Nurses’ Safe Staffing Bill is Voted “Ought to Pass” Out of Labor & Housing Committee / by Andy O’Brien

Photo: Maine AFL-CIO News

Originally published in the Maine AFL-CIO News on May 26, 2023


On Wednesday the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee voted to support LD 1639, the Maine Quality Care Act, and send it to the full legislature, announced Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (MSNA/NNOC). The Labor and Housing Committee voted to endorse this bill as “ought to pass.”

If passed by the full state legislature, the Maine Quality Care Act will set enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios in Maine’s hospitals. The bill covers the following health care facilities: privately owned or privately operated hospitals (including acute care, specialty, and psychiatric hospitals), freestanding emergency departments, and ambulatory surgical facilities.

“This is a historic victory for nurses and patients in the state of Maine,” said MSNA President Cokie Giles, RN. “We have never been so close to ensuring that our patients have the nursing care they need and deserve.”

Please contact your legislators & ask them to support LD 1639!

With its passage, the Maine Quality Care Act will make Maine the second state in the country to pass legally enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios. In 1999, California enacted its safe staffing law. Studies show that mandated RN-to-patient ratios improve patient care and reduce patient mortality. When RNs are forced to care for too many patients at one time, patients are at higher risk of preventable medical errors, avoidable complications, falls and injuriespressure ulcers, increased length of hospital stay, higher numbers of hospital readmissions, and death.

In her strong letter of support to the Maine Legislature, Linda Aiken, University of Pennsylvania Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, the leading research center on the nursing workforce and outcomes of hospital nurse staffing, stated that “a very large and rigorous research literature of more than 35 years consisting of hundreds of studies and multiple systematic reviews published in the most prestigious scientific journals in health care” show “that the more patients nurses in hospitals care for each, the worse the outcomes are including preventable deaths, preventable hospital acquired infections, poor patient satisfaction and worse financial outcomes for hospitals resulting from longer patient stays, Medicare penalties for excess readmissions, and high nurse turnover that costs hospitals many millions of dollars every year.”

Safe staffing helps recruit and retain registered nurses. When California’s law took effect in 2004, it attracted nurses back to direct-care nursing, and reduced nurse burnout, keeping experienced RNs at the patient bedside.

“California’s example shows us what is possible,” said Giles. “By making conditions better for patients and nurses, we can have safe staffing and better patient outcomes. Now that we have made history in Maine by getting this bill voted out of committee, we are looking forward to passage of this bill by the full Maine State Legislature. From there, we look forward to our safe staffing bill getting to Governor Mills’s desk. We expect the next few weeks to be a lot of work, but we are used to hard work and perseverance when it comes to our patients’ lives.”


Andy O’Brien is the communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO, a statewide federation of 160 local unions representing 40,000 workers. However, his opinions are his own and don’t represent the views of his employer. He is also a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.

‘This is the moment’: Advocates call for lawmakers to pass bold policies at State House rally / by Evan Popp

A rally Thursday spearheaded by Maine People’s Alliance | Dan D’Ippolito

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on June 1, 2023


Urging the legislature to “fund our future,” over 50 people rallied at the State House on Thursday to call for lawmakers to approve legislation that would address Maine’s affordable housing crisis, lift families out of poverty, ensure low-income immigrants can access health care, and establish paid family and medical leave for workers. 

The rally, organized by the Maine People’s Alliance (of which Beacon is a project), comes as the first session of the 131st Legislature is close to an end. With Democratic control of the House and Senate as well as a Democratic governor, advocates view this year’s state budget as a major opportunity to strengthen Maine’s social safety net and ensure that people can afford housing and health care. 

“It’s the end of the legislative session, and right now, we need to let lawmakers know that they need to pass these priorities, and make sure they get funded, so we can make the investments that will make life better, safer, and healthier for all Mainers,” said Arundel resident Amy Larkin, a longtime member of Maine People’s Alliance. “This is the moment.”

One of the policies those at the rally are backing is an expansion of Maine’s child tax credit program. Specifically, they are supporting LD 1544, which would increase the state’s existing dependent tax credit amount to $350 per dependent from $300. 

The bill would also fix a major flaw in the existing program by making the credit fully refundable, meaning that those with extremely low incomes could access the child tax credit. If passed, experts estimate the measure could reduce childhood poverty by over 12%, lifting 3,500 low-income kids out of severe economic hardship. 

Hazel Willow, a Maine mother, asked legislators to support LD 1544. Willow said she is a domestic abuse survivor and that she has had to rebuild from “the ashes of that life.” That has meant relying on social support programs like MaineCare and SNAP benefits. 

During the pandemic, a federal government initiative that expanded the child tax credit program was a significant help to Willow and other Maine families. However, that expanded program was allowed to expire by Congress.

Increasing the amount of the child tax credit (CTC) in Maine and ensuring that low-income people can access it would be a huge financial aid to Willow and many others, she said. 

“Programs like the CTC reduce the ramifications of domestic violence because poverty as a consequence is a main tactic of abusers,” she said. “If you can’t afford to live without them then how can you ever leave? If they control your access to child care or economic independence, they control you.” 

Along with helping families survive, advocates called for lawmakers to address Maine’s dire housing crisis. With a severe shortage of affordable units, a long waiting list for housing vouchers and many Mainers rent burdened, rally-goers implored officials to protect people amid the crisis. 

Lawmakers have introduced a litany of such bills. However, many tenants’ rights measures have been watered down amid strong opposition from real estate interests and landlords. Michael Beck, a housing advocate in the Bangor area, noted that fact in his speech Thursday.

“We are fighting a battle in the State House between the right to live and someone’s right to profit from it,” he said of the effort to protect tenants.

Rep. Cheryl Golek (D-Harpswell), who called housing her top priority, also said bold action is needed to address the issue. She said one way to start would be passing LD 1710, a bill Golek introduced that would provide rental assistance to people struggling to afford housing costs while also preventing discrimination against those who receive public assistance to help them pay for an apartment. 

