As the nation heads toward a possible federal government shutdown for the second time in two months, Maine lawmakers will soon take up a proposal to support the state’s federal workers during any future shutdowns.

Sen. President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, proposed the measure after hearing from workers concerned about paying their bills as the federal government careened toward a possible shutdown at the end of September. His bill would allow affected federal workers to get limited, interest-free loans to support themselves and their families during a shutdown. Federal employees, whether they are considered essential or not, go without pay during shutdowns but receive back pay when the government reopens.

“Hardworking federal employees shouldn’t have to pay the price for political games and incompetence in D.C.,” Jackson said in a written statement. “With the threat of the federal shutdown looming overhead, Maine lawmakers should have these workers’ backs. In the event of a federal shutdown, they will still have homes to heat, kids to feed, and bills to pay. A limited interest-free loan program can help.”

The federal government will shut down or partially shut down at midnight on Nov. 17 unless a divided Congress passes new funding. Jackson’s bill would not help federal employees during any shutdown that begins next Friday. Maine lawmakers won’t reconvene to consider new bills until January and the bill, if it passes, wouldn’t take effect until spring.

But it does reflect an expectation that, as partisanship grows in Washington, D.C., the threats of shutdowns – and actual shutdowns – will likely be a more regular occurrence.

Jackson’s proposal is one of 58 new bills given the green light this week by legislative leaders from both parties, who culled a list of 283 bill requests submitted by the Sept. 29 deadline. These bills will be added to the more than 300 bills that were carried over when the first session of the current Legislature ended in June.


The state constitution limits the second session to bills carried over from the first session, budgetary matters, new proposals from the governor, and emergency legislation.

The 10-member Legislative Council did not allow bills sponsored by Portland and Bangor lawmakers seeking to prevent the clearing of homeless encampments to be considered during the session that starts in January. Nor did they allow bills that would have undermined the development of a renewable energy transmission line in northern Maine. Lawmakers can lodge appeals, which the council will take up next week.

It’s not yet clear what new bills will come forward in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Lewiston last month, which occurred after the deadline to submit legislation.

The council will meet next week to consider after-deadline bill requests, including anticipated new proposals related to gun control and mental health treatment. More new bill requests could come in before the Legislature convenes in January.

The revisor’s office, which reviews and drafts requested bills, could not provide any information this week about the number of bills submitted since the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston, which killed 18 people and wounded 13 others at two separate locations.

But it’s clear that the shootings will generate new gun safety proposals at the federal and state level. Sen. Angus King, an independent, said he’s working on a federal bill to ban the most lethal and dangerous features on assault rifles, such as bump stocks and high-capacity ammunition magazines. He also supports universal background checks.


State lawmakers, especially rural Democrats, are rethinking their previous opposition to gun safety proposals, such as waiting periods for firearm purchases, background checks on private sales, and banning rapid-fire devices. And Gov. Janet Mills, who launched an independent commission to review the months leading up to the shootings and the police response, has been reaching out to lawmakers to collect ideas for new bills.

The text of the bills approved by the council this week is not yet available, but the bill titles indicate that lawmakers agreed to consider several measures relating to criminal justice, including bills aimed at addressing the rise of hate groups in Maine.

The council approved for consideration a bill from House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, to establish a civil rights unit in the attorney general’s office and provide public education regarding hate and bias.

Also approved was a bill from Rep. Laurie Osher, D-Orono, aimed at preventing paramilitary training camps. It was one of three bills targeting efforts by Christopher Pohlhaus, a prominent neo-Nazi, to encourage like-minded people to join him on nearly 11 acres of land he had purchased in the rural northern Maine town of Springfield.

Polhouse’s efforts were highlighted in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram investigation in July.

Pohlhaus has since sold the land, the Bangor Daily News reported.


Other bills to clear their initial hurdle run the gamut.

The council allowed lawmakers to consider a bill next session that would require the state’s three constitutional officers – attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer – to undergo sexual harassment prevention training.

That bill, sponsored by Rep. John Andrews, R-Paris, is in response to Attorney General Aaron Frey’s consensual relationship with a subordinate employee. The relationship had been going on for eight months before it was disclosed after reporters began asking about it.

It was revealed that the office, unlike other state agencies, didn’t have a policy requiring the AG to immediately disclose the relationship so the employee could be assigned a new supervisor. The AG’s office adopted a new policy in September – about five months after the affair was disclosed in April.

The council also gave the green light to another Andrews bill that aims to “combat racketeering by foreign organizations in Maine cannabis markets.” That bill responds to recent reports of an apparent network of illegal grow operations run by Chinese nationals.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection memo leaked to the Daily Caller detailed the widespread operation, saying as many as 270 illegal grow sites worth more than $4 billion could be operating in the state.


Jackson’s bill to support federal workers during government shutdowns could get a boost from events in Washington, D.C., next week.

The federal government narrowly averted a shutdown in late September after former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy cut a temporary funding deal with Democrats. Hardline conservative Republicans sacked McCarthy as speaker as a result, leading to three weeks of infighting over who should lead the lower chamber. Business ground to a halt during those weeks.

New House Speaker Michael Johnson, R-La., has said he is working on a proposed budget deal but faces the same hardliner demands for steep spending cuts that tripped up McCarthy.

Ahead of the previous shutdown threat, officials estimated that 7,000 federal workers in Maine would be affected, with more than 4,500 being furloughed and the rest being designated as essential employees who would have to work without pay. State officials have said an additional 2,500 state workers, whose salaries are paid in part or in full with federal funding, could also be impacted.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: