Friday, August 25, 2017

Wrapping up the first session of the 128th Legislature by Rep. Mark Bryant

The Maine Legislature has adjourned for the session. It was a busy and productive year with many victories and also some disappointments.

One of the greatest challenges of this session was passing a balanced biennial budget. The process was contentious at best and did not go as planned, but ultimately we passed a budget that we can all be proud of. 

One of the major accomplishments of the budget was securing a record amount of education funding. This means that our school district, RSU 14, will get $664,219.42 more in school funding than what was proposed in the governor’s original budget. This direct benefit will be seen by all Windham property taxpayers, our students and classrooms. highlights of the budget include rejecting the governor’s proposed elimination of the Homestead Exemption for most families. By ensuring the Homestead Exemption stays in place we continue to provide more relief to Windham property taxpayers. 

The budget also secures $14.25 million in additional funding for the direct care workforce which serves seniors and Mainers with disabilities, rejects cuts to reimbursement rates for Critical Access
Hospitals and establishes a moratorium on reimbursement rate cuts for behavioral healthcare services.
In the Legislature, we recognize the great service our veterans have done for this country and our state. To that end, we have worked hard to pass legislation that supports our veterans and service men and women. 

Currently, there is no inpatient mental health care in Maine specifically for veterans. Those requiring care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, are sent out of state. Of the roughly 30,000 veterans in Maine who don’t use VA health care services, it is estimated that more than 10,000 are in need of mental health services. year, we passed a bill that will gather data on mental health admissions to determine if the person seeking help is a veteran and whether they qualify for veteran’s services. It also sets up a pilot program to provide case management for veterans requiring mental health care. 

We also passed a bill to help veterans use their military training to transition to the civilian workforce. This law grants the director of the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation, the authority to modify licensing requirements of professional licensing boards for veterans on a case-by-case basis.

Many areas in Maine still lack access to broadband. While legislation to expand broadband in Maine has been carried over until next year, we were able to pass a bill to keep access to high-speed internet at Maine schools and libraries. The law protects the Maine School and Library Network by simplifying and modernizing its funding structure.

I was especially proud of the work we did to pass two bills important to our firefighters and first responders. The first ends the sale of furniture containing fire retardant chemicals. Flame retardant chemicals have not been shown to be effective at preventing or slowing down house fires and instead are dangerous chemicals that can make house fires more hazardous to firefighters and anyone else caught in the fire.
The second bill will ensure emergency responders get the help they need when diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. The new law says that, due to the nature of emergency response work, if PTSD is diagnosed in one of these professionals, it can be presumed that the diagnosis is work-related, which means the diagnosis qualifies under workers’ compensation.

It continues to be an honor to serve as your state representative. If you have any questions about the work we’ve done in the Legislature or anything regarding state government, please feel free to write to me at 166 Albion Road in Windham, call me at 892-6591 or email anytime at

Rep. Mark Bryant serves in the Maine House and represents part of Windham. He serves on the Committee on State and Local Government and the Committee on Transportation.

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