First joint decision of Presiding Officers signals commitment to addressing increasing health care costs and Maine’s workforce shortage
AUGUSTA – Speaker of the House Sara Gideon and Senate President-Elect Troy Jackson announced new changes to the Joint Standing Committees of the 129th Legislature. In order to renew focus on two of the State’s most pressing challenges, the skyrocketing costs of health care and a severe workforce shortage, the Presiding Officers proposed a restructuring of two existing committees.
The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee will become two separate joint standing committees: the Innovation, Development & Economic Advancement & Commerce (IDEA) Committee and the Labor & Housing Committee. The Insurance & Financial Services Committee (IFS) will add to its workload and now be named the Health Coverage, Insurance & Financial Services (HCIFS). Further details below and in the attached memo.
Speaker of the House Sara Gideon released the following statement:
“After traveling across the State and hearing from thousands of Mainers and businesses about the challenges they were facing, our response had to be effective and efficient. It wasn’t enough to just agree that these issues were critical during the campaign season. When families are emptying their savings to afford their medical bills and businesses are unable to hire because of the lack of a skilled workforce, immediate action is necessary. To that end, we are modernizing our committee structure. We are prioritizing the issues that will fuel our workforce, that will promote research and development investment in all corners of the State and that will result in increased economic benefits for employers and employees. These changes alone will not fix the problems, but it is our goal to clearly and unequivocally demonstrate our commitment to moving Maine forward.”
Senate President-elect Troy Jackson released the following statement:
“Health care coverage and access to quality jobs are among the defining challenges of our time. If we are going to use our time here effectively to make a difference in people’s lives — and the future of this state — we need to devote the necessary resources, manpower and energy to get results. We’ve seen what happens to individuals and families all across the state when lawmakers fail to prioritize and adequately respond to issues that impact everyday Mainers – people are left out to dry. That’s why we are starting off the session by giving working people their committee back and by restructuring these committees. Now, we will be better equipped to address the high cost of quality of health care, stagnant wages and the conditions of working people across the state.”
The Presiding Officers will also be requesting that the Joint Rules Committee convene to consider other committee jurisdiction issues and report back to the Legislature any additional recommendations.
The IDEA Committee will take a broader, forward-looking perspective on economic development, research and development and higher education as it pertains to affordability and workforce readiness.
The Labor & Housing Committee
The Labor & Housing Committee will focus on work and safety standards ensuring the needs of our current workforce are well met, and that all Mainers have access to safe and affordable housing.
Health Coverage, Insurance & Financial Services
HCIFS will now focus specifically on the many important issues surrounding private health insurance with a goal of ensuring more Mainers and small business employers have access to affordable high quality health insurance.