January 5, 2018

Looking for bipartisan solutions this session by Senator Bill Diamond

With every new year comes the start of another legislative session. Earlier this week, lawmakers gathered in Augusta to begin the second session of the 128th Legislature.

In 2018, I expect much of our work will be directed by the voter passed citizen initiatives as we continue to work on marijuana regulations and implement Medicaid expansion. Our job as lawmakers is to determine how to enact these laws in a safe and responsible manner. 

After Mainers voted to pass a citizens’ initiative that would permit the recreational use of marijuana, it was obvious that because of the way the bill was written, it would require many changes and corrections by lawmakers to ensure the new law would both reflect the will of the people and the safety of children and families. This is why the Joint Select Task Force of Marijuana Legalization Implementation spent nine months working with stakeholders and experts to craft smart, conscientious regulations. These regulations developed proper safeguards that would keep the drug away from minors and schools and give municipalities the authority to regulate facilities in their towns. 

I am proud of the bipartisan efforts by the task force, however, these regulations failed to survive a gubernatorial veto so now we’ll have to work together to find another solution, which I’m confident can be done. 

The importance of devising regulations for the use and sale of recreational marijuana cannot be understated. It is a matter of public safety and public health. Now, as we head into another session, the task force must once again work to devise suitable regulations. I am confident in our ability to strike the right balance with respect to Maine voters and Maine kids.

This past November, Mainers were faced once again with another citizens’ initiative and voted to expand Medicaid. This expansion is designed to do a number of things, including stabilizing the finances of critical rural hospitals by ensuring they are paid for the care they provide. 

http://www.downeastsharpening.com/The real challenge confronting lawmakers this session will be how to fund the state’s contribution to expansion. In order to find a solution, the Legislature must come together in a bipartisan manner to identify appropriate sources of funding to fulfil the will of the voters. While this is no small ask, I believe it can and should be done without raising taxes. 

One of the ongoing problems with passing laws via the citizen initiated process is that often the
voters are not told what it will cost or, more importantly, where the money will come from if the initiative is passed; and therefore, finding the necessary funds to implement the citizen passed law is left to the legislature and given the tight state budget, it can be a serious problem. 

Whether the issue is legalizing marijuana or expanding Medicaid, I am ready to work with my colleagues to try to law implement both voter-passed laws smoothly and responsibly as we move forward in this session.

As always, I am ready and willing to listen to my constituents. Please feel free to contact me at diamondhollyd@aol.com or (207) 287-1515, if you have questions or comments.

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