Legislative Information

HOME works to promote and protect homeschool interests in the Maine Legislature. During each legislative session, HOME monitors the progress of dozens of the hundreds of bills that have been introduced. If necessary, we may introduce legislation to advance homeschool freedoms, but more often we simply watch for and respond to legislation that could affect homeschooling families.

Stay Informed!

1. Contact HOME to receive regular Email News Updates. Our updates include any legislative news of concern to homeschooling families in Maine. Any urgent legislative news is emailed to subscribers immediately.

2. Find out more about the current Maine Legislature, and track the status of legislation at http://www.maine.gov/legis/ 

3. Contact Maine Legislators: To find out who your Senator is, click here. To find out who your Representative is, click here.

4. You can also visit http://www.hslda.org/legislation/state/default.asp to monitor legislative activity throughout the 50 states.
 

Your Stake in the 126th Maine Legislative Session

The 126th Maine Legislature is now in session. As homeschoolers, we have a big stake in what happens in Augusta. During each legislative session, Homeschoolers of Maine (HOME) works to advance your rights as homeschoolers, or to protect your rights from attempts to pass laws which would interfere with your ability to do what is best for your children.

To understand why we do this, we only need to think about why we educate our own children instead of letting the State educate them. What drives us to, in effect, go back to school ourselves so that we can more effectively teach our children? What is so important that we are willing to deprive our family of a second full-time income? Why do we take on the extra work of teaching academics to our own children - a job most parents in our society decline.

For one thing, we know we can give our children a good education because we can custom-tailor each child's studies to his or her needs.

Our children avoid a lot of peer pressure and possible bullying that are common in institutional school settings. As a result, they are more likely to become self-sufficient and even leaders as adults.

For Christian parents, home-based discipleship without a constant message from the public school that God is irrelevant is the most important reason.

All of this depends on the opportunity to do what we know is best for our children, without government interference. And that is where the Legislature comes in.

Although government has a proper role to restrain and punish evildoers, it can also interfere with parents who are doing good for their children. And, unfortunately, there are strong political forces acting at the Legislature during every session to do exactly that. This year is no exception. Just as we have been for the last 22 years, HOME volunteers will be working to protect your freedom to homeschool.

1. We will be monitoring the Legislature closely for attempts to increase regulations on Maine homeschoolers.

2. If necessary, we will be working to help the legislators see the difference between Public School At Home programs and Private Home Education. We do not want private home educators to be penalized with extra regulations.

3. We will work to block broader changes which would cause collateral damage to parents' ability to rear and protect their children without government interference.

We can only do this as you faithfully stand with us. Please pray for God's protection on families in Maine and homeschooling families in particular. And be prepared to encourage your state senator and state representative to support homeschool freedom as issues come up during this legislative session. You have a lot at stake. We all do.

Stay informed! Contact HOME to receive regular Email News Updates.

Adapted from an article by Rodger Williams, OCEANetwork Legislative Coordinator, and used with permission.

** We encourage you to use HSLDA's Legislative Toolbox for tips on communicating with legislators or to get information on the legislative process, current legislation, legislators, state and local officials, members of congress, the governor, etc. You will find the Legislative Toolbox on the HSLDA website at: http://www.hslda.org/toolbox.

The Legislative Process in Maine

While a legislator performs a number of different tasks, the legislative function is essentially that of proposing, considering and enacting laws. Each year, Maine legislators consider thousands of ideas for state laws.

The process by which an idea becomes a law is complicated, involving many steps. It is designed to prevent hasty or uninformed decisions on matters that can affect the lives of every Maine citizen. Although that process may seem confusing at first, rules and procedures clearly define the steps that apply to every bill.

Bill Drafting and Introduction of Legislation

Ideas for bills come from many different sources: legislators, legislative committees, study groups, lobbyists, public interest groups, municipal officials, the Governor, state agencies and individual citizens. In some cases, the person or group requesting the legislation may have already drafted the bill. In most cases, however, the legislator turns to a legislative staff office for bill drafting assistance. All legislation, regardless of where initially drafted, is processed and prepared for introduction by legislative staff in accordance with standards established by the Revisor of Statutes.

During the first regular session of the Legislature, there are no formal limitations on the type or number of bills that may be submitted prior to cloture. The second regular session of the Legislature is limited by the Constitution of Maine to budgetary matters, the Governor’s legislation, legislation of an emergency nature approved by the Legislative Council, legislation submitted pursuant to authorized studies and legislation submitted by direct initiative petition of the electors.

