Sen. Eric Brakey and Rep. Ellie Espling roll out wide-ranging bills in new session

Hedgehogs had the headlines, but concealed handguns, tinted windshields, public assistance, voter photo IDs, child care, political signs, union dues, and citizen ballot initiatives are among the subjects of other bills sponsored by New Gloucester’s representatives in Augusta. Here’s a look at some of those bills.

Last fall’s election included ballot referenda on the minimum wage, recreational marijuana, and gun background checks, among other topics. This session Rep. Espling has proposed legislation to change how such citizen initiatives get on the ballot. Current Maine law specifies only the number of signatures required, not the residence of the signers. Under Rep. Espling’s bill, signatures would have to come from both of Maine’s Congressional districts (LD 31). To qualify, a measure would need signatures from the First District equaling 10 percent of the last gubernatorial vote there and signatures from the Second District equaling 10 percent of its gubernatorial vote. The proposed law requires an amendment to the Maine Constitution.Also related to voting, a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Brakey would require proof of identity in the form of a government- or college-issued photo ID in order to vote (LD 121). Under the measure, a voter without an acceptable photo ID at the
polls would be permitted to cast a provisional ballot and have 5 days to bring in a
conforming photo ID. A bill sponsored by Rep. Espling would extend the time that temporary political signs can be posted in public ways and eliminate the requirement that the sign identify the individual or organization that put it up (LD 119).

Again this session Sen. Brakey and Rep. Espling have submitted gun bills. Sen. Brakey is lead sponsor for a bill reducing the age for carrying a concealed handgun from 21 to 18 (LD 44). For her part, Rep. Espling has proposed prohibiting the creation of a statewide list or registry of firearms owners (LD 9).

Other bills from Rep. Espling include one that would do away with the three independent Boards of Trustees overseeing the UMaine System, the Community College System, and Maine Maritime, and instead create a single Board of Trustees of Higher Education with oversight over all those institutions (LD 180). Also in the pipeline from Rep. Espling, a bill reducing by one-third the funding given to Clean Elections candidates (LD 126), a bill creating a cause of action for the wrongful death of an unborn fetus (LR 997), and a bill authorizing in-home child care for up to 5 children without state certification or regulation (LR 1606).

For Sen. Brakey, public assistance programs continue to be a particular focus. One bill would limit some General Assistance recipients to a maximum of 9 months of benefits in a five-year period (LD 36). Under another, an individual who has exhausted the 60-month lifetime cap for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits would also be ineligible for General Assistance (LD 220). A third bill would reduce that lifetime cap on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families from 60 months to 36 months (LD 33). Another specifies the resources that a General Assistance applicant must use first or risk suspension from eligibility (LD 219). One more would require that welfare benefits be spent in Maine (LR 551).

Sen. Brakey and Rep. Espling are co-sponsors on two measures. One is a so-called Right to Work bill (LD 65). In Maine, workers are not required to join the union at their workplace, but they can be required to share the costs of the collective bargaining that benefits everyone. The proposed bill lets employees opt out of those payments. Previous right-to-work bills have failed in Maine, including a bill sponsored last session by Sen. Brakey, in light of disputes about such bills’ intent and effects.

Speaking of light, Sen Brakey and Rep. Espling are also co-sponsoring a bill to abolish Maine’s restrictions on reflective and tinted auto glass (LD 1). Maine law currently prohibits use of reflective auto glass altogether, restricts tinting to the top 5 inches of the windshield, and limits the degree of darkening permitted on side and rear windows. The proposed bill would eliminate all restrictions on reflective and tinted glass.

Finally, do you wish it were Daylight Savings Time? A bill from Senator Brakey would put to referendum the idea of moving Maine out of the Eastern Time Zone and into the Atlantic Time Zone (LD 71).

Both legislators have many other bills in the works. For the full list of preliminary bills sorted by sponsor, check here:

The list sorted by subject is here:

To follow the progress of a bill, the Legislature has convenient and robust search tools: and