Senator Joyce Maker’s Monthly Column

Earlier this month, the Legislature reconvened for the final day of the first session for a “veto day” to take action on two dozen bills that had been returned by the governor, and to address all outstanding business. This proved to be another long day in Augusta, but I’m glad to finally be back in the district to enjoy the rest of the summer, attend events and meet with constituents. 

 Two of the bills voted on were measures that I sponsored, and I am glad to say that both were overridden with healthy margins.

 The first was LD 517, “An Act To Amend Principles of Reimbursement for Nursing Facilities and Residential Care Facilities.”

 Unfortunately, our community recently saw the doors of a nursing home that had served the needs of our elderly residents close for good. In addition to being a valued employer in the area, this nursing home was critical to the health and vitality of our community, as the services they provided to our elderly are hard to come by in this neck of the woods. A driving force behind the closure, in my opinion, was outdated and insufficient MaineCare reimbursements.

 When our nursing home closed and we studied reimbursement, we found that if the state had been keeping pace with costs more regularly, perhaps it would have lessened the financial strain on providers in the long run. It’s obviously too late to save our nursing home, but these changes will be critical to preserve nursing home facilities that are still intact, especially considering that Maine’s population is aging and so the demand for services to support elderly residents will only continue to increase.

 The vote to override the veto of this bill was unanimous in the Senate and 124-13 in the House. It will take effect on November 1.

 The second bill of mine to be addressed was LD 1263, “Resolve, To Increase the Affordability of Safe Drinking Water for Maine Families.” 

This resolve allocates one-time funds to the Maine State Housing Authority to be distributed to organizations or agencies for targeted outreach and marketing so they may connect households which have contaminated well water with appropriate professional services for assessing and installing a well water treatment system, as well as financial assistance for doing so.

 I sponsored this resolve because I wanted to make sure that people who find their water is contaminated with high levels of arsenic are able to locate an affordable solution to that problem.

 Arsenic-contaminated wells are common throughout Maine and are especially prevalent in our area where arsenic hotspots are common. In Danforth, for example, almost 40 percent of the wells are contaminated with arsenic levels that make the water unsafe to drink. Nearly half of the wells are arsenic-contaminated in Columbia and Columbia Falls. These numbers are startling! Arsenic takes a real toll on human health. Drinking arsenic-contaminated water can lead to many different types of cancers, as well as learning disabilities in children.

 Thankfully, my colleagues in the Legislature understood the gravity of this situation and voted to override the governor’s veto by a vote of 27-7 in the Senate and 100-34 in the House. As emergency legislation, LD 1263 took effect immediately and these resources are now available. For more information, contact the Maine State Housing Authority.

 Unless we are called back to Augusta for a special session to deal with outstanding marijuana issues, the Legislature will stand at ease until the beginning of the second regular session in January.

 If you would like to comment on any legislative matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at senjoyce.a.maker@gmail.com, by phone at 287-1505 or on Facebook as Senator Joyce Maker.

 Senator Joyce Maker was elected on November 8, 2016 to serve the constituents of District 6 in the Maine State Senate. Senate District 6 consists of all of Washington County and the municipalities and unorganized territories of Gouldsboro, Sullivan, Winter Harbor and part of the East Hancock Unorganized Territories.