AUGUSTA — Legislative leaders will meet this month to decide which bills they will debate in 2020, picking from a 56-page list of topics ranging from vaping restrictions and opioid treatment to banning assault rifle sales and limiting the use of fireworks around lakes.

Lawmakers are starting to make known what issues they hope to take on in what will be an election year for the 186-member Legislature.

Among the more quirky bill titles is a proposal to create a spaceport in Maine, offered by Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester.

But before people get excited about a burgeoning space tourism business in Maine, Bellows said the bill is really about emerging nano-satellite technology that would meld well with existing space technology companies and the University of Maine’s engineering programs.

“Maine would serve as an ideal launch site for this nano-satellite technology and we have a competitive advantage being in the northern hemisphere,” Bellows said. The measure is focused on economic development and calls for a public-private partnership involving UMaine, the former Brunswick Naval Air Station and the former Loring Air Force Base near Limestone.

Later this month, the 10-member Legislative Council, comprised of leaders from both parties, meets to take its first crack at some of the 399 proposed bill titles printed earlier this week.


Lawmakers also have about 460 bills that were either carried over from the previous session or held for additional work by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills when the Legislature adjourned in June.

Many of the new proposals will be rejected outright, and others will be merged to lighten the overall workloads for committees in what is traditionally the shorter half of the legislative session.

Without a two-year budget to craft, lawmakers are expected to wrap up their work by the end of April, but any dramatic shift in the state or national economy, especially a negative one, could require a supplemental budget package to keep the state’s books in the black, as required by the Maine Constitution.

Public health and safety, as well as health care access and reform, will again be on the priority list for many lawmakers. Among them, a package of proposals to curtail the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. Other proposals would establish civil fines for adults who break tobacco-use laws.

One bill would ban smoking or vaping at bus stops and other public transportation hubs. Another vaping-related bill would prohibit adding the active ingredients in marijuana, including THC and cannabidiol, to vaping liquids.

The gun bills including proposals to ban the sale of  assault-style military firearms  in Maine, and to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance.


Lawmakers are also likely to continue efforts to combat the opioid overdose crisis. Some bill titles appear to be aimed at helping pregnant women with substance abuse disorders. Another would create another task force on the problem.

Climate change is also on the docket, including at least one proposal to limit carbon emissions related to construction and road paving.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said his caucus will again focus on lowering the health care costs for Mainers, including further efforts to reduce the prescription drug prices. Jackson said the workload looks daunting but he believes most lawmakers will be ready to start work quickly in January.

“This is what the Legislature does,” Jackson said. “We are just going to have to knuckle down, prioritize and do things in a timely manner.”

Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, said he wants to improve workforce development in Maine.

“That’s why better funding the career and technical education programs that train so many workers will be one of my personal priorities,” Fecteau said. “Across the Legislature, we also need to look at conserving Maine’s land and working waterfront, continuing to improve and expand health care, making higher education more affordable, helping our older Mainers age in place and so much more.”


Many of the bill titles appear to address items on Fecteau’s list.

Republicans will also have priorities, said Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro. Dow said the number of proposals coming from their side will be limited because the second half of the two-year, lawmaking session is meant to address critical issues or emergencies like a state budget shortfall.

Dow said bills to restrict the use of vaping products by those under 21 and another to create a community policing program within the University of Maine system are among Republicans’ top priorities.

“I think there are fewer Republican bills because, as a general rule, Republicans aren’t as apt to seek a legislative solution to every problem,” Dow said.






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