The Joint Rules establish cloture deadlines for the submission of bills by state agencies and legislators during the first regular session. The Joint Rules also authorize the Legislative Council to establish deadlines and procedures for introduction of bills in the second regular session.

Bill sponsors

A bill may be introduced pursuant to authorizing law or resolve; in all other cases, a bill must have a legislative sponsor. A bill may have up to ten sponsors: one primary sponsor, one lead cosponsor from the other chamber and eight cosponsors from either chamber. The cosponsor of a duplicate or closely related bill may also be added as a cosponsor if he or she agrees to withdraw the duplicate bill, even if this makes the total number of sponsors more than ten.

In addition to introducing their own legislation, legislators also may act as sponsors for bills proposed by other people or groups. Usually, legislators support bills they sponsor. They may, however, introduce a bill “by request” as a service to their constituents when they do not fully support the purpose of the measure. A legislator who wishes a bill to be identified as “by request” should clearly so indicate when filing a bill drafting request.

Bill drafting and signing

Before formal introduction, the Revisor of Statutes reviews all proposed bills and either drafts them or edits any initial drafts to make them conform to proper form, style and usage. When a request for a bill is filed, it is assigned a Legislative Request (L.R.) number that is used to track the request until it is printed as a Legislative Document (L.D.).

After processing by the Revisor’s Office, a bill must be signed by the sponsor and any cosponsors. The Joint Rules require the sponsor and cosponsors to sign the bill or provide changes within deadlines established by the presiding officers. The signed bill is then sent up for printing to the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House, depending on whether the sponsor is a senator or a representative.

Reference to committee

The Secretary and the Clerk suggest the committee of reference, assign the bill a Senate Paper (S.P.) or House Paper (H.P.) number and Legislative Document (L.D.) number and place it on the next Calendar for consideration in that legislative body. Bills are usually identified and referred to throughout the rest of the session by their L.D. numbers.

The suggested reference is made to the committee that seems most appropriate based on the bill’s subject matter. For example, most bills that deal with utilities are reviewed by the Committee on Utilities and Energy. However, a bill making tax changes for utilities could be referred to either the Committee on Utilities and Energy or the Committee on Taxation. When a bill has a subject matter that falls within the jurisdiction of more than one committee, suggested references may be made and the Legislature may vote to refer the bill to more than one committee.

The Committee Process

Virtually all bills are reviewed, analyzed and discussed by one or more legislative committees before they are considered on their merits by the full Legislature. Bills are referred to committees by both chambers, receive a public hearing, are worked on in committee work sessions and are given a recommendation, or “report,” by the committee to the whole Legislature.

The Joint Rules authorize 17 joint standing committees, each consisting of three members of the Senate and ten House members. The President and President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House appoint all committee members and committee chairs. Each committee has a Senate Chair and a House Chair.

Bill distribution

Once the committee of reference has been established and the bill has been printed, it is distributed to members of the Legislature and to all town and city clerks who request copies. Bills are available to the public through the Legislative Document Room at the State House. The Clerk of the House provides copies of all bills through a subscription service for which a fee is charged. The Legislature provides access to bills on the Internet at http://janus.state.me.us/legis.

Public hearing

The next step is a public hearing, usually held within the State House or the Cross State Office Building. After the committee chairs set the date and place for public hearings, notices are placed in advance in the weekend editions of Maine's major newspapers, typically two weekends in advance of the hearing. Notice is also published in the weekly Advance Notice of Public Hearing schedule available at the State House, courtesy of the President of the Senate, on the Legislature’s home page on the Internet http://janus.state.me.us/legis, and from the Clerk of the House through a subscription service for which a fee is charged.

The public hearing, presided over by a committee chair, allows legislative sponsors to explain the purpose of the bill and citizens, state officials and lobbyists to express their views on the bill.

Customarily, the bill’s sponsor testifies first, followed by any cosponsors and other proponents. In general, opponents testify next and, finally, those persons who are neither opponents nor proponents comment on the bill. At the conclusion of a person’s testimony, committee members may ask questions. The committee’s formal action on a bill comes later at what is called a work session.

Work sessions

The purpose of work sessions is to allow committee members to discuss bills thoroughly and to vote on the committee’s recommendation, or report, to the Legislature. The committee works with its legislative analyst to draft amendments or review amendments proposed by others. Some bills require several work sessions.