Attendees at Thursday’s rally | Dan D’Ippolito

Given the wide-ranging nature of the bill — and with this session wrapping up soon — Golek said LD 1710 will be carried over to next year’s session. The issues the measure would address, however, are no less urgent, she said. As a result, Golek called for the legislature to include rental assistance funding in the state budget.

“We can do better, and Mainers deserve better,” she said. 

Another significant piece of legislation this session is a proposal to create a paid family and medical leave program. Lawmakers have introduced a measure to provide most Maine workers with 12 weeks of paid leave and 12 weeks of medical leave per year in the aggregate. The bill is a top priority of Democratic lawmakers and is working its way through the legislature. However, if lawmakers fail to act, Maine People’s Alliance and other advocates have gathered the necessary signatures to trigger a referendum on the issue in 2024. 

Advocates say the policy would allow people to avoid having to choose between their economic livelihood and urgent life needs. 

Larkin provided an example of the difference having paid leave in Maine would make. She told attendees about being the caretaker for her 100-year-old grandmother, Eva. While Larkin is grateful to get to spend time with Eva, she said it also means that she often can’t work because her grandmother needs so much care. 

During one particular instance, Eva broke her hip and needed intensive care for a significant period of time. Because of that, Larkin, who is self-employed, had to turn down work and feared losing income and clients. 

She called for an expansive paid leave that would permit a wide range of people to take leave when they need to. 

“We need a strong paid family and medical leave system here in Maine — one that allows people to take all the time they need to care for themselves or their family members, one that pays enough so people with the lowest incomes can afford to take it, and one that applies to all workers, not just those who work for certain kinds of businesses,” she said. 

During the rally, advocates also backed LD 199, which would restore coverage under MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, for low-income noncitizen residents 21 years or older who are currently not covered because of their immigration status. Combined with action taken by the legislature and Gov. Janet Mills in 2021 to restore health coverage to younger noncitizens and those who are pregnant, LD 199 would ensure that no one is excluded from care because they are an immigrant. 

As a result, supporters have dubbed that campaign to provide health coverage for everyone who needs it “all means all.” 

Rep. Ambureen Rana (D-Bangor) spoke in favor of the legislation at the rally, telling the story of her father, who came to Maine from Pakistan and who was eventually able to bring all his siblings from Pakistan to New England. 

Rana said it’s difficult to imagine how her family would have fared if they hadn’t had access to MaineCare coverage for health needs, particularly given that some of them had serious medical conditions. 

Everyone deserves the assurance that if they get sick, they can access health care, Rana said. But too many low-income people are uncovered by MaineCare simply because of their immigration status, she noted. 

To address the issue, Rana called for her fellow lawmakers to approve LD 199 and ensure that all truly means all.  

“LD 199 is the choice for equity, prosperity, and a health care system that works better — no exceptions, no exclusions — for all of us,” she said. 


Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan(at)mainebeacon.com.

At long-awaited hearing, supporters, sponsors underscore urgent need for paid leave / by Evan Popp

Sen. Mattie Daughtry speaks at a press conference on May 25 before a public hearing on a proposal to create a paid family and medical leave policy. | Beacon

Beacon editor Lauren McCauley contributed reporting to this piece.

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on May 26, 2023


After a years-long campaign, lawmakers on Thursday unveiled a proposal to create a paid family and medical leave program, drawing support from Mainers across the state who argued that it is long past time for such a policy. 

The bill, LD 1964, sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry (D-Cumberland) and Assistant House Majority Leader Kristen Cloutier (D-Lewiston), would create what advocates say is a much-needed expansion of Maine’s social safety net. Establishing paid leave in Maine is a top priority of progressive groups, workers around the state and legislative Democrats. As such, the measure is being co-sponsored by 100 lawmakers, most of them Democrats. 

The bill comes after a legislative commission made recommendations for a paid leave program earlier this year. Lawmakers are also facing an impetus to act given that advocates (including the Maine People’s Alliance, of which Beacon is a project) collected enough signatures in 2022 to trigger a 2024 ballot referendum on whether to create a paid leave policy, which exists in around a dozen other states and most industrialized countries around the world

At a press conference prior to a Labor and Housing Committee public hearing on the measure Thursday, Daughtry and Cloutier, who were flanked by dozens of advocates and lawmakers holding signs that read, “IT’S TIME,” emphasized how much input they sought from workers, business owners, other states that have passed similar plans and experts in human resources in the creation of the policy. 

Others at the press conference spoke about the importance of paid leave.

Regina Rooney, who works for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, said she was able to take four months of paid leave to care for her mother, who died of lung disease in February. “I know many people care for loved ones [while] working full time and then some and I cannot fathom the cruelty of that,” she said.

“This kind of leave shouldn’t be a privilege that depends on the benevolence of employers,” she added.

Later, during the hearing on the bill, Cloutier and Daughtry argued that passing LD 1964 would be transformative for Maine workers and families while also helping to grow the state’s economy and workforce. 

“We have an opportunity to pass legislation that has been proven to help families better balance caring for their children and sick and aging family members while at the same time helping our employers attract and retain workers who are desperately needed in our state,” Cloutier said. 

“The time to do something like this is now,” Daughtry added. “What’s out there now, the status quo, is broken. Mainers are hurting and this is something that would have a profound, transformational impact.” 

During their presentation on why the bill is needed, both lawmakers told stories about how they weren’t able to access paid leave to take care of a sick family member. Many other Mainers have similar stories of having to choose between their career and a loved one, especially given that 77% of people in the state don’t currently have access to paid leave and that an estimated 181,000 Mainers serve as unpaid family caregivers

Supporters argued that LD 1964 presents a solution. The bill would set up a program in which most Maine workers could on an annual basis take up to 12 weeks of medical leave and up to 12 weeks of family leave. In total, a person could take up to 12 weeks per year of paid leave and medical leave in the aggregate. 

People who take leave would receive a benefit from a fund. Most workers below the state median weekly wage ($1,036) would receive a paid leave benefit close to their normal pay while there might be more of a gap between the normal pay of workers who make more than the state median wage and the benefit they receive. Benefits would begin being administered in May of 2026. 

