The Maine State House after the first snow of the winter on Dec. 6 in Augusta. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Guns, housing and spending plans for state revenue surpluses are expected to be among the biggest issues facing Maine lawmakers when they return Wednesday for the start of the Legislature’s second session.

The second, shorter session is expected to adjourn by mid-April. It is limited to bills carried over from the first session, budget matters, new proposals from the governor and emergency proposals approved by legislative leaders.

More than 300 bills were carried over from the first legislative session that ended in June. They will be taken up, along with more than 90 bills approved as emergency legislation. Lawmakers and Gov. Janet Mills may also continue to introduce bills once the session starts.


“Gun safety will be No. 1 on everybody’s minds from Day One to the last day of the session,” said House Majority Leader Mo Terry, D-Gorham. “We know what happened (in the Lewiston mass shooting), and we’ve heard Maine people tell us what they want and what they need. We’re going to do our best to strengthen some of the gun safety laws.”

Lawmakers put forth more than a half-dozen new bills this fall in the wake of the Oct. 25 mass shootings that left 18 people dead and 13 injured. Two proposals – from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland – have been accepted for consideration, though details of the bills have yet to be published.


Talbot Ross also has a proposal for requiring background checks on certain firearms sales.

Other proposals include a bill from Rep. John Andrews, R-Paris, to create a system for notifying firearms dealers about statewide law enforcement alerts concerning dangerous people or people in crisis.

Rep. Jim White, R-Guilford, has a bill that would allow people who are harmed in a “gun-free zone” to sue the owner of the facility for not providing adequate protection.

And some proposals – such as a bill from Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, that seeks to simplify the process health care providers must go through to offer new services or build a new facility – are aimed at addressing mental health in the wake of the shootings.

Mills is also considering legislation and believes action on guns is needed, a spokesperson said, though she has yet to put forward any concrete proposals.

“What that action will be must be the product of a broad discussion among a diverse group of voices, including lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, public safety officials, public health officials, members of the judicial system, and advocates on all sides, among others,” spokesperson Ben Goodman said in an email. “To that end, (Mills’) office continues to meet with stakeholders.”



The second session will also see the conclusion of work by the Joint Select Committee on Housing, which was formed at the start of the 131st Legislature to address Maine’s lack of affordable housing.

Sen. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, co-chair of the committee, said priorities for the session include making sure emergency and low-barrier shelters are adequately funded, that the new statewide Housing First program created last session is on track to launch, and that programs to help first-time homebuyers and homeowners are working.

The committee heard earlier this month from privately run homeless shelters that said they are in danger of closing because of financial challenges and hope the state can help with funding.

Legislative leaders have also approved as emergency legislation two bills that would increase operational funding for emergency shelters and another that would make it more difficult for large municipalities to block the creation of homeless shelters.

The Housing First program, for which funding will become available in 2025, aims to provide housing and support services to the chronically homeless. Pierce said the committee wants to “make sure everything is in line for this to go online when it’s supposed to.”


The committee also anticipates working with MaineHousing to learn more about first-time homeowner programs, and will be looking to ensure they are adequately funded and working to help people move from homelessness and renting to homeownership.

“We want to be able to say what’s working and not, and how can we help people find their way to their first home,” Pierce said.


State officials at the end of November said they are projecting a $139 million revenue surplus in the current fiscal year and a similar surplus in the next, setting the stage for Mills to submit a supplemental budget for the Legislature’s consideration.

Goodman, Mills’ spokesperson, said the administration is crafting a supplemental budget proposal that will likely be introduced in late January.

With the proposal, Goodman said, Mills “wants to ensure that the State is continuing to fully fund programs previously approved by the Legislature – which continue to cost money – while evaluating pressing needs and maintaining the State of Maine’s fiscal stability over the long-term.”


House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, said House Republicans want to see the budget proposal include a reduction in the tax burden and help for communities affected by last month’s devastating wind and rain storm.

“We want to make sure those communities have the tools and funding necessary to put themselves back together and to make sure their roads and bridges are taken care of,” Faulkingham said.

Outside of the budget, Faulkingham said, House Republicans are concerned that net energy billing is driving up electricity costs and will be looking to ensure electric costs “don’t go through the roof.”

Electricity costs are also a priority for Senate Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said in a radio address Friday. Other priorities are mental health support, child welfare and welfare reform.

For Democrats, Talbot Ross said in a statement that priorities include investments and public policy focused on housing affordability, access to education and health care, and fostering inclusive communities, in addition to meaningful gun safety reform.

A spokesperson for Jackson, the Democratic Senate president, pointed to a statement Jackson released at the time of the November revenue forecast when asked about priorities.


“Amid teacher shortages, lawmakers must double down on efforts to raise wages for teachers, ed techs and school support staff,” Jackson said at the time.

“With families struggling to access critical care, lawmakers must prioritize investments in long-term care, including our veterans’ homes, and behavioral health. At the same time, we cannot let up on our work on child care, housing and EMS or ignore the tragedies plaguing our child welfare system.”


Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey are working with the independent commission formed to investigate the Lewiston shootings and legislative leadership to prepare legislation granting the commission subpoena power. Goodman said their goal is to have the legislation prepared for the Legislature’s consideration “within the first few weeks” of the new legislative session.

Lawmakers are also likely to continue their examination of child protective services, which has come under scrutiny following a spate of child deaths, several critical reports about the agency’s handling of specific cases and testimony from caseworkers detailing staff shortages and difficult working conditions.

“We’ve seen firsthand that we need to do some work on child welfare and child protection,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, a member of the Government Oversight Committee, which has been reviewing child protective services. “We’re eager to work on those issues.”

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