When we look back on the work of the Legislature in 2019, we highlight a lot of themes. We talk about increasing access to affordable health care and reducing property taxes. We stress our actions to combat climate change and to support working class families. We demonstrate our work to care for older Mainers and to attract younger generations. But across all of these efforts and more, there was a consistent theme this year: making Maine a more inclusive, supportive place for all to live.

We started with the basics. We passed a bill to update statutes that previously referred to many of our state leaders, such as the governor and chief justice, as “he” or “him.” That change may seem small, but it’s the 21st century, and it’s time for our language and laws to reflect the progress we’ve made and acknowledge that anyone can be a leader.

Next, we started to even the playing field for all workers in Maine. We passed a bill to advance equal pay for equal work. It’s not just time to shrink the gender pay gap, it’s time to erase it. It’s also time for workers in Maine to be able to take time off to be with a sick relative without repercussions, so we instituted paid time off. And we updated our workers’ compensation laws, making it easier for Mainers to take care of themselves and support their families.

We also knew it was time to start truly building our relationship with tribal communities in Maine. We worked closely with Maine’s tribes to begin establishing their trust in the state and to acknowledge our shared history. We have a long way to go, but I was so glad when we observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day in October.

Our Legislature worked this session to improve health care, not only by making sure more people receive MaineCare but also by enhancing pregnancy coverage in both public and private policies. We also extended coverage for hearing aids and other items needed in our aging communities. Being confident in insurance coverage allows Mainers to rest assured they will have health care when they need it most.

We did not stop there. We set a goal to end hunger in Maine, so everyone can be sure a meal is coming. We took steps to end the profiling that results in some populations being incarcerated at higher rates than others. We provided tools to help immigrants prepare for their entry into the workforce while they await federal employment authorization. And we instituted an automatic voter registration system to make it easier for every Mainer to access the ballot.

Another signifiant accomplishment under the banner of inclusivity this year was prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy, an outdated practice proven to be ineffective and harmful to minors. Formally outlawing conversion therapy in our state puts an end to a dangerous practice and signals to LGBTQ youth in Maine that they are perfect as they are and nothing about them needs to change.

This is Maine. It’s a place where all are welcome, all are loved and all have the opportunity to succeed. In 2019, the laws we made matched the ideals we have always held dear. In 2020, we will double down, pushing even harder to ensure our government, industries, schools and systems of all kinds work for every person who calls Maine home.

 


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