It’s already 2020, if you can believe it. The New Year is an opportunity to refocus our energy on the things that are important in our lives, our families and our communities.
The New Year also brings about the beginning of a new legislative session. This is shaping up to be a productive year in the Legislature, and I am hopeful for a high degree of cooperation and bipartisanship from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. As for me, I have a few projects and issues that I will be focused on this year.
My top priority in the Legislature will continue to be protecting children in state care. We are defined by how we treat the most vulnerable among us, and we tragically have failed too often on this front. I will continue to work to pass my bill, LD 1554, “Resolve, Establishing a Commission To Reform Child Protective Services,” in order to provide rigorous, continuous oversight of Maine’s child protection system, with input from the courts, the Legislature, law enforcement and the general public.
I also will be looking to support other proposals that will fix problems in the Department of Health and Human Services. In particular, I am interested in ways we can strengthen the foster care system by promoting more and better foster homes. We’ve been through seven DHHS commissioners and four gubernatorial administrations since the death of Logan Marr, and children are still dying. Let’s fix this problem for real.
This year, I will continue to serve as chair of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee and work to make our roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure safer and better for everyone. Last year we passed Maine’s new “hands-free” distracted driving law, prohibiting drivers from using handheld electronic devices while driving. We also strengthened the “move over” law that protects police, emergency responders and public service workers who are pulled over on the side of the road, and we passed a transportation budget that received unanimous support from the Legislature. Making sure everyone can get where they want to go in a safe and timely manner is a core function of our state government, and I’m proud to continue my work in this important area of policy.
Finally, there are many reasons why 2020 will be a big year for Maine, but, perhaps most importantly, it is our 200th birthday. On March 15, 1820, Maine formally became the 23rd state in the union. I am chairing the Bicentennial Commission, which oversees planning and organizing events and programs to celebrate the occasion. Four signature events will be happening throughout the state this year. We will have a Statehood Weekend celebration on March 15 at the Augusta Armory, featuring music, poetry and birthday cake. That will be followed by the Bicentennial Parade in Lewiston and Auburn on May 16, which will feature a multigenerational marching band. The next event will be the Tall Ships Festival in Bangor, Belfast, Boothbay Harbor, Bucksport, Castine, Portland, Rockland and Searsport on June 21to July 20. Finally, we will have an Innovation Expo in Bangor on October 10 to 12, featuring the world-class ingenuity and expertise of Maine’s businesses and academic institutions.
The Bicentennial Commission is also awarding community grants to support the interests, needs and creativity of residents and communities throughout Maine as they plan local commemorations of the Bicentennial. The deadline for the next round of grants is February 1. To learn more about the events, grants and other activities of the Bicentennial Commission, visit www.maine200.org.
As always, please feel free to contact me or my office with any questions, comments or concerns. You can call (207) 287-1515 or email me at email@example.com. It is an honor to serve as your state senator.