Maine is one step closer to creating a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program.

On June 3 and 7, respectively, the State Senate and House passed LD 1559, “Resolve, To Create the Commission To Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program." The bill, introduced by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick, would establish a commission to create a plan for implementing a paid family and medical leave program in Maine after studying similar programs in other states and soliciting public comment from experts and impacted parties, including veterans, parents, and small business owners. If passed, Maine would join nine other states and the District of Columbia in providing paid family and medical leave.

Each and every one of us will face a time when we or our loved ones get sick, when a family member needs our help, or when we need to prioritize our families over our jobs, such as the birth or adoption of a new child. For far too many, this leads to an impossible choice – to take unpaid time off to care for themselves or their loved ones, or to continue to work so they can pay their rent and put food on the table. This is a crisis that has only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paid Family and Medical Leave represent a vital service for Maine’s working families. A statewide Paid Family & Medical Leave policy would give our working families the security to take care of themselves and their families when they’re ill, without risking the income they need to survive. Mainers for Working Families applauds Senator Daughtry for introducing this critical legislation.

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American elections are under attack like never before.

The United States experienced the highest voter turnout on record in 2020, thanks in large part to expansions in early- and mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, state lawmakers have introduced over 360 bills in 47 states designed to suppress voting, particularly among communities of color. These bills represent a very real threat to our democracy and our constitutional right to vote.

Maine has a history of forward-thinking approaches to voting. Voters may take advantage of no-excuse absentee ballots and several weeks of early voting, and there are no restrictive voter ID laws. We’re also the only state to use ranked-choice voting in federal and presidential elections.

Maine now has the chance to further its pioneering approach to elections with LD 1575, “An Act To Improve Maine’s Election Laws.” This bill, introduced by Representative Joyce McCreight, would codify the changes made to the state’s election laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes include allowing a student ID as a qualifying document to register to vote; extending the deadline to vote absentee; and requiring that municipal clerks notify voters of errors on absentee ballots and allow the chance to correct them.

Two additional bills making their way through the Legislature aim to protect our democracy by strengthening campaign finance laws:

  • LD 1417, “An Act Regarding Campaign Finance Reform”: This bill, sponsored by Senator Louie Luchini and co-sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, would place a blanket ban on corporate contributions made directly to state legislators or to their political action committees.

  • LD 1621, “An Act To Reform Payments to Legislators by Political Action Committees”: This bill, introduced by Senator Chloe Maxmin, would ban legislators from enriching themselves or their family members using funds from political action committees with which they’re involved. In the past, legislators have gotten away with using money from political action committees they control to make personal purchases like House Assistant Minority Leader Trey Stewart, who last year spent over $2,000 on tires and clothes using money from his Star City PAC.

These bills represent far more than just election reform. They are measures to ensure that the people of Maine can participate equally in our democracy and make our voices heard in Augusta, ideals that Mainers for Working Families has fought for since our founding.

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Every issue that matters to the hardworking families of Maine, from guaranteeing affordable healthcare to ensuring access to clean water and sustainable fisheries, is influenced by the role of money in politics. Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that campaign contributions from corporations constitute political speech, money has poured into our elections and everyday policymaking with few restrictions.

Maine is no exception. According to Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, corporations spent more than $90 million attempting to influence elections and policy between 2008 and May 2020. Central Maine Power alone has spent nearly $15 million in the past 15 months in favor of the controversial Clean Energy Corridor project.

But this may all be about to change.

LD 1417, “An Act Regarding Campaign Finance Reform,” was recently passed by the legislature’s Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs. Co-sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, Assistant House Majority Leader Rachel Talbot-Ross, and Senator Louis Luchini of Ellsworth, the bill would place a blanket ban on corporate contributions made directly to state legislators or to their political action committees.

”For far too long, large corporations have been able to buy state governments, and regular people just don’t have the money to buy them back,” Senator Jackson said at a press conference announcing the bill. “Maine has routinely led the nation on ethical reforms, campaign finance reform, and I believe this is the natural next step in the evolution.”

Mainers for Working Families strongly supports LD 1417 and applauds Senator Jackson, Senator Luchini, and Representative Talbot-Ross for their efforts to restore control of our democracy to the people of Maine. Getting corporate money out of politics is critical to our fight to ensure that our policies work for all Mainers, not just those at the top.

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© 2019 Mainers for Working Famililes
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