The following overview briefly outlines the legislative process in Maine
The fundamental function of the legislative branch is to consider, debate, and establish public policy, provide the means and resources for its implementation, and review its administration. The Legislature consists of two chambers – the House of Representatives, with 151 members, and the Senate, with 35 members.
The first step to legislation is a decision by a Legislator (Senator or Representative) to sponsor a bill. It can either be their own idea or initiative or the suggestion or request of a constituent, special interest group, public official, or the Governor.
This sponsor submits their idea, perhaps in rough legislative draft form, or perhaps in the form of a title or heading only, to the Revisor’s Office, whereupon it is given an LR (Legislative Request) number.
The Revisors Office drafts a bill, and once it is drafted, the Legislative Request is given an LD (Legislative Document) number. LDs are numbered in the order in which they are printed. If the bill sponsor is a member of the House, it also has an HP (House Paper) number, and the House is the originating chamber. If the bill sponsor is a member of the Senate if from the Senate, the bill is assigned an SP number (Senate Paper), and the Senate is the originating chamber.
Bills – a proposal for a law. A Bill that is a Concept Draft is basically a placeholder awaiting verbiage.
Resolves are narrow in scope and are for one-time occurrences, such as authorization for an individual to sue the State or the establishment of a temporary study commission.
Constitutional resolutions. A constitutional resolution requires a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House and then by a majority in a statewide election. (Article X, Section 4).
All legislative instruments are assigned to a Joint Standing Committee or the Committee on Housing.
Each committee consists of 3 Senators and 10 members of the House of Representatives
Each committee has a Clerk, (an administrative assistant) and a legislative analyst
The Committees are:
Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry
Appropriations and Financial Affairs
Criminal Justice and Public Safety
Education and Cultural Affairs
Energy, Utilities, and Technology
Environment and Natural Resources
Health & Human Services
Health Coverage, Insurance & Financial Services
Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement & Business
Labor & Housing
State and Local Government
Veterans and Legal Affairs
A public hearing is held, where the committee takes testimony from members of the public or other legislators. Testimony may be either in person or via Zoom during the hearing, in writing, or both.
Testimony may be submitted (in writing only) after the public hearing and before the work session.
Next comes a work session, where committee members discuss bills. Work sessions are open to the public, but persons may speak only at the invitation of the committee. Some bills require several work sessions before a vote. The committee works with its legislative analyst to draft any amendments or review amendments proposed by others.
A Committee can vote Leave to Withdraw (LTW) if it has not yet had a public hearing on the bill.
The committee report is the committee’s recommended action on a bill and is the most important influence on a bill’s passage or defeat.
The reports include:
Ought to pass; (OTP) or Ought to pass as amended (OTP-AM)
Ought not to pass; (ONTP)
Divided Report – not unanimous. Votes split between OTP and ONTP
Refer to another committee
If the vote is unanimous “ought not to pass”, the bill is dead and cannot be resurrected without a vote of two-thirds of the members voting in both chambers (the Senate and the House).
If the vote is unanimous “ought to pass” report, the House places the bill on its Consent Calendar, and if there is no objection after two legislative days, the measure is considered passed by the House (as if it were debated and voted upon) . However, upon the objection of any member, a bill can be removed from the Consent Calendar and debated. (The Senate does not have a Consent calendar)
Once a bill is reported out of Committee, it is first placed on the calendar for the chamber in which it originated. (House or Senate). If it is approved, the bill is assigned for a “second reading” which is usually the next legislative day.
During this process, the bill may be debated on the House and Senate floors and/or amended. During the floor debate, the presiding officer decides whom to recognize and keeps track of how many times a legislator has spoken.
After floor debate and adoption of any amendments, a vote is taken in each chamber to pass the measure to be engrossed. “Engrossing” means printing the bill in its final form. After a bill is “engrossed”, that is, printed in its final form, it is sent to the House and Senate for final enactment.
Final enactment or final passage is voted on first in the House and then in the Senate. The vote necessary for enactment is a simple majority unless there is an “emergency clause”, in which event 2/3rd s of the members of each chamber must approve. (Emergency bills take effect upon the signature of the Governor; nonemergency bills take effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns.)
Bills that affect state revenues, require an appropriation (funding), or impose state mandates on communities are diverted to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee before they go to the Senate for a final vote. They are placed on the Special Appropriations Table where the funding allocation is determined. These bills are listed on the Senate Calendar. The Maine Constitution (Article IX, Section 21) requires the State to fund 90% of the local cost of state mandates, ie provisions that require a unit of local government to expand or modify its activities so that additional local revenues are required. The Maine Constitution also provides that the Legislature may exempt specific expenditures from this requirement by a two-thirds vote of all members of each chamber.
When the Appropriations Committee has determined how much funding the measure will receive, the bill goes to the Senate for final enactment.
After a bill has been finally enacted by the Legislature, ie, after the final Senate vote, it is sent to the Governor. The Governor has 10 days to
Sign the bill.
Veto the bill.
Disapprove a dollar amount by using the line-item veto
Do nothing (this allows the bill to become a law without the Governor’s signature)
If the Governor vetoes a bill, the Governor returns the bill to the chamber of origin along with a letter explaining the reasons for rejecting the bill. A veto can be overridden only by a 2/3rds vote of those present and voting in each chamber.
For more information:
Rosters of the members of the House of Representatives are available at https://legislature.maine.gov/house
Rosters of members of the Senate are available at https://legislature.maine.gov/senate
* This information was adapted from the Legislative Handbook 131st Legislature, a 111-page document, and other legislative resources, by Stephanie Anderson, who takes responsibility for any adaptation errors.