Local legislators get OK to submit bills for upcoming session

By Stephen Betts | Oct 30, 2019

Augusta — Local legislators have received approval to submit bills on a variety of issues for the upcoming session.

In the second session of a two-year term in the Maine Legislature, bills are suppose to be limited to holdovers from the past session as well as emergency legislation or bills submitted by the executive departments of the state. The definition of emergency, however, allows for discretion on what is accepted for bills to be considered. Most submitted bills are rejected for consideration by the Legislative Council which consists of legislative leaders.

Of the 397 bill requests screened by the Council, only 134 were approved to continue forward

The next session begins Jan. 8.

State Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, asked for five bills to be considered by the Legislature this upcoming session of which one was accepted.

The one bill accepted would improve the disability retirement program of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System. Another bill to amend the law governing aquaculture leases was tabled.

Bills he attempted to submit but which were rejected for consideration included one to expunge the records of people convicted of certain cannabis law violations. Another would have banned the sale of single-use plastic straws, splash sticks, and beverage lid plugs.

Independent Reps. Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship and William Pluecker of Warren have co-sponsored a bill that will be considered in the next session to "reform" the compensation of correctional officers.

"This bill will address the critical staffing shortages at the Maine State Prison and other correctional facilities," Evangelos said. "We just can't be locking prisoners down and forcing guards to work 16 hour shifts because we can't recruit staff to work in our prisons. Maine must make the appropriate investments to correct the situation. It represents a critical safety issue that must be resolved."

Pluecker said "Without adequate staffing we are creating a safety and security crisis in the prisons. We have a responsibility as a state to staff our prisons and ensure the safety of the people working in those institutions as well as the people we put behind bars. We also need to create the opportunities for the people behind bars to have access to education and progressive treatment that will enable them to make a safe transition out of the institution that doesn't end with them returning to jail. This all begins with Correctional Officers that are adequately compensated for the invaluable work they do for our state and community."

Evangelos said his bill from last session, LD 302, for the reform of post-conviction reviews will "continue its voyage through the Judiciary Committee, where I am working with the Innocence Project to assure that all innocent people have a fair right of appeal."

He said he would also work this upcoming session to protect the state's lobster industry from unreasonable regulations and continue to hold Central Maine Power accountable for its billing errors.

Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, received approval for a bill to ban non-consensual pelvic exams on unconscious or anesthetized patients.

Rep. Doudera said that her bill provides protection and peace of mind for both patients and practitioners, and is of an emergency nature.

“Informed consent is a basic human right, and performing pelvic exams on women who are under anesthetic and have not consented is a violation of autonomy and trust," Doudera said.

She noted that the practice, once commonly used to teach students standard procedures, has been denounced by the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Association of American Medical Colleges, and that it can be especially traumatic for victims of domestic violence. “While I believe that our state’s teaching hospital, Maine Medical Center, has informed consent as a best practice, this needs to be made explicit in state law as soon as possible, so that women undergoing surgery are protected, and medical students asked to perform the procedure know they are acting ethically.”

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