There are a lot of new faces at the State House this year, as 57 state representatives with no legislative experience won elections last fall. And Holly Stover of Boothbay is one of them. The Democrat defeated two-term Republican incumbent Stephanie Hawke 2,559 to 2,447 in one of the state’s closest contests. But everywhere else, Democrats wiped out the GOP. Democrats expanded their majority in the House picking up 13 seats. Senate Democrats flipped the majority by gaining eight seats and a 21-14 advantage.
And Gov. Janet Mills reclaimed the Blaine House for Democrats by defeating her Republican challenger Shawn Moody by 48,000 votes, the largest victory margin in 20 years. So for the next two years, Maine government will make a strong move to the left resulting in expanding Medicaid, more local school funding, and increased funds to battle the mounting opioid crisis.
In her first budget, Mills proposed an $8 billion two-year plan representing an 11 percent increase. The proposal would accept nearly $1 billion in federal funds for Medicaid expansion. Maine would match federal money with $147 million.The state would also provide $126 million more for kindergarten through grade 12 public education. In combating opioid addiction, Mills proposed $5.5 million for recovery coaches in local hospitals assisting addicts.
For Stover, these proposals represent a step in the right direction. She described her first few weeks in Augusta as an “energetic and positive start.” She supports Mills’ budget and is optimistic these proposals will improve the lives of Maine’s most vulnerable citizens. Stover sees Medicaid expansion as providing essential health care to low income Mainers and boosting the economy. She praised former Gov. LePage for paying a $183.5 million hospital debt to 39 Maine hospitals, but disagreed with his reluctance to accept federal money to expand Medicaid. “I think the decision to pay the hospital was the right one, but not expanding Medicaid placed a larger burden on local hospitals,” she said. “In the past 10 years, hospitals accumulated a tremendous amount of uncompensated care which placed a lot of stress on hospitals.”
While Mills’ budget calls for over $700 million in new state spending, it doesn’t call for more revenue. Stover cites a strong economy producing enough revenue for funding Mills’ proposals. “She didn’t reverse the governor’s (LePage) past decision on taxing the wealthy. She’s using current revenue to fund her projects. The economy is doing well, and there is no need to increase taxes or dip into the Rainy Day Account.”
So far, the 151 House of Representative members and 35 senators have proposed over 2,000 bills. Stover is sponsoring nine. Two would change local charters in the Boothbay region. She sponsored a bill for amending the Boothbay Harbor Sewer District which would provide for a Boothbay trustee to the three-person board. Stover recently received a request from Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor selectmen to amend the Community School District charter. Last month, the two select boards requested legislative approval for removing caps on the district’s capital reserve account and requiring voter approval on bond issues over $5 million.
The freshman legislator also has a few ideas of her own. She is sponsoring legislation which would eliminate plastic bags. Her bill, “An Act to Eliminate Single Use Bags," is modeled on similar ordinances in 18 Maine municipalities. “Everyone is starting to realize these bags are poison. Fish eat them, and we eat the fish.” She is also sponsoring a bill which would designate four seats on the Maine Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse to include more tribal members. Her bill would designate four seats for Maine tribal members. Currently, the commission doesn’t have any seats designated for Native Americans.
Other bills include “An Act to Protect Victims of Domestic Abuse in Action Under the Maine Human Rights Act," “An Act to Add Work Release to Defendants Release and/or Escape for Victim Notification” and “An Act Addressing Needs of Children with Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disorders.”
Stover described the victim notification bill as clearing up an oversight as work release isn’t currently listed as a notification protocol. The bill regarding children with intellectual disorders provides support to families caring for special needs children. “It allows children who may have autism to live and be part of the community by providing families with additional support so they don’t burn out providing 24/7 care,” Stover said.
One of Stover’s bills may impact a future gubernatorial election. She sponsored a bill which increases the number of qualifying contributions from 2,000 to 6,000 for gubernatorial candidates to receive clean election funding.