Maine’s 2023 legislative session proved to be one of the most eventful and historic in recent memory. With the session now closed, lawmakers were successful in passing strong safety nets for Maine families, making healthcare more affordable, improving the quality of life of working families, and protecting ballot access for Maine voters.
Here are a few priority bills lawmakers worked to pass:
Paid Family & Medical Leave
Our lawmakers approved a historic Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program in Maine. Starting in 2026, employees can take up to 12-weeks of paid leave to tend to a sick or dying loved one, care for a newborn, or recover from their own health challenges. This will ensure that working Mainers are able to care for themselves or a sick family member without missing out on a paycheck.
“A Paid leave program fills in the gaps to make sure people don’t lose their financial security when the worst happens,” said Assistant Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry.
22 percent of Mainers live in an area where there are more than three times as many children under the age of five as there are licensed child care slots, and nearly 85 percent of childcare providers see staff shortages.
The legislature added funds to the budget to ensure that both families and childcare providers have the support they need. This includes expanding childcare subsidies so more families are eligible, raising the monthly stipend for childcare workers, and directing the DHHS to implement a program to achieve affordable childcare by 2030.
Protecting Our Democracy
Maine legislators worked hard during this session to help safeguard democracy by making our elections safer and more accessible for everyone. They bolstered absentee voting by passing legislation to allow all registered voters the flexibility to automatically receive an absentee ballot in the mail each election. “What’s so exciting about this bill is it makes voting even more accessible and convenient for your average Mainer,” said Secretary of State Shenna Bellows.
Lawmakers also passed legislation that prevents a foreign government or entity from contributing money to influence ballot initiatives. The bill also asks Maine’s Congressional delegation to support and promote an anti-corruption amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Janet Mills vetoed this bill, ignoring the will of the Maine people.
Exploring the Public Option
Our leaders approved the development of a commission to study how Maine could establish a public option health care plan in the state. A public option would essentially function as a health insurance coverage program run by the state and made available alongside existing private health insurance plans. The public option would be available to all Mainers, and could ensure lower insurance rates and more comprehensive coverage for everyone.
The commission’s work could start the process of improving healthcare accessibility for thousands of Mainers when they fall sick, and help reduce the rate at which many others accrue medical debt.
Preventing Political Rate Hikes
Mainers experience some of the highest electricity rates in the country while enduring the most power outages of any state. Companies can then take the profits from rate hikes to spend money on political campaigns or ballot initiatives.
Lawmakers passed legislation that prohibits utility companies from regaining any campaign expenses they had previously incurred from consumers via rate hikes. Corporations would no longer be able to spend exorbitant amounts of money on ballot initiatives and ask ratepayers to foot the bill for their political agenda.