Governor Mills: Resilience & Resolve of Maine People Makes State of the State Strong

In the second part of State of the State Address, Governor Mills unveils proposals to address violence and protect public safety & to rebuild and enhance resiliency to extreme storms

Governor Janet Mills tonight declared that the “State of our State is strong” because of the resilience and resolve of Maine people in the wake of some of the most difficult times in recent Maine history.

The Governor dedicated the entirety of her televised State of the State Address tonight to addressing public safety in the wake of the tragedy in Lewiston and to rebuilding and strengthening Maine’s climate resiliency following three recent extreme weather events that inflicted significant damage across the state.

Tonight’s speech was the second part of the Governor’s 2024 State of the State Address. The first part of her address, in which she unveiled new initiatives to tackle several pressing issues, was released this morning in a letter to the Legislature and Maine people.

“In these difficult times – when it sometimes feels like we have little control over our fate and our future – the people of Maine have banded together in support of one another, our communities, and our state like never before,” said Governor Mills. “And it is because of you, the people of Maine, that I am more confident than ever before in the future of our state and in our ability to prepare for and overcome whatever challenges the future has in store.”

Calling the October shootings in Lewiston “shocking events that have threatened our personal security, our community safety, and our very character as a state,” Governor Mills honored the victims, those injured, and their families, and paid tribute to the heroism that punctuated the moments of darkness.

She announced that in her forthcoming supplemental budget she will create a fund, similar to the one created in Virginia last year, and capitalize it with $5 million to be invested over time that can be used to cover the long-term medical needs of those injured last October.

The Governor also called on lawmakers to join her in an effort to “restore our sense of personal safety.”

“Yes, we are different than other states, but violence does exist here in the State of Maine – and it strikes at the very heart of who we are and everything we hold dear for this precious place we call home,” said Governor Mills. “For the sake of the communities, individuals, and families now suffering immeasurable pain, for the sake of our state, doing nothing is not an option.”

Governor Mills announced that in the coming days, she will introduce legislation to address violence and improve public safety in Maine. The legislation stems from conversations the Governor has had with lawmakers, organizations, and people from across Maine.

“What I heard from folks all across the state is that they recognize the problem of gun violence. They see it in acts of domestic violence, suicide, and mass shootings. Each person had ideas about what we could do to address the problem, and each of these ideas was different. But what was not different – what was largely agreed upon – was an overarching belief that violence prevention is important; that we must strengthen our mental health system, and that dangerous people should not have access to firearms,” said Governor Mills. “Out of these discussions, tonight I am announcing that I will be filing legislation to address these three areas of concern – legislation that would implement meaningful public safety protections, that would honor the rights afforded by our state and federal constitutions to safe and legal gun ownership, and that would uphold our state’s longstanding outdoor heritage.”

The Governor’s three-pronged legislation would improve violence prevention, strengthen mental health services, and keep weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them by:

  • Establishing an Injury and Violence Prevention Program at the Maine CDC: Recognizing that Maine does not have a violence prevention program like many states, the Governor proposed creating an Injury and Violence Prevention Program at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention as a central hub to bring together data about violence related injuries and deaths that is currently kept separate (such as in police reports, medical examiner files, and emergency department files) to allow us to identify patterns to inform public health and prevention measures to reduce suicides and homicides in Maine.
  • Strengthening Maine’s Mental Health System: The Governor proposed to establish a statewide network of crisis receiving centers – a proven model of behavioral crisis intervention – so that any person suffering a mental health crisis can get prompt and appropriate care. The proposal builds on the successful Portland center, and the one being established in Kennebec County, to immediately build a crisis receiving center in Lewiston while developing and implementing a plan for a broader network that provides greater access to behavioral health services for people across the state.
  • Prohibiting Dangerous People from Possessing Weapons:
    • Strengthen Maine’s Extreme Protection Order Law: Calling the inability of law enforcement to take the Lewiston shooter into protective custody to initiate the extreme protection order law and remove his weapons “a gap that must be addressed,” Governor Mills said she will propose a change to the law to allow law enforcement to seek a protective custody warrant signed by a judge, in unusual circumstances, to take a person into protective custody, providing them with another tool to use at their discretion to take dangerous people into custody to remove their weapons.
    • Institute National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for Advertised, Private Sales: The Governor said she will propose addressing the issue of private gun sales by requiring any advertised firearm sale to be checked against the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), as is required for commercial sales at federally licensed firearm dealers.
    • Incentivize NICS Checks for Unadvertised, Private Sales: The Governor announced she will propose strengthening Maine law to make it easier to prosecute anyone who sells a gun to someone not allowed to have one and to toughen Maine law to make that type of illegal sale a felony, not just a misdemeanor. This approach will mean that transfers of firearms to family members or trusted friends, as is common in Maine, will remain unchanged, but it will incentivize checks against the NICS system for private, unadvertised sales to unknown individuals through the threat of increased risk of prosecution and prison time.

