Too often we hear in the media of how Democrats and Republicans are at each others throats or a particular Governor storming out of meetings when he disagrees; constantly bickering trying to score political points for the next election. Since taking office, I have made bipartisanship a requirement in any bill, committee assignment, or project I’m working on. The formation of the legislative youth caucus is no different.
During this past campaign, my age was constantly brought up as a negative to serving the greater good of my community. I decided to turn my youthfulness into something productive. After having discussions with my Republican colleagues, we decided to get those members of the legislature who are under 30 together around one table. There are about 13 of us in that age bracket and while that doesn’t sound like a huge number, it is given that the demographic historically skews a bit more seasoned.
Some have been skeptical about a caucus comprised of young members of the legislature bridging the political divide and focusing on specific policy solutions that both sides can find common ground on, but I’m optimistic that at the very least an ongoing dialogue can take place outside of political hardball environments. Our goal will be to support bills that move Maine forward by addressing some of the rising concerns over whether young people can live, work, and play here in the state. This could mean some education reform, structural tax changes, support for small businesses, etc. The sky's the limit as to what we can discuss, debate, and champion as a driving force for positive solutions in the legislature.
While youth could be seen as a detriment to the good ol’ boy system, I think we are finding ways around having to play the proverbial political game by making our voices heard and not confining ourselves to preconceived notions of what it means to be a Democrat versus a Republican. I like to think of those as the foundation of our political philosophies rather than the ultimate standard bearer of truth.
The decisions that we make today will have a ripple effect on our futures, so it is vital that we have a seat at the table in crafting these solutions. I for one am hopeful for what we can accomplish together through this bipartisan effort, no matter what is reported in the media or by political parties to the contrary.
Justin Chenette is the state representative for district 134 in Saco. You can get legislative updates about the work out of the 126th Legislature at www.justinchenette.com and see Justin return to TV via Youth in Politics on Sunday Feb. 17th at 7am on WPME Channel 19.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco