Eight people, including 6 Asian American women, were gunned down in Atlanta on Tuesday. A suspect is in custody and no motive has been released, but it’s hard not to think the shooting is part of a recent increase in attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. Hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by 150% in 2020, no doubt encouraged by Donald Trump and other Republicans who have tried to divert attention away from the Trump administration’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic by spreading disinformation that falsely places the blame for the virus on China. Reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans in Maine are on the uptick as well. You can learn more about the situation in Maine in a forum hosted by the Human Rights and Holocaust Center of Maine. “Racism is a Virus: Panel Discussion on the Asian American Youth Experience in Maine,” will be held Wednesday, March 31 at 7 pm. Find more information and register for the online event.
We also wanted to thank the incredible team at MaineTransNet (MTN) for the powerful allies training held earlier this week. We’ll share more soon from the training and information on anti-trans bills coming before the Legislature this session. For now, an important message from MTN leaders: Bills that target transgender people aren’t new and they don’t have to pass to do harm. The bills in Maine won’t pass but their introduction alone has prompted calls to MTN from trans Mainers, especially young people, who are terrified about what they’re reading and hearing in the press. How we talk about this legislation is so important and for now, the guidance is to do our part to limit the sensationalism around these bills and to NOT share stories about them. MTN and EqualityMaine have a plan to defeat them that centers the voices of transgender people and cisgender allies will be asked to help. We’ll share their guidance in the coming weeks. For now, you can learn more this Thursday, March 18 at 12:15 pm during the Maine Women’s Lobby weekly Bill Bites series, which will feature Quinn Gormley from MTN and Gia Drew from EqualityMaine. Find more information and sign up here.
Find updates on legislation we’re tracking in Maine and Augusta below.
The Suit Up Maine Admin Team
Updates on earlier calls to action.
LD 1: COVID-19 patient bill of rights. The Maine Legislature unanimously approved LD 1 to remove barriers to COVID-19 testing and vaccination. The bill now goes to Governor Janet Mills for signature. More info here.
LD 2: to increase racial equity in legislation. This bill is also headed to the governor’s desk! LD 2 will create a pilot program to allow legislators to use racial impact statements to help end systemic racism in Maine. The bill received broad bipartisan support, with a unanimous vote in the House and a vote of 25-7 in the Senate. More info here.
LD 173: restore veterans’ benefits to LGBTQ+ Maine veterans. This bill, is almost across the finish line, needing one final vote for enactment. The legislation will restore benefits to Maine’s LGBTQ+ veterans who were denied an honorable discharge because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. More info here.
THIS WEEK IN THE LEGISLATURE
Updates on bills we’re tracking in our Legislature Roundup.
LD 489, to create a state environmental rights amendment. Maine is one of 11 states proposing an amendment to the state constitution to establish a right to a clean and healthy environment. The Pine Tree Amendment, as sponsors are calling it, gives environmental rights the same weight as other constitutional guarantees like free speech. There’s still time to submit testimony in support of the bill. More info here.
LD 202, to expand rank choice voting to state general elections. This bill would expand rank choice voting (RCV) to the gubernatorial and legislative races. There’s still time to submit testimony in support of the bill. More info here.
LD 211: emergency shelter access. The number of Mainers experiencing homelessness is on the rise, with nearly one-quarter of those affected under the age of 18 and about one-third being people of color, This bill provides an additional $3 million a year through 2023 for Maine’s emergency shelters. There’s still time to submit testimony in support of the bill. More info here.
THIS WEEK IN D.C.
Federal legislation and nominations to keep an eye on.
Voting Rights. Voting rights continues to take center stage in Washington, with two bills (HR1 and HR4) working their way through committee. HR4, now called the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in tribute to Rep. Lewis who died in 2020, aims to combat racial discrimination in voting by strengthening provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Learn more about the HR4 from the Brennan Center and read an editorial Rep. Lewis wrote shortly before his death.
HR 1, aptly named the For the People Act, is also critical. It blocks partisan gerrymandering, attacks voter suppression, and others measures to make voting easier for eligible Americans. The bill passed the House earlier this month, with Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden among the co-sponsors. Sen. Angus King is also a sponsor, but Sen. Susan Collins has not committed either way. Learn more about HR1 from the Brennan Center and contact Sen. Collins and ask her to support our democracy by supporting both bills. Find her contact information in our Civic Dashboard.
On our website you’ll also find:
- Maine Legislature Roundup: A legislative tracker for the current session.
- Actions: Calls to action on a range of issues.
- Letter to the Editor Guide: Tips on writing LTEs and a list of Maine newspapers that accept them.
- Statements, Op-Eds, and Testimony: Legislative testimony, guest editorials, and statements from our admin team.
- Top Events: A list of upcoming progressive events across the state.
- Guides & Explainers: Resources on complex topics.
- Civic Dashboard: Contact info for your elected officials, tutorials on the legislative process, and more.
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