AUGUSTA, Maine — The Legislature on Tuesday attached an amendment to leadership’s heavily debated anti-drug bill before unanimously enacting the bill and pushing it to Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s desk.
LD 1537, sponsored by Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, would pay to hire 10 new investigators for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and funnel additional funding to treatment, recovery and education services for addicts.
The majority of lawmakers — if not all of them — showed support for the measure, which resulted from a bipartisan deal struck in December between Democrats and Senate Republicans.
Various funding sources have been discussed to fund the $3.7 million bill, with the focus recently on money from a $21.5 million settlement last year between Standard and Poor’s, a Wall Street ratings agency. However, a Republican-led amendment approved Tuesday switched the funding source to the Medical Use of Marijuana Fund, which is supported by fees paid by medical marijuana providers.
There was some talk at the State House that, despite widespread support for the bill, it was too rushed — particularly the funding amendment.
Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, who chairs the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, voted in favor of the amendment Tuesday but voiced concern that funding change has not been properly vetted.
“My frustration is simply that in the rush to get something passed that this change came very suddenly,” Brakey said. “As the chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, I was not given an opportunity to contact folks and get their input.”
Representatives for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, a trade organization, could not be immediately reached Tuesday morning.
Members of the House of Representatives said that if ever a bill should be rushed to address a public health emergency, this one is it. Many said it was an early step in a range of solutions that will be explored this year to fight drug addiction in Maine.
“I’m glad we took up this bill right away,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, who co-chairs the Health and Human Services Committee. “I think it shows that we’re serious about tackling the serious problems facing this state.”
The Senate planned to take up final votes of the bill Tuesday afternoon.
LePage has publicly complained about the bill, particularly the additional spending on treatment and recovery, but has not revealed whether he will support the new version enacted Tuesday. A spokesman for the LePage said the governor would assess the bill in its final version when it reaches his desk.
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