The 33 state lawmakers from Central and Western Maine had a significant impact on Maine this session. Credit them – or blame them – for passing a school consolidation plan, not passing tax reform, tabling changes to Dirigo health and lots more. All before summer was over.
As the first year of the 123rd legislative session was coming to a close, a very tired Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello, R-Poland, walked into a last-minute public hearing and collapsed in a chair.
It was a feeling shared by most legislators: exhaustion. This was Snowe-Mello’s sixth term in the Legislature and she said she has never seen the body address so many big issues at once.
Lawmakers approved a budget by a two-thirds vote that included the controversial school district consolidation plan, as well as a large bond package by a wide margin.
After much debate, they rejected a tax reform plan that looked to lower income taxes and provide other tax relief while expanding the sales tax to some currently exempt goods and services.
As the clock ran out, they tabled health-care reform to next year for further consideration.
They decided that failure to wear a seat belt is now a primary traffic offense. Young drivers are barred from using hand-held cell phones on the road. And if you’re caught protesting at a funeral, you could be charged with disorderly conduct.
So where was your legislator?
Some, such as Rep. Janet Mills, D-Farmington, submitted volumes of legislation for consideration. Others, such as Sen. John Nutting, D-Leeds, and Rep. John Patrick, D-Rumford, presided over committees to determine which legislation should advance and what it would look like.
Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, spent countless hours presiding over the Appropriations Committee, negotiating the budget and the bonds package toward a bipartisan, successful conclusion. Mills and Reps. Sawin Millett, R-Waterford, and Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, sat with her.
Still others, such as Reps. Michael Beaulieu, R-Auburn, and Mark Samson, D-Auburn, kept low profiles and made a difference by working the hallways and serving on committees.
The Sun Journal caught up with 33 legislators from Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties and spoke with them about where they made their impact this session.