STATEWIDE – The last year of the decade was a year of change in Augusta. As part of our news team’s 2019 Year in Review series, we took a look at some of the most talked about political stories this year.
January saw the inauguration of Maine’s first female governor, Janet Mills.
“With hope in our hearts, and love in our souls, for the brand new day,” said Mills during her inauguration speech.
During that speech, she highlighted her goals for Maine’s environment.
“Our administration will embrace clean energy…and reach a goal of 50 percent of our electricity coming from Maine renewable resources,” said Mills at the time.
In a shift from the LePage administration, Governor Mills ended a moratorium on wind turbine permits.
And she formed the Maine Climate Council.
A single-use plastic bag ban also goes into effect statewide in 2020.
At the time, legislators had mixed feelings about charging for paper bags.
Rep. Dick Campbell (R-Orrington) said at the time, “there are people who come to the end of the checkout counter, and have to put food back because they don’t have the money.”
Rep. Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth) felt differently saying, “we have waterways everywhere in the state that are being affected by this, this won’t solve the problem but to have that daily reminder.”
A vaccine bill drew hundreds to the Maine State House. Now law, it got rid of all non-medical exemptions for vaccinating school children.
“i believe it goes against my constitutional right, it’s extremely hard to get a medical exemption, we would be forced to move out of the state,” said a concerned mother earlier this year.
Rep. Ryan Tipping, (D-Orono) said, “we want to make sure that we take action and take care of the problem before we start seeing headlines in the Bangor Daily News that are currently being seen in the New York Times.”
That new law, so controversial, it got the signatures needed to be on a referendum ballot in 2020.
Also drawing crowds was a new law requiring public and private insurance companies to cover abortion.
When it was still a bill, its sponsor said the goal was to help women covered by MaineCare.
“Right now it’s discriminatory, it isolates a certain segment of the population, particularly people in poverty,” said Rep. Joyce McCreight (D-Harpswell).
Sen. Stacey Guerin (R-Glenburn) said when the bill was being debated, “I don’t want my tax dollars or my business dollars being spent on taking the lives of these innocent humans.”
Another new law expanding abortion access allows nurse practitioners to carry out the procedure.
“Death with Dignity” became law in Maine this year allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medication.
“I can’t imagine any greater anguish than having unmitigated pain and the inability to have any control over their life,” said Chris Johnson, a former state senator who spoke in support of the measure.
In contrast, Laura Parker, a hospice nurse, said, “a mother of four in California who testified against this legislation previously in our state was denied life sustaining treatment but offered a $1.20 copay instead in order to ingest life ending medication.”
Maine also adopted a hands free law aimed to curb distracted driving.
While 2019 was focused on the new policies of one of Maine’s most powerful women, 2020 will likely focus on the campaigns of two others, Sara Gideon and Susan Collins.
Several candidates (Michael Bunker, Bre Kidman, Ross LaJeunesse, Betsy Sweet, Lisa Savage, Danielle VanHelsing, and Tiffany Bond) announced this year they’ll be running against Susan Collins for her U.S. Senate seat.
Right now, pundits are handicapping Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon as the front runner for the Democratic nomination.
The Freeport Democrat is trying to unseat the Caribou incumbent in what could be a race between two different parties and two different parts of Maine.