About the Maine Legislature

About the 129th Maine Legislature

The Senate has 35 members, 21 are Democrats, 14 are Republicans. The House has 151 members, 89 are Democrats, 56 are Republicans and there are 5 Independents and one Common Sense Democrat. Maine's Governor is a Democrat.

Each Senator represents a district including approximately 32,100 constituents. Each House member represents a district which has approximately 7,500 people. Some Senate districts cross county, town and city lines, as do some House districts.

Election of Legislative Leadership
The Senate and House each elect its presiding officer. The Majority Leaders and Assistants are chosen by the members of the respective majority and minority parties in each branch. The Senate elects its own Secretary and Assistant Secretary and the House elects its own Clerk and Assistant Clerk.

The Senate and the House jointly ballot to elect the constitutional officers, who include the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Treasurer, all elected to two-year terms. The Senate and House also jointly elect the State Auditor for a four-year term. Usually the constitutional officers are members of the Majority party and in the total Legislature.

Committee Assignments
Legislative committees generally have 13 members, 10 from the House and three from the Senate. The committees are co-chaired by a Senator and a Representative. The Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives make the appointments, asking for recommendations from the Majority and Minority leaders.

Legislative Session
The first regular session convenes on the first Wednesday in January after the state election. Adjournment is mandatory not later than the third Wednesday in June of the odd numbered years. However, during both the first and second regular sessions the Legislature may vote up to two short extensions when necessary. The second regular session convenes the first Wednesday after the first Tuesday in the even numbered year and must adjourn not later than the third Wednesday in April. The Legislature can meet in special session on the call of the Governor. It can also call itself into session with the consent of the majority of each political party, all members having been polled.

Legislative Council
The Legislative Council conducts routine business of the Legislature when the Legislature is not in session, but does not enact legislation. The Legislative Council includes the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, the Majority and Minority Leaders and the Assistant Majority and Minority Leaders in each body and total 10 in number.

Floor Amendments
Amendments to a committee's action may be offered by House and Senate members after second reading. If an amendment affects the appropriation in any way or causes an increase or decrease in state revenues, it must also include an amended appropriation or fiscal note.

Passage to be Engrossed
After the Debating and amending processes are completed, a vote is taken in both houses to pass the measure to be engrossed. "Engrossing" means printing the bill and all adopted amendments together in an integrated document for enactment.

After being engrossed, all bills must be considered for final passage first in the House and then in the Senate. The necessary vote for enactment is usually a simple majority, but emergency bills require a 2/3 majority of the membership of the body and, referenda for bond issues and constitutional amendments require a 2/3 vote of those present. When a bill is enacted by both the House and Senate, it is sent to the Governor. If it fails enactment in both houses, it goes no further in the process. If the House and Senate disagree on enactment, additional votes may be taken. These give each house the opportunity to recede and concur (backup and agree) with the other house or to adhere to their original vote. If the disagreement cannot be resolved, the bill is said to have failed of enactment between the houses.

Appropriations Bills
Bills which would require the expenditure of state funds are called appropriations or allocations bills, and fall into a special category. Once bills that affect the General Fund, Highway Fund, or Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Fund have been acted in the House (having been passed to be engrossed in the Senate), they are customarily assigned in the Senate to one of the following "tables": to the Special Appropriations Table (if they involve the General Fund), to the Special highways Table (highway funds), or to the Special Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Table. They are listed daily on the Senate Calendar and are held in the senate for consideration late in the session. At that time, committee chairmen and other legislators inform the Appropriations Committee and members of leadership of their priorities among those bills which have been placed on the special appropriations tables.

When it is known how much money is estimated to be available for proposed bills, motions are made in the Senate, usually by the Senate chairs of the Appropriations, Transportation and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife committees, to remove bills from the three special tables and to enact or indefinitely postpone them.

Governor's Options
After a bill has been enacted by the Legislature, it is sent to the Governor, who has 10 days (not counting Sundays) to exercise on of three options. He can sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

If the Governor signs it, the bill ordinarily becomes law 90 days after the adjournment of that legislative session - unless it is an emergency measure, in which case it takes effect on an earlier date specified in the bill. If he vetoes the bill, it is returned to the Legislature, where a 2/3 vote of the membership of both the House and the Senate is required to override. If the Legislature overrides the Governor's veto, the bill becomes law without his approval.

If the Governor does not support a bill, but does not wish to veto it, he may let it become law without his signature, by not signing it and not returning it to the Legislature within 10 days.

A complicated situation occurs when the Legislature adjourns before the 10-day time limit has expired. In such a case, a bill on which the Governor has not acted prior to the adjournment of the session becomes law unless he returns it within three days after the reconvening of that Legislature. If there is not another meeting of that particular Legislature lasting more than three days, the bill does not become law.

Further Action
After a bill is enacted, it may be affected by subsequent actions, including referenda, regulatory interpretations and court action.

If the Legislature passes a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment, that resolution must be submitted at the next general election. A referendum can also result from a successful direct initiative petition by the voters to either enact or repeal a law.

A third type of referendum is triggered by a successful petition to exercise the people's veto. Voters may petition for a referendum to approve or disapprove any law enacted by the Legislature but not yet in effect. Finally, the Maine Constitution requires that referenda be held for all bond issues.

Agency Rulemaking
Many laws authorize state agencies to adopt rules to implement laws. These rules must be adopted in accordance with the Maine Administrative Procedure Act

Court Action
Court decisions may clarify the purpose of a law, its application, or the meaning of certain words in the context of the statute. The courts also may determine the basic issue of whether a law conforms to the provisions of the United States Constitution or the Maine Constitution.

Legislative Oversight
The Maine Legislature, through its Joint Standing Committees, joint Select committees, and Commissions authorized by law, carries out inquiries, investigations, reviews and studies on subjects of interest and concern. Some of the work especially review of agencies and rules, is frequently undertaken during the session, but studies and lengthier investigations usually take place during the interim period between legislative sessions.

All Joint Standing Committees may conduct studies that include agency or program review and analysis of problems or proposed solutions to bills that have been before the Legislature. Committee studies are often undertaken to review controversial problems and to seek solutions to them rather than to hastily adopt the first proposed solution that may be offered. Studies also address issues for which there was insufficient time for a committee of the full Legislature to consider. Joint Select Committees and Commissions also may conduct studies.

Near the end of the legislative session, each committee submits its list of studies in order of priority to the Legislative Council. The Council determines which of the studies it deems advisable, and provides a budget for each committee to conduct the approved studies. These is no prohibition against a committee conducting a study without Council approval, however, the committee members would not receive a per diem or reimbursement for expenses incurred. Studies are also assigned to committee by joint orders by the Legislative Council and by legislation. About the Maine Legislature