Since adjourning last month, it's taken a bit of time to reflect on and put together my thoughts regarding this past legislative session. This being my second term, I dove in head first and immersed myself in everything that happens under the dome.
The biggest change for me this session was switching my committee assignment from Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to Criminal Justice and Public Safety. I really enjoyed my initial committee assignment as many of my constituents hunt, fish, boat and snowmobile, but felt that with a prison in South Windham and Maine's drug crisis and related crimes, CJPS would be a great committee to do meaningful work.
The referendums that were passed last November dominated the first session of the 128th Legislature. I'm beginning to believe that our citizen initiative process has been hijacked by well-moneyed, often out-of-state special interests. In turn, Maine citizens have become subject to undue influence, leaving them uniformed before making decisions impacting lives.
Question Two matched funding our schools against Maine's small business owners. This isn't fair to either entity. Question Four removed the tip credit cutting into servers' incomes. Significant portions of Question Five ranked-choice voting, was found to be unconstitutional by Maine's Law Court.
Question One, left last for a reason, made adult-use recreational cannabis legal, which became a huge part of my work this session.
When running for office three years ago I never imagined a deep-dive on marijuana. I was skeptical about legal weed during the campaign and unmarried to an outcome. Once the Legislature began work on the issue, I found myself on the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation. The name has everyone in Augusta laughing.
As you can imagine, when opening a new, legal marijuana market there are a host of issues.
Some of the topics we've covered include licensing, taxation, enforcement, impaired driving, and municipal control; including the ability for towns and cities to opt-out. At the end of the month the committee will receive public testimony on the bill and hopefully report out a bill to the Legislature for a vote sometime in October.
This session, two bills I sponsored became law and two more will likely be rolled into the comprehensive marijuana bill. Those include a bill to require open-containers of marijuana to be treated like alcohol in an automobile. If you can't have an open beer in the cup holder, you shouldn't have a joint in the ashtray. I had also submitted a bill to ensure that all retail marijuana products sold come in a tamper-evident container.
My "Need before Weed" bill passed with unanimous votes in both chambers. This bill barred Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits being spent on retail marijuana products. TANF is a program focused on transitioning people from welfare to work. I don't believe marijuana is a part of that equation.
My second bill banned the creation of gun owner registries in Maine. Maine joined eight other states in preemptively banning the registration of firearms and their owners. Both bills were signed into law by the Governor.
Passage of the budget brought the removal of the disastrous 3 percent surcharge on Maine's small businesses and full 55 percent funding of the State share of K-12 education. This was the largest investment in public education in history.
By far, the biggest failure I saw as a legislator this session was our inability to criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM). It is a cultural practice where some or all of the external female genitalia is removed. This misogynistic act is an attempt to both control female sexuality and keep women chaste. There were legislators who believed that education was the answer to the sexual assault and permanent disfigurement of children. I argued that it was acts like these that are the reason we have a criminal justice system. Twenty-six other states have made this a crime.
We will likely be heading back this fall to address some unresolved business. I've already mentioned upcoming cannabis legislation. Other issues we may be looking at include ranked-choice voting, Maine Office of Geographic Information Systems funding, and bringing Maine into federal compliance with a recently passed piece of legislation regarding local control of food systems.
It continues to be a pleasure to serve the people of Windham. I'm pleased to say, that for the third session in a row, I have a 100 percent voting record. You put me there to do a job and I plan on honoring the commitment I've made.
As always, I welcome communication with my constituents, as it is good to know where they stand on the issues. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-749-1336.