There seem to be State House days for almost everyone, and Thursday was Girls’ Day.

“We’ve got 100 girls here today,” said Sarah Standiford, executive director of the Maine Women’s Policy Center as she shepherded seventh- and eighth-graders into the Senate to listen to President Beth Edmonds.

“They’re from 46 different schools across Maine from Madawaska to York,” Standiford said. “Some girls came last night, some woke at 3:15 today to be here.”

The girls wore identical shirts with a crooked dome and the words: “Girls rock the house,” on the front, “and the Senate” on the back.

The girls filled the halls, committee rooms, the House and Senate chambers, and conference rooms as they listened to adults explain what goes on at the State House. They job-shadowed legislators during afternoon deliberations, listened to speeches from high-ranking lawmakers. In the morning, many participated in mock press conferences – a real crash course on public debate – led by female radio and newspaper reporters.

In those mock press conferences, the girls quickly came up to speed on L.D. 57, a bill that would provide tuition at state colleges to high school graduates who meet Maine’s Learning Results standards. Just like real lawmakers, it took amazingly little time for a room full of 40 girls to disagree whether the bill should pass.

Some argued students need help to continue their education. The proponents came up with a logo: “I want to go to college, but I’m not in the budget.”

Others girls said the bill should be rejected because Maine cannot afford higher taxes to pay for it. “Kids can work if they want to go to college,” one eighth-grader said.

Standiford called this year’s Girls Day “fantastic. It’s always an adventure because the tempo of the Legislature changes so frequently, they get to experience that.”

The day, scheduled at the end of Women’s History month, is sponsored by the Maine Women’s Policy Center and the Maine Women’s Lobby.

Bliss: Talk to me

On Wednesday, a Democratic caucus was called to talk about the budget, but before money talks got going, Rep. Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland, stood up to urge members to listen to that afternoon’s public testimony on a gay-rights bill, and to vote for L.D. 1196 when it hits the House floor.

“As of this morning, we have 22 votes in the Senate, we have 75 votes in the House. That’s not enough House votes to pass the bill,” Bliss said. “If you don’t think you know any gay people, please come and talk to me,” he said while everyone in the room laughed. “I am not the only gay member of this House. I’m not even the only gay member of the House on our side of the aisle, but I would be happy to explain to you why discrimination is not OK.”

Taking license

Most lawmakers got Friday off, but some had to work.

On the Transportation Committee’s Friday’s schedule were a whopping 27 bills for committee members to take up in work session. Seven bills dealt with creating special license plates for firefighters, Elks Club members, NRA members, those in agriculture, those in higher education and those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus National Guard members.

Most of the license-plate bills will be carried over to next year because the sponsors need to meet criteria defined by the secretary of state, explained committee co-chairwoman Rep. Sonya Sampson, D-Auburn.

Quote of the week: “My mom would pay it.”

-Young Rep. Hannah Pingree of North Haven island about her mother, former Sen. Chellie Pingree, when Hannah asked about the proposed $10 non-motorized boat fee. The fee is being pulled from the proposed budget, which will dominate this week’s session.

Bonnie Washuk is a Sun Journal State House reporter.

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