Work sessions are open to the public and, at the invitation of the committee, department representatives, lobbyists and others may address the committee about bills being considered, suggest compromises or amendments and answer questions. The committee may also ask its legislative analyst to research and explain certain details of the bill.

Amendments are suggested changes to the bill, which may clarify, restrict, expand or correct it. At times, revisions are so extensive that the entire substance of the bill is changed by the amendment. On rare occasions, extensive revision of the bill may take the form of a new draft rather than that of an amendment. A new draft is then printed as an L.D. with a new number. Authorization of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House is required to prepare a new draft.

Committee report

The committee’s decisions on bills and amendments are expressed by votes on motions made during a work session; the final action is called a “committee report.” The report a bill receives is often the most important influence on its passage or defeat. Several types of unanimous and divided reports on a bill are possible.

A unanimous report means all committee members agree. Possible unanimous committee reports are: “ought to pass,” “ought to pass as amended,” “ought to pass in new draft,” “ought not to pass” and “referral to another committee.”

If committee members disagree about a bill, they may issue a divided report, which usually includes a “majority” and “minority” report on the bill, e.g., a majority “ought not to pass” report and a minority report of “ought to pass as amended.”

If an “ought not to pass” report is unanimous, the bill is placed in the legislative file, and a letter from the committee chairs conveying this report appears on the Senate and House Calendars. When that occurs, no further action may be taken by the Legislature unless a Joint Order recalling the bill from the file is approved by two-thirds of the members voting in both chambers. If it is recalled, the bill is reconsidered.

Prior to reporting out a bill, the committee must determine whether the bill will increase or decrease state revenues or expenditures as well as whether the bill constitutes a State Mandate under the Constitution of Maine. The Office of Fiscal and Program Review makes the determination of whether the bill will have a fiscal impact. If it does, that office has the responsibility for producing a fiscal note, which describes the fiscal impact. If the bill constitutes a State Mandate, this fact is also noted in the fiscal note. If the bill does have a fiscal impact, the committee must amend the bill to add the fiscal note. Any necessary appropriation or allocation is also added by committee amendment.

Enactment

To be enacted, bills must pass through at least four steps on the floor of both the Senate and the House: first reading, second reading, engrossment and enactment. An understanding of the Senate, House and Joint Rules is essential to follow and influence a bill’s progress on the floors.

First and second readings

Once a bill is reported out by a committee, it is returned to the chamber in which it originated. If there is a new draft or committee amendment reported by the committee, it is drafted by the committee’s legislative analyst, prepared by the Revisor’s Office and submitted to the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House for printing and distribution. If a fiscal note is required it will be prepared by the Office of Fiscal and Program Review and included in the committee amendment. The Secretary or the Clerk places the title of the bill and the committee report on the printed Calendar. The first time the bill, as reported by the committee, is placed on the Calendar, the body votes to accept or reject the committee report, or one of the reports if the committee was divided. If an “ought to pass” report is accepted in either chamber, the bill then receives its first reading by the Secretary or the Clerk. Committee Amendments are read and adopted. Since legislators have copies of the printed bills and committee amendments, a motion is usually made to dispense with a complete reading. After the first reading, the bill is assigned a time for a second reading, which is usually the next legislative day.

If the bill has received a unanimous “ought to pass” or “ought to pass as amended” committee report, the House of Representatives uses a “Consent Calendar,” which allows bills with either of those reports to be listed and to be engrossed for passage after they have appeared there for two legislative days, provided there is no objection. However, on the objection of any member, a bill can be removed from the Consent Calendar and debated. There is not a Consent Calendar in the Senate.

A legislator who wishes to delay a bill at any step of the process to get more information, or for other reasons, may make a motion to “table” the bill until the next legislative day or some other time. A legislator who strongly opposes a bill may make a motion for “indefinite postponement.” If the motion to indefinitely postpone is approved, the bill is defeated. The motion requires approval by a majority vote in both bodies to succeed.

Floor debate

A bill may be debated on its merits at several points in the process. The debate may appear uncontrolled, but frequently a debating sequence has been arranged. If there is debate, the chair of the committee to which the bill was referred usually speaks first in favor of the committee report, or to answer questions, followed by other committee members who support the bill, by the sponsor and by those who may not support the committee report. The presiding officer decides who to recognize first and keeps track of how many times a legislator has spoken on a particular issue, whether on the main motion or on a subordinate one.