Employees and workers would split the cost of paying into the fund to maintain the program in most cases. However, businesses with fewer than 15 employees wouldn’t be required to pay into the fund. Instead, workers at those businesses would simply contribute their half. 

Governor asks for legislation to be narrowed 

Despite strong support for the bill and the extensive process it underwent, Gov. Janet Mills’ administration said it has some concerns with the proposal and asked the committee to make a number of significant changes that would reduce the scope of the bill and its utility for workers.

While officially testifying neither for nor against the measure, the administration requested an expanded exemption for companies from regulations that protect the jobs of workers who take leave. In the Daughtry-Cloutier proposal, businesses with fewer than 15 workers are exempted from extending job protections to workers who take leave if those businesses can prove the absence would create a hardship. An expansion of that exemption would make it more risky for workers to take leave. 

The administration also said employees should only be eligible for paid leave after working for 120 days at a company. Furthermore, the governor floated a potential wage replacement rate of 66% when someone takes leave, significantly lower than the rate proposed in the bill. In response, one lawmaker pointed out that the proposed lower rate would hurt low-income workers and make it more difficult for them to take leave. Finally, the administration requested yet another analysis before the bill proceeds with implementation and asked for a provision allowing private companies to set up a more generous paid leave benefit than the state program. 

The paid leave proposal also got pushback from some business groups. Quincy Hentzel, president and CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, said in testimony against the bill that while the group’s members acknowledge the importance of paid leave, they view LD 1964 as too big a step. 

“As it stands, this proposal represents an unworkable and costly approach to achieving that goal,” Hentzel said. “Without significant modifications to the legislation before you, Maine’s workforce and economy will suffer.” 

But in a memo released earlier this week, Daughtry and Cloutier pushed back against some of the arguments of the big business community and specifically claims made by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, which the lawmakers said were “deliberately misleading and deeply disconcerting.” Daughtry and Cloutier said stipulations in LD 1964 show it will not be prohibitively expensive for businesses and workers, that it will not lead to excessive amounts of leave being taken, and that there are safeguards built in to protect small businesses. 

Bill receives support from workers, families across state 

Supporters of a paid family and medical leave proposal at a May 25 press conference. | Beacon

Given the massive impact a paid leave system would have, over 200 people submitted testimony on the bill Thursday — many of them in support of the measure.

One such person, Patricia Kidder of Springvale, told lawmakers that paid leave would have been a crucial support for her during multiple periods of her life. In one of those instances, it would have helped her spend more time taking care of a sick parent. 

Then, later in her life, when she was pregnant with her first child, it would have helped when she experienced health complications and had to return to work before she was ready. Soon after, she went into labor and was rushed to the hospital, where her son was stillborn. 

“If Maine had paid family and medical leave, I could have rested,” she said. “But like so many small business owners, I couldn’t afford it. I had to keep working through deadlines to meet and bills to pay.”

During the hearing, medical providers voiced just how beneficial a paid leave program like LD 1964 would be for Mainers. 

“As a doctor, I know how vital it is for people to have protections to care for themselves or their family members,” said Brandon Prast of Portland. “It does not matter what your health is like — we will all get sick, and we will all need care. It is extraordinarily wrong to force people to choose between work or the health of themselves, or their families.”

Despite some opposition to the bill from business interests, a number of small business owners — such as Catherine Rasco, owner of Arabica Coffee in Portland — testified in favor of the bill. Rasco said a paid leave program would help small businesses attract people who sometimes choose to work at big corporations that can afford to offer enhanced benefits. 

“A state paid family and medical leave program would help level the playing field between small businesses and larger, corporate businesses,” she said.

Ari Meil, who runs a design firm in Camden, said at the press conference that he offers his four employees unlimited paid family medical leave because he sees it as one of the “key tools” the company has to keep its workers doing their best, adding that the policy has never been abused. Meil said he knows not every company can do that, but argued that is “why this bill is so important.”

Proposed improvements and next steps

Some in favor of the bill also suggested improvements for the legislation. For example, advocates have criticized the section that exempts businesses with fewer than 15 workers from retaliation and job protection regulations if complying would cause that business significant difficulty or financial hardship. 

In addition, in testimony in favor of the bill, Jeff McCabe of the Maine Service Employees Association cautioned lawmakers against privatizing the program by having it be administered outside of state government, which is under consideration. He said Connecticut has outsourced its program and has had issues. McCabe also noted that privatizing the program is not common in other states with paid leave.

Overall, advocates during the public hearing underscored the urgency of ultimately passing LD 1964 and providing increased protections for Maine workers. 

“We are not a culture that is organized to support families, full stop,” said Meghan Gardner of Orono, who had to work through health problems after pregnancy because of a lack of paid leave. “We cannot simply hope that employers will go above and beyond the current minimum standards. It is up to lawmakers like you to raise the bar for all of us.” 

Thursday’s public hearing is just one step in the process. The measure will undergo a work session in the Labor and Housing Committee before it faces votes on the floor of the House and Senate and — if it passes through the legislature — consideration from Mills. 

However, the governor’s significant demands have already prompted speculation that the pending referendum effort may see renewed interest if proponents aren’t satisfied with where those negotiations land.

“I would prefer a legislative solution,” Destie Hohman Sprague, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, one of the groups backing the referendum effort, told the Bangor Daily News. “But I think that we will make the decisions that we have to make to ensure that we have a program that is universal.”


Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan@mainebeacon.com.

Safe staffing bill backed by nurses’ union advances to vote before full legislature / by Dan Neuman

Nurses at Maine Medical Center in Portland holds signs calling for safe staffing levels in 2022. | Beacon

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on May 25, 2023


The Maine Legislature’s Labor and Housing committee voted 6-3 on Wednesday to advance a bill to address unsafe staffing levels at Maine hospitals.

The bill will next go to floor votes in the Maine House and Senate. If successful, Maine would become just the second state behind California to require safe nurse-to-patient ratios in healthcare facilities. 

