Last November, the people of Lewiston entrusted me to serve them in the Maine House of Representatives. It has been an honor and privilege to represent Lewiston in Augusta and I will continue to work as hard as I can to be a thoughtful and effective advocate for the city.

Although I have served in a public capacity for the vast majority of my professional life, my first term in the Legislature has been a whirlwind. Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree appointed me to the 13-member Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and the committee held public hearings on nearly 100 bills over the last several months.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee dealt with many important issues throughout the first legislative session, but perhaps none was as important as addressing the state’s economic recession and revenue downturn, and the resulting budget cuts that had to be made to corrections, law enforcement and various public safety programs.

Throughout my first seven months in office, the state has faced major budget gaps and the governor’s budget packages called for nearly every
state department to sacrifice valuable funding for important programs.

Faced with the possibility of having to close the Charleston Correctional Facility, and making painful cuts to various other corrections facilities throughout the state, my fellow committee members and I traveled to Charleston and the others throughout the state, and worked closely with correctional staff and Department of Public Safety officials to find ways to allow the facilities to run more efficiently.

With close collaboration between committee members, state officials and correctional facility employees, we were able to keep the Charleston facility open, saving many jobs and avoiding the prospect of burdening Maine’s other over-crowed jails with 150 new prisoners.

While many people complain about bureaucratic delays and partisan bickering throughout government, I was very proud to see legislators,
state officials and state employees come together under difficult circumstances to make smart and timely decisions that benefited the
people of Maine.

Many bills came before the Legislature this session and I used the values I learned living in Lewiston my entire life to guide my votes on
many important issues. One issue that faced the Legislature was the legalization of fireworks. Although House members were initially willing to support such an idea, as a former Lewiston fire chief and firefighter for over 30 years, I knew that legalizing fireworks would put Maine people at risk. I spoke on the House floor on the dangers of unregulated fireworks and the resulting injuries to children and adults in other states, and successfully helped the effort to defeat the bill.

I was also proud to sponsor a bill that called for increased transparency and regulations surrounding college textbook selling practices in an effort to inform and protect students and consumers. College students are paying way too much for textbooks and it’s clear that publishing industry tactics, not competitive markets, are driving up the costs.

At a time when students can barely afford to pay tuition, they deserve to pay fair market value for the materials they need. Although the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee recommended the legislation not be passed, I am pleased to report the recently enacted federal Higher Education Opportunity Act will go into effect next year and contains many of the important provisions contained in my bill.

Throughout my time in the Legislature, I will continue to work hard on behalf of the people of Lewiston. We’re all facing difficult and
uncertain times now, but by sticking together and planning for better days ahead, the people of Lewiston will weather this storm and continue to move forward.

Rep. Michel Lajoie represents part of Lewiston in District 71 in the Maine House of Representatives. Call 713-7119 or e-mail 
[email protected]

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