Lawmakers on the Legislature’s budget committee met Tuesday to sign off on funding for dozens of additional bills that still need final approval before they can be sent to Gov. Janet Mills.

The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee moved dozens of bills from what’s known as the special appropriations table, where bills requiring funding go before they can get final approval from the Maine Senate.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the bills the committee approved when they meet Friday to take up vetoes from Mills. Any amended bills would need approval in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate.

The committee on Tuesday voted in favor of spending for several important initiatives, including more resources for teaching African American and Wabanaki studies in schools (though less than the original bill called for), establishing a civil rights unit in the Office of the Maine Attorney General and starting a system in the Department of Public Safety for tracking and storing forensic sexual assault kits.

It was unclear late Tuesday exactly how much funding the committee ended up allocating, but lawmakers prefaced the meeting saying they had about $11.4 million available. The supplemental budget approved by lawmakers and Mills last month was $430 million.

Another bill approved for funding would require health insurance providers to cover the cost of non-prescription birth control in addition to prescription contraceptives, which are already required to be covered.


The committee also “moved off the table” L.D. 780, which would send to voters a referendum to amend the Maine Constitution to guarantee the right to “personal reproductive autonomy,” including the right to an abortion.

That bill, one of the most controversial of the legislative session, received initial votes of support in the House and Senate, but is unlikely to receive final passage because it requires two-thirds support in each chamber to go to referendum. None of the votes taken to date have garnered that level of support.

Many of the bills moved by the committee Tuesday drew little or no discussion. One bill that drew a small amount of discussion was L.D. 471, which would establish a commission to help Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in designing a new state flag to be voted on in a statewide referendum. The bill also would push the referendum from this fall to 2026.

Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, commented on that bill that it is “one of the silliest things the Legislature can do this year.”

“I think it’s totally absurd we should be spending all this time making a simple decision,” Bennett said. “The secretary of state can pull together a group if she wishes on her own and get some advice and then have the vote this year.”

The committee approved that bill 9-2.


Bennett also expressed concerns about the committee’s process at the start of Tuesday’s meeting, saying he found it “deeply disturbing and problematic” that the bills selected for funding were chosen in private, partisan caucuses before the committee voted on them in a public session.

“I really find this process to be not the best it should be in terms of transparency and accountability,” he said. “And it does a disservice to the people of Maine.”

Rep. Sawin Millett, R-Waterford, shared Bennett’s concerns and said that the parameters set forward for allocations by the committee, calling for spending upwards of $10 million of the $11.4 million in unbudgeted funds, were not responsible.

The Legislature was required to adjourn by law on April 17, but lawmakers will meet again on Friday to take up vetoes from Mills. Legislative leaders said last week that lawmakers would also be taking up other business, including some of the dozens of bills that were left on the special appropriations table.

It’s unclear, though, if the governor will allow any newly approved bills to get enacted into law. A spokesperson for the governor said last week that she wants to see the Legislature exercise fiscal restraint and was urging lawmakers to only take up her vetoes, not additional bills.

Mills will be unable to formally veto any legislation that comes out of the Legislature on the final day, and any bills that she decides not to sign will not become law after 10 days as they normally would. Unless the same Legislature returns for a special session, any unsigned bills will automatically die.

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