As Beacon previously reported, nurses say understaffing is endemic to the hospital industry, where executives refuse to pay for a robust pool of registered nurses from which to draw when scheduling shifts.

“This is a historic victory for nurses and patients in the state of Maine. We have never been so close to ensuring that our patients have the nursing care they need and deserve,” said Cokie Giles, a registered nurse and president of the Maine State Nurses Association, in a statement after the committee vote.

MSNA, the state’s largest nursing union, has mobilized its members behind the Maine Quality Care Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Stacy Brenner (D-Cumberland), that would establish minimum staffing requirements based on patient needs. The bill outlines numerous health conditions and proposes nurse-to-patient ratios for those conditions depending on how acute they are. 

For example, one registered nurse could be assigned just one patient receiving critical care or intensive care, or just one patient who requires trauma services, or just one patient who is in active labor. The ratio increases for less acute conditions. For example, one nurse could attend to two patients who are antepartum and require continuous fetal monitoring, or one nurse could monitor three patients who are antepartum and not in active labor.

“I am so proud that my colleagues in the Labor and Housing Committee are standing with bedside nurses across the state of Maine,” Brenner, who began her career as a nurse midwife attending to births at Mercy Hospital in Portland, said in a statement. “This bill will not only protect patients and nurses but will bring nurses back to the bedside where they are desperately needed.” 

Across the country, nurses’ unions have revived the issue of safe staffing levels after legislative campaigns in other states have folded under industry pressure. Seven thousand nurses in New York City went on strike earlier this year for a new contract that included better nurse-to-patient ratios. 

Hospital industry lobbyists attempted to sway Maine lawmakers against the proposal ahead of the committee vote. They said California’s law, passed in 1999, has failed to solve the shortage of nurses there. They instead encouraged the committee to consider narrower measures, such as incentivizing people to enter the field through policies such as tuition forgiveness.

But nurses said during a public hearing earlier this month that mandating safe staffing levels is just one piece of the potential solution, as the existing conditions endanger patients and drive nurses out of the field. Another possible solution is raising pay and benefits. Maine has approximately 28,000 nurses licensed in the state, but only 56% of them are working.

A mandate similar to California’s could help hospitals retain bedside staff here, nurses said.

“California’s example shows us what is possible,” said Giles. “Now that we have made history in Maine by getting this bill voted out of committee, we are looking forward to passage of this bill by the full Maine State Legislature. From there, we look forward to our safe staffing bill getting to Gov. Janet Mills’ desk.” 

The administration’s Health and Human Services Commissioner, Jeanne Lambrew, opposed the legislation during the public hearing, citing “significant workforce challenges that have persisted from the COVID-19 pandemic through this period of recovery.”

Giles added, “We expect the next few weeks to be a lot of work, but we are used to hard work and perseverance when it comes to our patients’ lives.”


Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan@mainebeacon.com.

Maine’s medical groups unite around bills protecting gender-affirming care / by Dan Neumann

A flag is held up at a rally for LGBTQ rights at Washington Square Park in New York City. Yana Paskova / Getty

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on May 16, 2023


The state’s medical community is uniting behind a package of bills intended to improve the lives of transgender residents that are currently making their way through the Maine Legislature.

In a public hearing late last week, representatives from the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Maine Psychological Association endorsed two bills designed to protect gender-affirming care for young people. 

One bill, LD 535 sponsored by Rep. Erin Sheehan (D-Biddeford), would allow certain young people to receive gender-affirming hormone therapy without parental consent. The other measure, LD 1735 introduced by Rep. Laurie Osher (D-Orono), would protect Maine health care providers who provide gender-affirming health care to young people from out of state. 

“A vast majority of our physician members do not view gender-affirming care as a threat,” said Dan Morin, the Maine Medical Association’s director of communications and government affairs, in the hearing on Friday before the Judiciary Committee. 

“Much of the political rhetoric surrounding the issue misrepresents who is receiving such care and what treatments kids typically undergo,” he continued. “The stigma and discrimination trans people face often contribute to higher rates of stress and mental health problems compared to cisgender people, several studies have found.”

Reflecting a national culture war against trans people pushed by Republicans and American conservatives, the bills drew hours of vocal opposition as well as impassioned support from trans and nonbinary young people and their families at the hearing. Beforehand, the right-wing Maine Parents’ Rights in Education Maine led a small rally at the State House and opponents denounced the legislation as “ungodly” and part of a plot to “kidnap” young people from other states and force them to undergo gender reassignment surgery here.

The testimony of medical professionals stood in stark contrast to the conspiracies spun by some of the bills’ opponents.

“Late adolescence is a pivotal time in the lives of all teens,” said Joe Anderson, the advocacy co-chair for the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “For those suffering from gender dysphoria, it can be either liberating or suffocating. For those who have access to gender affirming care, they can look forward to finishing high school and moving forward to their next stage of life, be it higher education or the workforce, presenting themselves to the world in a manner that they feel matches who they are inside.”

While support of Maine’s largest medical groups far outweighed the few medical professionals who spoke out in opposition, one local media report only quoted opponent Laura Haynes of the International Federation for Therapeutic and Counseling Choice, potentially giving viewers the false impression that the medical community is more divided than it is on gender-affirming care.

The bills were also supported by the Maine chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the youth chapter of the League of Women Voters of Maine, and Mabel Wadsworth Center, a Bangor-based reproductive health clinic, among other groups.

The bills are just part of a slate of legislation backed by members of Maine’s trans community this session. As Beacon previously reported, groups like MaineTransNet, EqualityMaine and OUT Maine are supporting, among other proposals, a bill that would foster greater visibility of LGBTQ health issues by requiring health centers to collect data on gender identity and sexual orientation as well as a measure that would ensuring gender-affirming care currently covered by MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, cannot be rolled back by a future conservative governor hostile to trans rights.

Trans rights advocates say the slate represents a positive political agenda in the face of aggressive right-wing attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently tracking nearly 470 anti-LGBTQ bills in 16 states. Among them, Texas lawmakers are close to passing a bill that would ban puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender young people.

