Opinion

Situation in Augusta could have been completely avoided if the energy used in partisan fighting were redirected into solving issues

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To the Editor;

As you likely already know, the Maine Legislature adjourned in the early morning hours of April 19 with a great deal of work left undone. We returned on Wednesday, May 3 to act on various bills that the Governor had vetoed. That day I voted to extend the session one day to take up some important bills. The vote failed.

There has been no sense of urgency in Augusta for weeks. Day after day this session I have traveled to Augusta prepared to work. Day after day items have been “tabled,” “indefinitely postponed,” or not even placed on the agenda. Because of this, when we were asked to vote for a four-day extension of the session I voted “no” and opted to wait for a special session with the hope that, given a bit of time, leadership will craft a detailed work plan.

It is the responsibility of leadership in each caucus of both the House and Senate to collaborate in setting the pace and schedule of legislative work, with most authority given to the majority in each chamber. While it is tempting, and all too popular, for one party to pass blame to the other, I believe that it is safe to say that this situation could have been completely avoided if the energy used in partisan fighting were redirected into solving issues.

Routine items, such as finalizing the amount of general purpose aid for schools, have not been taken care of. Other items of great importance are Medicaid expansion, state conformity with the new federal tax code, wage increases for direct care workers, nursing homes, the DHHS waitlist, county jails and addiction treatment programs. Bond items include a $100 million transportation bond to upgrade roads and bridges, a school safety infrastructure bond, and a $75 million for upgrades in the University of Maine system.

Some days I have spent more time in my car than actually in session doing the people’s work. While it is frustrating for me, it is nothing compared to the frustration for Mainers that depend on a reasonably functioning government. Let’s hope that we return in a timely manner and get the job done.

Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford
House District #119

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