AUGUSTA –– Lawmakers and state agencies have submitted more than 400 requests for bills for the upcoming legislative session. The proposals include efforts to fight the state’s opiates epidemic, alter gun laws and protect a popular land conservation program currently frozen by Gov. Paul LePage.

The full details of all the requests are not yet public, and many of the bills are unlikely to receive approval from legislative leadership. However, those that advance to the upcoming session are likely to be contentious, setting the stage for the 2016 legislative elections.

The deadline to submit bill titles was Sept. 25. On Friday, the Legislative Information Office published a full list of bill requests by state lawmakers and agencies. The Legislative Council, which is composed of Republican and Democratic leadership, will meet Oct. 22 to begin culling the list. Lawmakers whose bills are rejected will have a chance to appeal in November.

The list includes a number of curiosities, including a request by Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, to randomly drug-test legislators and another from Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, to prohibit raising cats and dogs “for human consumption.”

GOVERNOR’S USE OF POWER

Two bills deal with the disposition of fetal tissue after abortions. They are clearly a response to the national controversy that has engulfed Planned Parenthood, after an abortion opponent released secretly recorded video in which Planned Parenthood officials talk about how they provide fetal tissue from abortions for medical research.

At least two proposals by House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, appear linked to the governor’s use of power. One proposal, dubbed “An Act to Ensure the Proper Functioning of State Government by Ensuring Execution of Executive Branch Duties,” follows the governor’s decision in June – and extended in October – to suspend nominations and appointments to state boards and commissions charged with handling an array of state business.

LePage has cited his rift with the Legislature for stalling on appointments, and critics contend he’s not fulfilling his duties as governor.

A second bill by McCabe would amend Maine’s law prohibiting the exercise of improper influence. It appears to be a response to LePage’s threat to withhold state funding from a private school that offered a job to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves. Eves filed a lawsuit against the governor after Good Will-Hinckley rescinded its offer to hire him as president.

LAND FOR MAINE’S FUTURE

At least six bills seek to free the Land For Maine’s Future program from the governor’s grip. LePage has taken a series of increasingly restrictive steps to throttle the agency’s conservation efforts, first by refusing to release $11.5 million in bond money already approved by voters, then by ordering LMF not to use any of the $2 million already appropriated for legal and other expenses of projects.

Several proposals are designed to release the voter-approved bonds, and another would change how LMF board members are chosen. While that process has never been a problem in the past, advocates for the program worry that LePage won’t appoint any board members when the current members’ terms expire.

Also among the proposals is an effort to repeal a provision in the recently passed concealed handgun law that requires individuals carrying a gun to tell law enforcement during a traffic stop. The disclosure provision was an amendment to a bill that repealed the state requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Sen Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, sponsored the bill and the amendment. He told the Portland Press Herald on Monday that his amendment was a scaled-back version of a House amendment and that he supported it to ensure that the bill passed both houses. Now, he said, he wants the Legislature to fully consider the “unintended consequences” of a provision that is subject to interpretation and potentially a violation of one’s constitutional rights.

Other gun-related proposals include an effort to strengthen background checks before the purchase of a firearm, sponsored by Rep. Roberta Beavers, D-South Berwick.

FOCUS ON WELFARE

There are a number of bills that would change the state’s welfare system. Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, has submitted legislation that would “promote the success and accountability of welfare reform initiatives.” Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, has submitted a proposal to ensure accountability in the welfare system.

Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, is proposing a bill that appears to repeal a LePage administration proposal that would make people ineligible for food stamps if they have more than $5,000 in the bank or own certain other items worth more than that amount, such as a snowmobile, boat, motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle.

Critics of the rule change say the asset test creates a disincentive for low-income people to save money. The new rule is the subject of a public hearing Tuesday at the Department of Health and Human Services.

A number of proposals are directed at the state’s drug problem. Several appear designed to strengthen drug trafficking laws – a priority for the LePage administration. Others are geared toward expanding and strengthening drug treatment and education programs.

Despite nearly a dozen proposals seeking to deal with the drug problem, LePage on Monday sent an email to the Legislative Council via his assistant. It read: “I realize you prefer to ignore the drug epidemic, but please for the sake and safety of Maine citizens do something. Ignoring the problem because of your dislike for a Governor is pure negligence. If innocent people are hurt because of your lack of action, Maine people will realize who failed them.”