And while such right-wing legislative campaigns currently have little chance of passing in Maine, where Democrats hold majorities in the Maine House and Senate as well as the Blaine House, similar anti-LGBTQ legislation has surfaced here.

Republican Rep. Katrina Smith of Palermo has introduced legislation that would require parental approval for public school employees to use a name or pronoun other than a student’s given name. In a public hearing on Monday, the Maine Principals’ Association, among other groups, spoke in opposition to the bill, saying many young people live in households where they do feel safe enough to express their gender identity.   

And Rep. Jeffrey Adams (R-Lebanon) has submitted legislation to ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports. Adams, who sent a message to the legislature’s Judiciary Committee through Rep. Rachel Henderson (R-Rumford) on Monday, said he has decided to withdraw his legislation while the constitutionality of such bans are being challenged in court. 

Some supporters expressed optimism for the overwhelming community support the trans rights bills have received so far this session, predicting the Republican efforts will ultimately backfire for the party. 

“While anti-trans hysteria has infected the Republican Party, it’s not really good politics and I would argue hasn’t helped them politically,” Maine AFL-CIO communications director and former lawmaker Andy O’Brien wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s actually caused them to lose some seats in multiple elections, but they keep hammering on it because it energizes their minority fundamentalist Christian base.”

“But I do think this movement is ultimately doomed,” he continued. “They know they are losing the war, which is why they are becoming more and more strident and unhinged. Young people are finally feeling safe enough to be themselves and it terrifies them.”


Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan@mainebeacon.com.

The hypocrisy of the business lobby / by Ethan Strimling

Workers with the national Fight for $15 movement. | Scott Olson, Getty Images

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on May 16, 2023


In 2019, when the landmark paid time off bill, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett and championed by the Maine People’s Alliance (of which Beacon is a project) with the backing of 80,000 petition signers, was passed, Governor Janet Mills insisted that a small provision be included in the bill that was demanded by the business community. 

That provision is called a “preemption.” A preemption means that the state is now “owning the field” on the regulation of paid days off. In essence, no municipality can mandate additional PTO to the policy if the town felt their workers needed more time off or to cover the 15% of workers who were left out.

The business community demanded this clause for one reason and one reason only — it is much harder for them to control 400+ municipalities in Maine than it is one branch of the legislature. They knew the bill would pass, so in exchange for their muted opposition, they wanted to control the fight in the future.

The preemption allowed them to keep their fight against expanded benefits for workers to one location. The gun lobby has a similar preemption, as does UBER over their gig workers.

But, of course, this is not the stated reason for their support of the preemption. 

The business community’s stated reason for supporting preemptions, and the reason they often use when opposing local efforts to regulate business, is that we “can’t have a patchwork of laws between towns.” They claim this will encourage a business to leave one community and set up shop in another. Or, for those businesses with multiple locations in different towns to accidentally violate the rules because they do business in both jurisdictions. Or, it is bad for consumers, because prices in one town will have to go up to meet the new minimum.

There is at least one GOP bill this session that seeks to do this —“An Act to Promote Minimum Wage Consistency by Limiting the Authority of Municipalities Regarding Minimum Hourly Pay.” It would create a preemption for minimum wage laws, basically blocking all local efforts to raise minimum wages for local workers.

None of their arguments are true, of course. Passing rent control in South Portland, as occurred this year, has not and will not push housing development to Scarborough. Or if Lewiston passed greener standards for new offices, it will not push all new businesses to Auburn. Or raising the minimum wage in Rockland and Portland to $15, as will occur for both in 2024, has not caused all the restaurants to move to Rockport and Westbrook.

Now for the hypocrisy: Last week, the Maine Legislature’s Labor Committee in the state legislature advanced a statewide minimum wage hike to $15 an hour in 2024, mirroring Rockland and Portland. 

No more patchwork. Exactly what the business community has said they want. 

Consistency between cities and towns, so small and large businesses alike won’t be incentivized to leave one town for another, and won’t have different rules to follow when their workers cross city boundaries.

You would think they would now be speaking in favor of this fight for $15. But, of course, they aren’t. Are we surprised? Of course not. Consistency from conservatives is a fantasy. 

Which is it, business lobby? Do you want a consistent minimum wage across jurisdictions or do you just want to keep the minimum wage as low as possible for as many workers as you can?

But let us all remember this day when industry opposes the next local initiative that tries to protect workers, tenants or our environment. When they say, “We need to do this at the state level,” it’s clear what they really mean is, “We don’t want it anywhere.”


Ethan Strimling served ten years as Mayor and State Senator for Portland, Maine.

Tenants back far-reaching housing assistance bill as Maine faces affordability crisis / by Evan Popp

Belinda Vemba of Westbrook and Jodie Hill of Waterville waiting to testify Friday | Beacon

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on May 12, 2023


Citing a worsening housing crisis that features skyrocketing costs, an increasing number of evictions and a lack of sufficient emergency assistance, tenants and advocates implored lawmakers on Friday to pass a bill that will help more Mainers stay in their homes and protect renters from discrimination. 

LD 1710, sponsored by Rep. Cheryl Golek (D-Harpswell), is a wide-ranging measure that would allocate $75.5 million in 2023-24 and $75.5 million more in 2024-25 to addressing the housing crisis — the kind of investment proponents believe is necessary given the scope of the problem. The bill was heard by lawmakers on Friday in a public hearing before the Joint Select Committee on Housing. 

A key aspect of the legislation — dubbed the Housing Opportunities For Maine, or HOME, Act — is providing rental assistance for low-income families by establishing a state-run housing voucher program, which would have the effect of clearing current lengthy waitlists for Section 8 vouchers. 

Currently, there are around 15,000 people on waitlists for housing vouchers in the state. Golek said ending that waitlist would allow tens of thousands of low-income people to only have to use 30% of their income on rent, a more manageable proportion than what many are currently paying. 

The measure creates the Maine Rental Assistance and Guarantee Program under the Maine State Housing Authority to carry out the rental assistance initiative. 

“Passing the HOME Act would play a significant role in preventing eviction and homelessness and stabilizing housing for thousands of Mainers,” Golek said Friday.

Along with providing people with funds, the bill would also improve legal protections for tenants by prohibiting discrimination by a landlord against a person because they participate in a rental assistance program, such as the Section 8 voucher program. 

Although discrimination against housing voucher-holders is already outlawed in Maine, a court ruling in 2007 opened up a loophole that LD 1710 is attempting to address. Multiple people testifying on Friday said that it is currently difficult to obtain housing from landlords using a voucher, with Golek noting that the issue affects people of color in particular. Advocates also noted that 19 other states have passed statutes outlawing discrimination based on the source of someone’s income, which has resulted in a de-concentration of poverty and an increased ability for people to access rental assistance in those places. 

An additional aspect of the bill requires an owner of more than 10 units of residential property to ensure at least 10% of units qualify as affordable housing. Under Golek’s bill, landlords would receive reimbursement in the form of a tax credit if they experience a loss of income from complying with those requirements. 

To generate funding, the HOME Act would amend the state’s real estate transfer tax to make it more progressive, meaning more lucrative real estate sales would face a steeper tax than transactions for a lower amount. Specifically, under the bill, the real estate transfer tax would rise from $2.20 for each $500 on a transaction where the overall price is less than the median sales price in that county to $4.40 for each $500 on a transaction where the sales price is $1 million or more and includes levels in between those prices as well. 

Bill receives backing from advocates and Mainers in need

Given the desperate need for housing in the state — with 40% of Maine renters considered cost-burdened, homelessness on the rise and a shortage of about 20,000 affordable housing units — advocates said approving LD 1710 is crucial. 

Others agreed. Outside the hearing room Friday, dozens of people from across the state waited for their chance to speak in favor of the bill. Many of them are facing financial insecurity and compared their experiences with housing instability and with waiting for a Section 8 unit to open up.

Karina Beadling, who was accompanied by her 2-year-old son Roam, said she waited for five years to get a Section 8 voucher but was unable to find a place that would accept it. She finally got housing in Belfast through New Hope Midcoast.

She told Beacon she had been up in the middle of the night with her son and contemplated not coming to testify Friday, but ultimately decided she had to show up. 

“This is why we’re in this position, because it’s hard” for people who are dealing with these issues to get politically involved.

Karina Beadling and son Roam from Belfast | Beacon

“For every person who’s here,” Beadling said, “there’s a thousand people at home freaking out about their housing.” She said when she was trying to get away from an abusive relationship and couldn’t find housing she “felt powerless.”

Beadling felt it was important to speak at the hearing because she was finally given an opportunity to get housing and wanted to “pay it forward” and help the many others in the state who haven’t been so lucky. 

Jodie Hill, who serves as co-chair of the new Waterville Tenants Association, said she came to speak on behalf of her daughter and granddaughter, who are both currently homeless and living in a motel. She said her daughter works as a substitute at Educare, and started out making only $14 an hour. 

“There’s nothing she can afford,” she said. “People’s wages don’t match what people are charging for housing today. To survive [with a rent that is] even a thousand a month, that’s a job that pays $30 an hour. I don’t know of any jobs that pay that.”

“It feels like us tenants are just taking it and taking it,” Hill added of the need for LD 1710. “There’s homeless people everywhere like never before that I’ve seen. Some are working but can’t afford the rents. They’re only making enough to get groceries and pay for medical care.” 

Another person in favor of the bill, Sandy Joy of Bangor, said she has also seen the brutal nature of Maine’s housing crisis up close. 

“I’m in a position where I can’t afford to purchase a home, I can’t afford a rent, and maintain a standard of living. I live with this every day and it’s frightening. It’s frightening to me,” she told the committee. “Please pass the bill. We need to invest in more than building housing. We need to help Mainers to be able to afford a safe place to live.” 

LD 1710, however, spurred opposition from many landlords and real estate interests, who particularly opposed the provisions meant to prevent discrimination against housing voucher-holders.

Daniel Bernier of Central Maine Apartment Owners Association complained that the bill’s regulations on real estate owners would essentially mandate that “landlords sign a contract with a government agency, which they have absolutely no negotiating power over.” 

Bernier, however, acknowledged that many landlords choose not to accept vouchers. He said there is an ebb and flow to voucher acceptance by real estate owners. When prices are more reasonable, he said, more landlords accept vouchers. When costs rise, some landlords stop taking them, Bernier said, arguing that they should have the right to make that decision.

LD 1710 is just the latest in a slate of housing bills introduced by lawmakers this session that advocates hope will help alleviate the state’s dire affordability and homelessness crises. Other measures in that list include bills to protect tenants and a measure to encourage the development of a “housing first” approach to address chronic homelessness. In addition, Gov. Janet Mills has proposed over $90 million in funding in her budget plan meant to help with housing needs in the state.  


Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan@mainebeacon.com.

Workers want to ensure Maine’s budding offshore wind industry will create good-paying jobs / by Dan Neumann

A test wind turbine being assembled off the coast of Virginia Beach. | Courtesy Dominion Energy

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on May 10, 2023


As officials and business leaders are setting their sights on making Maine a hub for the offshore wind industry, workers and environmentalists insist that any green infrastructure produced here should be built through good-paying, union jobs. 

They say creating green jobs with strong labor standards are key, not only to warding off climate catastrophe, but also to revitalizing deindustrialized rural and coastal communities in Maine and building an inclusive 21st Century economy.  

“We have one opportunity to get this right to protect our environment,” said Jason Shedlock, president of the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council and a member of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local 32.

Shedlock spoke at a press conference at the State House on Tuesday hosted by a coalition of workers, environmental groups and immigrant leaders who are supporting a bill by Sen. Chip Curry (D-Waldo), LD 1818, which outlines how future ports used to manufacture wind turbines could be staffed. 

The state’s economic and environmental planners have made the development of wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine a top goal. And those ambitions may be coming closer to being realized with recent federal legislation like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which both set aside funds for states to ramp up the construction of offshore wind. Those federal laws specify various labor standards the states must comply with to be eligible to tap the funds.

