Senators Reach Across the Aisle to Pass Maine Coworking Bill

Coworking spaces are a great place to build one’s business, develop relationships and expand an ecosystem. On Tuesday, bill LD 285 (Bill), “An Act To Provide Funding for the Maine Coworking Development Fund” passed the House last week in a party-line vote of 77 to 66.

The Bill would provide a one-time infusion of $300,000 into the Maine Coworking Development Fund, which the Legislature created in 2015 to provide $100,000 a year to help develop coworking spaces around the state.

“Co-working spaces are critical pillars in our 21st Century economy,” Rep. Fecteau told Maine Startups Insider after the Senate vote. “They attract young people, entrepreneurs, and Maine’s roughly 15,000 remote workers. Given our tourism economy, co-working spaces could very well mean our visitors spend an extra week stay in Bethel, Millinocket, or Portland.”

Democrats supported the Bill and Republicans opposed. At the time, Rep. Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), the Bill’s sponsor, was not hopeful that his bill would be able to pass the Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans, if it suffered another party-line vote.

However, the Senate on Tuesday voted 22-13 in favor the Bill, with five Republicans crossing the aisle to support the bill:

  • Sen. Tom Saviello, who represents Franklin County and parts of Kennebec County;
  • Sen. Lisa Keim, who represents portions of Androscoggin and Oxford counties;
  • Sen. Paul Davis, who represents Piscataquis County;
  • Sen. Dana Dow, who represents Lincoln County; and
  • Sen. David Woodsome, who represents portions of Oxford and York counties.

Asked in an email why he joined the Democrats in voting for the Bill, Sen. Saviello was succinct.

“The Bill supports small business startups,” Saviello replied.

Fecteau said he was thankful the Bill enjoyed bipartisan support in the Senate.

The bill now goes to the appropriations table, where all bills that include a fiscal note are sent after being passed by the Legislature. Lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee are then tasked with finding ways to fund all the bills that have an attached cost. If they find a way to fund the Bill, it moves forward to final enactment. If lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee can’t find a way to fund the Bill, then it dies on the table.

The Maine Coworking Development Fund distributed its first $100,000 in February. The recipients were Fork Food Lab in Portland, which received $25,000; Open Bench Project in Portland, which received $12,500; Our Katahdin Properties in Millinocket, which received $25,000; Think Tank in Portland, which received $25,000; and The Gem in Bethel, which received $12,500.

Lead photo of Think Tank in Maine from Maine Insider

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Written by:
Whit Richardson is a former daily newspaper journalist in Portland, Maine, who has covered business and entrepreneurship for the past decade. He's founder of Maine Startups Insider and currently editor-in-chief of 4Front Publishing, an online news startup covering the nascent legal cannabis industry.
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