Traditionally, August is a quiet month for legislative work in Augusta and in Washington, DC. While that still may be the case, the League’s Governmental Affairs team is closely monitoring all political activity.
At the Maine State House, legislative leaders continue to negotiate whether or not to enter a Special Session. When the Legislature abruptly adjourned its session a month ahead of schedule due to the pandemic, it left hundreds of bills unfinished. Leaders have failed to agree on timing, scope of the legislative session, and other logistics. The Legislature can only come into Special Session one of two ways: a majority vote of each political party in the Legislature or being called in by a Proclamation signed by the Governor.
Attempts to secure the necessary Republican votes to enter a Special Session have failed so far. Republican leaders have stated they want to come in, but want to make sure the session is only dealing with COVID-19-related matters. Democrat leaders have stated they want to come in and complete the work they left undone in March. Governor Mills has remained largely silent on the matter, suggesting that she may not be ready for the Legislature to return.
In Washington, DC, negotiations for another COVID pandemic relief package are ongoing. Traditionally, Congress has an August break. If leaders reach an agreement, a quick vote is expected before the start of the August recess. If negotiations continue to fail, there is a chance the August recess will not happen. However, given that this is a campaign year, many in Congress would prefer to be back at home in their districts.
There are mixed signals coming from Congress on what will or will not be included in the next relief package. Initially, there were signs that there would be relief for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans under $150,000 to obtain the loan forgiveness, however, recent reports suggest that may not occur. Congressional leaders and the Trump Administration continue negotiations around extending the enhanced unemployment benefits, another round of PPP loans, and federal aid for state and local governments. It is expected that at least one more COVID relief package will be enacted, but any more action beyond that will be increasingly difficult as we approach November’s general election.
The League’s Governmental Affairs team will be keeping track of all these issues, as well as preparing for the November election. Soon, the Governmental Affairs Committee will be called upon to consider League endorsements for House and Senate candidates running for the Maine Legislature.