“Why the Gulf of Maine? Well, it has some of the strongest and most consistent winds in the world, which makes it a good place for offshore wind,” explained Beth Ahearn of Maine Conservation Voters. 

Maine Labor Climate Council director Francis Eanes speaks in favor of legislation that would create union jobs at ports building offshore wind turbines. | Beacon

Officials want Maine to be a leader in producing floating wind turbines since the strongest winds are far from shore. Turbines that are fixed to the ocean’s floor typically can only be erected at depths of 200 feet or less, making them less effective at generating power. 

The state is currently in the initial stages of developing a test array of 12 floating turbines designed by engineers at the University of Maine.

Unlike fixed-bottom turbines, which are usually assembled at sea, floating turbines are constructed on land and towed into place, where they are then anchored to the sea floor. 

This means new ports would have to be developed in Maine to construct the floating turbines. One location currently being considered is in Searsport. Some planners even envision these ports meeting a demand for wind power far outside of the state, where Maine-made turbines could be floated up and down the entire East Coast.

“We must create the rules now to make sure that new industries focus on working people and protect their safety, provide for their future and treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve,” Curry said during the press conference. “We have an incredible opportunity to create our own renewable energy in Maine and the good jobs that go with it — instead of sending the billions of dollars out of state every year that we spend on fossil fuels.” 

Curry’s bill would require the use of project labor agreements in the proposed ports for all on-site turbine construction. PLAs ensure construction is done by union workers making a prevailing wage determined to be a living wage. The bill would additionally require labor peace agreements for the port’s full-time employees. This ensures employers agree to be neutral during union organizing campaigns.

“This bill sets out a vision for what a 21st Century clean energy port ought to look like,” said Francis Eanes of the Maine Labor Climate Council. 

Curry’s bill is the top priority this year for the Maine Labor Climate Council, which formed last year to advocate for green jobs. The coalition is made up of 20 unions from across the state representing a variety of different industries and workplaces. 

“Our whole reason for being is to come together as the labor movement to tackle the climate crisis at the pace and scale that we know we need to preserve a livable world,” Eanes said.

The coalition is seeking to rectify the fact that many workers of color were shut out of some trade unions in the past, and therefore missed out on many of the middle-class livelihoods created by the labor movement. Curry’s bill would also require ports to develop specific plans for recruiting and employing a diverse workforce that includes Indigenous people, people of color and immigrants. 

“Workers are saying ‘yes’ to bringing people into these good union jobs from populations and communities that have been overlooked or left behind,” Eanes said. “Whether that’s New Mainers, people coming out of incarceration, our tribal communities or high school students from Searsport or other rural communities near where this port could go.”

At a public hearing later Tuesday, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce testified in opposition to the bill, and more business opposition is expected as the bill is further considered by lawmakers. Eamonn Dundon, the chamber’s advocacy director, said in written testimony submitted to the legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee that Maine construction businesses could lose out on future contracts because only 5% of contractors here are unionized.

Eanes and Shedlock underscored the labor movement’s role in training and defending the workers that powered the previous industrial epoch, and they said unions could play the same role in building back Maine’s coastal economy.

“Workers are saying ‘yes’ to rebuilding local economies of our coastal and inland communities that have been hollowed out over the past four to five decades,” Eanes said.  

“People here know how to build these facilities, and the knowledge they have will be transferred to all the people that we’re going to be able to train moving forward,” Shedlock said. “We know how to train. Unions have been training workers for over 100 years.”


Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan@mainebeacon.com.

Accusing hospital execs of endangering patients, nurses union pushes for safe staffing law / by Dan Neumann

Unionized nurses enter the Cross Building for a public hearing on safe staffing levels. | Courtesy of the Maine AFL-CIO

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on May 5, 2023


Understaffing at Maine hospitals has reached unsafe levels and that’s the fault of their executives, nurses say.

“We work in systems that set us up to fail,” said Mary Kate O’Sullivan, a registered nurse at Maine Medical Center in Portland, who said her unit recently went to a staffing ratio of one nurse to seven patients. “There were nine patient falls on the unit in the month of April. Two Wednesdays ago, a patient fell and broke their hip. Nurses know that when staffing isn’t safe, it’s not a question of whether patients will have falls, it’s when.”

O’Sullivan, a third-generation nurse, spoke at a public hearing in favor of the Maine Quality Care Act, a bill that would require safe nurse-to-patient ratios in the state’s healthcare facilities. 

“Unsafe ratios are dehumanizing and degrading,” she said. “It looks like human beings sitting in their stool and urine, embarrassed and powerless.”

Sen. Stacy Brenner (D-Cumberland), the sponsor of the bill, explained that it’s not a worker shortage driving the problem, but the decisions of hospital executives, who refuse to pay for a robust pool of registered nurses from which to draw when scheduling shifts.

“Nationally, there are nearly one million licensed RNs who aren’t working in nursing. Maine has approximately 28,000 nurses licensed in the state, but only 56% of them are working,” said Brenner, who began her career as a nurse midwife attending to births at Mercy Hospital in Portland. “Maine does not have a shortage of nurses. We have a workplace culture where nurses aren’t interested in engaging in the available jobs.”

Brenner’s legislation is backed by the state’s largest nursing union, the Maine State Nurses Association, which hosted a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the hearing. Dozens of nurses clad in union red traveled to Augusta to speak in favor of Brenner’s bill.

California was the first state in 2004 to pass a law mandating nurse-to-patient ratios for acute care, but legislative efforts since then in other states have floundered under industry pressure, leaving the labor movement to revive the issue.

Resembling teacher unions across the country that in recent years have turned contract fights into platforms to address far bigger political problems like underfunded public schools, nurses unions have turned their attention to highlighting some of the biggest systemic failings of the for-profit hospital industry. Seven thousand nurses in New York City went on strike earlier this year for a new contract that included better nurse-to-patient ratios. 

