MBC Legislative Wrap Up for the 130th Legislature
The 130th Legislature held its first regular session January to June of 2021 and the second session, begun in January 2022, will adjourn following May 9th when any Governor’s vetoes and any unfinished business may be addressed. Any legislation not completed then will be considered dead as the Legislature adjourns sine die, “without day.”
By its nature, the second session is generally less intense, and that was the case for the Maine Broadband Coalition. You can review several bills of interest in the table below:
Bill Number and Title
What it Means
Sen. Bennett of Oxford
After being carried over from the First Regular Session (2021) the bill sat on the Appropriations Table awaiting potential funding. It was voted “ought not to pass” by the Appropriations Committee in the final days of session.
Sen. Bennett sponsored this bill in 2021 with full support of the Maine Broadband Coalition. The intention was to have a funding mechanism available if needed. However, with the significant funding from Federal and State sources, and limited interest in bonding, this bill was allowed to die.
Sen. Vitelli of Sagadahoc
The bill was significantly amended from its original version and signed by Governor Mills on April 15th.
MBC supported the intent of the original bill and worked with the sponsor to ensure the amended version achieved those desired outcomes. The bill establishes a registration process for consumer-owned public utilities seeking to expand into Internet access services, establishes a process for development of standard charter provisions for water district to develop to amend its charter to operate broadband, and makes changes to the Municipal Gigabit Broadband Network Access Fund.
President Jackson of Aroostook
The bill was signed by the Governor on March 31.
MBC monitored this bill which allows the Caribou Utilities District to provide broadband services within its service area.
Sen. Stewart of Arookstook
After being carried over from the First Regular Session (2021) the bill was amended by the Committee and signed by the Governor April 18th.
MBC monitored this bill and supports the final outcome in which it became a Resolve to encourage regional partnerships to identify and implement strategies to bring high-speed broadband to unserved areas.
Sen. Rafferty of York
This bill was voted Ought Not to Pass by committee and died.
This bill initially appeared to support MBC values but in fact would have undone the significant internet privacy advances made with MBC support in 2019. The sponsor fully supported the demise of this bill.
Rep. Margaret O'Neil (Saco)
This bill came out of committee with a divided report and sits as Unfinished Business in the House where it is expected to die when the Legislature finally adjourns.
This bill would have tangential implications for broadband, as privacy concerns impact uptake of internet services. As amended, it would have created a right to privacy to add to the enumerated list of natural rights in Maine’s Constitution.
While members were engaged in community outreach with the Community Connectors and Community of Practice, there was also broader advocacy across the state. County Connectors from all parts of Maine attended County Commissioner meetings to increase awareness of the wisdom of using ARPA dollars to fill in future gaps in broadband funding and to serve as local investment that can be used for grant matching. County Connectors have also published a series of Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor sharing their experience with internet in Maine and advocating for more reliable, affordable broadband. See below for links to these pieces, and to learn more about the County Connectors, Community of Practice, and Connectivity Booster please read our recent blog, "Connecting Communities and Building Local Capacity", or visit the Regional Capacity Building page on our website.
County Connector Publications:
Broadband is health policy by another name – Jennifer Monti; Portland Press Herald
Expanding broadband should be Maine priority – Jim Moulton; Portland Press Herald
Internet access crucial, especially to older people – Star Pelsue; Portland Press Herald
Support Broadband Expansion – Pamela Partridge; The Town Line