In June 2023, PCRITP Co-Chair and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross made remarks at a Juneteenth event in Portland in which she called for the audience to storm the Capitol over what she called the Maine Department of Education’s “oppressive” and “supremacist” ideology.
“We should all storm the institution, out of anger that this is the attitude that they’ve taken about our history,” Talbot Ross said in her June remarks. “We should be storming the Capitol. Really, I’m serious.”
Talbot Ross’ incendiary rhetoric was a response to the relegation of African American studies to MOOSE modules, the pandemic-era “Maine Opportunities for Online Sustained Education” online learning initiative.
Hate Groups and Hate Crimes:
- LR 2621 – An Act to Establish a Civil Rights Unit Within the Office of the Attorney General and Provide Public Education on Issues Regarding Hate and Bias
The Permanent Commission is also supporting a bill request that could create a “Civil Rights Unit” within the Maine Attorney General’s Office to combat the “the recent rise in hate crimes and visibility of hate groups in Maine.”
“Maine has recently seen an increase in the presence and visibility of self-proclaimed neo-Nazis and other hate groups. We cannot let displays of hate stand unanswered —and this demands a community response from all of us,” the report states.
“We must dismantle racism, hate, and all of the machinery used to generate fear and divide us against each other,” the report adds.
The commission cites 2022 data from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which tracked nine active “hate groups” in Maine.
The SPLC lists “Maine Parents Involved in Education” and “Parents’ Rights in Education – Maine” as two of the nine “hate groups” in the state, alleging that the groups are “antigovernment movements.”