Nurses hold a press conference in support of the Maine Quality Care Act. | Courtesy of the Maine AFL-CIO

MSNA has also broadened its scope since scoring a major victory in 2021 by helping to unionize the state’s largest hospital, Maine Medical Center. As Beacon previously reported, Maine Med nurses joined last year with members of National Nurses United (NNU), the country’s largest nurses union, to put a spotlight on the issue of chronic understaffing. 

Staffing problems in Maine came to the fore during the pandemic, most notably when Gov. Janet Mills deployed the National Guard to handle non-clinical jobs in hospitals to free up staff. But nurses insist it’s been a long growing problem brought about by an industry that is cutting corners on labor costs to remain profitable.

According to NNU, which conducted a survey of thousands of registered nurses across the country in 2021, 82.5% said at least half of their shifts were unsafely staffed. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said that they have considered leaving their position. 

During Thursday’s hearing, nurses pushed back against the notion that staff shortages persist because not enough people are going into the profession. They pointed to the numerous measures passed by the Maine Legislature over the years to incentivize young people to enter the field through policies such as tuition forgiveness. 

“Educating more nurses can’t be the only answer to this problem. Nurses are leaving at increasingly alarming rates,” said Lewiston resident Mariah Pfeiffer, a labor and delivery nurse. “The culture of efficiency and money saving in the healthcare industry is hurting us all. Hospitals may be saving money, but patients pay more and receive less care and nurses continue to suffer.”

Brenner’s legislation would establish minimum staffing requirements based on patient needs. The bill outlines numerous health conditions and proposes nurse-to-patient ratios for those conditions depending on how acute they are. 

For example, one registered nurse could be assigned just one patient receiving critical care or intensive care, or just one patient who requires trauma services, or just one patient who is in active labor. The ratio increases for less acute conditions, such as one nurse could attend to two patients who are antepartum and require continuous fetal monitoring, or one nurse could monitor three patients who are antepartum and not in active labor.

The bill would protect nurses from retaliation for voicing concerns about staffing issues, such as being assigned patients they might not be qualified to attend to.

“Studies show that when registered nurses are forced to care for too many patients at one time patients are at higher risk of preventable medical errors, avoidable complications, falls and injuries, pressure sores, increased length of stay, and readmissions,” Brenner said.

Brenner anticipated that the hospital industry would stand in strong opposition to her bill. 

“They will tell you that hospitals will close down, go broke or never find enough nurses to fill necessary positions,” she said. “They will ask for studies and say they are already working hard to achieve quality care goals.”

As predicted, hospital industry groups, as well as some nursing associations and several Republican members of the legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee, held a press conference ahead of the hearing to argue that it would put a significant burden on an industry already struggling to fill nursing jobs.

Nurses said that hospital executives couldn’t be trusted to regulate themselves.

“We need legislation if we want to attract nurses back to the bedside,” O’Sullivan said. “We cannot simply trust hospital administrators to practice safe staffing without them being bound by law to do it. That is abundantly clear as they so fervently lobby against this bill.”


Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan@mainebeacon.com.

Underscoring urgent need, bill to address chronic homelessness sails out of committee / by Evan Popp

A sign in front of Portland City Hall during the weeks-long encampment in 2020, which called for more support to address the crisis of homelessness in the city. | Beacon

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on May 5, 2023


Underscoring the severity of the crisis, a near unanimous committee vote advanced a measure this week to help address chronic homelessness through instituting a housing first model that provides 24-hour-a-day services to Mainers in need. 

The measure, LD 2, sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), is among a slate of housing bills introduced by lawmakers this session that advocates hope will help alleviate the state’s dire affordability and homelessness crises

As Beacon previously reported, housing first refers to an approach to addressing chronic homelessness in which people are provided housing without preconditions, such as staying sober or needing to obtain a job, along with comprehensive support services. The idea is gaining momentum around the country, including in Maine, where Gov. Janet Mills has backed it. 

Talbot Ross’ bill would establish the Housing First Program within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DDHS). That program would help facilitate around-the-clock services at permanent supportive housing sites for chronically homeless people, defined as those who have lived in a place not meant for human habitation for at least a year. 

LD 2 would also allocate resources for the Maine State Housing Authority to assist with developing more housing first units complete with comprehensive services. 

The bill would be funded by taking half of the money from the real estate transfer tax that would otherwise be deposited into the state’s general fund and putting that into a fund to support the Housing First Program. Talbot Ross has estimated that around $13 million in seed money would be raised using that funding mechanism, with the measure also providing $1 million annually for scattered site housing services, which typically includes groups working with individual landlords to place people in supportive housing units rather than placing them in a site-based housing complex.

The measure was advanced earlier this week by the legislature’s Housing Committee on a 10-2 vote, with two Republicans — Rep. Dick Bradstreet of Vassalboro and Rep. Dick Campbell of Orrington — supporting a version that does not include the creation of two positions within DHHS to implement the initiative. The measure will now face votes on the floor of the House and Senate. 

Legislative supporters and advocates celebrated the committee’s decision to advance the bill. 

“Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and that means safe shelter and having their basic needs met,” Talbot Ross said in a statement. “LD 2 will both provide vital compassionate care while providing a marked reduction in emergency crisis services, providing a tremendous benefit to the community at large.”

Mark Swann, executive director of the social service group Preble Street, which runs three highly-successful housing first complexes in Portland, also praised the committee’s decision and said he is hopeful that policymakers will give final approval to the bill in the coming months. 

“The Housing Committee promised to tackle the urgent situation facing people who are unhoused and this critical legislation is a very important step forward,” Swann said. “Site-based Housing First with 24/7 onsite social work staff is the most effective solution to chronic homelessness and through this legislation, Maine has a true opportunity to end chronic homelessness.”

The strong Housing Committee vote continues the momentum behind LD 2 and the housing first model, which received widespread support at a public hearing in April, with advocates arguing it would vastly improve the lives of the nearly 700 chronically unhoused people in Maine. 

“A place to call home for this population and supportive services so they stay stable in that home saves our society untold dollars in emergency room visits, law enforcement engagement and, most importantly, untold trauma for these individuals,” Laura Mitchell, executive director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, said at that hearing. 


Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan@mainebeacon.com.