Maine's Controversial Welfare Bills Fall Short in State House of Representatives

| by Nathaly Pesantez

Maine Gov. Paul LePage saw his controversial welfare reform bills rejected by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. 

The set of bills were introduced by Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau, but were rejected by the Democratic-majority House with a 76 to 68 vote on the main bill, LD 1375, on June 22, reports The Associated Press. 

Several Democrats from the House disapproved of LePage’s bills, speculating as to whether the provisions would abide with federal law. Democratic lawmakers were also concerned of the bill hurting Maine’s most vulnerable residents, reports WMTW. 

Given the bills' inability to pass the House after being approved by the Republican-dominated Senate, LePage’s reforms are likely over at this point.

LePage spoke critically of House Democrats who voted against the bills. 

“Democratic politicians… actually want Maine to go backward and revert to the broken welfare policies of the past,” LePage said, according to a press statement. “They have ignored the wishes of hard-working Mainers who see welfare fraud and abuse every day firsthand and are crying out for reform.”

LePage’s rejected bills proposed establishing a work requirement for able-bodied recipients receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families aid, banning the use of TANF benefits outside of Maine, authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to test TANF applicants for drugs, and a 180-day residency requirement for welfare benefits, among other provisions.

State Rep. Drew Gattine, a Democrat who represents Westbrook, said the bills were not in the interest of welfare recipients across Maine. 

“What Democrats won’t do is put children and moms at risk by pulling the safety net out underneath them for things that are unconstitutional and unworkable,” Gattine said, according to WMTW. 

Although LePage’s bills were halted, it’s unlikely welfare reform will move out of Maine’s political arena for quite some time, Bangor Daily News said. 

Sources: WTMW, The Associated Press via MPBN News, Bangor Daily News, Office of Governor Paul R. LePage
Photo Credit: Maine Department of Education/Flickr