Local legislators have proposed bills on a wide range of issues including changes to the state education funding formula which is considered to be a contributing factor to Rockland having a higher than average property tax rate.

Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, said he has submitted concept bills on a wide range of issues including on labor protections, criminal justice, eliminating auto inspections and protecting endangered species.

He said the Revisor of Statutes Office in the Maine Legislature will quickly be putting out a list of bills since they are not checking for duplicates and combining them this session. He said it will be up to legislators to look at other legislators' bills and "work out whether we need them all or should join together."

The veteran state senator there are also changes in how legislators get co-sponsors since the full Legislature will not be getting together until probably March when enough bills have been voted out of committees. Committees will meet virtually due to rule changes and the public will be able to testify virtually as well, he said.

"This should really improve the input of the diverse voices of our state and I am looking forward to it," Miramant said.

Rep. Valli Geiger, D-Rockland, has submitted legislation she said would reform the state education funding formula and another to expand housing using private money. Geiger said she considered submitting bills to increase the state minimum wage and to increase the state's homestead tax exemption but decided not to because other legislators were already submitting such proposals.

"The funding of education has long been problematic and the level of state funding to each educational district varies widely," Geiger said.

"The formula is not transparent, is not easily explainable and no one is able to provide an answer to questions such why two sister cities: Rockland and Belfast receive such a wide range in school funding, with Belfast receiving $4 million more per year, despite 100 fewer students, a higher per capita income and higher average house value. The discrepancies in the current formula are creating real harm to education and the level of property tax for many communities, particularly service centers."

The first-term Rockland Democrat said she is proposing a bill to require municipalities to change their zoning laws to allow accessory dwelling units on any lot with a single-family home currently on the property.

Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, said she has submitted 13 bills, most of them suggested by constituents or town officials.

"They range from ways to strengthen our democracy, such as creating online voter registration and making gender neutral language the norm in Maine statute, to protecting our environment, including banning the pesticide chlorpyrifos (a potent nerve agent, especially damaging to children) and encouraging a circular economy by getting manufacturers to increase post-consumer recycled plastic content in beverage containers," Doudera said.

"The pandemic highlighted how difficult it was for Mainers to get legal documents, such as wills, notarized, and so I have put in a bill to allow remote online notarization of legal documents, as well as a bill to be sure state agencies begin aligning their actions with the urgent goals of the Maine Climate Council.

"Additionally, I have submitted bills to ban rapid-fire devices known as bump stocks (used in several mass shootings,) and ban the importation of cosmetics that have been tested on animals, as well as a $50,000 housing bond to build new energy-efficient, affordable homes through new construction or adaptive reuse of existing structures and an act for towns to help recruit and retain volunteer firefighters by exempting them from paying excise tax on their vehicles," the second-term Democrat said.

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelo, an independent of Friendship, said he is proposing a bill to re-establish a parole boarde.

"Maine abolished parole in 1976. Since then, the system that replaced it has failed. Executive Clemency has resulted in zero commutations since 1976," Evangelos said.

The veteran Friendship independent is also sponsoring a bill to amend the post-conviction review process to allow fair hearings on newly discovered evidence. Another bill he is proposing would eliminate qualified immunity.

"Long overdue reform that will align the rights of all people, including the police. One nation, one people, all subject to the same laws, no exceptions. Let us never forget that we are a civilian nation, ruled by civilians and that the police and military are subservient to civilian rule, just as President Eisenhower asserted," Evangelos said.

He has also proposed other legislation for what he said is to reform the criminal justice system.

Rep. Ann Matlack, D-St. George, has submitted bills to remove the cap on the number of ferry runs allowed per year to Matinicus. Currently, the upper limit is 36 runs per year, which Matlack said is just an arbitrary limit and may not reflect demand in the not too distant future.

She has also submitted a bill to increase fees paid to municipalities for harvesting clams under a depuration process. The fee is currently 50 cents per bushel, she said, the same rate it has been for the past 20 years. The proposal is to increase the fee to $2 per bushel with the money to be used by municipalities and regional shellfish management groups to “ensure sustainable harvest practices and optimum utilization of soft-shell clam resources.”

Another bill to increase fees and travel reimbursement paid to Sheriff's Offices by the State for service of civil process documents. Another bill would require that large retail sales facilities be valued based on their current use.

Rep. William Pluecker, an independent of Warren, said general topics that his bills will cover include COVID-19  hazard pay for correctional officers and other staff at the Maine Department of Correction, several bills to assist farmers and address food insecurity during pandemic, a bill easing the administrative burden for Warren with concealed weapons permits, and a couple bills about the chemical compounds PFAs and its effects on agricultural fields which also affects the Steamship property in Warren.

First-term Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, said she has submitted bills that include one to allow for open primaries which would allow people who are not enrolled in a political party to vote in party primaries.

Other bills include to provide rural transportation for MaineCare patients, reform payments to legislators by political action committees, to create a group to look at public pension options, expand recovery community organizations, reform alternative sentencing programs, and propose an amendment to the Maine Constitution to "establish a right to a healthy environment."

Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, said she has a robust list of bills this session which includes proposals to strengthen laws around cyber security and sex crimes committed against minors, define intentional balloon releases as littering, further promote the sustainability of our un-bridged islands, include boatyards in the definition of working waterfront, and create a paid family and medical leave program.

McDonald said she has also included a placeholder bill in the event ideas come out of the ongoing discussion around the plastics spill on Sears Island.