AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — An effort to change Maine’s relationship with tribes has stalled with pushback from the Mills administration, likely pushing the issue back until next year.

Legislators and tribal leaders have questioned if the bill can get the attention it need during a legislative session strained by the pandemic, said Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana.

The delays are frustrating but provide "an opportunity to keep our energy and collaboration around this important issue growing,” Dana said.

The 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act effectively allows the state to treat tribes as municipalities. That's different from federally recognized tribes.

Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, a Portland Democrat, who is lead sponsor of the latest bill, said lawmakers must recognize and honor tribes and “affirm their inherent sovereignty in this territory.”

The proposal states that the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians shall “enjoy rights, privileges, powers, duties and immunities similar to those of other federally recognized Indian tribes within the United States.”

Mills’ chief legal adviser, Jerry Reid, expressed “serious concerns” on Tuesday about Talbot Ross’ bill.

“Our hope and intent was to work with tribal representatives in an effort to negotiate amendments to these bills or an alternative bill that could be something we could support,” Reid said. “Those efforts have not borne fruit at this point.”