LD 647 Viewed as Priority to Improve Equity in Maine

Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations, created by 2019 legislation, just issued Recommendations to the Legislature regarding steps Maine’s Legislature should take to help eradicate the systemic racism that perpetuates racial and ethnic inequities and disparities.

The Permanent Commission’s mission is to “to examine racial disparities across all systems and to specifically work at improving the status and outcomes for the historically disadvantaged racial, Indigenous, and Maine tribal populations in the State.”  To guide the Legislature in crafting legislation that will help end the perpetuation of systemic racism and will instead advance equity, the Permanent Commission created a filtering tool as a lens to examine all proposed legislation, asking “10 questions aimed at determining how much potential a piece of legislation has to combat racial inequities, particularly systemic or structural inequities.”

As part of their work, the Permanent Commission, together with 55 members of the State Legislature, applied those filters to 454 pending bills.  This examination resulted in identifying 46 of these bills as priorities for passage, with 26 of those 46 recommended as their “Tier 1” top priorities for passage.

L.D. 647, An Act To Attract, Educate and Retain New State Residents To Strengthen the Workforce, is one of the Permanent Commission’s Tier 1 bills.   L.D. 647 would increase the capacity of adult education programs to offer English as a Second Language classes, as well as combined ESL/Job Skills classes, both of which are broadly recognized as keys to Maine’s immigrants’ economic advancement and their ability to reach their full potential in the workforce.   The bill would also provide funding for Welcome Centers to help immigrants get into jobs commensurate with the education and experience they acquired abroad.

MeBIC helped draft L.D. 647 and was instrumental in achieving its successful passage in both chambers of Maine’s Legislature.  However, the bill was never finally enacted, as it awaited a vote on funding when the Legislature adjourned early due to the pandemic.

Since Maine’s Legislature  is unlikely to reconvene in 2020, L.D. 647 will need to be reintroduced in 2021.   MeBIC is gratified for the Permanent Commission’s endorsement of the bill as one of its top priorities, which may help the next iteration of the bill cross the finish line in 2021.