State Legislative Update – Summer 2019

By Peter Michaud, JD

This was a banner year for bills in the Maine State Legislature that were of particular interest to healthcare providers. The bills were carefully considered by the legislature after hours of bipartisan testimony from citizens, healthcare professionals and health organizations, including Maine ACEP and the Maine Medical Association. Many were highly contested public health issues, including strong anti-tobacco laws and expansion of telehealth.

The bill eliminating non-medical exemptions to school vaccine requirements was passed over significant opposition from vaccine skeptics and is now the subject of a “people’s veto” drive. Signature gatherers have been canvasing public events (farmers’ markets, fairs, civic events, outdoor concerts, etc.) to raise over 63,000 signatures needed for their initiative to appear on upcoming general election ballot. When asked to sign one of these petitions, ask questions and consider the petitions carefully. They are being presented as issues of “medical freedom”, religious freedom, and personal liberty, and circulators are obscuring the fact that the petition is about repealing the vaccine bill. We don’t anticipate broad support, but if one of these initiatives receives the necessary confirmed signatures, the resulting referendum will require significant time and financial resources to ensure that the public is educated and mobilized to vote at the next statewide election (expected to be the March presidential primary). In anticipation of these campaigns, we encourage you to talk with neighbors and friends about these issues and to share your support for the public health policies that were determining factors in these laws.

A compromise firearm safety bill, LD 1811 (now P.L. 2019, ch. 411), passed after intense negotiations between the Governor’s office and representatives of the Maine Hospital Association and Maine Medical Association. The resulting bill removes the decision about whether a person should not be allowed to possess dangerous weapons from the medical context and places it in the hands of a judicial officer. Medical personnel, whether physicians, PAs, NPs, or psychologists, will still play a role in opining on whether the person presents “a likelihood of foreseeable harm” to self or others. The medical assessment will take place in a setting other than an ED whenever possible.

  • IMMUNIZATIONS – An Act to Protect Maine Children and Students from Preventable Diseases by Repealing Certain Exemptions from the Laws Governing Immunization Requirements (Public Law 2019, Ch. 154);
  • CONVERSION THERAPY – An Act to Prohibit the Provision of Conversion Therapy to Minors by Certain Licensed Professionals (Public Law 2019, Ch. 165);
  • PRUDENT LAYPERSON – An Act to Protect Patients and the Prudent Layperson Standard (Public Law 2019, Ch. 238)
  • REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH – An Act to Authorize Certain Health Care Professionals to Perform Abortions (Public Law 2019, Ch. 262);
  • DEATH WITH DIGNITY: An Act to Enact the Maine Death With Dignity Act (Public Law 2019, Ch.271);
  • INSURANCE COVERAGE: An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Public and Private Insurance Coverage for Pregnant Women in Maine (Public Law 2019, Ch.  274).

If you have questions or for more information, please contact Peter Michaud.