AUGUSTA, Maine — Two bills introduced by Gov. Paul LePage related to drug and alcohol use appear headed for defeat after votes in the Maine House of Representatives on Thursday.
The governor’s bills — one that would essentially treat alcohol and drug use by pregnant women as child abuse, and another that would force towns to charge people revived more than once by an opiate overdose antidote — failed in the House on Thursday.
Even if the Senate endorses the bills, disagreement between the two chambers would doom LePage’s proposals in all but very rare cases of reconsideration.
LePage on May 2 submitted LD 1556, which would expand who is mandated to report child abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services and require all mandated reporters to report when “they know or suspect substance abuse by a woman during her pregnancy.”
The mandated reporting would apply even if the drugs are prescribed as part of a recovery program. Advocates and addiction treatment professionals blasted the bill, saying it would scare away expectant mothers, potentially causing them to avoid both prenatal and substance abuse care. During floor debate Thursday, Democrats repeated those arguments in urging the House to reject the bill.
The House voted defeated it in a 77-62 vote, with Rep. Norm Higgins of Dover-Foxcroft the only Republican voting against the measure. The Senate will vote on the measure next, but it’s unlikely to pass as written.
LePage also submitted LD 1558 last month in an effort to force communities to charge people who repeatedly overdose for the cost of the opioid antidote, and to penalize cities, towns and counties — $1,000 per incident — for those that don’t pursue the reimbursement.
The Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee voted that the bill ought not to pass, and the House accepted the recommendation on Thursday, rejecting the bill without formal objections from the floor.
Critics of the bill have said that making naloxone as widespread as possible is important to combat the state’s opiate crisis. Drug overdoses killed more than one person a day in Maine during 2016, with 313 of the deaths related to opioids.