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This week’s edition!

An Update on the Work I’m Doing

Guest Column

By Sen. Libby

This past year in the Legislature has been a whirlwind. Like so many other people, we have had to find ways to complete our work while also doing our best to keep COVID-19 at bay. Despite the extra challenges, my colleagues and I have been working hard to pass legislation that benefits all Mainers during this trying time. I would like to use this space as an opportunity to share some of the key pieces of legislation that I introduced this year, why I believe these laws are necessary and the effect they will have once signed into law.

 The first bill I would like to share is LD 1318, “An Act To Increase High School Graduation Rates for Students Experiencing Education Disruption.” The original idea for this bill was brought to me by the folks at New Beginnings youth shelter who see the barriers and educational disruptions that homeless youth and youth in foster care experience every day. In 2018, the overall high school graduation rate in Maine was 86.8 percent, but for youth experiencing homelessness it was 57.7 percent, and for youth in foster care it was only 56 percent. This bill would amend existing law to give young students who have experienced education disruption the tools they need to build a portfolio for high school graduation. Students who experience frequent disruptions to their schooling include those who are changing schools, living in foster care, experiencing homelessness, children of migrant workers and more.

Sen. Nate Libby (D-Lewiston), Maine District 21, the City of Lewiston. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Libby)

 Another important bill of mine is LD 201, “An Act To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Promote Weatherization in the Buildings Sector by Extending the Sunset Date for the Historic Property Rehabilitation Tax Credit.” This bill extends the Maine Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (MHRTC) from 2025 to 2040. This tax credit helps business and property developers rehabilitate and reuse income-producing historic buildings in Maine. The credit encourages investment in downtown areas to spur revitalization and the creation of affordable housing. To date, the program has been widely used in Lewiston-Auburn and has generated $3 million more in state and local tax revenues than it has cost in tax credits. On climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, the MHRTC helps incentivize development of housing located within walking distance of downtown stores and services, which reduces the dependence on motorized transportation.

 The last bill I would like to share is LD 1649, “An Act To Make the Shared Living Program Accessible for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities or Autism.” The goal of this bill is to make necessary accommodations for those with disabilities. Shared living is a roommate-like model of support where individuals with disabilities live with a provider and their family, in order to receive support with life skills, personal care, community engagement and other activities. For offering these supports, the shared living provider is paid a stipend. Accommodations like accessible bathrooms and ramps should be available and easy for shared living providers to add to their homes. In situations where these accommodations are not able to be met, we are leaving many Mainers with disabilities in living situations that are not sufficient to their needs. That is simply unacceptable. This bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate the current shared living program for people with intellectual disabilities or autism, and determine if the stipend rates for shared living should vary depending on the needs of the persons served.

 While this is not an exhaustive list of the bills I have introduced or reflective of all of the work we have been doing this year in the Legislature, these are a few of the bills that I think will help solve some of the greatest issues facing our state and our community. The Legislature will be in session until mid-June, and you can always watch our work live or see our schedule at Legislature.maine.gov. If you ever have any comments or questions, you can always reach out to me at nathan.libby@legislature.maine.gov or by phone at (207) 287-1515.

Sen. Nate Libby (D-Lewiston) represents Maine Senate District 21, which comprises the City of Lewiston.

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