Senator Joyce Maker January Column

I am delighted to have the opportunity to serve the people of Washington and Hancock Counties in the Maine Senate. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of the voters who have entrusted me to represent them in Augusta.

The 128th Maine Legislature is now back in session, and we have a lot of work to accomplish over the next six months including the biennial budget that has been proposed by Governor LePage and over 2,000 pieces of legislation that have been submitted by legislators, state departments and the governor.

This session I will serve as Chair of the Marine Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the state’s commercial marine fisheries management, including the processing and sale of marine fish, shellfish and aquaculture.

I look forward to leading this committee over the next two years because it has such importance to the economy of eastern Maine. There’s a great amount of untapped potential for Maine’s marine industry, because we have abundant resources and the best workforce in the nation. 

The Marine Resources Committee will address roughly 45 bills dealing with a large variety of topics including commercial fishing licenses, alewives, eels, bait, management zones, rockweed, seaweed, shellfish and scallops. A full list of bills can be found on the Legislature’s website here.

I will also continue to serve as a member of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, which will be a very important committee this session as we take a closer look at the implementation of Question 2 from last November’s ballot and Governor LePage’s plans to completely change the way education is funded in Maine.

The proposals laid out by Governor LePage for education are bold and will require a lot of careful thought and deliberation by the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

His plan for education would create one teacher’s contract for the entire state, negotiated by the state. Currently, each district negotiates an individual contract. In addition to negotiating the contract, the state government would pick up the tab for 100 percent of in-classroom costs and shift 100 percent of administrative costs to the school districts. There would also be incentives for school districts to outsource administrative duties regionally. 

The governor’s budget would also close the Downeast Correctional Facility located at the former Bucks Harbor Air Force Station in Machiasport. This facility, which has been in operation since 1985, is a minimum security facility that houses 148 prisoners and provides jobs for dozens of local residents. I have begun scheduling meetings with the Department of Corrections. Throughout the budget process, I intend to fight to keep this facility in operation.

Also this session, I have introduced a number of bills including legislation to address the very real problem of child hunger in Maine. It is a fact that students that are hungry are at a disadvantage in school. Studies show that missing meals and experiencing hunger can have a negative effect on academic performance and student behavior. Hungry students score lower in math. They are also more likely to be absent and repeat a grade. That’s why it is critical that we do everything we can to ensure that no student goes hungry during this critical time of development. 

I’ve also sponsored a few bills to address the ongoing opioid crisis that is crippling rural communities around Maine by coordinating services and support for those suffering from addiction. Opioid abuse has reached the level of an epidemic, impacting everyone’s life in some way or another. If we don’t take measures now to address this issue, it’s my fear that the problem will continue to grow.

These are only a few of the issues we will address here in Augusta this session. If you would like to comment on any legislative matter, or if you would like to visit the State House, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at senjoyce.a.maker@gmail.com , by phone at 287-1505 or on Facebook as Senator Joyce Maker. 

Senator Joyce Maker was elected on November 8, 2016 to serve the constituents of District 6 in the Maine State Senate. Senate District 6 consists of all of Washington County and the municipalities and unorganized territories of Gouldsboro, Sullivan, Winter Harbor and part of the East Hancock Unorganized Territories.