Sometimes it can feel like our political system is broken.
There are the daily headlines and newscasts about nastiness in Washington, DC. Presidential candidates are slinging mud at each other to the left and to the right.
I’ve been around state government a while, and I’ve always taken solace in the fact that here in Maine, we do things a little differently. And while there’s no doubt the rhetoric has heated up in our state politics, I’m still optimistic.
Some people might question that optimism. They might ask, “Bill, how can you feel positive about what’s happening in Augusta?”
To me, you just have to look at what we were able to accomplish this year, despite our differences.
Maine’s Legislature is divided, with one party in control of the house and the other controlling the senate. And I don't have to tell you that sometimes, Gov. Paul LePage’s style of governing presents its own set of challenges.
But this year, we were still able to take real action to combat the state’s drug crisis. We created new positions for more drug enforcement agents to get traffickers off our streets, and put additional funding into programs for substance abuse treatment, to cut down on demand for this poison that’s killing our people.
We increased school funding, providing an additional $15 million to local schools to help our students succeed and to ease the pain felt as school costs keep growing, and we created a new commission to figure out a long-term solution to guarantee the state meets its obligation to fund education for teachers, students and local taxpayers.
We finally passed meaningful welfare reform. By banning the use of welfare cash to buy products such as cigarettes, liquor and lottery tickets, we protected taxpayer dollars from misuses while still ensuring help is available for Mainers to get back on firm footing. We put tough but fair penalties on the law to deter abuse, and put Maine on a pathway toward instituting technology that would prevent the purchase of prohibited items altogether.
The Transportation Committee, on which I serve, considered and approved a $100 million bond to improve our state’s transportation infrastructure. In the long-run, the Department of Transportation must think outside the box about how to pay to keep the infrastructure of our trucks, trains, ships, planes and cars in good condition. But in the short-term, this bond will create hundreds of jobs and improve our state’s economic viability by repairing, maintaining or constructing new roads and bridges. You’ll have a chance to vote on the bond in November.
On a personal note, I was also happy to see bills I sponsored become law, including initiatives to improve how the justice system treats rape victims; prevent voter intimidation at the polls; and protect children from physical and sexual abuse.
All of that was done this session — with our divided legislature, our headline governor, and our sometimes heated political rhetoric. So that’s why I’m optimistic that no matter how bad things are in Washington, we still know how to get things done here in Maine.
As always, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (207) 287-1515, if you have questions or comments.