Maine lawmakers are in discussions about whether the appropriations committee will meet again to fund additional bills despite the Legislature having wrapped up the bulk of its work last week.

It’s unclear exactly how much money is left unallocated, but it could be as much as $11 million to $12 million. And dozens of bills that were approved by the House and that received initial support from the Senate remain unfunded.

They include a bill that would guarantee insurance coverage of non-prescription birth control for the first time, a measure that would provide additional resources for schools to teach African American studies and another that would increase property tax relief for low-income seniors, among others.

“There are ongoing discussions about whether or not appropriations will come back and consider funding other bills,” Mary Erin Casale, a spokesperson for House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, said Tuesday.

The Legislature was scheduled to adjourn by law on April 17, and lawmakers met until the early morning the next day to wrap up last-minute business, including approval of a supplemental budget.

But state law also says lawmakers can extend their session by one additional day to take up objections from the governor, and they are expected to return in the coming weeks for “veto day.”


Lawmakers or Gov. Janet Mills also could call a special session to take up additional business, although the governor and legislative leaders have already indicated they’re unlikely to do that.

If the budget committee were to fund other bills, they would still need final approval from the Senate. The House could also be required to take up the bills again if there were any amendments.

And it appears that would require a special session or extension of the regular session.

Attorney General Aaron Frey is actively involved in advising the Legislature about its options, spokesperson Danna Hayes said in an email Tuesday. When asked whether lawmakers could legally take up other business on the same day they meet to discuss vetoes, Hayes said, “we can’t provide legal advice to the public.”

The issue has come up at least one other time in legislative history. In 1977, then-Attorney General Joseph Brennan issued an opinion saying he did not think lawmakers could take up additional business as part of their regular session when they met to consider gubernatorial vetoes.

However, Brennan said the Legislature could call a special session – which requires majority support from each political party – or could vote to extend the regular session by up to five days with a vote of two-thirds of members in each chamber.


Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, Senate chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, said it is her understanding that legislative leaders will be meeting to make a decision on whether the committee will meet again to discuss funding additional bills.

“There seems to be many things up in the air at this point about what work we will be allowed to do when we come back for veto day,” she said. “There are still some things that are unsettled and I haven’t talked to anyone recently about plans or when veto day will be held, but I would hope appropriations will have a say in terms of spending for a table.”

A spokesperson for Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said he is “very much interested in having the Legislature run the special appropriations table.”

“There are a lot of important bills that deserve to be funded and will make a difference in the lives of Mainers,” Christine Kirby said in a statement.


Legislative staff last week estimated that there was about $11.4 million left for allocation in the general fund, though that number could have changed as bills were being passed and amended last week amid a flurry of final activity. If the money doesn’t get spent, it could be carried over to next year.


There also could be changes in how much money is available depending on what the governor signs or doesn’t sign. Mills has 10 days from when lawmakers enact a bill, not counting Sundays, to veto it, sign it or allow it to become law without her signature.

That means she will need to take action by early next week on all bills approved by lawmakers.

Rotundo said there were some additional bills that were funded after lawmakers passed their supplemental budget, but they were mostly minor or funded with revenue sources other than the general fund.

She noted that any general fund money that is left is one-time funding and that typically the committee would not seek to spend it all.

“We’re always reminded by people doing the budgeting that you don’t want to spend it all,” Rotundo said. “You want some wiggle room in case an error has been made some place. You don’t want to spend down to the very last penny.”

The Legislature’s second, shorter session is intended to address emergencies and the supplemental budget is an addition to the regular biennial budget. As a result, Rotundo said that many of the things that made it into the supplemental budget are a reflection of emergency priorities.


They include Mills’ proposal for expanded background checks and updates to the yellow-flag law, a proposal from Talbot Ross for expanded mental health services and a bill providing funding for emergency shelters.

But dozens of other things – some costly, some not – still await funding and will die if they don’t receive it.

They include Talbot Ross’ bills to create a civil rights unit in the attorney general’s office and to provide new resources for schools to teach African American and Wabanaki studies.

Other bills not yet funded are L.D. 2203, which would require insurers to cover non-prescription birth control, in addition to requirements in the law that already guarantee coverage of prescription birth control, and L.D. 2144, which would expand property tax relief for low-income seniors.

L.D. 780, which would create a constitutional amendment protecting “personal reproductive autonomy” and guarantee the right to an abortion, also still awaits funding, though it is unlikely to pass even if it gets funded since lawmakers in the House already failed to pass the bill with the two-thirds majority needed to send it to referendum. The bill’s fiscal note says an appropriation of $172,000 may be needed if the number of referendum questions in the November election necessitates a second ballot.

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