2016-12-15 / Editorial

A Christmas lesson for legislators

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

Around Christmastime, we teach children the importance of giving, as well as receiving. We try to impart a sense of gratitude, not just for the flashy new things in our life (like Christmas gifts!), but for all the things we already have. This sort of mindfulness is important. It helps us stay grounded.

It’s not just a lesson for kids, though. We legislators would do well to keep that spirit of mindful balance as we near the start of the new legislative session in January.

With the numbers being so close, our government cannot move forward without each party agreeing to compromise. Republicans control the Maine Senate by just one vote and Democrats control the Maine House of Representatives with a five-vote margin.

Moreover, we are entering the final two years of Gov. Paul LePage’s tenure in office. I expect he’ll continue to be bombastic and sometimes inflammatory in his approach toward governing; we have already seen him aggressively try to stymie voter-approved referenda.

But the governor is just one man in divided government. Not even a Christmas miracle would allow him – or either political party in the Legislature – to get everything they want.

It would be easy to believe that means we cannot achieve anything, that the divide of power will deadlock our government as both sides angle to win the day.

But we learned over that last two years that divided government is an opportunity to reach across the aisle and come together for the greater good. We can do it again, and I look forward to hitting the ground running.

This past week legislators were inaugurated during a swearing-in ceremony. We all took the oath of office, swearing to uphold the Constitution. In doing so, I became the youngest senator in Maine at age 25 and one of the youngest state senators in the whole country. I hold the distinction of being one of the only people to have been elected as both the youngest representative and youngest senator in Maine, having been elected at age 21 to the House. As I was sitting in the Senate chamber, I couldn’t help but reflect on the awe of the Democratic process and the immense responsibility it is to represent your ideas and concerns at the statehouse. Now we begin a new chapter as we start the important work of the 128th Legislature and the task of making state government accountable to you.

There are a number of priorities that I will be pushing, based on conversations with folks at their doorstep throughout this past campaign. I intend to sponsor or support bills to limit the influence of lobbyists and corporate special interest groups, lower the property tax burden, change our taxing formula to rely more on tourists than residents, expand access to drug treatment and prevention, create incentives for start-up businesses, bolster downtown revitalization efforts, and get homeless veterans back on their feet. We deal with more than 2,000 bills in a given session, so know that just about every topic is accounted for.

If you have an idea for legislation, the deadline for legislators to submit new bills is Dec. 30. It’s a narrow timeframe, but my door is open. Please reach out with any suggestions or solutions you might have. You can call my office at 287-1515. You can also visit my legislative website at JustinChenette.com and follow up updates at facebook.com/JustinChenette.

As I begin my first term in the Senate, I’d like to remind you that my office is also a resource to help you navigate government agencies, or to help you find the information or services you need. I view these constituent services as one of the most important parts of my job as your senator. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Thanks as always for your support. This is your seat. I work for you. Have a Merry Christmas!

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, OOB, Hollis, Limington, & Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. 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.

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