Winter is fast approaching, and so too is the second session of the Maine Legislature, which formally convenes in January.

Unlike the longer, more freewheeling first session of the Legislature, the second session is supposed to be shorter, with new bills to be focused on emergencies. Legislative leadership has the power to deny bill requests, although this doesn’t work quite as well in practice as in theory. Rather than denying requests because they’re not emergencies, when one party runs the Legislature, it lets in most requests by its own party. Legislative leadership, too, tends to get special consideration: It’s rare to see the Legislative Council, the Legislature’s administrative body, reject a request from members of leadership. 

Legislators don’t stick to the rule regarding emergencies either, so it’s no surprise that their leadership doesn’t. Instead, they throw in requests that they simply didn’t think of the first session – or attempt to address issues that have arisen since they were last in town. Some of these may be emergencies, but the vast majority of them are simply new bills.

For instance, it’s hard to see how allowing child care to be counted as an allowable campaign expense, or renaming a road, or establishing a state commission on artificial intelligence are pressing needs that the state must immediately address. Laying aside the merits of those and all other bills for the moment, there’s absolutely no reason those issues couldn’t have been addressed during the first session.  

If the Legislature were serious about reserving the second session for emergencies, they’d nix all of these requests and many others. It would be especially gratifying to see them take that approach in 2024, since the state really does have a number of pressing needs that must be addressed: opioid addiction and homelessness, for instance.  

Apart from emergencies, the second session also needs to deal with bills that they didn’t address in the first session, carry-overs. You might think that, since the first session lasted so long, there wouldn’t be many of these to deal with, or that they’d be relatively uncontroversial. You’d be wrong on both counts. Mismanagement by majority Democrats that led to such a lengthy legislative session didn’t even give them the time they needed to finish all of their work. 


Many of these bills are going to be controversial, even if they don’t end up being partisan, and will turn into bitter fights. They touch on a wide range of issues, ranging from pressing needs that the Legislature should not have skipped over during the first session to frivolous ones that should have been easily dismissed.

There are always going to be some carry-over requests; it’s nearly impossible to avoid them. Still, they’ve been on the rise in recent years, and that suggests that the Legislature is getting worse at doing its job. It’s not entirely the Democrats’ fault, either, although they shoulder more of the blame as of late since they’ve been in the majority.

It’s a bipartisan failure. And looking down the list of bill requests in the second session, one sees frivolous requests from both sides of the aisle.

At the moment, it’s hard to tell much about some of the bills, since we just have titles. Even then, some are blatantly unnecessary.

Rather than simply putting in any bill request they like, legislators should consider whether a bill is truly necessary. They ought to consider that all of the time, of course, but that’s especially true during the second session. Leadership should be more aggressive in denying unnecessary requests, regardless of political considerations. During the second session, we have get back to addressing real emergencies, not wasting time letting legislators pad their resumes for their re election campaign. 

It’s time to start curtailing the practice of carrying over legislation, as well. If the Legislature managed itself better, it’d have plenty of time to deal with both the biennial budget and most legislative matters. Instead, it wastes its time – and taxpayer money – and fails to get the job done. 

Legislative leaders lately haven’t been taking their jobs very seriously, and their members are clearly following suit.

Members of our Legislature may work part time, but they still need to take their jobs seriously, and it’s time we start demanding it – from both parties. Otherwise, we end up with a state government that fails us all.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
Twitter: @jimfossel

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