“I recognize that, on the one hand, this legislation may be too little to those who believe more is needed, while, on the other hand, it may be too much to those who believe the opposite. But violence is not a simple problem, nor is the remedy a single, simple measure. And these proposals represent progress, and they do not trample on anybody’s rights,” said Governor Mills. “They are practical, common-sense measures. They are not extreme or unusual. They are not a cookie cutter version of another’s state’s laws; they are Maine-made and true to our culture and our longstanding traditions while meeting today’s needs.”

“The issue of guns in America is often marred by acrimony and divisiveness – tending to polarize people of goodwill, further entrenching people in already deeply held beliefs, hardening our uncharitable opinions of one another, and widening a great divide that only serves to immobilize us and obscure solutions,” she continued. “Let us not lose our way in the vitriol and heated rhetoric that too often accompanies these debates; but let us have substantive, respectful, and vigorous discussion and arrive at solutions that work for our state and our people.”

A fact sheet for the legislation, which will be introduced in the coming days, is available (PDF).

The Governor also said Maine must respond to a recent series of severe storms and historic flooding by taking “immediate steps – right now – to make our towns, homes, and businesses more resilient to climate change and these awful storms.”

“With help from the Federal government, and the support of this Legislature, and with the trademark ingenuity and grit that are the hallmark of Maine people, we will rebuild stronger than ever,” said Governor Mills. “Like other states feeling the brunt of extreme weather events, Maine is not safe from climate change. We know more storms will come.”

The Governor proposed two significant investments to improve infrastructure vulnerable to flooding, rising sea levels, and other extreme events, including:

  • $5 Million Investment in the Community Resilience Partnership: Governor Mills will allocate $5 million in her supplemental budget to help another 100 cities, towns, and tribal governments create local plans to address vulnerabilities to extreme weather through the Partnership, adding to the 175 communities who have joined the program since it was launched.
  • $50 Million Investment in the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund: Saying “I propose taking from the Rainy Day Fund to respond to some pretty rainy days we’ve had and some rainy days ahead,” the Governor proposed to invest $50 million from Maine’s record-high Budget Stabilization Fund – known as the Rainy Day Fund – to help Maine communities ensure their infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change. The Maine Infrastructure Adaption Fund, created by the Mills Administration and the Legislature, provides grants for significant infrastructure adaptation, repair and improvements that support public safety, protection of essential community assets, regional economic needs, and long-term infrastructure resiliency. Projects may include working waterfront infrastructure, culverts, storm water systems, water system upgrades, and other interventions that support reducing or eliminating climate impacts, especially coastal and inland flooding.

Governor Mills closed her remarks by reflecting on the people of Maine, saying “We are who we always have been — a people with a deep and abiding sense of right and wrong, determined to look out for one another, knowing how very lucky we are to live in this beautiful state.”

“We will continue to look within ourselves and to each other for the confidence, courage and compassion to face the future, to weather things we have never weathered before, to defeat the dangers of today and prevent the disasters of tomorrow, as we replenish our souls and renew our indomitable sense of hope — one people, made up of many, with one purpose, one broad vision — to be the best we can for ourselves, for our family, for each other, and for our state,” Governor Mills said. “I know that we can, because we are, all of us, the people of the great state of Maine. And the state of our people is good. The State of our State is strong.”

Read the full text of the Governor’s remarks, as prepared for delivery (PDF). Part one of the Governor’s 2024 State of the State Address was released in a letter this morning.