CONTRIBUTORS

Bullying, domestic violence, student concussions: Issues brought legislators together

Posted Sept. 17, 2012, at 3:24 p.m.

With the 125th Legislative session now behind us, I want to thank Bangor and Hermon voters for giving me the opportunity to be your state senator these past two years. I am pleased to report that, working together, we made substantial progress in changing the direction of the state. After years of unsustainable spending and ongoing budget shortfalls, I feel that we are finally on the path toward greater opportunity and prosperity for current and future Mainers.

Two years ago, I ran for the Maine Legislature because I was tired of seeing our young people exported to other states because there aren’t enough jobs here. Our children (including my boys) should have the opportunity to work and raise a family here if they choose to do so. This session, we enacted significant reforms to our welfare, pension, health insurance, workers’ compensation, tax and regulatory systems. The tax reforms that we made benefited all Maine residents, particularly lower- and middle-income earners. I am pleased that 70,000 low-income earners were relieved from having to pay state income tax altogether. That will help offset some of the record-high increases in food, gas and basic necessities.

When I got to Augusta, I was pleased to find that, with few exceptions, Republicans and Democrats worked together to move our state forward. Yes, there were a few high-profile exceptions (welfare reform and fraud and waste at the Maine Turnpike Authority) and some unfortunate word choices that proved to be a distraction, but the atmosphere was similar to my experience in Bangor. For me, this was a welcoming sight, as my time on the Bangor City Council, Bangor School Committee and various community boards was spent working with many great people with varying political views to ensure that our decisions had a positive outcome for the people we were serving.

Bangor officials made a difference by providing helpful input to the Legislature over a period of many months. One example of this approach is the Legislature’s work in the area of general assistance. I was pleased that my colleagues on the state Appropriations Committee honored the general assistance agreement reached by both political parties in the supplemental budget that was passed in the spring. This was a positive step in addressing the concerns of Bangor and other service center communities.

If you look past the handful of bills that divided the parties and created attractive spectacles for the media, you will see other important work that we accomplished together. For veterans, we established a Gold Star Family license plate and created a special veteran driver’s license to prove eligibility for services available to veterans. We enacted legislation to help prevent bullying in schools and protect student athletes from concussions. We also strengthened laws that help protect and support victims of domestic violence.

For the most part, unlike Washington, we worked together in a bipartisan fashion to solve problems. That is what the overwhelming majority of Mainers elect us to do. I am grateful that the citizens of Bangor and Hermon placed their trust in me the last two years. I hope that Washington can learn something about how we do things in Maine. We work together to solve problems, ensure all voices are heard, and make the best decisions we can for the citizens of Maine.

Sen. Nichi Farnham, R-Bangor, chairs the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and is a member of the Health and Human Services Committee. She represents Maine Senate District 32, which includes the city of Bangor and the town of Hermon.

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