The Maine Legislature will close Tuesday in response to coronavirus – after considering bills to respond to the global pandemic.

Legislators will consider bills “directly related to coronavirus response and other critical services, then adjourn,” said a joint statement released by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, and House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford.

The statement continued: “On Tuesday, we will consider emergency legislation to help the state respond effectively and efficiently to this public health crisis and any critical appropriations before temporarily ending the legislative session next week.”

The decision comes on the heels of an announcement Friday that Maine had identified its second and third likely cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

The Legislature has hundreds of unfinished bills before it, including a $127 million supplemental budget proposal that was offered by Gov. Janet Mills in February.

That spending package includes $1.5 million for 20 new caseworkers at the Department of Health and Human Services and $1.9 million to hire 10 new troopers and four new sergeants for the Maine State Police, among other items.

Mary Erin Casale, a spokeswoman for Gideon, said Saturday the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee would be meeting Monday in an effort to approve a modified version of that spending package that would be voted on by the full Legislature and sent to Mills on Tuesday.

The Maine Legislature is made up of 186 lawmakers, 151 House members and 35 state Senators who come from all parts of the state. They are supported by dozens of partisan and nonpartisan workers, clerks, legal analyst and security staff.

The State House also draws hundreds of visitors each day from citizen advocates and opponents of proposed bills as well as full corps of professional lobbyists, who represent a vast array of industries and interests.

It is hoped that shuttering the Capitol complex will help slow the spread of the virus as part of social distancing strategy that health officials have promoted in recent days.

“Hundreds of lawmakers, advocates and legislative staffers come from all across the state to work at the State House each day,” the statement announcing the closure of the Legislature stated. “Suspending the legislative session to mitigate the spread of disease in our communities is the responsible thing to do.”

The announcement noted the Legislature would adjourn “sine die” – Latin for “without day” – meaning leadership did not intend to return to the State House after Tuesday. Casale said the Legislature intended to reconvene as soon as possible based on the best guidance of health officials.

Emergency legislation, bills that would go into immediate effect as soon as they are signed by Mills, will require bipartisan cooperation and two-thirds support from both the House and the Senate to become law.

Otherwise, bills passed by the Legislature and signed by Mills, would not go into effect until 90 days after the adjournment on Tuesday.


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