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Eye on Augusta: Ticks, Taxing Bottled Water, Opioid Bills & Tackle Football

Funding Tick Research with Lottery Tickets

With tick-borne illnesses on the rise in Maine, Rep. Michelle Dunphy (D-Old Town) has a proposal to raise money for research into the epidemic: lottery tickets. On Monday, March 18, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will consider LD 631, which would direct the State Liquor and Lottery Commission, in consultation with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Pest Management Office, to develop a $2 instant lottery game designed to raise funds to support research into ticks and tick-borne diseases. The bill will likely get some pushback from progressives, as the lottery essentially amounts to a tax on low-income people.

Taxing Poland Spring

The Taxation Committee will once again take up legislation aimed at taxing bottled water on Tuesday, March 19. LD 1074, sponsored by Rep. Lori Gramlich (D-Old Orchard Beach), would create a 12¢ per gallon tax on the extraction of groundwater or surface water for commercial bottling. Revenue from the tax would be used to expand high-speed broadband access and provide tuition grants for up to two years for postsecondary education.

Vehicle Excise Tax Bills Return

Rep. Richard Cebra (R-Naples) will once again submit a pair of bills to reform the motor vehicle excise tax on March 19 in the Taxation Committee. LD 118 would change the method of computing vehicle excise tax to make it based upon the purchase price, of the vehicle, rather than the maker’s list price as it is in current law. The bill would also require that the state reimburse municipalities for the difference in the amount of excise tax that would have been collected by the municipality on all vehicles using the manufacturer’s suggested retail price instead of the actual purchase price. Under current law, the state only reimburses municipalities for commercial vehicles and buses using that formula. Cebra will also present LD 118, which would require that vehicle excise tax revenues be used for maintenance or improvement of local transportation infrastructure.

Alternative Pain Treatment & Throwing Breastfeeding Mothers in Jail for Using Drugs

Legislative committees will once again hear a range of various bills focused on combatting the opioid epidemic next week. On Tuesday, March 19, Sen. Heather Sanborn (D-Cumberland Cty.) will present a bill (LD 1047) to the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee that would prohibit insurance companies from increasing life insurance premiums on individuals based on the fact that they have purchased the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Then Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook Cty.) will present a bill to the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee that would require physicians to first take an extensive course on alternative pain treatment before prescribing opioid pain medication to patients who don’t already have an active prescription for the drugs. LD 1082 — which will be heard on Thursday, March 21 — would exempt cancer patients, people receiving medication for substance use disorder and people in end-of-life care. The measure would also require health care providers to discuss alternative pain treatments with patients taking opioid painkillers. The same day, Rep. Anne Perry (D-Calais) will present LD 1105, which would direct the state to license acupuncture detoxification specialists and establish standards for auricular acupuncture detoxification.

Then on Friday, March 22, Rep. Dan Costain (R-Newport) will present a bill (LD 871) to the Criminal Justice Committee that would make it a Class C crime, punishable by up to five years’ incarceration, for “knowingly” transferring a scheduled drug to a child through breast milk. It appears that the measure would impact young breastfeeding mothers who use marijuana recreationally and are under 21 years of age, the legal age to consume adult-use marijuana. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, using marijuana while breastfeeding can allow harmful chemicals to pass from the mother to an infant through breast milk.

Cyrway’s Stoned Driving Bill

Also on March 22, the Criminal Justice Committee will hear a bill that would establish a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of marijuana for young adults. LD 637, sponsored by Sen. Scott Cyrway (R-Kennebec Cty.), would make it illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with any trace of THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis, in their system. The measure would make it a traffic infraction for people who consume marijuana in a vehicle or possess an open container of marijuana in the passenger side. LD 637 would also allow as admissible evidence in OUI cases if the driver has an alcohol level of 0.05 gram or less of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath and has a trace amount of any drug within their blood or urine. It would also establish a “permissible inference” of an OUI if a driver has an alcohol level in excess of 0.05 gram of alcohol but less than 0.08 gram of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath and has a trace amount of any drug within the person’s blood or urine.

Medication for People with Chronic Pain

On March 20, the Health and Human Services Committee will consider LD 500, sponsored by Sen. Justin Chenette (D-York Cty.), which would allow physicians to prescribe up to a six-month supply of opioid pain medication to a patient who has been under treatment for chronic pain for at least five years or is over age 63. Current law prohibits medical providers from prescribing more than a 30-day supply of an opioid medication to a patient under treatment for chronic pain.

Studying the Impact of School Tackle Football

With so much evidence linking tackle football to traumatic brain injuries, Rep. Michael Brennan (D-Portland) has submitted a bill to establish a special commission to study and recommend a minimum age for participation in the sport. LD 711, which will be heard by the Education Committee on March 20, would direct the commission to submit a report, including suggested legislation next year.

Supporting Young Families & Filming Child Protective Home Visits

On March 20, the Health and Human Services Committee will consider a bill (LD 115), sponsored by Rep. Margaret Craven (D-Lewiston), that would appropriate $3 million to fund home visiting services that provide child development education and skills development for new parents. The same day, Rep. Vicki Doudera (D-Camden) will introduce LD 646, which would require child protective case workers to videotape all interviews conducted during a home visit to investigate an allegation of child abuse or neglect.

Bill to Let You Ride Your ATV on the Road

ATV riders will be happy to know that Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook Cty.) has sponsored a bill to let them ride their vehicles on public roads. LD 478, which will be heard by the Transportation Committee on March 21, would allow the operation of ATVs on public ways as long as the vehicle is registered and meets specified safety equipment requirements and the operator is licensed and has insurance. The bill would prohibit the vehicles on roads with speed limits over 50 miles per hour. It would also allow municipalities and counties to adopt ordinances to restrict or prohibit the operation of ATVs on public ways for safety reasons.