More than 500 new laws or law changes will take effect Thursday in Maine.

From banning electronic cigarettes and vaping devices on public school grounds and preventing motorists from holding cellphones to setting new work experience requirements for candidates running for county sheriff, changes big and small are on the horizon for Mainers.

In all, 530 public laws will go into effect, which is about 25 percent more than the number of laws passed in most previous lawmaking sessions.

Some of the more controversial new laws – such as those eliminating religious or philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccines and requiring Medicaid to cover abortion services – may be the subject of “people’s veto” statewide referendums in March, if opponents have gathered enough voter signatures.

A law that allows for medical aid in dying for those facing terminal illness will also go into effect, barring a stay by an additional people’s veto attempt.

Also in the mix is a new gun law that would allow police to take people into protective custody and require them to temporarily surrender their firearms if they are found to be a danger to themselves or others with a judge’s order.


Also effective Thursday is a ban on the so-called practice of conversion therapy. The law makes Maine the 17th state to prohibit counselors, therapists and other licensed professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors.

Laws banning food shaming in public schools and expanding access to free school nutrition programs and requiring breakfast to be offered to children who arrive late to school will also go into effect.

Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, the assistant House majority leader, said Friday the volume of laws taking effect is a sign of an effective Legislature. Fecteau said he’s particularly proud of laws that increased state funding for local municipalities, an expanded earned income tax credit and bigger property tax breaks passed in the form of increased homestead exemption tax credits.

With Democrats in control of both chambers and the governor’s office, Fecteau said the tone in Augusta has changed dramatically from previous sessions, when government was divided with Republicans holding the Senate and the governor’s office.

“The line of communication, whether it be the governor’s office or the agencies, was greatly improved, and I felt like there was a greater willingness with our Republican colleagues to work together,” Fecteau said.

One law that won’t become effective until Jan. 1, 2021, requires paid sick time for workers in Maine, and it’s a good example of that cooperation, Fecteau said.


The law provides workers with companies that have 10 or more employees an hour of sick time for every 40 hours they work, up to a maximum of 40 hours of time off a year. The paid time could be used for an illness or family emergency.

“Our partners on the other side of the aisle were engaged and willing to find a solution that worked for everyone, and ultimately I think that law is much stronger than what was initially proposed,” Fecteau said. “We are now talking about paid time off regardless of the reason. I think that makes a big difference in a state where a lot of folks are taking care of their elderly parents or finding child care can be difficult.”

House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said laws going on the books this week reflect a long list of accomplishments, some of which have been goals for years.

“We took major steps to lower property taxes, both in our budget and in stand-alone legislation. We also took concrete steps to beat the opioid epidemic, and finally we set aggressive goals to fight climate change,” she said. “I’m proud that the work we did will both have an immediate and a long-term impact on our state.”

Senate Democrats also pointed to a list of new laws going on the books Thursday that focus on lowering prescription drug costs, allowing for the importation of wholesale prescription drugs from Canada, promoting equal pay for women, and providing more money for rural hospitals and ambulance services, among others.

A law that will prohibit internet service providers from selling customers’ data gives Maine one of the strictest internet consumer protections in the country, said Senate Majority Leader Nate Libby, D-Lewiston.

Libby also pointed to a law that takes aim at climate change and expands the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard, pushing the state to a 100 percent renewable energy standard by 2050.

Libby said many of the new laws will help working Mainers.

“We wanted to focus on kitchen-table, household budget issues, and for the most part the things we are talking about going into law here today was geared towards that,” Libby said.

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