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UWGP Legislative Update, 1/31/2020

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
JANUARY 31, 2020

Greetings Community Advocate,

Welcome to a new year and a new round of bi-weekly updates from United Way of Greater Portland (UWGP). As mentioned in December’s Legislative Warm-Up, we are pleased to now present UWGP’s Bill Watch List. UWGP supports bills within the context of the annual public policy agenda approved by the Board of Directors and are connected to Thrive2027. This update also has information about an upcoming referendum that be of interest. 

If you are not currently subscribed and want to receive the Legislative Update delivered to your inbox every other week, please bel.  To connect directly with our Director of Public Policy and Advocacy now, please contact advocacy@unitedwaygp.org. 

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According to the State’s Office of Fiscal & Program Review, as of December 2019, the General Fund revenue forecast is expected to run a surplus of $52.7 million for FY 2020; therefore, we are going into the next legislative session with funding available to support priorities.

BILLS UWGP SUPPORTS:

Out of more than 800 bills, we are tracking ten. This does not preclude us from supporting or opposing other relevant bills during the legislative session. Of the ten bills, we highlight three below. 

LD 1645
An Act To Create Affordable Workforce and Senior Housing and Preserve Affordable Rural Housing
Sponsored by Representative Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford (D)

LD 1645 will create 1,000 units of much-needed affordable housing throughout the state and also preserve more than 500 units of existing housing in rural areas. The bill was Tabled in June 2019, but it is now off the Table and is possibly on its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed. This is a step in the right direction to ensure the development of affordable housing in rural communities and for the elderly. Thank you to all of you who sent letters to the Appropriations Committee and your local State Senator and Representative. If you have not yet contacted your local legislative representative, ACT NOW.

LD 1760
An Act To Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Readiness
Sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson (D)

LD 1760 proposes to launch up to 10 First 4 ME pilot sites under the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to serve at-risk children under 6 years of age, who have not entered kindergarten, and their parents. The bill provides funding for projects that integrate comprehensive resources and services with traditional center-based and family childcare settings. The resources can include family support, such as home visiting services. This bill also provides for increasing childcare providers’ knowledge, parent engagement and communication, and wrap-around supports such as nutrition, mental health services, and connections to other community services as the participating family needs.

This bill seeks to mitigate Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by taking a comprehensive approach to supporting families with young children based on a model that is proven to work. Consequently, statewide coalitions, including Right from the Start, and United Ways of Maine support this bill. The public hearing in the Health & Human Services Committee is scheduled for Thursday, February 13, 2020.

If you would like to submit testimony, please contact advocacy@unitedwaygp.org.

The KIDS Count Data Center reported that in 2017, 57% of Maine’s three and four-year-olds were not in school. According to the Foundation for Child Development, “…three and four-year-olds who attend preschool gain between half a year to a full year of additional learning of language, literacy, and math, which build cognitive and achievement outcomes for the student. Included in this growth is the social-emotional development of a child that occurs when attending preschool, including reducing children’s behavioral aggression and increasing attentiveness in the classroom…” The Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that Children who get a strong start on their education, including social-emotional learning, and are reading on grade level by 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to graduate from high school...” 

LD 1919
An Act To Provide Compensation to Family Caregivers
Sponsored by Representative Kristen Cloutier of Lewiston (D)

A bipartisan bill, LD 1919 would create a new Caregiver Tax Credit. The Caregiver Credit would provide a refundable Maine income tax credit of up to $2,000 for low- to moderate-income households that provide at least 150 hours of unpaid care to eligible family members annually.

The public hearing in the Health & Human Services Committee is scheduled for Thursday, February 6, 2020.

The credit would be available to single filers with annual incomes up to $75,000 and married households with annual incomes up to $150,000. The credit would phase out as income increased. Because the credit would be refundable, most eligible families with low incomes would receive a cash refund when they file their state income taxes. 

If you would like to submit testimony, please contact advocacy@unitedwaygp.org.

SEVEN MORE BILLS TO WATCH

UWGP has embraced Thrive2027, our community’s 10-year effort to achieve measurable progress in the areas of education, financial stability, and health. UWGP is playing its part to ensure the success of Thrive2027 by supporting public policy like those included in the following Legislative Watch List:

    • L.D. 1096: “An Act To Require That Comprehensive Substance Use Disorder Treatment Be Made Available to Maine’s Incarcerated Population”
    • L.D. 1466: “An Act To Allow Community-based Organizations To Participate in Diversion Projects for Persons with Substance Use Disorder”
    • L.D. 1572: “An Act To Enact the Maine Fair Chance Housing Act”
    • L.D. 1607: “An Act To Create the Department of Early Care and Learning”
    • L.D. 1935: “An Act To Address the Needs of Pregnant Women Affected by Opioid Use Disorder”
    • L.D. 1974: “An Act To Promote Telehealth”
    • L.D. 2056: “Resolve, To Create the Frequent Users System Engagement Collaborative”

ACTION ALERT: VOTE “NO” ON QUESTION 1

On March 3rd, citizens will have a chance to vote on a Citizens Veto that aims to repeal Public Law 154 (LD 798). If successful, this Citizens Veto would reinstate the religious and philosophical exemptions for school vaccinations. This would put many children at risk of being infected by preventable diseases. We are encouraging everyone to vote “No” on Question 1.

Thank you for all you do to build a stronger community. If you would like to know how you can be an Advocate for these important policies, feel free to contact advocacy@unitedwaygp.org.

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To lend your support and help further policies and legislation that will further the goals of Thrive2027, invest in the community through United Way of Greater Portland.