July 9, 2018
AUGUSTA - Maine lawmakers overrode the governor's veto Monday of a proposal by Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden to protect young Mainers from lead poisoning. The vote was 139-4 in the House and 32-1 in the Senate.
"Lawmakers took an overwhelming bipartisan vote to protect Maine kids," said Golden, D-Lewiston. "Lead poisoning costs Maine communities millions of dollars each year. And that doesn't even begin to account for the human toll, costs that cannot truly be measured. Its effects are long-term and often irreversible. The best and most cost-effective way to address the problem is to prevent it in the first place."
Golden's lead abatement measure creates a new program to help homeowners perform expensive lead abatement to protect their own families or families renting from them. The initiative, which will be overseen by the Maine State Housing Authority, aims to encourage homeowners to address the presence of lead proactively before children are exposed.
Homes built prior to 1978 are at risk of containing lead paint. Lead is a known neurotoxin that can cause developmental delays, learning disabilities, behavioral issues and, in severe cases, convulsions, coma or death. More than 2,300 Maine children under age six were diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels between 2011 and 2015.
The proposal is part of LD 925, a $41.6 million bipartisan spending package approved by lawmakers last month. It also includes funding to combat the opioid epidemic, protect school-based health clinics and expand access to mental and behavioral health care, among other proposals.
"School-based health clinics provide a vital service to kids in communities around the state," said Rep. Jim Handy, D-Lewiston, who authored the proposal to restore funding for Maine's 16 school-based health clinics. "I'm glad that legislators on both sides were able to come together to override the veto and restore this funding."
Last year's biennial budget included $10 million in cuts to the Fund for a Healthy Maine. As a result of those cuts, the Department of Health and Human Services notified school-based health clinics that they would lose Fund for a Healthy Maine funding.
The loss of state dollars also eliminated federal matching funds provided by the Maternal Child Health Services Block Grant. These state and federal funds provided the bulk of funding for the clinics.
LD 925 is now law and, as an emergency measure, goes into effect immediately.
Amy Sylvester [Golden, Handy], 287-1430, c. 592-8685