It may seem from recent press coverage that the budget is the only show in town during the first session of the 124th Maine legislature, but a quick look at the bills already submitted to the legislature (the deadline for submission is rapidly approaching) shows there may be some other interesting discussions taking place in Augusta over the next few months.
Some of the proposed laws deal with weighty issues, such as An Act To Protect Child Victims of Sexual Abuse. Some will likely provoke a great bit of discussion, such as An Act To Establish a Distracted Driver Law. Many deal with arcane and hyper-specific state policies, such as the proposal to define hard cider as wine under the state returnable containers law, and some deal with issues that have been discussed many times before, such as Maine's term limits law.
Some you can tell must have an interesting story behind them just by reading the name, such as An Act To Protect the Right To Use Solar Energy, An Act To Prohibit the Force-feeding of Birds, An Act to Prohibit Air Bag Fraud and Resolve, To Encourage the Preservation of Dark Skies.
These bills will now go to their respective committees, where legislators will hear testimony from citizens, experts and lobbyists, weigh the pros and cons, and try to determine if the bill's language should be modified to make it a better law or prevent unintended consequences.
I can already see a potential side effect of one piece of proposed legislation - An Act To Designate Registered Voters Not Enrolled in a Political Party as Independent Voters. The idea of the bill is to change the name used to describe registered voters in Maine that are not a member of one of the state's three recognized political parties from "unenrolled" to "independent". While this might make sense from a language-use point of view as "independent" is already the term used in the vernacular, it could have the effect of greatly reducing the number of voters who register as Greens.
I've participated in a number of voter registration drives and many of Maine's voters, even if they have some partisan leanings, will chose to register as independent because they want to show that they look beyond party labels. This independent spirit was in full force during the last election when the same electorate overwhelmingly supported both Barack Obama and Susan Collins.
Something I've seen happen many times is that folks will scan the ballot for the independent option, see the Green Independent Party line and check the box thinking they've registered as a member of no party without ever noticing the unenrolled option. I've often wondered how many less members the Green Party would have if their name lacked the word "independent" or the term "unenrolled" wasn't used. If this law passes I guess I'll find out.