AUGUSTA (AP) – Former House Speaker John Richardson is virtually assured of Senate confirmation as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development now that he has received a solid committee endorsement for the Cabinet position.

The Business, Research and Economic Development Committee voted 12-0 Tuesday to endorse Richardson, a Brunswick Democrat who left the Legislature after completing his four-term limit.

Several speakers at Tuesday’s hearing praised Richardson as the right person for the job as head of a department whose mission is to attract and stimulate business activity.

“During his tenure in the Legislature, John had demonstrated a commitment to business promotion throughout the state of Maine,” said Ryan Low, deputy chief of staff for Gov. John Baldacci.

Richardson also received endorsements from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Union Credit League, Maine Bankers Association and Passamaquoddy Tribe.

As a House leader, Richardson led a Small Business Initiative that developed legislation to foster entrepreneurship and streamline the regulatory process for businesses. Most of the proposals were enacted or acted upon without legislative action.

As economic development commissioner, Richardson would succeed Jack Cashman, who is returning to Baldacci’s staff.

In his two-year budget, Baldacci has proposed merging the Department of Economic and Community Development with the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation into a single Department of Commerce.

Richardson, 49, is a lawyer who specializes in personal injury litigation, labor relations and criminal defense, the governor’s office said.

Information from: Kennebec Journal,

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