AARP Maine Legislative Wrap-up for 2024

Posted on 05/15/24


Fighting for Mainers 50-Plus and Their Families

AARP Maine advocates for what is important to all our members and Mainers aged 50 and over. Strengthened by a team of dedicated volunteers, AARP Maine gives you a voice at the state and federal levels. Our volunteer advocates are nothing short of amazing! Take a look at our 2024 Legislative Honor Roll here.

AARP Maine was quite busy this session and, after a significant amount of work, the 131st legislature has adjourned. We thank all our lawmakers for their hard work in Augusta. We also want to especially thank our Tuesdays at the State House (TASH) volunteers. These volunteers spent many hours connecting with their elected officials, testifying, and joining committee hearings — all to help make Maine an even better place to live for everyone.

We are excited to provide the below summary of some of the key legislation that AARP staff and volunteers advocated for, influenced and passed this session.

Protecting the Medicare Savings Program

In 2023, Maine’s legislators took historic action by expanding eligibility for Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) for thousands of Mainers. MSPs are for people on Medicare who have limited income and resources so they may afford health care expenses such as copayments, deductibles, and Medicare Parts A and B. MSPs are benefit programs that help people with limited income and resources pay for some or all of their Medicare costs. Enrollment in these MSPs puts over $2,000 back into the wallets of seniors and adults with disabilities each year.

When the proposed budget for 2024 sought to undo this work and cut the Medicare Savings Program expansions, the AARP Maine team jumped right into action. Through testimony, writing letters to the editor and volunteer advocacy the legislature took action to preserve MSP expansions in the 2024 legislative session. This means benefits were preserved for nearly 45,000 eligible low-income Mainers. Lawmakers set aside $14.1 million to protect the expansion.

LD 1962, Resolve, to Direct the Public Utilities Commission to Adopt Rules Regarding Utility Shut-offs

AARP Maine worked with Senate President Troy Jackson’s office in drafting language for this bill, which was ultimately passed as a resolve. In its final form, the resolve offers expanded consumer protections for vulnerable Maine residents (including those over 50) by directing the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to adopt rules that would

· prohibit electric and gas utilities from shutting off service due to unpaid bills during extreme weather conditions related to heat & humidity.

· establish a threshold dollar amount greater than $50 owed by a customer who does not pay or make a payment arrangement on an undisputed overdue utility bill at or above which the utility may terminate or disconnect utility service.

· prohibit electric utilities from charging reconnection fees to low-income customers or charging late fees that may have accrued prior to disconnection of service.

Funding the Victims of Crime Act

There is a federal law called the Victims of Crime Act which provides significant funding to states to support essential services for the victims of crime including supporting critical organizations like Legal Services for Maine’s Elders. However, due to a lack of funding from the federal government, Maine’s critical services were facing a nearly 60% cut in funding. AARP advocated for the state to support these programs by allocating the needed funds from the state budget. Thanks to Mainers from all over the state, $6 million in one-time funding was allocated to address the “federal funding shortfall from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). The State funding will support community-based domestic violence and sexual assault services, civil legal representation for victims, government-based victim witness advocates, and housing and supportive services for elder abuse victims.” (Office of Governor Mills)

LD 2067, An Act to Continue the Arrearage Management Program for Low-income Residential Electricity Customers

The passage of LD 2067, An Act to Continue the Arrearage Management Program for Low-income Residential Electricity Customers, provides the continuation of Maine's Arrearage Management Program (AMP) until 2028. It was due to expire in September 2024. The program helps qualified customers who are enrolled in the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to reduce their past due balance by as much as $300 each month, as long as current monthly payments are made in full and on time. The bill originally aimed to make the program permanent but, through negotiations with opponents, ultimately passed with an extension of four years. AARP staff testified in support of the extension of the AMP and we are pleased that legislators saw fit to keep it in place so that vulnerable Mainers will continue to have this resource at their disposal.

LD 2126, An Act Relating to Delegation of Nursing Activities and Tasks to Unlicensed Assistive Personnel by Registered Professional Nurses

This law allows nurses to delegate tasks that they usually complete as a part of care to unlicensed assistive personnel. "Unlicensed assistive personnel" means individuals trained to function in a supportive role, regardless of job title, to whom a specific nursing activity or task may be delegated. Nurse delegation is a critical tool in supporting Maine’s family caregivers and allowing more adults to be able to age in place. Families benefit from policy that expands the types of health maintenance tasks that registered nurses can delegate. Nurse delegation helps family caregivers who may have to otherwise leave work during the day or hire a nurse to perform these routine tasks, therefore better increasing access to care for Mainers who wish to age in place.

LD 2163, An Act to Require Consumer Consent for Certain Generation Service Contract Renewals

This amendment to existing law offers further protection for consumers who enter into electricity service agreements with Competitive Energy Providers (CEPs) rather than taking the standard offer rate set by the Public Utilities Commission. Going forward, these providers will be required to get express consent to renew a customer’s agreement if the renewal rate will be 20% or more than the previously contracted rate or if the rate would be higher than that which would be offered to a new customer. Furthermore, a contract may not be renewed for a variable rate if the customer’s previous agreement utilized a fixed rate. These expanded protections will make it more difficult for energy providers to employ complicated, or even deceitful, practices that have been known to take advantage of vulnerable Mainers.

LD 2262, An Act to Amend the Process for the Sale of Foreclosed Properties Due to Nonpayment of Taxes

This bill sought to further protect Mainers from something called home equity theft due to property tax foreclosures. This is all related to a Supreme Court decision that found when a local government forecloses on a property due to failure to pay property tax, they may not keep the homeowner’s equity after the tax debt is paid. The case at the Supreme Court was related to the case of 94-year old Geraldine Tyler. “After moving out of her home and into a senior community, she fell behind on her property taxes. The Hennepin County taxing authority began the tax collection process, and this resulted in a conditional taking of her property, subject to a three-year redemption period. When Ms. Tyler failed to redeem the property by paying the outstanding taxes, interest, and penalties in the amount of $15,000, absolute title to the property transferred to Hennepin County. The County then sold Ms. Tyler’s home for $40,000 and kept the $25,000 sale proceeds (National Consumer Law Center).” This new law updates Maine’s law to better identify rules and protections due to the case.

LD 2172, An Act to Enhance Electric Utility Performance-based Ratemaking

Defeat of LD 2172, An Act to Enhance Electric Utility Performance-based Ratemaking (PBR), preserved access to fair and just customer rates and charges by preventing the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) from gaining the authority to establish PBR and rate adjustment mechanisms during any proceeding. The bill also would have authorized the PUC to implement PBR regulation before a study to determine the value of such an alternative form of regulation could be conducted. Passage of the bill also risked rewarding Maine's electric utilities for doing its regular job.

Ready to join our volunteer team and work on legislative action initiatives likes the ones you just read about? Click here to get started!

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