Voting

At any point, a legislator or the presiding officer may call for a vote on the current motion on the bill. When debate on a motion is over, a vote on the motion is in order. The vote may be a voice vote, or a vote “under the hammer,” where approval is presumed unless an objection is raised before the presiding officer bangs the gavel. Two other types of votes are a “division” and a “roll-call vote.” For a division, only the total number of votes cast for and against the motion is recorded. For a roll call vote, the members’ names and how they voted are recorded. Any member may request a roll call, which requires the support of one-fifth of the members present to be ordered. A roll-call vote is signaled by the ringing of bells and members are given a few minutes to return to their seats. The Sergeant-at-Arms is ordered to secure the chamber and no one is permitted to leave until the vote is recorded.

Passage to be engrossed

After the debating and amending processes are completed, a vote is taken in both chambers to pass the measure to be engrossed. “Engrossing” means printing the bill and all adopted amendments together in an integrated document for enactment. Bills passed to be engrossed are prepared by the Revisor’s Office and sent to the House and then the Senate for final enactment.

Enactment

After being engrossed, all bills must be considered for enactment or final passage, first in the House and then in the Senate. The necessary vote for enactment is usually a simple majority -- there are important exceptions. Emergency bills and bills excepted from the State Mandate provision of the Constitution of Maine require a two-thirds majority of the entire elected membership of each body; referenda for bond issues and constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote of those present. When a bill is enacted by both the Senate and House, it is sent to the Governor. If it fails enactment in both chambers, it goes no further in the process. If the Senate and House disagree on enactment or other votes, additional votes may be taken. These additional votes give each chamber the opportunity to recede and concur (back up and agree) with the other chamber or to insist on or adhere to its original vote. If the disagreement cannot be resolved, the bill is said to have failed enactment and died between the bodies.

Appropriations Table

Bills that affect state revenues or expenditures fall into a special category. Once bills that affect the General Fund or Highway Fund have been passed to be engrossed in the Senate and enacted in the House they are assigned in the Senate to the special Appropriations Table (if they involve the General Fund) or to the special Highway Table (if they involve the Highway Fund). They are listed on the Senate Calendar and are held in the Senate for consideration late in the session.

At the end of the session, after the budget bills have been reported out by the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, and usually after the budget bills have been enacted, the Appropriations Committee and legislative leadership, having received recommendations from committees, review bills on the special Appropriations Table to determine which bills can be enacted given available General Fund resources. The Transportation Committee follows similar deliberations for bills on the special Highway Table, considering available Highway Fund resources. Following those decisions, motions are made in the Senate, usually by the Senate chairs of the Appropriations and Transportation Committees, to remove bills from the special tables and to enact, amend or indefinitely postpone them. If enacted in the Senate, these bills are sent to the Governor for approval, as are all other enacted bills. Any of these bills that fail to be enacted or require amendment in the Senate are returned to the House for concurrence.

Governor’s Options on Enacted Bills

After a bill has been enacted by the Legislature, it is sent to the Governor, who has ten days (not counting Sundays) to exercise one of four options: the Governor may sign the bill, veto it, allow it to become law without signature or disapprove a dollar amount by using the line-item veto.

If the Governor signs the bill, it ordinarily becomes law 90 days after the final adjournment of that legislative session, unless it is an emergency measure, in which case it takes effect upon the Governor’s signing or on a date specified in the bill. If the Governor vetoes the bill, it is returned to the chamber of origin, where a two-thirds vote of those present and voting in both the Senate and the House is required to override a veto. The Governor’s veto message may include comments on particular aspects of the bill and the reasons for rejecting it, possibly raising new issues for legislators to debate. If the Legislature overrides the Governor’s veto, the bill becomes law without gubernatorial approval.

If the Governor does not support a bill, but does not wish to veto it, it becomes law without the Governor’s signature if not signed and not returned to the Legislature within ten days.

When the Legislature finally adjourns before the ten-day time limit has expired, a bill on which the Governor has not acted prior to the adjournment of the session becomes law unless the Governor vetoes it within three days after the next reconvening of that Legislature. If there is not another meeting of that particular Legislature lasting more than three days, the bill does not become law.

For a simple explanation of the legislative process http://www.state.me.us/legis/path/path1.htm This additional link will provide a more detailed explanation of the legislative process http://www.state.me.us/legis/path/path.htm

And don't forget to include your children! This link will provide information just for them http://www.state.me.us/sos/kids/government/government.htm