The speaker of the House and the president of the Senate have made their appointments to legislative committees. Committees serve an important purpose in the governance of our state. In fact, it is where the bulk of the work takes place. Each committee oversees a particular topic of jurisdiction, such as education and environment, for instance.
The selection is solely based at the discretion of the top leaders in both legislative bodies. Sometimes the decisions are made on your professional experience and background and other times it’s simply the luck of the draw. During my first term I served on the State and Local Government Committee. This oversees county and municipal government related issues as well as the overall structure of state government. Internally, this tends to be a committee for freshmen lawmakers and for those not necessarily well liked by those at the very top. I liked serving on this committee because I enjoy going line by line through government spending to see how we can prioritize and save money. I also enjoy trying to restructure state government to make it run more efficiently. I was able to bring up several proposals, including legislation to make government proceedings (and spending) more transparent, a cut in legislative pay and an effort to reduce the size of the legislature. While I was in my bliss working on these issues, it was time to change it up heading into my second term.
The speaker decided I was most needed on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. This committee oversees policy relating to the Departments of Public Safety and Corrections, the Maine Emergency Management Agency, law enforcement, criminal law and firearms. We will be on the forefront of vital issues that surround our jails, our brave state police force, emergency preparedness, marijuana policy, criminal law and the increasing importance of tackling the state’s rising drug epidemic. With everything that has been happening on the national level, there isn’t a more important time to be tackling these issues. I look forward to the policy challenge as this is a new arena for me.
Saco’s other House member, Rep. Barry Hobbins, has been named chairman of the Judiciary Committee. This committee regulates the judicial system organization and budget, criminal procedure, civil procedure, civil actions, including torts and medical malpractice, the Attorney General’s office, reproductive rights and civil rights.
Sen. Linda Valentino, who represents Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington, and part of Buxton, has been appointed to serve on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. She previously served on this committee when she was a member of the House of Representatives. This appointment is huge for our area and for our state as this is the budget writing committee. It controls the purse strings of state government prior to coming to the House and Senate for changes and approval. Sen. Valentino will be able to use this position to ensure we are prioritizing spending while protecting our most essential programs. Her role last session as chairman of Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future committee showed that Sen. Valentino can successfully bridge partisan differences and bring legislators together to pass significant reforms. This will be critical in our new divided government with the House controlled by the Democrats and the Senate controlled by the Republicans.
Across the river in Biddeford, Sen. David Dutremble is working on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. Fishing and hunting are vital aspects of Maine culture and our state’s economy. The committee will oversee any changes to regulations regarding these areas. Rep. Martin Grohman will serve on the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee. Bills regarding anything from telecommunications, Internet speed and alternative wind and solar power will be heard before this body. Rep. Ryan Fecteau has been appointed to the Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee. A big topic for discussion usually centers around worker rights vs. corporate rights and labor vs. management.
The Transportation Committee gains the legislator from Old Orchard Beach, Rep. George Hogan. The budget of our highways and roads is handled separately from the general budget, deliberated within this committee, then approved by the Legislature. As we all know, our roads always need attention and having local representation in dealing with these issues will be useful.
As you can see, our local legislative delegation is represented on a variety of different policy areas that can best serve our communities. This doesn’t reflect the kind of bills each of us have introduced, which will range from economic development to education reform. As bills come up for debate, the governor’s budget is dissected and committees delve into particular topics, I aim to keep you updated every step of the way through this column, through my website, email newsletter, social media and through the media. Stay tuned.
Justin Chenette is serving his second term as state representative for Saco District 15. Outside the Legislature, he is owner of Chenette Media LLC, a multimedia public relations company, and is the president/CEO of the Saco Bay Center of Civic Engagement, a 501c3 nonprofit service organization. Follow updates at www.justinchenette.com, Facebook.com/JustinChenette, and Twitter.com/ JustinChenette.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco